Hollywood is full of reboots and remakes, and now one of the worst attempts at a movie is about to get some course correction that is long overdue, yet perhaps seems like perfectly timed. Nintendo is going to give the Super Mario Bros. franchise another chance at getting a 1-up at the box office, and it will trust the studio responsible for Despicable Me and Minions to make it work.
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Nintendo is close to coming to terms with a deal to allow Illumination Entertainment to obtain the rights to create an animated film based on the Super Mario Bros. Among those involved in the discussions is Mario’s own creator, Shigeru Miyamoto. If Miyamoto is involved in the discussions, Mario lovers all over should have some faith that this attempt at creating a movie starring Nintendo’s mascot should go much better than the fatally-flawed live-action take on the franchise in 1993. And for fans of Mario, this could be the much-needed attempt to cleanse the pallet that was soiled in the mid-1990s.
As a child of the 1980s I had two passions in my life; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Super Mario Bros. I spent afternoons after school watching a block of afternoon programming of the classic animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Super Mario Bros. Super Show like many kids my age probably did at the time. I played the heck out of the Super Mario Bros. franchise and got as frustrated as anyone else at the dreaded water level on the TMNT video game.
After playing the games and watching the TV shows as frequently as I did, it was a miraculous moment when I learned that my beloved Ninja Turtles were coming to the big screen in 1990. It was glorious for me to see the Jim Henson-inspired representations of Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Shredder, and hearing Raphael say “damn” was a somewhat shocking development for my relatively sheltered self at the time, lacking the background origins from the comics. When The Secret of the Ooze came out, I was once again as excited as could be to see my favorite characters come to life once more, even if we got Toka and Razor instead of Beebop and Rocksteady.
But there was still a part of me that wanted to see my other favorite fictional character come to life on the big screen. And in 1993 my dreams came true. Also in 1993, my nightmare became true.
Super Mario Bros.: The Movie has developed a cult following over the years by loyal Mario fans such as myself, but this movie was the 3DO Mario games of movies that is worth the Honest Trailer treatment it once received.
Since the bob-bombing of the Super Mario Bros. movie, Nintendo shied away from allowing other companies to use their franchises for decades. Nintendo has always tried to take great care of their best properties, and the live-action film demonstrated to Nintendo why they should be so cautious. But over time, Nintendo has started opening up to other companies to allow them the chance to work with their main properties. Allowing Square to work on Super Mario RPG on the Super Nintendo was a big step forward at the time for Nintendo, as it allowed a third party to take the Mario franchise and build a unique game around it. The game remains one of the best all-time game son any Nintendo system to this day.
As Nintendo began to lag behind in the console industry, the company aligned with former rival SEGA. SEGA took Mario characters and blended them with their own mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, in a new Olympic-themed franchise that continues to pump out somewhat regular titles. Now, Nintendo and SEGA are the best of pals. More recently, Nintendo has allowed Ubisoft to dip their toes in the Mario franchise with Mario + Rabbids for the Nintendo Switch, which has been a pleasant surprise blending the Mushroom Kingdom signatures with turn-based combat to much applause.
Nintendo continues to show trust in lending its biggest franchise to other companies. And that is extended beyond the video game market as well. Perhaps we should have seen a potential return to the big screen coming. Over the last year, Nintendo has been working together with Universal to build a new Nintendo-themed section of Universal’s theme parks in Orlando, Hollywood, and in Japan. And it looks fantastic.
With Universal so invested in the success of its new Nintendo-themed section of its theme parks, it only makes sense to get together once again to work on developing a new film starring Mario, Luigi, Bowser, and the rest of the gang. And if we’re talking about Nintendo’s lovable Mario and Universal, the solution is simple; animation.
Illumination Entertainment has developed a solid legacy since being founded a decade ago. The animation studio has pumped out three of the 50 highest-grossing films of all time and six of the highest-grossing animated films, going toe-to-toe with the juggernaut that is Disney and Pixar fairly well. The Despicable Me franchise, including its Minions spinoff, has generated over $3.7 billion in gross revenue, and there is a Minions sequel coming in 2020 and a Despicable Me 4 on the agenda for a future release as well.
Now, Illuminated Entertainment will take on the challenge of creating a fun-loving Mario adventure that not only will deliver at teh box office, but also lead to a spike in merchandise revenue at Universal’s theme parks. If any company can do that, it will be Illuminated Entertainment, so Nintendo should rest easy knowing their Super Mario franchise is in their hands.
FIRST LOOK at the new Super Mario Bros. movie. pic.twitter.com/bJXHEfY87a
— Kevin "Who Needs This Many Characters" McGuire (@krmcguire) November 14, 2017
If Universal and Illuminated Entertainment do well with this one, the possibility of Nintendo allowing Universal to experiment with other franchises could come quickly. A space thriller based on Metroid could be fun, as would a journey into the land of Hyrule with The Legend of Zelda.
Don’t let us down, Universal and Illuminated Entertainment. If you do, then our Nintendo Hollywood hopes will have to be found in another castle in the future. And that’s if Nintendo ever tries its hand on the big screen ever again.