It’s been 24 years since Super Mario Bros.’ calamitous big-screen jump made Nintendo seemingly call “game over” on film adaptions, but now, thanks to a pending partnership with Illumination Entertainment, you may be seeing Mario and Luigi powering up at your local cineplex again soon.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Nintendo Co. and Illumination -- Chris Menlandi and Universal’s animation company behind Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets -- are “close to an agreement” on “one of the highest-profile licensing deals by a Hollywood studio in years." And the fruits of that deal will reportedly start with an animated Super Mario Bros. film.
Even better, Nintendo’s chief creative, Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind the original Super Mario Bros. game, could apparently come on board to produce the film alongside Menlandi. Miyamoto only received a “based on the concept and characters created by: Nintendo” credit in the 1993 live-action film starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the titular princess-saving, King Koopa stomping Brooklyn plumbers.
After that film's poor reception, Miyamoto and Co. have avoided big-budget Hollywood film adaptations of their obviously cinematic properties, which include not just Mario, but also The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Metroid, and Pokémon (that property has seen 20 low-budget kids films made by a Nintendo affilitiate.) Though there have been rumblings about Nintendo getting back into major film production in the past, that it's taken this long could be a testament to how much they care about getting the details right in launching Phase II of the NCU.
The 24-year lapse could also be about finding a producing partner that Nintendo can trust. It's been about two years since they allowed Universal to bring Mario and more of their characters to life at Universal's theme parks; so perhaps that has helped assuage the trust issues.
Still, all of this is pending the closure of the reported deal, so at this point, it's a little like banging your head against a wall. But who knows, maybe 20 gold coins will come out of that wall eventually.