Steve Applebaum and Ryan Hoss are behind the Super Mario Brothers Archive, a website originally founded in 2007 by Ryan to showcase his vast collection of memorabilia related to the film’s production and merchandising efforts. Steve joined later, helping the site with its mission to provide insight into the film’s production and development.
I know no one better to talk about Super Mario Brothers — a film we reviewed last week — than these guys! Steve was good enough to answer some of our questions.
B AND S ABOUT MOVIES: Did you come to the movie first or the video game first?
Steven Applebaum: Although I was too young to experience Super Mario Bros. on the original NES or to see the film in theaters, I still came to the franchise through the games before ever discovering the live-action adaptation. I barely had any idea of the animated shows or their live-action segments, either. My favorites were SMB2 and World: the Black Sheep and Dark Horse titles of the series!
B AND S: On our site, my wife and I review movies and she’d never played the game before she saw the movie as a kid, so her entire experience of SMB is just the film. Isn’t that maybe more pure?
Steven: People have argued that the premise of the film is strong enough to stand as an original work independent from the videogames. I agree so far as the directors themselves intended to deconstruct the formula of the games, so the narrative is more about fairytale archetypes in general. If not for its association with the videogames, the film might instead more naturally be compared to The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland.
B AND S: Why is it so beloved?
Steven: I’m not sure I can pin it down exactly! I imagine part of it is just having seen the film at such an early age that it became a sort of touchstone from which to compare future creative works. It is by no means a traditional film, let alone a traditional adaptation, so where it diverges from the standard entertainment formula is where you remember it the most!
B AND S: What motivated you to take that love and create the site?
Steven: I first joined the site forums in 2010 before offering to help Ryan with research, writing, and arranging interviews. I had been working on a Pokémon-themed project that unfortunately never fully came together, so the fact that Ryan already had a full site made it easy for me to shift focus.
B AND S: Have you met/spoken to any of the creatives involved?
Steven: I’m actually friends on Facebook with much of the people we’ve interviewed. It makes it easy to reach out with a quick question or event request. Most of the production are also based in California, so I on occasion will drive to the L.A. area for a screening event or other get-together. They’re always inviting me out for a drink!
B AND S: The film is seen by so many as a failure. What qualifies it as a success to you?
Steven: Super Mario Bros.: The Movie wasn’t intended to be a carbon-copy of the games or like any other summer blockbuster: it was very much an experiment in transmedia adaptation. Co-directors Rocky Morton & Annabel Jankel were known at the time for their brilliantly thoughtful and visually exciting commercials. They cared less about a narrative that made sense and more about just making you think. It’s 25 year since and we’re still discussing the film, so that in itself is a success.
B AND S: How did you get the blu-ray release moving?
Steven: I actually went through our archives myself to compile the special features for the release, so I’m proud to assure potential buyers that we included everything of note we had available at the time. The Blu-Ray offers about as much as our site!
B AND S: How many times have you seen the film?
Steven: In my research I’ve probably watched it on the laptop dozens of times, though only seen it in theaters twice. The theater stood out more than any other– It’s how the film was meant to be experienced!
B AND S: Does it still hold surprises?
Steven: The better quality we have the more of Dinohattan we discover! It’s always fun to see the different outfits and makeup effects for the denizens of the other world, though there is also incredible world-building in characters like a street preacher whose sandwich-board proselytizes the virtues of the Fungus King as a savior-figure. Without knowing this background detail you might not otherwise have any idea why Toad so fervently supports the Fungus!
B AND S: Is there a big moment for you?
Steven: The Brooklyn-set first act rarely gets as much love as the later narrative in Dinohattan, so I want to highlight two scenes in particular: the opening death of Daisy’s mother juxtaposed with Daisy’s birth, and the later moment between Daisy and Luigi in the subway system digsite overlooking the fossils of a humanoid dinosaur. Daisy comments that the fossils resemble a “monster trying to be a human being,” and that’s it’s beautiful. Daisy does not realize at this time that she herself is descended from dinosaurs, nor that these particular fossils could very well belong to her own mother. These two scenes perfectly establishes Daisy’s character arc, which unfortunately was not fully explored later in the film due to constant script rewrites. It’s also important to note that we only have evidence for Rocky & Annabel filming these early scenes, so we can confirm their narrative vision was at least partially realized.
B AND S: What other films are favorites?
Steven: I look to escapist entertainment that offers philosophical commentary or genre deconstruction like Donnie Darko, Galaxy Quest, Stardust, or Mad Max: Fury Road. My favorite animated films are The Secret of NIMH, The Great Mouse Detective, The Prince of Egypt, and The Road to El Dorado.
Thanks guys. Please visit their site, as it’s a constantly updated source for everything great about the movie and add them on Twitter at @smbmovie.