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‘Super Mario’ creator on pitfalls of giving the character an official backstory in new movie

The beauty of Mario is that he can be anyone. Add in a definitive backstory and you risk losing some of the mystique.

By Josh Weiss
The Super Mario Bros. Movie Trailer

"Who is this character?" That was the big question posed to Shigeru Miyamoto in the mid-1980s by Yōichi Kotabe when the animator was tasked with fleshing out the design of a little-known Italian plumber called Mario.

"Mario is a person who will never hurt any other people," Miyamoto — the legendary Nintendo creator of behind Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, and Pikmin, — stated during a Variety-conducted conversation centered around the long-gestating development of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment's The Super Mario Bros. Movie (now playing in theaters everywhere).

RELATED: ‘Mario’ creator explains why Nintendo has been so reluctant to adapt its games for the big screen

The character's inherent goodness is what makes him so enduring. He represents the best of humanity and, more importantly, "a blank slate" (as Variety astutely pointed out) for innovation. In other words, he doesn't require an extensive origin story to be compelling. "Mario is essentially a character created for Nintendo to develop more interesting, innovative games in the future,” Miyamoto said.

A definitive explanation for every facet of his existence would make him less of a universal entity. Nevertheless, an emotional backstory was required for the animated blockbuster, which presents Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) as a pair of blue-collar, Italian-American Brooklynites who live at home with their disapproving parents while attempting to launch a fledgling plumbing business.

“We were hesitant to create a backstory because we want Mario to be without restrictions," Miyamoto confessed. "To establish a background for him might become a disadvantage for future games." To that end, the creative team focused more on replicating the spirit of the beloved source material than on the minutiae of Mario's personal identity. “Rather than overthinking who Mario is, it was more important to visualize what we see in the video games as authentically as possible on the big screen."

Miyamoto produced the film alongside Illumination founder/CEO, Chris Meledandri. Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath co-directed the effort, working off a screenplay by Matthew Fogel. Jack Black (Bowser), Anya Taylor-Joy (Princess Peach), Keegan-Michael Key (Toad), Seth Rogen (Donkey Kong), Fred Armisen (Cranky Kong), and Kevin Michael Richardson (Kamek) co-star.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are on sale here!

Want more Illumination goodness in your life? Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 are now streaming on the platform.