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Logo of Illumination
Founded 2007
First Mario film Untitled Mario animated film
Current president Chris Meledandri

Illumination (formerly Illumination Entertainment) is an American animation company that is owned by Universal Pictures, itself a division of the NBCUniversal division of Comcast. Founded in Santa Monica, California by Chris Meledandri, the company is famous for creating the Despicable Me series. Other notable movies include The Secret Life of Pets, Sing, and adaptions of The Lorax and The Grinch, both based on popular books by Dr. Seuss.

Illumination's films are made on relatively smaller budgets compared to competing animation companies, usually rounding to $70 million. Nevertheless, Illumination has proven to be financially successful in spite of usually mixed critical reception. France-based Mac Guff, which Illumination acquired in 2012, provides the animation for most of their films.

On January 31, 2018 during a financial briefing, Nintendo announced that Illumination would be producing an animated Mario film, co-produced by Meledandri and Shigeru Miyamoto. The title is currently unknown, but the film is scheduled for theatrical release in Spring 2023[1].

Untitled Mario film development

Main article: Untitled Mario film

Several days after the deal was made, Miyamoto explained why Illumination was chosen for the project over other animation companies, saying he has been interested in producing an animated film for quite some time, and contrary to popular belief, making a movie and making a game are completely different procedures. Miyamoto wanted someone with experience in the film industry to co-produce the film, and after talking with numerous directors and producers, he was introduced to Illumination through Universal Parks & Resorts, with whom Nintendo is making a theme park. Miyamoto also stated that when he begun talks with Meledandri, the latter read numerous interviews about him and felt that they had a similar approach in creation. Miyamoto describes Meledandri as having experience in the field of animation beyond Illumination, being executive producer of Ice Age and other animated projects for 20th Century Fox, as well as Meledandri being "extremely cost-conscious and time-conscious in his quest to make successful movies." Miyamoto also mentioned that Nintendo and Illumination have mutually agreed to call the deal off if neither company could think of an interesting premise, but also noted that the screenplay has been hashed out a number of times and talks are in progression, hoping to provide more information once the schedule has been ironed out.[2]

On November 6, 2018, Meledandri said that he was glad the 1993 film wasn't well-received, citing the primary reason being that the producers did not involve Nintendo, whereas Illumination is "embracing" Miyamoto and keeping him "front and center" in the film's creation. He said that Illumination's Mario film is in "priority development," and is hoping to release the film by 2022. Meledandri also noted that developing a Mario film is "an ambitious task", citing the challenge of adding depth to Mario that would simultaneously compromise generations of fans and feel organic to his iconography along with supporting a three-act structure.[3] The movie was later delayed until April 7, 2023 in North America, with releases in Japan on April 28, 2023 and the rest of the world during Spring 2023.[4]


  • Prior to their acquisition of the rights to adapt Mario, Donkey Kong had been mentioned in two Illumination films. In their adaption of The Lorax, during Ted's second visit with the Once-Ler, the Once-Ler says, "Why aren't you like other kids? Breakdancing and wearing Bell Bottoms and playing the Donkey Kongs?". During the final battle with Balthazaar Bratt in Despicable Me 3, Bratt says, "It's on like Donkey Kong!" after being challenged to a dance fight by Gru. Ironically, Illumination's parent company Universal once sued Nintendo on Donkey Kong for infringing the copyright to King Kong in 1982.
  • There is also a reference to the Mario games in The Secret Life of Pets, where a turtle belonging to the "Flushed Pets" is capable of curling inside his shell and bouncing back and forth, hitting anyone in his path, much like a Koopa Troopa, even making the Koopa shell sound from the Mario games.


  1. ^ [1] "In addition, the development of animated film based on "Super Mario Bros." with Illumination is moving along for an anticipated theatrical release around 2022." - Page 16
  2. ^ Minotti, M. (February 9, 2018). Nintendo’s Miyamoto explains how Illumination won Mario movie rights. VentureBeat. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  3. ^ Lang, B. (November 6, 2018). Inside Illumination’s Plans for Animated ‘Super Mario Bros.’ Movie. Variety. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  4. ^ @NintendoAmerica (April 25, 2022). "This is Miyamoto. After consulting with Chris-san, 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. My deepest apologies but I promise it will be well worth the wait." Twitter. Retrieved April 25, 2022.