Original Super Mario Bros. Movie You Never Saw Is Being Restored

By Dylan Balde | 2 weeks ago

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If you’ve never had the chance to see Mario sweep Princess Peach off her feet only to lose her to a no-name prince we’ve never heard of, have we got the scoop for you. Norwegian translator Stian Schultz, better known by his unofficial sobriquet Carnivol, reconstructed Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach! into high-definition and uploaded it on YouTube. And for a one-man operation two decades in the making, the result is astonishingly fantastic. Check out the video below:

The animated movie is something of a myth among Nintendo purists, a modern-day folklore no more than 5% of the world has seen. No surprise; The Great Mission was released in 1986 on VHS and Betamax, and only in Japan. Any attempts at bringing the film to DVD, Digital HD, and Blu-ray have failed and the current VHS iteration has no English subtitles. Nonetheless, Carnivol managed to restore over 60 minutes of VHS reel, having worked tirelessly on scans, clean-ups, test encodes, color tweaking, and digital transfers since the early 2000s, when he first got his hands on a VHS copy of the obscure Super Mario Bros. feature.

Though the process seems more or less complete, Carnivol claims there is still more to do in terms of color corrections, stabilizing and cropping, audio fixes, noise and dust removal, and other visual touch-ups. Schultz, who is also a video game store owner, already spent $20,000 on the project and only one other entity, fan-driven FemBoy Films, has committed to helping out. Still, converting a hand-drawn anime with the same quality as Mickey Mouse’s The Band Concert into gorgeous 4K has got to be an achievement in and of itself. By comparison, this is Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach! in its regular format:

Finishing the restoration is merely the icing on the cake, however. Copyright is an even more pressing issue. The distribution rights for the film currently belong to Shochiku Company and VAP Video, and without any licensed intermediaries, reacquiring them for international release is going to be impossible. The VHS copies themselves have circulated worldwide through private collections, auctions, and the occasional eBay listing or garage sale, but given technological advancements since 1986, aren’t accessible to the general public.

Carnivol hopes to change that with his version of Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!, currently viewable for free on YouTube. Schultz isn’t getting his 20,000 bucks back this way, hence a proper remastering (and subsequent re-release) is still the way to go. Without the rights, some level of assistance, and appropriate funding, a fully remastered version may never get made.

Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach! reimagines the premise of the series by relocating brothers Mario and Luigi to the real world; the pair work a dead-end job at a local grocery and play video games on a Family Computer (Famicom) in their spare time. One day, Princess Peach jumps out of the television screen to escape her captors, begging Mario for help. King Koopa, or Bowser, is the turtle sovereign of the Mushroom Kingdom and hopes to marry Peach without her consent.

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After the princess is unceremoniously dragged back into the video game and kidnapped by Bowser, Mario and Luigi dive into her rescue. The goal of the quest is to collect the three powers capable of bringing Bowser down: the mushroom of strength, the flower of courage, and the yellow star of invincibility — which is to say, the Super Mushroom (which can turn Mario into a giant), the Fire Flower (which equips Mario with the ability to shoot fireballs), and the Super Star (which can temporarily make Mario invulnerable) from the games.

Aided by a canine-like creature named Kibidango, the brothers navigate through all the levels to reach Bowser’s castle and save Princess Peach before she weds on Friday the 13th. Unfortunately, this is where the story drastically deviates from the source. Instead of Mario and Peach living happily ever after, Kibidango transforms back into his human form, Prince Haru of the neighboring Flower Kingdom and the princess’s non-canon fiancé. Mario returns to the real world, heartbroken, where he finds Bowser and his minions working at the grocery as punishment for their crimes.

Right now, Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach! can only be viewed on YouTube without subtitles. The film was briefly popular in Japan and spawned phone cards, wristwatches, rice containers, ramen, manga, art books, picture books, and a limited-edition soundtrack, but soon faded into obscurity. The movie is notable for being the first feature film based on an existing video game, predating the live-action Mario by seven years.