The Super Mario Bros. Movie is far and away the biggest hit of 2023 so far, having grossed over $521.8 million in the United States and $1.1 billion in total around the world. Nintendo could call it a win and walk away, but the year has only just begun. As Mario enters its sixth weekend at the box office, there’s only one real threat to its complete hold on all-ages audiences: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. The long-anticipated Zelda sequel is here, and destined to become another astronomical win for the company.
Nintendo’s undeniable hold on the zeitgeist raises an important question: Where’s the Zelda movie?
At the tail end of Polygon’s big interview with Tears of the Kingdom producer Eiji Aonuma and director Hidemaro Fujibayashi, we found ourselves dying to know if a Zelda movie was a remote possibility, let alone one on the horizon. The answer was promising for anyone hoping to one day put down the controller and bask in the glow of Hyrule.
“I am interested for sure,” Aonuma told Polygon through an interpreter. “But it’s not just me being interested in something that makes things happen, unfortunately!”
While Aonuma may be referring to visionary Legend of Zelda and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, a known perfectionist, there are other titans required to move earth at Nintendo. On an investors call earlier in May, CEO Shuntaro Furukawa flagged to investors and the antsy world that the company isn’t looking to rush into any new film projects based on Nintendo characters. When asked about expanding non-game revenue streams, an inevitable Super Mario Bros. Movie didn’t even come up. If there’s a theatrical future for Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf, it’s not happening in the near future. But Aonuma wants to see it.
Though the 1993 Super Mario Bros. live-action movie left behind scorched earth worthy of Calamity, and kept Nintendo stingy about allowing its characters to appear in other media, the 2000s saw a steady stream of Zelda adaptation rumors. The biggest was a supposed Zelda TV series at Netflix; leaked by Wall Street Journal in 2015, though never confirmed by the streamer or Nintendo, Adam Ruins Everything host Adam Conover has weirdly provided the most proof that was indeed a thing. In a 2021 episode of The Serf Times podcast, Conover explained that, during his time at CollegeHumor, he was recruited to work on a claymation version of StarFox — which apparently imploded after the Netflix Zelda project leak.
During press for The Super Mario Bros. Movie earlier this year, Miyamoto was also asked about the company’s interests in adaptations, and if Illumination, the company behind the CG animated film, would spearhead future projects. “There’s nothing I can really comment on at the moment,” he said. “But we started with the fact that we have a shared vision of creation, so I think there’ll be opportunities in the future.”
Aonuma wants to see a Zelda movie, but at the moment, there genuinely seem to be no plans to capitalize on The Super Mario Bros. Movie — chalk it up to Nintendo’s protectiveness and perfectionism. But Tears of the Kingdom director Hidemaro Fujibayashi also told Polygon that there is a larger entity — beyond creators, beyond CEOs — who “make things happen,” to use Aonuma’s words.
“Maybe the voices of the fans are what’s important here!” Fujibayashi said.