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The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a 2023 computer-animated adventure film based on Nintendo’s Mario video game franchise. Produced by Universal Pictures, Illumination, and Nintendo, and distributed by Universal, the film was directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic and written by Matthew Fogel. The ensemble voice cast includes Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, and Fred Armisen. The film features an origin story for the brothers Mario and Luigi, Italian-American plumbers who are transported to an alternate world and become entangled in a battle between the Mushroom Kingdom, led by Princess Peach, and the Koopas, led by Bowser.
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After the critical and commercial failure of the live-action film Super Mario Bros. (1993), Nintendo became reluctant to license its intellectual properties for film adaptations. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto became interested in developing another film, and through Nintendo’s work with Universal Parks & Resorts to create Super Nintendo World, he met with Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri. By 2016, the two were discussing a Mario film and, in January 2018, Nintendo announced that it would collaborate with Illumination and Universal to produce it. Production was underway by 2020, and the cast was announced in September 2021.
After the critical and commercial failure of the 1993 Super Mario Bros. film adaptation, the Japanese video game company Nintendo became wary of licensing its properties for film adaptations. According to Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario, the idea for a new Mario film came from bringing their older games to the Virtual Console and other services. Such transitions took time for the company, and Miyamoto recognized that “our content business would be able to develop even further if we were able to combine our long-beloved software with that of video assets, and utilize them together for extended periods”.Miyamoto knew that the process of making a film was far different from that of making a video game, and wanted a film expert to lead the effort.
Following the November 2014 hack of Sony Pictures, emails between producer Avi Arad, studio chief Amy Pascal, TriStar Pictures head Tom Rothman, and Sony Pictures Animation president of production Michelle Raimo Kouyate were released, revealing that Sony had been attempting to secure the film rights to the Mario franchise for several years. Arad visited Nintendo in Tokyo in February and July 2014 in an attempt to secure a deal. In October, Arad emailed Pascal and said he had closed the deal with Nintendo. Pascal suggested recruiting Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania director Genndy Tartakovsky to help develop the project, while Kouyate said she could “think of 3–4 movies right out of the gate” and hoped to build a “Mario empire”. However, after the emails leaked, Arad denied that a deal had been made, stating that negotiations had only begun. BuzzFeed News noted that the emails did not take into account potential conflicts with Sony Pictures’ corporate sibling Sony Interactive Entertainment, one of Nintendo’s chief competitors.
Through Nintendo’s work with Universal Parks & Resorts to create Mario-based attractions, later resulting in Super Nintendo World, Miyamoto met Chris Meledandri, founder of Universal Pictures’ Illumination animation division. Miyamoto found Meledandri’s creative process similar to his own and felt he would be the proper lead for a Mario film. They had started more earnest discussions by 2016, knowing that if they felt it would not work that they could easily walk away. In November 2017, reports emerged that Nintendo was collaborating with Universal and Illumination to make an animated Mario film.[ Then-Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima clarified that a deal had not been finalized, but that an announcement would come soon. Kimishima hoped that if the deal were successful, a 2020 release date would be possible.
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In January 2018, Nintendo announced that the film would progress with Miyamoto and Meledandri co-producing. Meledandri said the film was a “priority” for Illumination and that it would most likely come out in 2022. He added that Miyamoto would be “front and center” during production. In January 2020, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa stated that the film was “moving along smoothly” with an expected 2022 release date. Furukawa also said Nintendo would own the rights to the film, and both Nintendo and Universal would fund the production.
Animation and design:
The film was animated by Illumination Studios Paris in Paris, France. Production was underway by September 2020, with animation work ending in October 2022.Post-production work on the film had wrapped by March 2023. Jelenic stated that Illumination updated their lighting and rendering technology for the film, with Meledandri claiming that it “pushed the technical and artistic capabilities of [the] studio to new heights.
Jelenic and Horvath wanted the animation to juggle stylized animation with realism, with Horvath claiming that “there are moments of cartoony fun, but […] we wanted it to feel like a big adventure film and that there are stakes and maybe you believe that these characters can die, so they’re not super-squashy and super-stretchy, and we used consistent volume on the characters to make them feel a little more grounded.” For the go-karts featured in the film, the directors worked with a vehicle design artist and artists at Nintendo to create go-karts that fit their portrayal in the film while drawing inspiration from their portrayal in the Mario Kart games.
In an interview with GameSpot, Horvath said that he and Jelenic took a “blockbuster approach” when making The Super Mario Bros. Movie. He stated: “To me, this is a movie that’s been like 40 years in the making, you know, and I’ve always considered Mario more of an action game. The characters look comedic, but the story is always high stakes, you gotta save the princess or save the world or whatever in the game. So we wanted to reflect that action sensibility.” The two brought in artists they knew from television and worked closely with them to craft the film’s action sequences. Skudder in particular was crucial in making the action, especially the Rainbow Road sequence. According to Jelenic and Horvath, Skudder spent months working on the sequence, which they also described as the film’s most technically challenging. The road itself was a visual effect, and every shot of it had to go through the visual effects department, which was time-consuming and expensive
On October 6, the teaser trailer was released live in a Nintendo Direct presentation. In a short questions and answers period following the trailer reveal at New York Comic Con, Jack Black stated that “Bowser has a musical side” in the film, teasing a theme for the character. The teaser trailer received over three million views in 24 hours. Journalists generally praised the trailer’s visuals and tone, as well as Black and Key’s performances as Bowser and Toad. However, Pratt’s performance as Mario was described as lacking in emotion and sounding too similar to his normal speaking voice .Vic Hood from TechRadar noted a slight New York accent in Mario’s lines, calling it a possible throwback to Mario’s depictions in American media such as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! and the 1993 film, before Charles Martinet debuted as the character’s official voice actor in Mario’s Game Gallery where he spoke full dialogue for extended periods of time In a newsletter from The Guardian, the response to Pratt’s voice was likened to the backlash against the first trailer of Sonic the Hedgehog.
On November 29, the first official trailer was shown in a Nintendo Direct. Public reactions were still largely favorable, though online discourse continued to center on Pratt’s performance as Mario
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On December 9, the first clip of the film, showing Toad guiding Mario through the Mushroom Kingdom and to the entrance to Peach’s Castle, was revealed at The Game Awards 2022. The Verge’s Ash Parrish commented, “Despite the skepticism surrounding Chris Pratt’s performance as Mario, the movie’s visuals — and I cannot stress enough, only the visuals — look incredible”.
On January 29, 2023, a preview clip of the film was released during the NFC Championship Game. Some entertainment news sites pointed out the addition of Rogen’s “iconic laugh” heard as Donkey Kong in the clip. Emma Roth from The Verge commented, “I’m pleasantly surprised at how well his voice (and laugh) suits the character” while Luke Plunkett from Kotaku commented, “Seth Rogen has been hired to… just be Seth Rogen”.
On February 12, 2023, a commercial for the film was released during Super Bowl LVII, featuring a rendition of the title theme from The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!. A corresponding website which was featured in the trailer was also released, which advertises the Super Mario Bros. Plumbing Service from the film as if it were, according to Plunkett, “…a struggling small business servicing the Brooklyn and Queens areas”.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie was released theatrically in the United States on April 5, 2023, and later in Japan on April 28, in both regular formats and in IMAX 2D and 3D. The film was previously scheduled to be released on December 21, 2022 and April 7, 2023 (the former of which was taken over by DreamWorks Animation’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish in response to the film’s delay to the later date). On February 28, 2023, it was announced that the film would be released two days earlier, on its current date, to more than 60 markets while maintaining the April 28 date for Japan and stating that additional markets are to follow during April and May. It released in 65+ countries on dates ranging from April 5th to 7th. It was released on April 26 in South Korea and is scheduled to be released May 26 in Poland.