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How 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' design vibe was inspired by the games, metal album covers & more

"From story to visual development to the animation, Nintendo has been with us every step of the way."

By Josh Weiss
The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)

Unless you haven't been watching the various trailers and clips that have been released so far, it should come as no surprise that The Super Mario Bros. Movie (in theaters everywhere next month) represents a crash course on the character's 42-year history.

Everything from the platforming plumber's fierce rivalry with Donkey Kong to his love of high-octane kart racing will make an appearance in the hotly-anticipated film co-produced by Universal Pictures, Illumination Entertainment, and Nintendo. The gaming company in particular insisted on having a creative hand in production, determined to avoid the critical and financial disaster of 1993's live-action Super Mario Bros. movie.

RELATED: Watch Jack Black's hilarious Superman audition while we wait for his big screen Bowser in 'Mario' movie

"From story to visual development to the animation, Nintendo has been with us every step of the way," co-director Aaron Horvath said during an interview with Total Film (the magazine's latest issue is now on sale). Chris Pratt and Charlie Day take on the role of Mario and Luigi, two mustachioed plumbers from Brooklyn who suddenly find themselves in a wondrous land known as the Mushroom Kingdom.

Per Horvath, the design of Princess Peach's (Anya Taylor-Joy) fungal dominion is an amalgam of "elements that show up consistently in every Mario game." These included "the question mark block, Toad houses, Peach's castle, the warp pipes," he revealed. "We took all these elements and started mixing them together to create this multilevel metropolis for the Mushroom Kingdom."

But where this is light, there is also darkness. We are, of course, referring to the fiery keep occupied by the dreaded Bowser. With Jack Black voicing the spiky-shelled baddie, the filmmakers leaned heavily into the hardcore rock star vibes given off by King Koopa and the Tenacious D alumnus playing him. "Bowser's whole aesthetic is onyx rock and chains and iron gates. His castle looks like it could be a metal album cover," Horvath continued. "We felt like there was a lot of natural connections."

"What [Jack] does so well in this movie," added co-director Michael Jelenic, "is go from an absolutely frightening character in one moment, and then be hilarious, goofy, and vulnerable in the next."

Written by Matthew Fogel (The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part), the animated adventure also features the voice talents of Seth Rogen (Donkey Kong) Fred Armisen (Crankey Kong), Keegan-Michael Key (Toad), Kevin Michael Richardson (Kamek), Sebastian Maniscalco (Spike), and Charles Martinet.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie wall-jumps onto big screen Wednesday, April 5 — two days earlier than originally planned. A final trailer is scheduled to premiere during the next Nintendo Direct livestream on Thursday, March 9 at 5 p.m. ET. Pick up tickets for the movie right here from Fandango.

Want more from Illumination? Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 are now streaming on Peacock.