Super Mario Adventures is an American animated television series created by Andy Heyward and Craig McCracken that ran on Cartoon Network from 1997 until 2008, when the contract that allowed Heyward to produce content for CN expired. The show is basically an expansion to the story of Super Mario 64, which of course includes Koopa being resurrected from the dead and causing havoc everywhere. With the help of Princess Peach and his brother Luigi, Mario sets off to end Koopa's terrifying reign once and for all. They make new friends and learn valuable lessons along their quest.
Each episode's storyline in both Season 1 and Season 2 is similar to the storyline in each episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario World: Koopa comes up with a devious scheme to terrorize people, be it capturing storybook characters, wreaking havoc, or cloning himself multiple times to have an army to invade the cities in the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad hear of Koopa's plan and tries to stop him, succeeding every time. After becoming bored with the same storylines over and over again, Heyward decided to change things up a bit with co-creator/executive producer Craig McCracken to prevent cancellation and low ratings, making the plot line of each episode strikingly similar to that of an average episode of The Powerpuff Girls, McCracken's own show. From Season 3 onward, the heroes become equipped with super powers based on the mushrooms and power ups they use and use these powers to stop Koopa from destroying whatever he decided to destroy.
In late 1994, Heyward's production company went bankrupt after the failed television movie based on Sonic CD aired on CBS, which was so terrible that it got Heyward fired. Production was rough on the film from the start: Heyward was facing an economic crisis at the time and had to gather the cheapest materials he could find for production. Second, his contract for producing material for CBS was to expire in January 1995 and his studio frantically tried to finish it in time for airing over Thanksgiving week. Fans criticized Heyward dramatically, calling the Sonic CD film an "absolute pile of animated horror". Heyward was then fired from his position at DIC Entertainment and his studio filed for bankruptcy. Then everyone who worked on Heyward's shows went on for other positions and the studio went defunct in March.
In mid 1996, Heyward decided to return to animation after meeting animator Craig McCracken at a coffee shop in Burbank. He wanted to make a series based on the upcoming Nintendo 64 game Super Mario 64. After watching several trailers for the game, Heyward and McCracken worked together on a seven minute short based on the game from what they knew, with friends voicing Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, and Koopa. Before pitching to any network, Heyward scheduled it to be shown at E3 1996, as a promo for the new game. It was an instant success, and Heyward then pitched the short as a pilot to Cartoon Network, who accepted, The network obtained the rights to Nintendo's characters and ideas shortly thereafter.
The pilot aired on October 22nd, 1996, almost a full month after the game's release. Reception was highly positive, thus allowing Heyward and McCracken to open a new production studio, "Game Zone Anifilms", and the full series began on March 31st, 1997.
With Super Mario 64 being a milestone in video game history, it certainly became a milestone in Cartoon Network history, making it the first television series based on a video game to air on the network. Ratings on IMDB were 10/10, and ratings on Rotten Tomatoes were a 9.5/10. With the ratings being that high, Mario offically became a Cartoon Cartoon, beating out other shows like Dexter's Laboratory and Johnny Bravo. The success urged a crossover episode between Super Mario Adventures and The Powerpuff Girls, which aired in 2003. Nintendo considers the show to be it's greatest achievement yet, as president Satoru Iwata stated in an interview with Cartoon Network: "It is fascinating to see that our 8 bit plumber turned into both a cel shaded and hand drawn phenomenon. We at Nintendo give many thanks to Mr. Heyward and Mr. McCracken for the continuous support to our legend."
Feature film and ending
Unfortunately, due to the radical success of the Pokémon movies and television series for Cartoon Network in 2005, along with the upcoming contract expiration for Heyward, the creators decided to bid farewell to the series by throwing the legend of Mario and Luigi's long lost parents into the subject, beginning with the two part special: Origins. It described the brothers' parents as two space explorers who were arch enemies with Koopa. After Mecha-Koopa destroyed their spaceship, they became lost on an unknown planet inhabited by Yoshis somewhere in the StarlIght Galaxy. Mario and Luigi ended up being taken away by the Galactic Military after their parents were dubbed "missing" and were taken to live with a cranky couple in the Bronx. This special immediately leads to the unfinished feature film Super Mario Adventures: Searching for Family, the series finale in which Mario and Luigi go on a galactic quest to find their parents, all in the while being pursued and hunted by Koopa. Unfortunately, production took too long: By March of 2008, the film's production was nearly half over, and due to the contract's expiration the following month, production had to be ceased. Part one of Searching For Family never made it to theaters, and Heyward's contract expired on April 17th, 2008.
After Heyward left CN, McCracken struggled intensely to keep the studio up and running by giving tours. Unfortunately, due to high running costs, and little attendance from the tours, Game Zone Anifilms closed down in September of 2008, never to be heard of again.
In 2009, an anonymous YouTube user (who apparently had worked as an assistant animator at the studio) uploaded the 58 minute first part of Searching For Family, in an effort to get fans's attention to bring his studio's unfinished film back to finish production. Fans immediately hit back with campaigns, petitions, and letters to Cartoon Network and Nintendo, similar to how fans of Hey Arnold!, a Nickelodeon show, were atrempting to bring back the idea of its cancelled second movie, The Jungle Movie, to the studio. Both Searching For Family and The Jungle Movie were very similar in plot and detail, including the idea of searching for lost parents while searching for treasures and being pursued by evil. The campaigns later got network executives' interest in the mid 2010s.
In May 2015, Andy Heyward announced on his Facebook page that he was offically back at Cartoon Network and that he and McCracken were remaking the original Searching For Family film by scratch, based on new ideas both by the creators and among the fans. The film was to be called The Quest for Home, and would debut in June of 2016.
As the release date of the film neared, Cartoon Network reran the whole series to give younger Nintendo fans deep insight on the story. CN stated that Quest for Home would provide not only closure, but newer characters, extended storylines, and a possible hero-villiain teamup between Koopa and the brothers. This meant that Koopa was actually not the real villain in the movie, which got fans excited. Petitions and campaigns from pre-2006 demanded a hero-villain team up in the show, as there were none. "We're basically genies," McCracken said in an interview with the Associated Press. "We want to make fans's wishes come true one step at a time."
McCracken and Heyward are currently making a series based on F-Zero, which would debut in late 2017.
Notable guest stars on the show have included Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks, Michael J. Fox, Phyllis Diller, Robin Williams, Albert Brooks, Ben Stiller, and even former presidential candidate Al Gore.