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Logo of Illumination
Founded 2007
First Super Mario film The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)
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 franchise, with the Minions from that franchise being Illumination's mascots. Other notable movies include The Secret Life of Pets, Sing, an adaption of The Lorax, and an adaption of The Grinch, the latter two based on popular books by Dr. Seuss.

Illumination's films are made on relatively smaller budgets compared to those of 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 its films.

On January 31, 2018, during a financial briefing, Nintendo announced that Illumination would be producing an animated Super Mario film co-produced by Chris Meledandri and Shigeru Miyamoto, marking Illumination's first film based on an existing intellectual property not to be an adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book. The title was revealed to be The Super Mario Bros. Movie in a teaser trailer released on October 6, 2022,[1] and the film was initially released on April 5, 2023. A follow-up was announced on March 10, 2024 (on Mario Day), and is set to be released on April 3, 2026.[2]

The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)

Several days after the deal was made, Shigeru Miyamoto explained why Illumination was chosen for the project over other animation companies, saying he had 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 was making a theme park. Miyamoto also stated that when he began talks with Chris Meledandri, the latter read numerous interviews about him and felt that they had a similar approach in creation. Miyamoto described Meledandri as having experience in the field of animation beyond Illumination, having been executive producer of Ice Age and other animated projects for 20th Century Fox, as well as being "extremely cost-conscious and time-conscious in his quest to make successful movies." Miyamoto also mentioned that Nintendo and Illumination had mutually agreed to call the deal off if neither company could come up with an interesting premise, but he also noted that the screenplay had been hashed out a number of times and discussions were in progression, hoping to provide more information once the schedule had been ironed out.[3]

On November 6, 2018, Meledandri said that he was glad the 1993 film Super Mario Bros. was not well-received, citing the primary reason being that the producers did not involve Nintendo, whereas Illumination was "embracing" Miyamoto and keeping him "front and center" in the film's creation. He said that Illumination's Super Mario film was in "priority development" and hoped that it would be released by 2022. Meledandri also noted that developing a Super Mario film is "an ambitious task," citing the challenge of adding depth to Super Mario that would simultaneously compromise generations of fans and feel organic to its iconography as well as supporting a three-act structure.[4][5] The movie was later delayed to spring 2023, with release dates of April 7, 2023 in North America (later changed again to April 5) and April 28, 2023 in Japan.[6]

The Illumination logo shown at the start of The Super Mario Bros. Movie depicts a Minion attempting to drive a kart themed after Gru as the countdown from Mario Kart 8 is heard while the logo lights up, but the Minion fails to get the kart started, much to his frustration. He then hits the kart with his fist, suddenly causing him to blast offscreen, shouting the company's name.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie would go on to become Illumination's highest-grossing film, surpassing Minions, which previously held the record.[7]

Untitled The Super Mario Bros. Movie follow-up (2026)

A follow-up to The Super Mario Bros. Movie was announced on March 10, 2024 (on Mario Day), and is set to be released on April 3, 2026 in the United States and many other regions.[8]


  • Prior to Illumination's acquisition of the rights to adapt Super Mario, Donkey Kong had been mentioned in two Illumination films. In its 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 battle by Gru. Ironically, Illumination's parent company Universal once sued Nintendo over Donkey Kong for infringing the copyright to King Kong in 1982.
    • There is also a reference to the Super 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 Super Mario games.
    • Illumination has also referenced a Nintendo console in one of its movies. In the first Despicable Me film, during the scene where Gru tries to sneak into Vector's fortress to retrieve the shrink ray, Vector can be seen playing a fighting game on the Wii, where he swings a Wii Remote around.