Nintendojo Toy Box: 1989 Applause Super Mario Doll

It’s not the Mario doll you want, but it’s the one you need.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 09/10/2014 09:00 5 Comments     ShareThis

There it was, sitting on a shelf in The Virginia Street Antique Mall in Reno, Nevada, nonchalant and unassuming: an enormous Applause Inc. Super Mario doll from 1989. I can go a little too gaga over video game collectibles, but this thing was so cool that I think I was justified in screeching to a halt to ogle it (and eventually begging my family to snag the thing and save it for Christmas, because I was too broke to buy it but couldn’t live without it). Everything about the doll screamed out to me, from the intact packaging to Mario’s hat still clinging to his head. It was like striking gold!

I love these older pieces of Nintendo memorabilia because they remind me of how many different interpretations of Mario there were, back in the day. The NES was limited in being able to communicate exactly what the characters in all the different games looked like, especially as compared to today’s HD systems. The illustrations on game boxes and instruction manuals didn’t always translate well in the games, which in turn left toy makers in the predicament of trying to balance between equivocal pixels and seemingly-contradictory official artwork. This large Mario doll is a perfect example of that.

In fairness, Mario’s look was a bit fluid in the late eighties and early nineties, to say the least. Nintendo Power’s first issue famously depicted Mario on its cover in the inverted color scheme of his outfit, as seen on this doll, and other bits of promotional materials also showed a plumber quite contrary to the one fans recognize today. I’ve come to find Nintendo’s depiction of Mario, along with his allies, enemies, and world, to be a touch cookie cutter, nowadays. I used to love wondering how everyone and everything was going to look from game to game. Toys like this are a hallmark of those experimental times.

As intricate and accurate as today’s video game toys and memorabilia are, there’s a charm to these earlier pieces that’s undeniable. Rougher materials, a less than lovable face, yet it’s clearly Mario, and it’s compelling, nonetheless. There’s also a smaller version of this doll in the wild, at roughly half the size, that I know of. I found one a few years back at the White Elephant Sale, a huge antique event hosted by the Oakland Museum’s Women’s Board in Oakland, California, just floating amongst the other stuffed animals. He’s missing his hat, but other than that, the doll is identical to this oversized one. Big or small, it’s worth hunting down!

This week’s Toy Box has come to a close. Any old Nintendo memorabilia you have sitting on your shelves? Do you love or hate these more rudimentary collectibles? Dish in the comments!

5 Responses to “Nintendojo Toy Box: 1989 Applause Super Mario Doll”

  • 754 points
    Marc Deschamps says...

    I got this for Christmas in ’89 or ’90, along with the original Game Boy. It’s one of the earliest memories I have. Still own that doll, though I’m pretty sure the cap to mine was lost before it ever found it’s way under the tree. This year, I picked up an old Link figure on eBay that Applause made. It’s a small PVC that I also owned as a kid, but was lost ages ago. Applause made some neat Nintendo stuff!

    I’m pretty sure Robert is exclusively reporting on items from my collection, at this point. :)

    Thumb up 2
  • 1396 points
    penduin says...

    That doll is awful and awesome! It looks like Donkey Kong squeezed himself into a Halloween costume of Mario. It’s like the Mega Man boxart version of our moustachioed mensch. It’s a thing of grotesque beauty.

    It’s great fun to see even weirder memorabilia than I’ve got – keep these articles coming! :^)

    Thumb up 2
  • 1 points
    Kevin Knezevic says...

    Talk about a blast from the past! I never owned this doll myself, but I remember seeing it sitting on the shelves at Toys R Us when I was a kid. Even back then, I thought he looked a little…disproportional.

    Thumb up 1
  • 754 points
    Marc Deschamps says...

    You people are nuts! He’s awesome!

    Thumb up 2

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