It’s 1993, you’ve spent the last few years polishing your koopa-stomping skills, and you’re looking to challenge yourself? The solution, obviously, is to head to Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World for Super Mario Nights at the Super Nintendo Power Dome.
That’s right kids (excluding unaccompanied minors), in the monstrous inflatable dome you’ll be able to play – for free! – thirty of the latest Nintendo games from 7 PM until midnight every day. And every night from 8-9 PM you can test your mettle in the Game Boy Challenge, competing with your fellow gamers for a free Nintendo Game Boy! Read all about it:
The Mario madness was the result of a summer-long promotion for Disney’s truly, truly abysmal film adaptation Super Mario Bros. The Hollywood Pictures production held its world premiere at the Pleasure Island theaters on May 25th, 1993, as Disney tried to fan the flames of the “Hollywood East” movement it had attempted to kindle with the opening of the Disney-MGM Studios in 1989.
This was actually the third world premiere that Disney had held in Orlando, following other screen phenomenons Dick Tracy and Encino Man. As a Disney spokeswoman said at the time, ”We would like to establish ourselves as a place for movie premieres. It’s a great opportunity for us to get the stars in here.” After the premiere, which counted among its 1,000 invited guests the film’s stars Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo and Fiona Shaw (a very well-respected actress otherwise; you might know her as Harry Potter’s Aunt Petunia), the VIPs were treated to a private party. Everyone had taken part in a motorcade and parade the previous day at the Disney-MGM Studios, where they placed their handprints in the cement of the Chinese Theater’s courtyard.
The Super Mario Nights at Pleasure Island lasted far longer than the film remained in theaters; the nightly free-gaming marathons inside the giant, decorated inflatable dome lasted until the end of October 1993 (This couldn’t have been a desperate ploy to get people to pay to enter Pleasure Island, could it?). Even competitor Universal got in on the act, placing Sega kiosks outside their Nick Studios tour so that people waiting in line could test the latest titles from Nintendo’s biggest rival. Later that summer they started test-marketing Sega games in front of live audiences in “Game Lab competitions.”
But don’t think the monstrous inflatable dome was only about meaningless shenanigans – it had a social consciousness as well! Following summer floods in the midwest, Nintendo held a 24-hour “All-Stars Mariothon” from August 24-25th. Guests paid to play, with donations going to the American Red Cross. Members of the local Boys and Girls Club were also brought in for the occasion, and even allowed to skip school on the 25th. The Orlando Sentinel reported that halfway through the evening, the event had drawn more than 500 and raised about $350.
Competitors tackled several games, with Team Nintendo “counselors” on hand to assist “with the finer points of the games.” A focus of the promotion was clearly the newly-released Super Mario All-Stars collection, as the Nintendo staff seemed intent on explaining the cartridge to the assembled press.
So, with Pleasure Island now fading into the mists of time, and bulldozers clearing away the remnants of the once-bustling nighttime district, let us doff our hats and pay tribute to the Monstrous Inflatable Dome from that summer of ’93. Now you’re playing with power!