Has Nintendo Lost a Golden Opportunity With Wreck-It-Ralph?

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As the Houston Press's video game expert, I'm understandably anticipating Disney's Wreck-It-Ralph intensely. I got to see the trailer while taking the kid to Brave, and from the looks of it, we might have this generation's Who Framed Roger Rabbit? on our hands.

In case you haven't heard anything about it, Ralph is about the world of video games, everything from classic Atari to Halo. When we shut off our consoles, the characters knock off for the day just like we do at our jobs.

Ralph is the hulking, Donkey Kong-esque villain of Fix-It Felix Jr. For 30 years he's tried to destroy a building while Felix fixes it, until finally Ralph gets hurled off the roof. Now he's grown tired of being the bad guy, and longs to become a hero in another game.

The thing that is getting the movie so much attention is the scene in which Ralph is at a support group for villains. The room is filled with some of the most recognizable names in video game history. M. Bison, Dr. Robotnick, the ghosts from Pac-Man, and even Bowser are all on hand to commiserate on the trouble of doing a job everyone hates you for doing.

These characters are just the tip of the iceberg. There have been confirmed to be 188 different video game character cameos set to appear in the film, including big, big names like Sonic the Hedgehog, Q*Bert, Frogger, and freakin' Neff from Altered Beasts! You shut up, that game was way better than your precious Golden Axe, mocking Genesis snob I just made up.

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But one name is definitely missing from that roster, the very face of video gaming himself, Mario. Apparently Disney and Nintendo couldn't come to a monetary agreement over the use of the character, or even his brother Luigi. Director Rich Moore said at Comic-Con that Nintendo wouldn't let him use Mario himself. "And his brother wanted more money."

Think about that for a moment. Disney, which not only has its own empire but is also buried so deep in Marvel money right now that we'd need James Cameron to launch an expedition to find them, decided that Mario was too expensive. Skrillex? He's in, but Mario's not.

Let's look back at Roger Rabbit one more time. Sure, that film has just as many cameos, and some of the big names, like Goofy and Sylvester, are so fleeting as to be near pointless, but the scene that really pulled the whole thing together was that for a few brief seconds, the world got to see Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse interact. It's a short scene, but absolutely nothing screamed, "Cartoon characters are real!" louder than the two most iconic names in children's animation ending up in a comedy bit with Bob Hoskins.

All that, however, is merely to the detriment of Wreck-It-Ralph, not Nintendo. Mario certainly isn't going to suffer any by not being in a Disney film no matter how big it might be. He's the Guinness-recognized best-selling video game character of all time. No one else is even close. In fact, you might argue that Mario himself is more popular than Mickey Mouse. So what's my premise?

Basically, Nintendo has killed a great opportunity to finally get some good movie adaptations made.


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6 comments
OffBeet
OffBeet

There was one very good Nintendo movie.  King of Kong.

SMBmovie
SMBmovie

The live-action Super Mario Bros. film is actually remembered quite fondly by those who grew up watching it, as well as those who made it. It's an engaging, interesting and overall just fun work that has a dedicated fan community.

Gamingontherocks
Gamingontherocks

Although i agree that they missed out on a large opportunity, I must point out that this movie doesn't focus on 'how many video game cameos can we fit in this movie?' they want to focus on the story of Ralph, I have a feeling that having the 188 characters already in there is good enough. Adding Mario sounds like its just trying too hard to draw audiences in.

purinrin
purinrin

What you're ignoring is that video games movies, in general, are terrible...at least those that have been released to the masses in the United States. The last halfway decent one was maybe the first Mortal Kombat. So by keeping Mario largely out of it, they may actually be protecting the brand.As for bad Disney movies: John Carter. Mars Needs Moms. Beverly Hills Chihuahua. The list goes on.

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

 @purinrin I didn't ignore that. I mentioned it twice... three times counting the whole section on the Mario films. You make a good point about the Disney films. i actually meant just animated ones, but I neglected to definitively say that. 

purinrin
purinrin

 @JefWithOneF My mistake...but I do think that this particular point deserves extra emphasis. If I understand correctly, your premise that Nintendo is missing an opportunity hinges on the idea that it is possible for Disney to not only make a good movie (as noted above, Disney has plenty of misses, even among their animated films), but also that the quality would extend to video game movies. History indicates that for whatever reason, and I would argue that it is a matter of medium as well as appeal to  mainstream audiences, this just isn't the case. There is no guarantee that just because Wreck-It Ralph is a Disney movie, it will be good, and by extension, that the quality and hype would be great enough that Nintendo would want to include Mario in it. Although Nintendo has been increasing their marketing of their first-party IPs, historically they've been focused primarily focused their marketing efforts in the video game space, so to me it makes sense that they'd be picky about how and where Mario is used. Nintendo cares that their Mario games are good. Any concern with film adaptations, high quality or otherwise, is likely secondary, if on their radar at all. Given that Mario is one of their legendary IPs, they're likely to be careful about how he is used in order to protect the brand. Finally, as you note, Mario is huge. It wouldn't make sense for him to be a supporting character in a movie that has Nintendo's blessing. He'd be the star.

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