A 1-Up From the Gaming Cabinet

On April 4, 1983, arcades opened their doors to individuals who enjoy the challenges that awaited them inside. Large consoles lined up against each other, exciting the young ones with puzzles and adventures in strange and different worlds. On this day in history the largest video game franchise was born, Super Mario. 

Who would have thought that the small, red Italian that jumped over colorful cooters and walking shrooms to save his lost princess, would supply Nintendo with nearly 30 billion dollars.

Today, April 5, 2023, almost 40 years later, Jumpman and his fellow companions take a major leap from the coin-op machine to the big screen in their premiere of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

Directed by Aaron Horvath and Micheal Jelenic, the iconic global entertainment brands Illumination and Nintendo, have assembled to craft a great adventure for Mario and friends. This movie takes aspects of all games and spin-offs from the past four decades to produce a final film that invites the audience to a vibrant, new universe in the action-packed, comedic event.

As Brooklyn plumbers, Mario and his brother Luigi are working underground to fix a water main. The twins come across a mysterious pipe, which then transports them into a magical new world. But when the brothers are separated, Mario embarks on an epic quest to find Luigi.

With the assistance from the monarch of the Mushroom Kingdom, Princess Peach, and subject Toad, Mario discovers his power within.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” cast features many comedic actors, including Chris Pratt as Mario, Charlie Day as Luigi, Jack Black as Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek and Charles Martinet, who has voiced the characters of Mario and Luigi in the Super Mario games for more than 30 years.

After the dire failure of the 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” film adaptation, Japanese video game designer, producer and game director of Nintendo, Shigeru Miyamoto, (the original creator of Super Mario) became wary of licensing his content to film.

“Our content business would be able to develop even further if we were able to combine our long-beloved software with that of video assets, and utilize them together for extended periods,” said Miyamoto. He was aware of the different procedures of making a film versus a video game, and anticipated a film expert to lead the process.

Through the project with Universal Parks & Resorts to create the latest attraction, Super Nintendo World, Miyamoto met Chris Meledandri, founder of Universal Pictures’ Illumination animation division. Charmed by Meledandri creative procedures, Miyamoto saw him a perfect fit for the leader of a Mario film. 

Come January 2018, Nintendo announced that the film would progress with Miyamoto and Meledandri co-producing as well as Horvath and Jelenic as the directors.

Mario looking at the Mushroom Kingdom from “The Super Mario Bros.” Movie
Photo from Trusted Reviews

Horvath and Jelenic received much criticism and backlash from the community after their take on the film was announced. In the past, silly movies such as “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” were under their care, convincing the public that this upcoming production would not be taken seriously. 

“When people probably first heard our names attached to the movie, they expected we’d do the ‘Teen Titans Go!’ treatment to Mario,” said Jelenic. “But every project we come to, we make new choices depending on who the audience is and what we’re going for.”

The duo took the job seriously. Jelenic stated that Illumination updated their lighting and rendering technology for the film, hoping that it “pushed the technical and artistic capabilities of [the] studio to new heights,” said  Melendandri. The directors worked with a vehicle design artist and artists at Nintendo to create the go-karts featured in the film.

The goal of the film was to serve as an origin story for Mario and Luigi, by creating a more cinematic and emotional story. Jelenic and Horvath decided to interchange Princess Peach and Luigi’s roles, having felt that having the Princess playing “damsel in distress” again was too straightforward. They wanted to focus on her role as leader, a monarch for the Mushroom Kingdom. 

For Bowser, the two decided to take a darker, frightening turn on his character, when in truth, he is usually someone who is somewhat vulnerable and funny.

Jelenic and Horvath wanted the animation to balance stylized animation with realism. Horvath claimed that “there are moments of cartoony fun, but … we wanted it to feel like a big adventure film and that there are stakes and maybe you believe that these characters can die, so they’re not super-squashy and super-stretchy, and we used consistent volume on the characters to make them feel a little more grounded.”

On October 6, last year, the teaser trailer was released, receiving over three million views in 24 hours. The short teaser was praised for its visuals and tone, especially Jack Black’s performance as Bowser. On November 29, the first official trailer was released, reactions again, highly favorable for the short snippet on the production.

On December 9, the first clip of the film was revealed at The Game Awards 2022, showing Toad guiding Mario through the Mushroom Kingdom castle, again, the animation and pictures put the public in awe. Future marketing would present more clips of the movie in the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl LVII.

Nintendo, having found interest in producing more animated films for the future, has already proposed ideas such as a Donkey Kong spin-off film or a Luigi’s Mansion film next.

Now April 5, the anticipated film is finally being released everywhere in the US. The colorful hues of the Mario Universe will lighten theaters and fulfill the hearts of children today and past.

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