Nintendo’s announcement of a live-action movie inspired by The Legend of Zelda felt both inevitable and yet almost unbelievable. I say the former, because how could Nintendo resist attempting to replicate the $1 billion success of the The Super Mario Bros. Movie? However, a Zelda movie or series never felt like a given. Prior to this, reports talked of a Zelda show at Netflix and developers signaled support for a movie, but an actual project never materialized. And while Nintendo did release one animated series in 1989, its bizarre portrayal of Link didn’t stick.
Over the years, with a dearth of official media, fan-made content — trailers, animations, and even parodies — flourished. So while we finally got the announcement of an official adaptation, The Legend of Zelda has already been buoyed by years of fans imagining what a movie or series could look like.
The earlier era of fan works of The Legend of Zelda thrived on websites like Newgrounds, where people uploaded Flash animations that expanded on the worlds. Many of these videos skewed toward parody and leaned heavily on irreverent humor. But other fans created stories that reimagined the franchise with new characters and stories. In one series, Zelda: Unknown Origins, animators depicted an original adventure where Link seeks out the source of his power and being. The series appeared to take influence from shonen anime, and embodied a sort of ambition beyond its production value.
The body of Zelda fan animation work has since grown well beyond some of its edgier origins. Animators like Shar on YouTube, have built followings based on sharing “Zelink” animations, focusing on the romantic pairing of Link and Zelda. In Shar’s series, each short animation functions like a vignette in their lives where we get to see their mutual crush. This one where Link accidentally sends an “I love you” sticker has over 11 million views.
Then, there are the projects that seem to embody a sense of sophistication and ambition for a future licensed movie that screams: “If we won’t get the project we want to see, this is what we want.” A fantastic example of this includes a project called “Castle Town.” Its creator has only released a teaser, and the full video is slated to be released on Nov. 21. Animator and developer RwanLink uses Unreal Engine to craft a vibrant and cartoony world reminiscent of Studio Ghibli’s animation style.
And if you’re the kind of person who favors the darker side of Zelda, well, there’s something for you too. One of my personal favorite fan-made projects is a trailer for a Zelda movie inspired by ’80s dark fantasy films.
Underneath it all is sort of a vastness. Over the years, Nintendo has found ample room to play and find new directions to push its green-clad hero. The range of media out there just goes to show how many directions the film creators could take. The franchise makes it easy to dream of the possibilities