Nintendo Takes a Page From the Disney Playbook, But Will It Pay Off?

in Disney, Video Games

Mario in 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie'

Credit: Universal Studios / Nintendo / Illumination

Many would claim that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In this case, one could argue that Nintendo has begun taking a page out of one of the most successful playbooks from the man himself, Walt Disney. Throughout this article, we will review how Nintendo has become more than just a video gaming company and into one of the world’s most famous pop culture franchises.

Mario and Donkey Kong flanking Universal Studios Japan
Credit: Universal Studios Japan

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Nintendo’s Humble Beginnings

In 1977, Nintendo released its first home console, the Color TV-Game series, which featured simple games like Pong and tennis. But it wasn’t until the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) release in 1983 that Nintendo took off.

The NES was a massive success, thanks partly to its flagship game, Super Mario Bros. Developed by Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario Bros. featured a mustachioed plumber named Mario who had to rescue Princess Toadstool from the evil Bowser. The game’s colorful graphics, catchy music, and addictive gameplay made it an instant classic. It became the best-selling video game until other titles eventually surpassed it.

Super Mario Bros. was followed by sequels and spin-offs, including Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and Super Mario 64. Each game added new features, characters, and challenges but retained the same core gameplay mechanics that made the original so beloved.

Banner for Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollwyood showing an aerial shot of the immersive expansion
Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

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Nintendo continued to innovate and push the boundaries of gaming, releasing handheld consoles like the Game Boy and the Nintendo DS and home consoles like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Nintendo 64, and the Nintendo GameCube.

In recent years, Nintendo has continued to stay relevant, releasing the hugely popular Nintendo Switch in 2017. The Switch has become one of the best-selling consoles of all time, thanks partly to games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey.

Throughout its long history, Nintendo has remained committed to creating games that are fun, engaging, and accessible to all. And although the company has faced its fair share of challenges over the years, it has always stayed true to its roots and the principles that have made it one of the world’s most beloved video game companies.

Credit: Nintendo

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Super Mario Bros. in the Universal Theme Parks

Super Mario had become such an iconic figure in video games that it was only a matter of time before he made his way into other forms of entertainment. In 2015, Nintendo announced a partnership with Universal Parks & Resorts to bring Super Mario and other Nintendo characters to life in theme parks worldwide.

The first Super Mario-themed attraction, SUPER NINTENDO WORLD, opened at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka in 2021 after being delayed due to the pandemic. The Park features interactive attractions and rides, such as Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge, where Guests can race through the Mushroom Kingdom on a real-life version of the game’s signature go-karts.

In addition to the rides, visitors can explore the Park’s expansive recreation of the Mushroom Kingdom, complete with familiar landmarks like Princess Peach’s Castle, Bowser’s Castle, and the underground world of the original Super Mario Bros. game. Guests can also collect digital coins through a wristband called the Power-Up Band, which can be used to interact with elements in the Park and compete against other visitors.

Super Nintendo World
All Images Credit to Universal

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SUPER NINTENDO WORLD is the latest land to come to Universal Studios Hollywood, and it invites Guests to join Mario, Luigi, Peach, and all of their friends in the Mushroom Kingdom. The land features incredibly immersive theming, including an interactive, game-based adventure where you defeat enemies and collect coins throughout the area. The land also contains the new E-ticket attraction Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, in which Guests board their own Kart and race through familiar tracks and circuits to win the Golden Cup.

Plans for SUPER NINTENDO WORLD expansions at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida have also been announced. Each is expected to feature unique attractions and experiences.

Fans of both companies have highly anticipated the partnership between Nintendo and Universal Parks & Resorts, and the success of SUPER NINTENDO WORLD in Japan suggests plenty of demand for more Super Mario-themed attractions around the world. With the continued popularity of Super Mario and the enduring appeal of theme parks, it seems likely that this partnership will continue to bring joy to fans of all ages for many years to come.

Mario and Luigi plushes at the 1-up factory store in Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood
Credit: Universal

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The Super Mario Bros. Movie

The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) will soon be here and based on everything we’ve seen so far, we’re certain it will collect a lot of coins at the global box office!

Plot specifics are currently being kept under wraps, but fans of the video game series will have some idea as to what The Super Mario Bros. Movie is about, while the trailers have already given plenty away. In a nutshell, plumber Mario (Chris Pratt) and Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) must save “Mushroom Kingdom” from the evil King Bowser (Jack Black).

As per the official website for the movie, here’s the description of the film:

Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic (collaborators on Teen Titans Go!, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies) from a screenplay by Matthew Fogel (The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, Illuminations’s Minions: The Rise of Gru), the film stars Chris Pratt as Mario, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Charlie Day as Luigi, Jack Black as Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek and Sebastian Maniscalco as Spike.

The film is produced by Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri and by Shigeru Miyamoto for Nintendo. The film will be co-financed by Universal Pictures and Nintendo and released worldwide by Universal Pictures.

There are now a number of trailers for The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Check out the latest trailer below:

The Super Mario Bros. Movie releases in theaters on March 31, 2023, in the UK, on April 7, 2023, in North America, and on April 28, 2023, in Japan.

Disney and Nintendo; A Repeated Playbook

It is no secret that Nintendo’s equivalent of Mickey Mouse is Mario. This has been a known quantity and staple for over thirty years now. However, the difference in Nintendo’s playbook is its recent moves to use its popular intellectual property franchises to bring the company alternative revenue streams over the past few years.

The first entrepreneur to take advantage of this strategy was none other than Walt Disney. His company, The Walt Disney Company, not only used Mickey Mouse as a popular form of pop culture but was able to bring him to life through the use of his character in merchandising live entertainment and unique Theme Park/vacation experiences.

Walt and Mickey at Disneyland
Credit: Disney

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As Nintendo continues its quest to bring its franchises further into the mainstream, it will be interesting to see how the direction of the video game company will change over the next few years. Regardless of what happens in the future, investors and executives of the once-small start-up video gaming console company must be proud of what they have accomplished.

Are you excited about all of the upcoming Super Mario Brothers releases in the Parks and Theaters?

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