1993's Super Mario Bros. was such a disaster that Nintendo decided to never again adapt any of its video games into movies. But the long wait for their vast catalogue of characters to hit the big screen may finally be reaching its end. Nintendo's creative mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto has opened up to Fortune about the future of the company. And he states that they are slowly, but surely, becoming more open to the idea of movies based on their product.
Shortly after the 1993 release of Super Mario Bros., the company made the decision to carefully guard its characters, a move that has latest 15 years and counting. Some called it a genius play in the wake of one video game movie adaptation flop after the next. But convergence is more prominent in entertainment today than it ever was, and the fact that younger audiences are constantly using a multitude of platforms, sometimes at the same time, seems to be forcing the company's hand back to Hollywood. The good news is, any upcoming movies will be overseen by Nintindo's Software Planning & Development (SPD) Division, which is run by Shigeru Miyamoto.
The first announcement that Nintendo was gearing up to once again make movies based on their characters was found buried in the company's June earning statement. It claimed that the company was taking a more active approach to areas outside of video game business. This includes visual content production and character merchandising. The roots of the movie movement actually began a few years ago, when, after keeping it's characters away from the hands of Hollywood directors for so long, Nintendo agreed to let fan-favorite Mario character Bowser have a cameo in Disney's 2012 CG animated adventure Wreck-It Ralph. That worked out great for all parties involved, and got Nintendo excited about movie prospects once again.
But then, Nintendo's next foray into theatrical entertainment didn't pan out so well. They allowed director Chris Columbus to use Donkey Kong as a central character in Pixels, which also featured cameos from Mario and the Duck Hunt dog. The movie was a flop, making only $66.4 million to date off an $88 million budget. The film has fared better overseas, where it has pulled in $91 million for a worldwide total of $157.5 million. So it's not a total wash, but Donkey Kong's presence in the film almost didn't happen. Chris Columbus revealed in an interview at the time of the film's release that it took months and months of meetings with the Nintendo board before they finally agreed to Pixels using its characters. The stipulations were that the filmmakers treat the properties with respect, and only showed proper gameplay. While that happened, the film only walked away with a less-than-stellar Tomatometer rating of 16%. Because of that, directors and studios are going to have to be even more convincing. Though, Shigeru Miyamoto says his company is more open now than ever before to basing a film completely on one of its video games or characters.
"We've had, over the years, a number of people who have come to us and said 'Why don't we make a movie together-or we make a movie and you make a game and we'll release them at the same time?' Because games and movies seem like similar mediums, people's natural expectation is we want to take our games and turn them into movies. ... I've always felt video games, being an interactive medium, and movies, being a passive medium, mean the two are quite different. As we look more broadly at what is Nintendo's role as an entertainment company, we're starting to think more and more about how movies can fit in with that-and we'll potentially be looking at things like movies in the future."
The Legend of Zelda live-action TV series was rumored to be in production at Netflix, but Shigeru Miyamoto is quick to deny that is true. As of yet, Nintendo has not made any announcements about a film or TV partnership. Its current focus is on making mobile games for iOS and Android devices while they simultaneously create new hardware. A big announcement is expected to drop next year concerning their video game side of things. But they won't be ignoring an expansion into other mediums as they figure out how to bring their characters to other platforms. Three months ago, Nintendo announced a partnership with Universal Studios, who is in the midst of creating theme park rides and attractions based on various Nintendo characters.
Though Pixels bombed big time in the States, it's strong box office numbers worldwide might see a sequel happening. At the time of its release, it was revealed that Mario would have a central presence in Pixels 2. Its unclear if that will actually happen, though. Nintendo will likely be more open about lending Disney more characters for Wreck-It Ralph 2, which is set for release in 2018. John C. Reilly is already confirmed to be reprising the title character. And there have been rumors that the sequel will use Mario in a substantial role as well. Again, Nintendo has yet to agree to that. And as we learned from Shigeru Miyamoto, it is going to take some mighty strong convincing to get any Nintendo characters back into either of these sequels.