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Super Mario Bros. Gets Gritty in THE FOUR PLAYERS

When most of us think of Nintendo, we think “friendly.”  Nostalgic to millions, Nintendo conjures the emotions of a certain innocence.  Retrospectively, though, this innocence isn’t just about our collective childhoods, it’s also about the innocence of technology.  The original Super Mario Bros., released 27 years ago in the autumn of 1985, gave the video game industry a giant 1-up with its commercial success. Even though the 8-bit graphics of the time could pull off darker themes in other franchises, how many of us have actually considered the emotional damage and repercussions that Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, and her loyal courtier, Toad, have endured?

Feudal Systems recently reimagined the Mushroom Kingdom as a gritty tale with themes of sacrifice, duty, torture, and addiction.  Four cinematic shorts, collectively titled The Four Players, were recently released on Polaris, individually titled The Fixer (Mario), The Addict (Luigi), The Soldier (Toad), and The Star (Peach).

Evan Daugherty, writer/director of The Four Players, is also behind Snow White and the Huntsman and the upcoming Divergent, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and G.I. Joe 3.  Daugherty assembled an incredible crew of talent, including Try This at Home‘s Holly Conrad for production design, creature design and effects.

Toad concept designs. Sketched in ink & color by Holly Conrad

Toad concept design.  Sketched in ink & color by Holly Conrad

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Toad in “The Four Players”. Creature design & effects by Holly Conrad.

Daugherty also recruited composer Eric Desiderio to create the music for The Soldier, which was recorded by a 63 piece orchestra in Bulgaria, with Desiderio playing 12 string guitar on top. The VFX were done by Oscar winning VFX house Rhythm and Hues.

THE FIXER (Mario)

“THE FIXER decides he can’t let things stay broken any longer.”

Starring Brian Gonzales as The Fixer.

THE ADDICT (Luigi)

“THE ADDICT receives a reminder from his past that forces him to rethink his present.”

Starring Jonathan Brooks as The Addict.

THE SOLDIER (Toad)

“THE SOLDIER takes desperate action for the sake of his Kingdom.”

Starring Se Young Kang and Heather Sims as The Soldier.

THE STAR (Princess Toadstool / Peach)

“THE STAR contemplates happier times while suffering at the hands of her captors.”

Starring Cassie Shea Watson as The Star.

Let us know what you think in the comments below, or talk about it on Twitter with me.

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7 comments

  • these had some potential until the music video i couldnt sit through.. they should have taken out the goofy game aspects, like breaking bricks with his fists and coins dropping out. Could have found a real world way of doing it

  • Overall, massively impressive, and definitely an unconventional take on an established IP. There are a couple weaknesses that bring it down though, and I don’t seem to be alone in thinking Peach’s was probably the weakest of the four. Any issue taken really falls to elements that pull you out of it, even if briefly. Mario’s was great, up to that incredibly weak block punch; Luigi’s until the unbelievably soft throw of a fire-ball; Toad’s with the poor integration and tracking of the foreground plate and backing CGI and the overly clunky Ray Harryhausen-type stop-motion on that Bob-Omb.

    That said; add a little more suspension of disbelief, and it’s hard to really tear them apart.

  • I really enjoyed the videos and couldn’t help but compare to the campy Mario Bros tv show they tried back in the day. This was much better. I agree that there are some things that could be fixed or improved, but over all I think the premise is sound. I’d love to see this in a full length film!