Animation fans and video gamers in my social sphere are well aware that Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda) has teamed up with Chris Meledandri (founder of Illumination, the studio behind Despicable Me, The Secret Life of Pets and Sing) to make an animated film based on the Super Mario Bros. series.
Will it be amazing? Will it be a disaster? I have no idea. All I know is that I am a long-time Nintendo fan who has spent more time in the Mushroom Kingdom than any other fictional video game world and is therefore awaiting the Mario movie more than any other animated film.
Mario games are consistently some of the most fun games on the planet, especially the platformers and adventure games. My family and I were fans of both Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog because of their animated shows, and when we got old enough to play their video games, we could have either went with the Mario games at Nintendo or the Sonic games at Sega (kids in the nineties could swear their allegiance to only one video game company).
Sonic always seemed like the cool kid, and in the cartoons he was a chili dog-eating wiseguy who outsmarted his foes like a modern-day Bugs Bunny.
Mario on the other hand was a mustachioed plumber from Brooklyn and a way more unlikely hero. In terms of creativity, the Mario shows were way better. Sonic fought robots but Mario fought an army of turtles in a land of talking mushrooms. Plus Princess Toadstool was the coolest princess outside of Disney. And Luigi deserves a spot in the Loveable Coward Hall of Fame alongside Scooby-Doo and Shaggy.
It was clear that Nintendo was my family’s choice (it would take years before we learned to appreciate Sega) and as a result of our love for Mario, we began to play his games (Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Super Mario Land, Super Mario World, Super Mario Galaxy).
You see what happened there? My love for the animated series was what led to my love for the games, and that’s what’s going to happen to kids when Illumination’s Mario movie comes out. But the standard for entertainment has gone up significantly since the days of DiC (the animation studio behind The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!) and an animated film based on a Japanese video game released by a major Hollywood studio will be under more scrutiny. A movie like the live-action Super Mario Bros. (1993) starring Bob Hoskins as Mario and John Leguizamo as Luigi would not fly in the age of Twitter.
But Nintendo does have more creative freedom this time, and Shigeru Miyamoto and Chris Meledandri are reportedly getting along well, so there is hope. Add in Illumination’s box office track record and they might be the best possible studio to make a Mario movie. One of the reasons why Illumination is so successful is because Universal heavily promotes their films while producing them on the cheap (at least cheap compared to the budgets for Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks films). It wouldn’t surprise me if Mario shows up to make a cameo in America’s Got Talent in 2022, just like the Minions always do.
Knowing Hollywood, there will inevitably be sequels if it is successful, and possibly more non-Mario Nintendo adaptations to come. Here are some I would want.
They have already adapted Donkey Kong to television well with the computer-animated series Donkey Kong Country based on the Super NES games. It is a world I would like to see revisited in a movie setting. I always thought the character lent himself to the world of animation well because Donkey Kong games are so cartoony. And since DK exists in the same universe as Mario, give that one to Universal as well. That way they can have a crossover without the legal issues that have prevented the X-Men from meeting the Avengers for all these years.
The Legend of Zelda
This is the one that may be in most demand for some kind of adaptation. It was rumored that Nintendo may have been thinking about adapting the game into a family-friendly Game of Thrones-inspired Netflix series. I am still supportive of this idea by the way. Apparently the studio behind the Netflix series Castlevania would be interested. My one request for any Zelda movie or show (and this may be an unpopular request) is that they do not directly adapt any video game in particular but instead create their own story specifically for the adaptation. The more creative freedom storytellers have, the more they flourish. Stories that were meant to be told in an interactive way rarely translate well to film, which is why films based on games are notoriously bad.
I would still love to see a live-action adaptation of the sci-fi action game Metroid. They have been working on one ages ago. The only reason why it hasn’t been made yet is because the filmmakers had questions about the series and the main protagonist Samus Aran that Nintendo was unable to answer. Video games rarely need to be anything more than just fun to play, but movies require more than that. They need to understand who the characters are in order for us to care about them. Brie Larson has already said that she would be interested in the role. Are you listening Hollywood?
Just make a Star Fox anime already. It would be great. When Shigeru Miyamoto first created the space shooter for the Super NES, he was inspired by Star Wars. The TV series should follow suit and be Star Wars with anthropomorphic animals. Falco Lombardi already shares a lot in common with Han Solo. Peppy Hare is like Obi-Wan Kenobi (he worked alongside series protagonist Fox McCloud’s father). Slippy Toad is the annoying goofball (he’s a regular Jar Jar Binks!) and you’ve got all kinds of other great characters like Andross, Wolf O’Donnell and Krystle. It would be entertaining. Believe me.
After the anime series Kirby: Right Back at Ya! they need to start fresh with this character. And a stop-motion clay series is the way to go. The video game Kirby and the Rainbow Curse has a clay-inspired look and I can see a series animated in that style vividly. It would be like a new Gumby. Kirby goes on magical adventures in Dream Land and constantly gets into trouble, especially with the evil King Dedede, his main rival from the video game who hates Kirby. Kirby doesn’t talk so it would be kind of like Shaun the Sheep and Kirby a silent Chaplin-esque figure. I could honestly see this being brilliant.
Yes Pokémon has been adapted hundreds of times but I have yet to see it done properly. The anime series is mediocre. Detective Pikachu was okay but the characters could have been less thin and its sense of humor stronger. I hope that one day I can finally see an adaptation that is as brilliant as the game on which it is based. Since Detective Pikachu was as close as I’ve ever gotten to being satisfied with a Pokémon adaptation, they need to keep going with the live-action movies. You liked Detective Pikachu? How about Pop Star Jigglypuff! Cat Burglar Meowth! Life Guard Squirtle! You can even hire Jordan Peele to direct a horror movie starring Gengar! The Pokémon movie ideas are endless.
An adaptation of Kid Icarus interests me mainly because of the dialogue in the Nintendo 3DS game Kid Icarus: Uprising. I actually laughed out loud playing that game because of the writing. I’ll be honest! You don’t even need a Kid Icarus adaptation. Just give Pit and Palutena their own talk show and have them interview celebrity guests. They would be the new Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon.
I would love it if Animal Crossing got adapted into a TV series. In the video games you play as a human who moves into a town full of talking animals and you have to live on your own making money to pay off your debt to your landlord, a Raccoon named Tom Nook. There is no plot or final boss. It is basically a sandbox where you can do what you want, which leaves a lot of room for imagination in a TV adaptation. The worst thing that could happen to you in the game is get stung by a bee or get ripped off by a counterfeit art salesman. Mundane? Yes. But not every video game adaptation has to have action. How about a sitcom like The Simpsons?
Here’s a genius idea, and I bet Wario would agree with me. In the WarioWare games, Mario’s rival Wario and his friends in Diamond City have created a number of 4-second minigames (Microgames) that you must complete in rapid succession marathon-style. How about we adapt that into an animated series? A rapid succession of shorts in a row with various art styles. It would be like something out of Adult Swim. Obviously it would be kind of hard for traditional network television but perfect for YouTube or streaming.
Give me a wacky cartoon short about that dog and those ducks from Duck Hunt Looney Tunes-style. Make it theatrical and put it in front of the Mario movie as an homage to the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt double-pack that came out for the NES. I swear to God I should be running the Nintendo film division. I would be going Kevin Feige on that shit. Call me Nintendo!