After fans of the iconic Nintendo video game franchise balked en masse at the thought of the non-Italian Jurassic World: Dominionstar voicing one of capitalism’s most stereotypically Italian characters in an upcoming animated movie, Illumination CEO, Super Mario Bros. producer, and proud Italian-American Chris Meledandri is here to address their skepticism.
“When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate, maybe not entirely — people love to voice opinions, as they should,” Meledandri said Monday (per Deadline) in Barcelona as part of a live discussion at the start of CineEurope convention. “I’m not sure this is the smartest defense, but as a person who has Italian-American heritage, I feel I can make that decision without worrying about offending Italians or Italian-Americans… I think we’re going to be just fine.”
Rich Fury/Getty Images; Nintendo Chris Pratt will voice Mario in an upcoming animated film from Universal Pictures
Meledandri added that the partnership between Illumination — the production company responsible for The Secret Life of Pets, Despicable Me, and more — and Nintendo is “the fulfillment of a really important objective,” as the gaming giant “is one of the companies we respect and hold in high esteem; this collaboration I think is unprecedented in its closeness.”
Pratt’s inclusion in the film prompted intense discussion online, as did the casting of fellow voice actors like Charlie Day as Luigi and Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach — two characters who’ve appeared in nearly every Mario title since the video game series debuted its first installment in 1985.
Super Mario Bros. was set to debut in December before Universal and Nintendo pushed the film back to a North American release date of April 7, 2023.
“After consulting with [Meledandri], my partner at Illumination on the Super Mario Bros. film, we decided to move the global release to Spring 2023 — April 28 in Japan and April 7 in North America,” Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto said in a statement. “My deepest apologies but I promise it will be well worth the wait.”
Hear more on all of today’s must-see picks on EW’s What to Watch podcast, hosted by Gerrad Hall.