The Super Mario Bros. Movie is produced by Chris Meledandri and Shigeru Miyamoto, written by Matthew Fogel. It’s directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.
The film stars Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy,Charlie Day,Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key,Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Sebastian Maniscalco, Charles Martinet, Kevin Michael Richardson.
The official synopsis reads:
Based on the world of Nintendo’s Super Mario games, the film invites audiences into a vibrant, thrilling new universe unlike any created before in an action-packed cinematic comedy event. While working underground to fix a water main, Brooklyn plumbers Mario (CHRIS PRATT, Jurassic World and The LEGO Movie franchises) and brother Luigi (CHARLIE DAY, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Horrible Bosses) are transported down a mysterious pipe and wander into a magical new world. But when the brothers are separated, Mario embarks on an epic quest to find Luigi.
Universal Pictures, head owner by Illumination Entertainment, has revealed the backstory on how they develop the story that has become the number one film in the world and the most successful animated film. It has already become the most grossed film for Illumination, even passed the Despicable Me -franchise and surpassed Frozen 2 on the global box office, reaching $400 m USD.
“At Illumination, we are a character film studio first,” Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri says. “We love to make films that have subversive qualities, and this tone fits beautifully with the story that we and Nintendo are telling with The Super Mario Bros. Movie. The way we’ve approached this film is to make it for fans. We were committed to honoring this incredible game and these beloved characters.”
Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Super Mario games and producer of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, explains that the Super Mario world connects with so many people across the globe because it has continued to evolve since its conception.
“Since I was a child, I longed to become a manga artist, and until around the time that I entered high school, my dream was to become one,” Miyamoto says.
“Around then, I was imagining the characters I drew myself appearing in my own manga. Although the rail shifted to the game instead of manga, I believe that if my first game was not fun enough, the characters which appear in it would not have remained in everyone’s memories. Fortunately, the character which appeared in Donkey Kong, the very first game I developed, was remembered and recognized by many people, and allowed me to produce many series of games after that. For the people who play the game, the character was recognized as an alter ego of themselves which moves around on the TV screen. And Mario evolved along with the evolvement of digital technology. As I continuously produced a game of Mario whenever a new technology came out, Mario became a very unique character which is totally one of a kind.”
Miyamoto shares Meledandri’s enthusiasm for the partnership, and notes that his early discussions with the producer made it clear that they had likeminded creative visions.
“I clearly remember what Chris-san and I discussed when we first met,” Miyamoto says.
“Whenever I meet a Hollywood producer, they tend to start talking about how our intellectual property can be a success as a movie, but the conversation with Chris-san was mainly about how our thoughts about creating things are alike. As a result, the way the film was produced was very close to how I usually develop games, and thankfully it was very comfortable for me. Upon proceeding with the production, obviously things do not always get solved with only philosophy. We had many trials and errors and discussions as we pushed forward: What will the story be telling about Mario? What kind of scenes do the fans wish to see? Of the huge list of characters, who should we have appeared in the film? We discussed so many topics.”
Screenwriter Matthew Fogel:
“We learn that Mario and Luigi are two outer borough guys who come from an Italian family,” Meledandri says. “Mario is a little insecure and just really wants to prove to himself that he’s capable. In trying to solve a citywide plumbing issue, Mario and Luigi come across an underground area. When Luigi disappears, Mario goes to see what happened to him and we discover that he’s in the Warp Zone. Mario lands in the Mushroom Kingdom, but Luigi gets thrown into the dark lands, which is ruled by Bowser. Mario has one objective: to find his brother.”
The Super Mario Bros. games had a big impact on both of the directors’ childhoods.
“Playing Super Mario Bros. was my main source of entertainment as a kid,” Jelenic says. “Coming home from school and playing these games was always an adventure filled with lots of emotions. So, when we got the chance to work on this project, the most important thing for me was translating those emotions that I had as a child playing the game into a cinematic experience. You know, the thrill of getting the Super Star, the fun of becoming Super Mario. I wanted to take those experiences of how I felt as a child and make them into real emotions on the big screen.”
As they came onto the production, the directors wanted to make something that was beautiful, and which took these characters that everyone loves and brought them from the video game and into the film.
“The most important thing for us was to create a really authentic and beautiful representation of these characters and the worlds they inhabit,” Horvath says. “We started by looking at the games and designs and finding the most common design elements that recur throughout all of the Super Mario games. We took these iconic elements and pushed the level of detail to make them look believable, almost as if you could reach out and touch them. The biggest challenge was to ensure the audience would believe that these are real characters with real emotions, families, hopes and desires.”
To prepare for the film, the directors channeled their inner childhood personas and played various Mario games.
“I definitely replayed the original Super Mario Bros. games,” Horvath says. “I replayed some of the side scrolling, more recent ones. The one that I played a lot was Super Mario 3\D World and that was a game that I really liked. I took a lot of design inspiration from that game.”
Jelenic adds: “I’m more of an old school Mario guy. I played a lot from the original stuff. Working on this movie, I jumped back into the Mario world, and I got to play a lot of games I had not been exposed to and it just reminded me of being a kid again.”
The main goal in making The Super Mario Bros. Movie was to create something that can be enjoyed by everyone.
“Whether it is someone who has played the game before, someone who has never seen Mario before, children, adults who have played the game since their childhood…anyone,” Miyamoto says.
“It’s a movie about life and about family. We hope that people come see it, have fun, and see that we’ve treated these iconic characters with the respect they deserve.”
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