Mario is Nintendo’s biggest brand and gaming’s most recognizable icon. Mario games, including platformers, sports, kart racers, and more, have sold more than 500 million copies. A movie based on plumber superstar should be a slam dunk, but Nintendo has reasons to be cautious.
A live-action Super Mario Bros. movie came out in 1993, and critics and fans panned the film for its unfaithful adaption that focused on a darker and grittier version of the Mushroom Kingdom. Nintendo has since distanced itself from the movie. But a 3D animated project sounds like a better fit. Just look at the newest Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey on the Switch. Its handful of short cutscenes are charming.
Illuminations is also a great choice for the brand. The studio has created popular and humorous animated films with Despicable Me, Sing, and The Secret Life of Pets. Illuminations has experience bringing unique worlds to life. Its last film, Despicable Me 3, has made over $1 billion in the worldwide box office.
Also, Universal owns Illuminations. Nintendo is already working with the media giant on theme park attractions for its Universal Studios destinations around the world, so the two already have a relationship.
But the movie will still be a challenge to make. Most Mario games are short on plot, instead focusing on gameplay. And Mario himself speaks sparingly. An animated movie would probably want a more vocal Mario and substantial story.