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Nintendo buys animation studio amid video game blockbuster renaissance

(Washington Post illustration; iStock; Nintendo)
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Nintendo has bought out Dynamo Pictures, a Tokyo-based CG production studio that will be renamed Nintendo Pictures, according to a recent filing from the Japanese video game giant. The acquisition and name change are projected to close on October 3.

In the filing, Nintendo said it’s acquiring Dynamo “to strengthen the planning and production structure of visual content in the Nintendo group.” The studio has a diverse portfolio of animation and motion capture projects under its belt, and has done work for several games like “Monster Hunter: World" and “Death Stranding.” The studio previously collaborated with Nintendo to create animated shorts based on its Pikmin series.

This buyout comes at the heels of the upcoming Super Mario Bros. movie. The film was announced by Shigeru Miyamoto, the legendary game designer and father of the Mario franchise, during the September 2021 Nintendo Direct stream. Miyamoto shared the ensemble cast of the movie which includes Chris Pratt (Mario), Anya Taylor-Joy (Princess Peach), Charlie Day (Luigi), Jack Black (Bowser), Keegan-Michael Key (Toad) and Seth Rogen (Donkey Kong).

Charles Martinet, the iconic voice of Mario and Luigi in the video games, is also involved in the project.

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In the past, game-to-film adaptations have been viewed as cheesy, and associated with lackadaisical treatment of the source material. Two of the most infamous examples include the 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” and 1995 “Mortal Kombat,” which had a clunky, awkward charm to them but were ultimately dicey productions.

But now, many contemporary projects are establishing a much higher standard of artistry and quality control. “Arcane,” the Netflix show set in the “League of Legends” univerise, was showered with praise by critics, fans and even viewers who had never touched the game before. “The Witcher,” based on the eponymous dark fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski but with a good bit of inspiration from the video game trilogy by CD Projekt Red, is another acclaimed Netflix adaptation that’s moving onto its third season with a prequel spinoff in the works.

“The Last of Us” television show, based on the massively successful post-apocalypse action game from Naughty Dog, is set to premiere on HBO in 2023 with Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey playing Joel and Ellie, respectively. And it isn’t alone — screen adaptations of over a dozen high profile video game franchises have been announced, including Call of Duty, Yakuza, Mass Effect, BioShock, Portal and more.

Many of these projects are game companies collaborating with or outsourcing their projects to film companies. But Nintendo seems to be taking a different approach.

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Out of the big three game console manufacturers (the others being Microsoft and Sony), Nintendo is famous for having the most robust and respected catalogue of first-party titles. Many of its iconic video game series such as Mario, Super Smash Bros., Pokémon, Metroid, The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing were all developed in-house.

By purchasing Dynamo Pictures, Nintendo might be preparing for a future where film and television shows based on its properties will be done in-house as well.

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