RetroJunk.com refers to "Koopa Klaus" as the Christmas special it wouldn't be Christmas without. But in spite of my long-standing fandom for Nintendo's flagship franchise, I beg to differ. For one thing, the term "Christmas special it wouldn't be Christmas without" better describes "A Charlie Brown Christmas", but it's not just that. The truth is that "Koopa Klaus" is really not actually a Christmas special. It's just a completely random episode of "The Super Mario Bros. Super Show" that just happens to have a Christmas theme. Further proving it's not really a Christmas special, I should also mention that the episode originally aired on October 30, 1989, just one day before Halloween of that year. That's definitely too early to start thinking about Christmas. Also, when the episode aired, it wasn't partnered with the live-action portion's Christmas episode, "Santa Claus is Coming to Flatbush", and it wouldn't be until the episode was released on VHS about a year later. Nevertheless, let me get on with my explanation as to why I don't rank "Koopa Klaus" as "don't-go-through-Christmas-without-watching" material.
Anybody who's seen "The Super Mario Bros. Super Show" knows that each episode begins with Nintendo's mascot, his brother, his love interest, and whatever role Toad's supposed to have arriving in whatever land the writers have dragged them to for today's show while Mario himself does an impression of William Shatner without moving his lips. Actually, they'd stop doing that later on, but in this case, we open up on Bowser in his castle which for some reason is near the Mushroom World's equivalent to the North Pole. Either that, or he's got multiple castles strewn all over the Mushroom World. That would explain why they look different from game to game. Despite what his dialogue suggests, Bowser has gotten into the spirit by wearing a Santa Claus outfit as part of today's evil plot: he plans to ruin Christmas by freezing Santa Claus' toy factory, which shouldn't be too difficult, since it's so cold up there he probably won't even need the Ice Bombs he's packed for his trip. He's also got his minions (actually, they're on loan from Wart) smashing toys, so I assume he also wants to shove these broken playthings into the stockings of the children who've been good this year. Tryclyde makes an appearance as "Randolph, ya red-nosed Tryclyde", wearing bicycle handles for antlers and red noses on each of his heads, but since snakes can't fly, Bowser entrusts a pair of Albatosses with bicycle-handle antlers to fly his sleigh of terror, but not before breaking the fourth wall, reminding Tryclyde who says the one-liners on this show. With that, he takes off on his journey, leaving Tryclyde in the castle. I kinda feel bad for Tryclyde. He gets a fancy outfit for the episode and he doesn't get to do anything while he's wearing it. I can see the conversation that unfolded right after Bowser left.
Mouser: (enters, dressed as the Mouse King from "The Nutcracker") Ah, ah, here I am. I'm ready for ze North Pole heist. Uh, where's King Koopa?
Tryclyde: Sorry, Mouser, he just took off without us! Hu-heh!
Mouser: Oh, cheeze und crackerz! Now what are we supposed to do with zese costumes?
Tryclyde: Well, it is Christmas Eve, and Mezmoran just invited us to a Christmas party at his castle! Hu-heh! Wanna go?
Mouser: OK, Tryclyde, we might as well. Him, Coconuts, and Giovanni could use some company after being left out of zeir Christmas specials.
And then we cut to the heroic quartet of Toad, Princess Peach, Luigi, and Mario himself. To be more exact, we cut to them arriving from underground, which I call further support for my theory that DiC had Mario confused with Bugs Bunny. In fact, Mario has even dressed up for a tropical vacation, because they're actually supposed to be vacationing in the so-called Hawaiiland. But thanks to "a wrong turn at Albuquerque the last iceberg", Toad, who was in charge of guiding them to their spot, has brought them to the North Pole instead. By the way, there's an episode from the later series where Peach and Toad visit Hawaii in "the real world", so it makes me wonder why this writer bothered coming up with the fictional "Hawaiiland" in the first place. Anyway, Toad decides that so long as they're here, they might as well visit Santa's workshop, and seeing how it's Christmastime, the others agree to his suggestion, despite the fact that neither of them are prepared for cold weather. That's especially true for Mario, who as I already mentioned is wearing a Hawaiian outfit, and Toad, who's not wearing a shirt at all. By the way, if it's Christmastime, how are Peach's subjects back in the Mushroom Kingdom running their Yuletide festivities without her? And hey, do they celebrate Hannukah and Kwanzaa in the Mushroom Kingdom as well?
As Mario goes through with his Captain Kirk imitation, it becomes obvious that the only reason Toad's led them here is because Christmas equals Santa Claus, and St. Nick equals presents. In other words, Toad acts uncharacteristically greedy over the course of this episode, which should set up for any lesson you're expecting to learn from this episode, and in this case, he says he can't wait to meet Santa. At this point, Peach brings out her Christmas gift for him, saying that after all the hints he's dropped (but what kind of hints, you kinky princess you?), "I decided to give you just what you wanted!" Whether or not Toad deserves a gift at this point in Mario's franchise run is beyond me. At this point, he wasn't yet allowing the Mario Bros. to come into his house to freely take what he had lying in his big treasure chests, or helping Mario bring up his Power Star count by giving him an extra one. No, the guys who played Super Mario Bros. knew Toad for the fact that all he did once you saved him was tell you that Peach was in another castle without bothering to point out which one. But nevertheless, Toad willingly accepts the gift, which turns out to be a snowboard, and prances about with it like Elmyra hugging a fuzzy animal without bothering to thank Peach. Considering their location, I assume maybe it'll play a big role later on.
But before anybody can give Toad's new snowboard a second thought, Peach and the Marios suddenly notice Bowser and his flying sleigh in the sky above. Apparently peeved at them mistaking him for a bird and then a plane (an obvious nod to "Superman", in case you didn't get it), the Koopa King has his Albatosses drop Bob-Ombs their way. Looks like he thoroughly prepared himself this time, as he's not the least bit surprised that they're here. Of course, since he's a cartoon villain, he obviously misses his targets, only knocking Toad aside. But instead of trying again, Bowser continues on with his quest for holiday ruination.
Despite Bowser's lousy aim, Toad throws a hissy fit about the idea that his snowboard may have just been damaged, and Peach flashes him a stern look, telling him that it appears that the snowboard is more important to him than they are. While the Princess gives a cold shoulder to her Brooklyn-accented servant, Mario uses his inhuman deduction powers to figure out that Bowser's heading for Santa's workshop. After all, what else is there to find at the North Pole? Upon his telling them this, Team Mario gives chase in Bowser's direction, with Toad putting the toys on his own priority list first.
But by the time the goodies reach Santa's workshop, Bowser's already managed to freeze it. I'm not surprised, though. He was up in the air and using a flying sleigh; they were on the ground with no mode of transportation. Unless, of course, you count Toad's snowboard, in which case, they should've all piled up on it and sled downhill. But it seems as though the Ice Bombs took a while to take effect, as it's only when the good guys show up that Bowser actually comes flying out with a bound and gagged Santa in tow. Either that, or he had already finished the job, and he was just waiting to taunt them. But he apparently made a mistake in doing that, because while Toad whines like a little bitch and Peach just stands around doing nothing useful, Mario orders Luigi to load an ice boulder onto the elves' see-saw (according to this, Santa's elves have a playground), then jump on the other side to launch the boulder into the sky. Actually, that doesn't make sense either! In the time it seems to take for Luigi to lug the boulder onto the teeter-totter and then climb up on Mario's shoulders, Bowser would've already gotten out of target range. Not to mention that Luigi doesn't seem to be heavy enough to make the boulder go up so high. But somehow, it hits Bowser's sleigh dead on, sending him and St. Nicholas plummeting to the icy ground below. The good guys don't question this example of pure dumb luck, 'cause if they point it out to the editor, it'll get the writer fired.
But then the Marios get immature - they try to attack Bowser by throwing snowballs at him. As you can guess, that's a stupid way to attack a supervillain, especially one who can breathe fire. But instead of doing just that, Bowser lets the snowballs land in the sack he just used as a makeshift parachute and throws it back at the Marios. Then, disregarding his captive's personal safety, Bowser uses Coca-Cola's December advertising figure as a makeshift sled to go downhill and across a frozen lake. Mario-tachi follows suit, and they don't make as graceful a landing as the two heavyweights did. And in case you're wondering, no, they don't use Toad's snowboard here either. Maybe I should reconsider my earlier statement about it.
Bowser, refusing to admit that "those spaghetti heads" have a chance of defeating him in spite of his previous loss record, sics them with a pack of Flurries. But then one of the Flurries makes the mistake of carving an ice block and sending it over to Team Mario. The Marios respond to this development by sending the ice block sliding back, crushing the Flurries. At this point, Toad actually helps them do so, but Peach, as always, still does nothing to help, proving to us that this show's writers are male chavunists.
Bowser's pretty furious that his Flurries have been bowled over, but instead of pulling out a Sub-space potion to make an escape warp like he usually does, he ducks into a nearby cave, dragging Kris Kringle with him. The intrepid adventurers (and the Princess) follow him down there, crashing up and down the interior until finally it drops them out the exit, which is apparently situated over a cliff. And because they couldn't control their bouncing around in that cave, they fall off the cliff and land in some more snow, surviving without any broken bones. The same thing apparently didn't happen to Bowser and Santa, though, because the Koopa King's standing right up there on the edge of the cliff, threatening to throw Mr. Kringle onto the pointy icebergs sticking out from the very cold water below. Maybe the combined weight of Big Demon Kuppa and St. Nicholas is heavier than I thought. Peach is offended by this, and yells at Bowser for hating Christmas so much. When that doesn't work, she joins hands with her Brooklyn-native protectors and Brooklyn-accented servant, and they start singing the an oddly-written Christmas song. Then, uncharacteristically filled with Christmas cheer, Bowser's eyes change color, his heart grows three times larger, and he saves the sleigh full of presents, brings them back to the good people he stole them from, and carves the roast beast.
Nope, that doesn't happen. That's what they'd do in a good Christmas special. Instead, Bowser responds to Peach's questioning by farting in the holiday's general direction as loud as he can. Again, this is an example of bad storywriting, as surely Bowser should know it isn't a good idea to yell at the top of your lungs while standing on a snowy mountain. But thanks to him, an avalanche starts up, threatening to bury him and his captive, not to mention give his fire breath a sore throat. Showing how cruel he himself can be, Mario lassos Santa out of there with his plumber's snake, but doesn't bother to do the same for Bowser. As a result, the turtle/dragon hybrid is forced to jump into the icy water and climb onto a floating iceberg where he laments his loss to a polar bear who apparently doesn't take kindly to turtle/dragon hybrids climbing on his iceberg. In a better Christmas special, Mario would've saved Bowser's life as well. Sure, he may be the franchise's main villain, but he doesn't deserve this kind of treatment on Christmas Eve. But it seems that DiC Entertainment has something against letting the villains of Christmas specials have a heel turn, even a temporary one, in light of the holidays, as Bowser's not the only villain in a DiC cartoon to suffer at Christmastime. Dr. Claw didn't get to temporarily turn good when Inspector Gadget Penny and Brain foiled his North Pole caper, and the only reason he wanted revenge against Santa was 'cause he never got a toy sleigh as a kid. And then in "Sonic Christmas Blast", not only did Dr. Robotnik not realize that Christmas didn't rely on presents, he didn't even get to keep his pants! Sheesh. Even Team Rocket got to show some Christmas spirit in the Pokémon Christmas special.
Regardless, Santa, finally able to speak up, proceeds to thank the quartet for rescuing him, which is odd, seeing how Peach did absolutely nothing to help throughout the entire chase. But even with Santa rescued, it doesn't change the fact that his workshop is frozen solid, forcing the dude to proclaim that "there will be no Christmas this year." I find two oddities there. Firstly, you ever notice how easily the Santaman seems to give up in these Christmas episodes of video game-based cartoons? I mean, in "Christmas Comes to Pac-Land", Pac-Man had to bring him and his reindeer to the Power Pellet forest. In "Sonic Christmas Blast", he got so hopeless that Sonic had to take over his duty for him. And here, he's claiming Christmas won't be coming this year just because he won't be able to thaw out his factory by tonight. He wasn't in Donkey Kong's Christmas episode, though, and I never saw Earthworm Jim's Christmas episode, so I wouldn't know about that one. Oddly enough, the only video game cartoon Christmas special where he doesn't give up is the only Japanese one I know, the Pokémon Christmas special. Secondly, why should Christmas be cancelled just because he can't make his deliveries? Christmas will still come even if nobody receives any presents. If Christmas really did hinge on people receiving free gifts, the Whos would've gone ballistic on the Grinch.
At this point, Toad, still being a greedy little bastard, points out the existence of the snowboard that Peach gave him earlier. You know, the snowboard that none of the goodies thought of using during the chase? But after some prompting from Peach, Toad gives his snowboard to Santa, telling him that he'll at least have something to give to someone somewhere in some way. Santa replies by hugging Toad like he's a dad who just returned from the world's longest business trip, during which a blue aura surrounds them and actual lighting effects are employed. And as Mario points out, the heat from those lights also melts the ice that Bowser had frozen up the factory with. This signals Mario to declare that "It's gonna be a Merry Christmas after all!", not to mention a remix of "Jingle Bell Rock". Or at least it would signal the song, if DiC wasn't editing them out of the episodes in later airings. Then, to provide further thanks, Santa allows the quartet to ride with him on his annual journey. They happily accept, because hey, they need to get home. Or to Hawaiiland, or wherever they need to go.
Thus ends Super Mario's first shot at a Christmas cartoon. Ironically, "Koopa Klaus" is one of the less mediocre Mario cartoon episodes, and it does a better job conveying the spirit of Christmas to its viewers than the other two DiC Christmas specials I mentioned. Problem is, it doesn't come up till Toad realizes how much of a brat he's been. And seeing how it's after they foil Bowser, I can't help but feel sorry for the big reptile. If the Mario RPGs are to be taken into account, Bowser's really more like the kind of villain who answers to a higher power, and I would've expected him to get bitten by the Christmas spirit bug. But he doesn't, and just because of that, Mario feels he deserves to nearly be killed by an avalanche. And on Christmas Eve, too! And that whole bit with the boulder and the teeter-totter should've gotten somebody fired. So as much as I like Mario, because of those story problems, I do not recommend "Koopa Klaus" over any of the five dozen other Christmas cartoons I've seen and have. But on the plus side, it's better than "Mario's Magic Carpet" or "The Ugly Mermaid".