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How I Unearthed A Forty-Year-Old Piece Of Mario History ✦
"When you look up what Mario's first voice was people point to the 90s cartoons or Mario's Game Gallery or something but this predates both of them... This is Mario's first voice." YouTuber Clue had no idea this bold claim would set me on an epic quest. And while Clue was technically incorrect, their enthusiasm over an old vinyl record led to me unearthing a forty-year-old piece of Mario history. So who really was the first person to voice the most famous plumber in gaming?
First, let's quickly eliminate the two most obvious suspects. Charles Martinet voiced the character for the first time when the Mario in Real Time (MiRT) system was introduced by Nintendo in 1991. Martinet has even shared a video of himself being hooked into and using the MiRT.
The second person to eliminate is Toru Furuya, a voice you might recognize as Yamcha from the Dragon Ball series or Tuxedo Mask in the original Sailor Moon. He voiced Mario in the first ever movie made for the series, Super Mario Bros.: Peach-hime Kyūshutsu Dai Sakusen! (roughly translated as Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!). That movie was released in 1986. Furuya would go on to voice Mario for all future anime featuring the character and for several games for the Satellaview add-on for the Famicom. Oddly though, he was snubbed in the Japanese dub of The Super Mario Bros. Movie and did not reprise his role.
With this in mind, several websites claim Peter Cullen — yes the voice of Optimus Prime — was the first person to voice Mario. He did so in episodes of Saturday Supercade, the first of which premiered on September 17th, 1983.
This brings us back to Clue. The amazing video that inspired everything here was about some obscure video game records released by Kid Stuff Records. The one we'll be focusing on today is Donkey Kong Goes Home which Clue mentions in the video released in 1983. However, nowhere online had its official release date listed anywhere. So not only did I need to confirm who did the voice of Mario on the record, but also prove it released before September 17th, 1983.
Thankfully, the first part proved to be easy! While the record itself proved to be unhelpful, the cassette tape version of Donkey Kong Goes Home credits three singers — Rena Jones, Dana Walden, and Leon Reeder. If you check out Leon Reeder's discography it becomes obvious that he voiced Mario over the other two ladies in the production. That is, until you find an interview with the album's producer Pat McBride who claims to have done the voice himself. So despite the credits, it seems Pat is the man to focus on here.
The second part proved to be far more difficult. I first attempted to call the US Barcode Authority to see if the information on when the code on the record was issued existed, sadly those are only kept by the company who purchased them. So next, I made attempts to see if it was ever reported on by Billboard Magazine. Google has a large number of issues archived so I was rather hopeful. I was able to find the article confirming Kid Stuff came into existence in 1976 as well as some really cool ads for the company. But sadly, the archive did not extend into the latter parts of 1983.
I thought this is where I would be stuck unless I purchased several physical copies of the magazine online. I was also able to track down Pat McBride, who now owns a successful design firm. But the chances of him answering the email I sent his way and also remembering the release date was a long shot that could take a long time to bear fruit. As things began to look bleak, a hero emerged.
That hero was Joel Chaffee, creator of the Tripping Balls Through History podcast and quite the impressive historian whom you can also find on Mastodon. He put those skills to work and was able to unearth an ad from The Arizona Republic Newspaper from their August 17, 1983 issue which you can see below.
While not confirming the exact release date, that ad proves that Donkey Kong Goes Home was for sale on at least August 17, 1983 beating out the Saturday Supercade premiere by an entire month! While this is an amazing discovery, you clever readers will remember that at the beginning I said Clue was unfortunately incorrect in the assessment that this record featured the first voice of Mario.
That honor goes to Larry Moran who voiced Mario for the Donkey Kong cereal commercials. These came out in 1982, predating both Donkey Kong Goes Home and Saturday Supercade. Moran did voices for several other cereal brands as well including Captain Crunch and Honey Smacks. He's also been Grimace, Mr. Monopoly, and even Splinter over his career.
Now just to make sure we've got all our loose ends tied, Harris Shore technically portrayed Mario in commercials for Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. in 1982. However, this was a live-action performance and reasonably does not count as him voicing the character.
Even if Pat McBride wasn't the first voice of Mario, he can finally get the credit he deserves and enter the halls of Nintendo history. A thank you once more to Clue for helping interest me in this topic and Joel Chaffee for providing the final piece of the puzzle that solved this whole thing. Who knows, maybe I can help solve some other mysteries in the future!
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