Author: Steven Applebaum (Redstar)
August 27, 2010
Mojo Nixon as "Toad" in Super Mario Bros.
Toad, much like his video game-counterpart, is an important secondary character that contributes immensely to the film's story. However, his characterization and appearance differs significantly. Rather than a diminutive person with a passive, almost childlike personality, the film's Toad is a counter-cultural street musician with an easygoing, liberal personality and no previous connection to the royal family.
Despite this change, he retains the same role in the story. He continually aids Mario and Luigi in their quest against Koopa, both by providing them with information on the world they've stumbled into and the motivation to fight against its oppression. His depiction in earlier scripts expanded his role towards additionally providing Mario and Luigi with items and weapons, further connecting him to his video game-counterpart.
Toad first appears in the film soon after Mario and Luigi have lost sight of Princess Daisy on the confusing and dangerous streets of Dinohattan. The two brothers slump against a wall in despondence, causing Toad to take notice and offer an optimistic word and satiric song played with his guitar:
"Hey! Hey guys. Cheer up! Things could be worse.
WE AIN'T GOT NO WATER, ANYWHERE.
THE FOOD'S BAD, SO'S THE AIR!
GOT NO RESOURCES, IN A GREAT BIG STUPA!
ALL BECAUSE OF THE EVIL KING KOOPA--"
A patrol car then pulls up just as Toad finishes and arrests him for "anti-Koopa songs." Mario starts to argue with the cop, who decides to arrest him and Luigi alongside Toad.
After a short ride and booking at the police station, Toad is interned in a complex of police cages just one cell above Mario and Luigi. He plays another song, now on a harmonica, about his current situation. He then explains to Mario and Luigi the history of Dinohattan and how it occupies a sub-dimension created from the collision of the meteorite with earth that resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs:
"Wait a minute. What a minute. What did you mean another dimension? Do you mean like our worlds have crossed over, or something like that?"
"Sure, kid. You know, according to history a long time ago a big meteorite came and blasted our universes into parallel dimensions."
"Say, what's another word that rhymes with tension?"
He then begins to explain his belief that the Fungus covering the city is their former King:
"And you know what else I think? All that fungus out there?
That's our old King. It's true. He's been de-evolved. That's
right--he's been de-evolved into fungus and now he's wreaking
his revenge on the city."
Finally, in a short extended scene cut from the film, he begins another song only to be silenced by the arguing and frustrated Mario and Luigi:
"SITTIN' IN A CAGE WITH TWO BROTHERS.
LISTENIN' TO THEM SHARE WITH ONE
(off Mario & Luigi's look)
"… never mind."
Mario and Luigi are then taken to meet Koopa, who attempts to take the meteorite shard from them. When they admit they no longer have it, they're taken to the devolution chamber to witness Toad's de-evolution into a Goomba.
"But the king is everywhere! You can't get rid of him!"
Strapped to the de-evolution machine's chair in a Goomba's uniform, Toad continues to denounce Koopa and his tyranny up until his actual de-evolution, inciting the old King as an omnipresent fungus:
"What a lousy king. Ever since Koopa took over… And you! Koopa!
You're a lousy leader! (…) Our old king-- you tried to get rid of
him… But the King is everywhere. You can't get rid of him… Ever!"
Toad, now de-evolved, joins the ranks of the rest of the Goombas and given a harmonica that distinguishes him from the others throughout the duration of the film.
Toad is next seen bringing Princess Daisy a plate of cooked meat, but leaves to find a more suitable meal when she explains that she is a vegetarian. She soon after runs into him in the corridors of Koopa's Tower during her escape from her quarters.
Toad happily offers her a new plate of steamed vegetables without realizing her attempt to escape. Two other Goomba guards, escorting Iggy and Spike, immediately notice Daisy and begin shooting at her with their Fry Guy flamethrowers, yet miss and hit Toad. Iggy and Spike try to escape with Daisy, but she insist on staying to extinguish the fire engulfing Toad before leaving.
Toad does not appear again until the climax of the film, following the separation of the two worlds. Princess Daisy and Luigi run into Toad, who hands them both de-evolution guns to use against Koopa while growling "Take! Go!" which indicates that he has retained some degree of intelligence. Koopa soon after orders Goombas to attack Mario, but Toad, now standing on a higher walkway, plays a slow tune on his harmonica. The easily-distracted Goombas then disregard Koopa's orders and begin to dance, allowing Mario to escape with Luigi.
Toad's final appearance in the film
Toad makes a final appearance at the end of the film, standing alongside Daisy and Yoshi as they watch Mario and Luigi depart from the meteorite chamber back into our world. She is left to slowly begin rebuilding her new world with the implication of a future re-evolved Toad at her side.
Conception and Development
The basis for Toad's character is rooted in the video game source-material. In the original NES Super Mario Bros., the mushroom-capped humanoids were referred to as "Mushroom Retainers" and described as advisers to the leader of the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario (or Luigi) would find and rescue one in each of the first seven castles before locating Princess Toadstool in the final castle.
The concept of a "main" Toad or a "head Mushroom Retainer" emerged in Super Mario Bros 2. wherein Toad was a playable character alongside Mario, Luigi and Princess Toadstool. This cemented the character as one of the main cast of the games. He would later be characterized as an important companion and adviser to the Princess in the Mario Bros. cartoons, starting with The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
In the games, not only is Toad one of Princess Toadstool's most loyal advisers, but also an important guide and ally for the Mario Brothers by assisting them on their journey or providing them with items. These attributes show up in the film in a number of places--he provides a vital insight into the plight of the citizens of Dinohattan and gives the Mario Brothers the information they need to understand what's happening in this strange new world.
Once Toad is de-evolved into a Goomba, he takes care of Daisy and later helps the Mario Brothers during the film's climax, both by providing them with Devo guns and playing his harmonica to distract the other Goombas. These attributes would be most clearly seen in Super Mario Bros. 3, which featured the "Toad House" where the player could acquire various items from Toad.
The film can in a number of ways be considered a "prequel" of sorts to the original NES classic in that it tells the origin of how the Mario brothers become the "Super" Mario Brothers. Likewise, Toad would be re-evolved back into his human form after the events of the film and be rewarded by Princess Daisy and her father to become a key adviser to the restored government. He would be the best person to help Daisy integrate into their world, teaching her the social and historical background of Dinohattan as he previously did for Mario and Luigi.
According to original scriptwriter Parker Bennett, he and partner Terry Runte realized that Toad was "kinda the 'helper guy,'" so they decided they would "create our Toad and make him part of the rebellion." While their version of Toad would slowly change in terms of personality and plot-relevance with each new iteration of the script, their basic structure for his role and introduction into the story would remain largely the same.
Their Toad is first seen after Mario and Luigi are arrested and on their way to the police facility. Toad, first thought to be a bundle of clothes piled next to them in a Dinohattan patrol car, moves into the light and begins to speak once they bring up Brooklyn.
"I've heard of Brooklyn. It's a
myth. It's mythological. Unless
you believe my theory…"
Described as a "wiry, hyperkinetic, homeless-looking guy," Toad continually references his "theories," which are inevitably true, yet seemingly based on no logical thought-process on his own part. He also serves in explaining the sub-dimension and Fungus to Mario and Luigi.
The three are then taken to the de-evolution chamber, where Toad explains the Goombas and how they are created. Mario and Luigi are horrified, but Toad himself is nonchalant:
"You get used to it. I've been deevolved
a couple times. Did me a
world of good."
He then mentions that he's actually "part-chameleon," later blending in with the wall of the de-evolution chamber. A section of the wall "reaches out" and grabs a flamethrower from a nearby guard, revealing itself to be Toad who rescues Mario and Luigi from their own impending de-evolution.
Toad later utilizes his camouflaging talents to rescue Mario and Luigi once again, this time in the desert following a failed attempt to save Princess Daisy.
Parker Bennett spoke of this trait for Toad (and why it was later dropped) in our 9/18 /2010 interview:
"That was going to be a whole thing, Toad's ability to blend
in. You'd be looking at the wall and it would blink, and Toad
would step out. He'd be painted to match. That's a good
example of the way-too-many-ideas we were dealing with."
Toad also had three friends in this initial script: MANNIS, FODOR and FREEMAN. They are described as "well-meaning, liberal types," that are "total misfits in this reptilian world." They and Toad would later accompany Mario and Luigi in rescuing Princess Daisy, yet contribute much to the actual action.
Finally, Toad returns in the climax of the film, deciding to stay behind with his three friends. He also gives Mario a pair of Thwomp Stomper Boots, saying:
"We have a saying here that before
you judge a man you should jump a
mile in his shoes. Actually, it's
not a saying so much as an
advertising campaign, but I wanted
you to have these anyway."
Toad returns in Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' initial 3/5/1992 polish of Parker Bennett and Terry Runte's draft, this time as a desert-dweller introduced much later in the story. While he retains his chameleon-like attributes, he now has little control over them and regularly disappears and reappears without warning. He is also now a more level-headed character, imparting his theories on the two dimensions with more mental resolve.
New character "Burrows" replaces Mannis, Fodor and Freeman as Toad’s friend. The two drive Mario and Luigi around in a Sludge-Gulper garbage truck, but offer little else other than a single Bob-Omb to Mario before the two largely disappear from the story.
Dick and Ian would expand Toad's role in the following 3/25/1992 script after Annabel Jankel commented on how poorly he was written to Rocky Morton. She wrote:
"Still a boring character. Where did his theory come from?
Does he know for real? He could be one of the few survivors
of KOOPA'S brutal coup d'etat. Make him more of a SAGE.
One voice of reason in this crazy world."
Taking note of these comments, Dick and Ian chose to once again introduce Toad following Mario and Luigi's arrest by Dinohattan police. Described as having "an old, grizzled face" that is "lined and weathered" with "pale, watery eyes," Toad says:
"The name's Toad. I live in the
desert. Once in a while I come in
to scavenge only. This time they
bust my ass -- Where you guys from?"
Toad is now adept at using vehicles and seemingly half-baked and drunk throughout his appearances in the film. He fills the role of adviser, imparting information to the Mario brothers much as he does in the final film; however, he joins Mario and Luigi in the desert, rescuing them following a "death race" sequence and intermittingly aiding after that.
He briefly returns in the script's final scene:
We hear the CHUG of a MOTOR. CAMERA WIDENS to
show Toad cresting a dune in his buggy. He looks younger,
hopeful -- recharged by the new world around him.
Toad would remain in the story when writers Ed Solomon and Ryan Rowe entered the project to write a completely new script, though he would be briefly known as "Lemmy."
Lemmy is first seen just before Mario and Luigi are arrested, rather than after as in the previous scripts. He plays an instrument described as a "combo guitar/accordion" and sings a song slightly different from the one in the final film:
Hey! Cheer up! How about a song?
(a folky folk song)
WE GOT NO FOOD, ANYWHERE.
THE WATER'S CRUDE, WE GOT NO AIR.
GOT NO RESOURCES, WE'RE IN A STUPOR.
THE FAULT OF COURSE IS, THAT DARN
He is later de-evolved into a Goomba by Koopa to make an example out of him to Mario and Luigi:
The pod doors open. But the CHAIR doesn't shoot out-- It just
shudders forward, hissing and sparking. The Brothers watch,
horrified at what will emerge.
And the Singer is now… a GOOMBA, still straight-jacketed.
He looks around stupidly, as other Goombas lead him away.
He is never mentioned past this point, though another Goomba, Hark, (a holdover character from the previous Dick/Ian script) would briefly interact with Princess Daisy. The two characters would later be consolidated into a single role due to Toad/Lemmy's popularity. As the film's official press kit stated:
"Originally written as a creature with a screen life of about 30
seconds -- from the time rebellious folksinger Toad (Mojo
Nixon) was de-evolved into a Goomba until he was further
de-evolved into primordial slime -- this character proved such
a hit on the set that his life was saved, and his part was
expanded for the rest of the movie. He even holds onto the
rebellious streak that got his evolved self into trouble in the
The new Toad/Hark would go on to interact with Princess Daisy during her time in Koopa's Tower, both providing her with food and defending her. He would later help Mario and Luigi during the film's climax, recalling their time together when he was human.
In the end, the final version of Toad (while still greatly diminished in the characterization and role he once had in the earlier scripts) is somewhat more faithful to his video game-counterpart. His appearance takes cues from his counterpart in that his outfit consists of a blue, sleeveless jacket and a spiral haircut reminiscent of the dotted mushroom cap.
Toad, while a brief character, is immensely integral to the story's development. His interactions with Mario and Luigi allow both them and the audience to empathize with Dinohattan and understand the world they've stumbled into. Toad's exposition serves in transitioning the story from a fish-out-of-water story into one where Mario and Luigi are aware enough of the world they're now in to fight back. Without Toad, both the Mario brothers and the story would have no anchor and no means with which to progress the story.
Thanks to TMK for the in-game screenshots.