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The Super Mario Bros. Movie Composer on Becoming Pals with Shigeru Miyamoto & Koji Kondo

"When they heard my themes, they’re immediately like, ‘Oh my God! This is Mario!’"

By Josh Weiss

There was a lot riding on The Super Mario Bros. Movie (coming to Peacock Thursday, August 3!). Hollywood's previous attempt to bring the turtle-stomping plumber (and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom) to the big screen in 1993 proved disastrous for pretty much everyone involved.

The curious, live-action feature took a lot of wild creative swings, and while it has since gained a sizable cult following, the critical and box office failure at the time scared Nintendo away from the movie business for three whole decades. That is until the gaming company found trustworthy partners in Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures — both of which vowed to do right by the beloved franchise.

This corporate alliance between titans of industry paid off big-time once the animated blockbuster netted $1 billion less than a month after its theatrical debut, becoming the highest-grossing video game project of all time.

RELATED: How Do You Go From Fast X to Super Mario Bros.? Composer Brian Tyler On Scoring 2023's Biggest Blockbusters

Still, there were a lot of gold coins at stake, especially in the beginning. When production first began in late 2021, millions of die-hard Mario fans raised their eyebrows at the news of Jurassic World's Chris Pratt lending his voice to the iconic platformer. That early skepticism proved to be unfounded, of course, but the stress must have had the cast and crew sweating Bullet Bills.

Well, everyone except composer Brian Tyler, who felt as cool, calm, and collected as Mr. Blizzard.

"I never really thought about it from the perspective of being nervous," he tells SYFY WIRE. "There are only so many people on Earth [who are film composers]. I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m probably the right person. I probably know Mario more than any film composer.’ It was just one of those things where I was like, ‘Well, someone’s gonna do it. It should be me!’"

How The Super Mario Bros. Movie composer became friends with Nintendo icons

Mario in The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)

Like many devoted players, Tyler's love of Nintendo goes back to childhood, though you'd be hard-pressed to find many kids talented enough to perform a "really crazy, fancy version" of the Mario theme on the piano. "It was underneath my fingers and in my brain and my soul," he continues. "It was almost like I didn't have to think too much. I naturally just wanted to do something really cool."

The composer's deep love for the material — which led him to craft a score chock full of references to nearly every corner of the Mario mythos — impressed both Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of the Super Mario Bros. IP and several other massive Nintendo franchises) and Koji Kondo (maestro behind the original Super Mario Bros. game from 1985).

RELATED: Not Content With Being the Year's Biggest Movie, Super Mario Is Also an Oreo Cookie Now

"I became friends with them and it was really cool to see the people who made the original one when they heard my themes," he says. "They’re immediately like, ‘Oh my God! This is Mario!’ It’s not like you’re doing something outside of Mario on top of Mario. Now it is part of that universe."

Despite his legendary status in popular culture, Kondo proved to be down-to-Earth and incredibly supportive of Tyler's vision for the soundtrack. "It’s the thing he’s known for, and here I come!" Tyler adds. "The fact that he really opened up and loved the music so much, we were able to just pal around in that way. It was just a really dope experience."

(L-R) Chris Meledandri, CEO of Illumination, Nintendo's Koji Kondo, Brian Tyler, Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, and Takumi Kawagoe

Tyler goes on to recount a memorable Zoom meeting with Kondo, where the former sent along a diagram comprised of more than 100 pieces of "really specific music" from the games he planned to use in the film. 

RELATED: Why Fast X Composer Brian Tyler Compares Long-Running Fast Saga to Star Wars

"He was like, ‘Damn!’ And I was like, ‘Well, I'm a fan.’ Then he goes, ‘So am I!’ And to prove it, he went over to a shelf and showed me a huge CD collection. There was this part of the shelf that was just Brian Tyler CDs. I’m like, ‘Well, you can’t fake that!’ It was super cool."

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is now available on Digital, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD with a plethora of bonus features. If you missed it on the big screen, don't worry! The film is still playing in theaters. You can also catch it on Peacock Thursday, August 3.

For more Illumination goodness, head over to Peacock for Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2.