Nintendo is working with Despicable Me studio Illumination on an all-new Super Mario Bros. movie. The announcement in January was met with a degree of skepticism, given that the 1993 Mario movie was a trainwreck and that video game movies in general are rarely any good.
Illumination boss Chris Meledandri spoke to Variety about why he thinks the new Mario movie, which will be animated and not live-action like the earlier movie, stands to be more of a success. The key difference with the new Mario movie is that Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto is involved; he’s a producer alongside Meledandri.
“We are keeping [Miyamoto] front and center in the creation of this film,” he said. “I’ve rarely seen that happen with any adaptation where the original creative voice is being embraced like we’re embracing Miyamoto. There’s a history in Hollywood of people believing that they know better than the people responsible for a property. I’ve made that mistake before.”
There are a number of challenges in making a Mario movie, Meledandri said.
“It’s an ambitious task,” he said. “The challenge is taking things that are so thin in their original form and finding depth that doesn’t compromise what generations of fans love about Mario, but also feels organic to the iconography and can support a three-act structure.”
According to the report, the new Super Mario Bros. movie is a “priority” at Illumination, with the expectation for it to be in theaters potentially by 2022.
Back in February, Miyamoto said the script for the new Super Mario was “progressing,” but there is no word yet on the story or who will voice any of the characters. Miyamoto said Nintendo may abandon the movie if he and Meledandri can’t come up with a good enough idea.
1993’s live-action Super Mario Bros. movie was a critical and commercial failure, with star Bob Hoskins–who played Mario–said it was the worst movie he’s ever been a part of. Hoskins and co-star John Leguizamo reportedly drank whiskey between takes to get through filming.
Nintendo has been very hesitant to bring its franchises to movies and TV, so this new Super Mario Bros. movie is a big step forward. In addition to this film, Nintendo is reportedly working on a Legend of Zelda TV show, while the company also partnered with Universal to create a Nintendo theme park that could feature real-life Mario Kart.
There may be an explanation for why Nintendo is working on so many licensing efforts. In 2016, then-CEO Tatsumi Kimishima said fewer and fewer young people are finding out about Nintendo games through…games. Instead, they’re discovering Nintendo and its characters through things like officially licensed Mario toothbrushes. So you can expect these kinds of licensing deals to continue and possibly increase, the executive said at the time.