Mario will rise to the big screen – for the second time – with the 2022 Super Mario Bros. movie, but it sounds like this is just the beginning of Nintendo’s ambitious screens.
Announcing last year’s financial results this week, it was revealed that Nintendo plans to add Chris Meledandr, CEO of the animation studio for the Mario movie animation studio, as an external director on June 29, if approved by shareholders.
This follows a A quick company interview this week, where Nintendo’s global president Shuntaro Furukawa announced his interest in animation outside of Mario. “Animation is usually something we’re looking for, and not just this franchise,” referring to Mario. The film is produced by Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario. Illumination is the studio behind Despicable Me, Minions and The Lorax, among others.
Overall, Nintendo’s goals to increase the reach of its gaming range seem stronger than ever before. In March, Universal Studios Japan opened a Mario-themed park area after several years of development and plans to open an attraction at U.S. Universal Studios locations as well.
Why is Nintendo expanding beyond games?
Nintendo is not as closed about adapting its material as you might think – at least in recent history. In addition to the release of Manga based on the Zelda series, it also allowed its characters to appear in the 2012 film Wreck-It Ralph. There are Lego series that now have Mario and several mobile games with Nintendo characters coming up with a Pikmin theme.
However, direct involvement in the creation of movies and theme parks is on the next level – it shows that Nintendo sees evergreen value in its characters outside of their video games and wants to ensure that their value is repeated in these various franchises. About a decade ago, Nintendo began to seriously explore opportunities outside of gaming, according to an interview with Furukawan Fast Company.
“It’s not that we’ve asked Illumination to handle everything,” Furukawa said of the creation of the Mario movie. “Mr. Miyamoto is very, very pragmatic in the production of this film.” At the same time, Furukawa is aware that it will not allow the attention of too many game developers to shift to these other parts. Games are still a priority.
Nintendo characters are world famous, but relatively unused in other media. The Mario movie is a good starting point, but the list of heroes and villains identifiable in its library is probably now better known than ever thanks to the success of the Nintendo Switch.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate on Nintendo Switch is a fighting game featuring most of the company’s major characters and sold 23.84 million copies in March 2021. Heroes who started life in obscure games – such as Ice Climbers and Pit Kid Icarus – are now familiar to tens of millions of players regardless, whether they know their origin or not.
Not all are suitable for TV or movie customization, but many of them are suitable. And while games will always remain the focus of Nintendo, there has always seemed to be money on the table when it comes to exploring the value of these heroes outside of consoles.
Mario’s success on the big screen is likely to drive any Nintendo next – but the fact that it’s approaching Illumination seems to be a good future collaboration.