It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years since kids were introduced to Super Mario Bros. 3 in one of the most elaborate marketing moves of its time. For over 90-minutes, Universal Pictures' The Wizard took us on the journey to California of Jimmy Woods ("Gimme gimme gimme... Jimmy Woods") and his brother Corey, played by Fred Savage.
I was eight at the time that the movie was released, and I was at that highly impressionable age where everything I saw in movies, I wanted. Proton packs, Talkboys, heavy-so-they-must-be-expensive night vision goggles, you name it - if it was featured in a film and made an impression, I wanted one. So it's no surprise that in an era where we were eating, sleeping, and breathing Nintendo that a film came out featuring all-new Nintendo products and I went bananas.
We all wanted to be Jimmy Woods, on a trip to California with our big brother to play in the Video Armageddon. We all wanted our sage-like guide to be a feisty redhead who made us feel kinda funny in our stomachs. We all wanted to spend all day on the Nintendo Power Play Tip Hotline getting the best ways to beat games (without paying the 95¢ a minute or whatever ridiculousness the hotline cost at that point). And of course, the film did its job and made us all salivate over the prospect of a third Super Mario game.
Thanks to social media director Todd Holland has been "live Tweeting" production of the film as if it were happening today. Twenty-five years to each day, he's Tweeting out never before seen photos from each day of production giving us a glimpse behind the scenes and actors Fred Savage and Jenny Lewis have been interacting with him. It's an interesting commentary on the making of the film, something which I'm sure the DVD/Blu-ray world will never have a chance of seeing based upon how studio heads view the film (in fact, I think it was just Universal hitting the dredges toward the tail end of DVD's heyday that made The Wizard actually see the light of digital day. Which is unfortunate.)
Critics panned the film, mainly put off that The Wizard is a thinly veiled commercial/product tie-in. But despite promotional intent, The Wizard was and still is a fun road trip coming of age story. Sentiment and nostalgia for the film help, but Holland is able to evoke real emotion and character through all of the actors particularly the three kid leads but also Beau Bridges and Christian Slater as they chase after the kids. The beautiful "on the road" imagery shot by cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman (now a frequent collaborator with Wes Anderson since Rushmore having recently filmed The Grant Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom) is gorgeous and one wishes the film would get a proper remaster just for the landscapes of late 1980's America. A 1080p HD version is available through iTunes but appears that it could benefit from a little love and care.
The movie acts as an intriguing musical time capsule of 1989, with Bobby Brown/New Kids on the Block pumping at full volume and my original introduction to Real Life's "Send Me an Angel" which continues to make it onto road trip playlists because of the film to this day.
Twenty-five years later, I still look back at the film fondly both as a memory of being a kid in the late 80s and also as a catalyst for so much excitement and fun in a Nintendo brand feeding frenzy that more recent generations have yet to experience. Getting the rare glimpse behind the scenes care of Holland has been a treat and a welcome bit of nostalgia to kick off the summer.
Be sure to follow director Todd Holland @ToddHolland3 to view all of his behind the scenes imagery and to get a glimpse into a world not so far away.