The creator of the iconic Mario character got candid regarding the challenges of bringing the game series to the big screen for the recent hit The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
Despite Mario's creation in 1981, it's taken until 2023 for a proper animated theatrical project based on the character to be created. Sure, there was the awful Super Mario Bros. movie in 1993, but it's best to pretend that fever dream never happened.
While the movie might have landed poorly with critics, it is performing incredibly well at the box office. Unsurprisingly, it's a crowd-pleaser—and anyone who has ever touched a Mario game will find something to enjoy within its breezy runtime.
As one might expect, bringing such an iconic character and world to life was no easy task.
The Difficulties of Bringing Mario to the Big Screen
In an interview with The Rolling Stone, Mario creator and producer for The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Shigeru Miyamoto, spoke candidly about the difficulties of making the animated project a reality.
When asked about an early scene showing the classic side-scrolling platforming action of the Mario games, Miyamoto shared that they "initially encountered a lot of difficulties" translating the "abstract idea of what an action Mario game is like" on the screen:
"[When] we’re talking about Mario games, there’s the experience of playing a 'Mario' game and I think there’s a lot of hardship. We initially encountered a lot of difficulty trying to take that abstract idea of what an action 'Mario' game is like, and then recreating that visually was something that we grappled with. And it was difficult.
One key approach was simply using stuff "like the assets" from the games to help them "create something that was convincing and felt good:"
"But as we’re trying to work on the movie, we were able to make a select few scenes that really kind of capture that... Like you were mentioning, the early scene where they’re running down the street, or even that course that looks like it’s been made from 'Mario Maker,' things like that.
And as we’re kind of finalizing those scenes, it really dawned on us that even if we just use things that seem and look familiar to people who have played the games, like the assets and whatnot, we were able to create something that was convincing and felt good, and I think after that it became a lot easier to handle and much easier to think about."
But why did the creator choose Illumination as the project's partner? According to Miyamoto, the two parties "realized that [their] philosophies and way [they] think" were in sync:
"After that decision to take the more IP-focused approach, we had talked about potential partners, and then our encounter with Chris [Meledandri] was an interesting one in that, as we got to know each other, we realized that our philosophies and the way we think about creating something new is very similar.
We thought that this would be a great match and decided, let’s work together to create something new. And it was just this kind of joint forces of these two different creatives, and then we finally decided on creating a new movie and since then, it’s been a smooth sailing process from there."
He went on to say that while most people approached the creation of a Mario movie as a business proposition, Chris Meledandri simply wanted to "create something new:"
"There were times when people would come to the original creators, Nintendo, and say, 'Here’s the kind of movie you want to make. And here’s how we can expand this into business.' And it was back in that time when we changed approaches that we started to feel like it should be Nintendo that creates this kind of thing.
With Chris it wasn’t, 'Hey, let’s make a Mario movie.' It was like, 'Let’s create something new,' and that kind of shift in perspective and how our approach to creating something was what really made this partnership work."
The Success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie
The project is undeniably a massive success despite its murky standings with critics.
While Illumination's CEO Chris Meledandri recently stated he is "not allowed to talk about" the possibility of making a sequel, the box office performance of the first movie was "beyond [his] expectations."
Given that the movie had a post-credits scene setting up Yoshi for an upcoming debut, it's hard to imagine Nintendo not having already commissioned a sequel.
More spin-off films are almost certainly a guarantee as well. One of the ideas that fans have floated around for quite a while now is a Luigi's Mansion adventure with Charlie Day's character.
Super Mario Bros. is now playing in theaters worldwide and will be available to purchase on premium video-on-demand platforms on May 9.