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Basking in the glow of one of the greatest debut weekends in the history of animation, Illumination’s Chris Meledandri caught up with Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw to discuss The Super Mario Bros. Movie, recognizing the artistry in his studio’s films, and the role that AI looks likely to play in animation.

Fascinating from start to finish, the entire interview is well worth a read. Meledandri’s answers are concise but incredibly illuminating. Below, we’ve pulled five brief quotes from the piece, but make sure to read the whole thing when you’ve got the time.

1. Numbers are great, but the Illumination boss is more impressed with his employee’s artistic output.
Chris Meledandri
By Nan Palmero, taken from Wikimedia Commons

Meleddandri has grown tired of box office talk, because “To me what is extraordinary is the artistry that is in these movies. It’s one aspect of our films that is often overlooked because more focus is on their success… I wouldn’t say it in comparison to anybody else. But I would say that the artistic brilliance that is in our movies is often overlooked… It’s been overshadowed by the focus on our commercial track record. That’s been more interesting for people to write about.”

2. Mario’s massive numbers surpassed Meledandri’s wildest expectations.

“My mind is a little bit blown,” he admitted. “I’m extremely conservative by nature, but [the numbers] are beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.” Meledandri expected the film to be a hit when the studio’s marketing campaign went well, but $377.5 million in ticket sales was an unbelievable number before the film came out this past weekend.

3. He’s not saying Boo about a sequel.

There is no doubt that more animated Mario content is on the way. But Meledandri is staying tight-lipped for the time being. “I’m not allowed to talk about that right now. Clearly, I’ll continue to work with [Nintendo] on the board level and we definitely hope to do more things together.”

4. Nintendo’s involvement in production.

Illumination didn’t just get the rights from Nintendo to make a Mario movie, they launched a creative partnership. “They were full creative partners in all the decisions, starting with design adaptation. Story. Voice casting. Music. We had many many conversations about how the music and scoring for our movie would reflect and integrate music from the games.”

5. The inevitability of AI.

Asked about AI’s place in animation, Meledandri expressed a practical point of view, explaining: “The whole world has to be thinking about how artificial intelligence will integrate into various aspects of our businesses and societies. There are companies outside of entertainment that are creative-based companies that are using [DALL-E] to create imagery for presentations when a few years ago they might have hired illustrators. There is a tremendous amount of experimentation that I hear about anecdotally every day. Maybe in the creative space, we thought that AI would move around us and not come after our space. But it’s a wave that is coming. You have to think about it as another tool.”

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