We’ve seen animated films based on toys (The Lego Movie franchise). We’ve seen animated films based on video games (Angry Birds). We’ve even seen an animated film based on a Smartphone-based sprite (The Emoji Movie). But one thing we haven’t seen yet is an animated film based on a Nintendo property. Well that could be changing soon.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Universal Pictures’ Illumination Entertainment is in the process of closing a deal with Nintendo to create a full-length animated feature film based on the long-running Super Mario Bros. video game franchise. Illumination, the studio behind the Despicable Me franchise and The Secret Life of Pets, has been in discussion with Nintendo for over a year on a possible film licensing deal.
This follows the companies’ previous agreement two years ago, which allows the Universal theme park to make attractions featuring Mario and other Nintendo characters. Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima said this April in an analyst briefing that Nintendo is interested in making theme-park and movie deals less for licensing profits and more for sales that would come from “synergy with the dedicated videogame business.”
If Illumination and Nintendo sign off on this current deal, Illumination could have the rights to make multiple animated films starring Mario and company, although only one is currently planned.
One challenge this potential film faces is surmounting the shortcomings that have befallen past video game-to-film adaptations. In the past several years, live-action movies such as Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, and Prince of Persia failed to capture the magic of their video game counterparts or do well at the box office. Only Angry Birds earned enough to warrant a sequel, currently due in 2019.
Aside from the Pokémon films, Nintendo hasn’t made movie deals for any of its characters since 1993’s ‘so bad it’s good’ live-action Super Mario Bros. starring Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, and Dennis Hopper. Following this debacle, it only makes sense that Nintendo would be hesitant to pursue more films with the potential to tarnish their much-loved video game properties. Luckily, Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario Bros. himself, is said to have been part of the talks with Illumination and is likely to be a producer on the movie along with Illumination’s chief executive Chris Meledandri.
If all goes as planned, we could see the titular, adventuring plumbers Mario and Luigi on the big screen in the next several years.