Surrounded by giant mushrooms, coins and Koopa Kids, the students at St. Joseph’s High School in St. Thomas have been seeing the world in just 8-bits.
Re-creating Nintendo’s Super Mario universe was a labour of love for the teens, who will soon be able to show off their hard work to a very special someone.
“It was the largest scale artwork the students had ever worked on, they just loved creating it,” said Michelle Massaro, whose Grade 10 art class took on the project as the theme for the school’s annual art’s night. “It was a huge opportunity for them and it was a big deal for junior students to be the centre of the show.”
Fabricated over three weeks using acrylic paint on Masonite boards, young artists from Grade 9 through 11 chose a selection of classic characters and took them right down to the pixels.
The sets were such a hit Massaro and her students took them to Nuit Blanche. It was there where London Comic Con organizers discovered the project, and asked if they could feature it alongside special guest Charles Marinet, Super Mario himself.
“When I got the voicemail message inviting us and asking if we’d like to take part, I played it for the students,” Massaro explained. “The kids just immediately started freaking out, they were so excited who was going to be involved.”
When Martinet found out about the project, he was pretty excited too.
“That’s just excellent,” he said. “I can’t wait to see it, it’s going to make the event even more special.”
For Martinet, being the voice of Mario has been nothing but a joy for the past 25 years.
“I am the luckiest guy in the world, I get to do what I absolutely love to do in life,” he said. “I not only get to record the games, I get to talk to people and I get to go out and meet Mario fans, who are the nicest people in the world.”
Not a bad gig, considering it all happened after a friend suggested he crash a trade show audition.
“I said, there is absolutely no way I would ever crash an audition, I am a professional actor . . . so, um, where do I go?” Martinet said with a laugh. “I got there just as the producer and camera man were walking out the door. I had no idea who Nintendo was, and I had no idea who Mario was.”
Drawing from his experience playing Gremio in a 1947 Italian adaptation of Taming of the Shrew, the actor did his best to embody the little pixeled plumber from Brooklyn.
“I just went on and on until I heard ‘stop talking, cut, there’s no more video tape. Thank you, we’ll be in touch.’” Martinet remembered. “I thought, that’s the end of that because ‘I’ll be in touch’ means ‘there’s the door’ in actor parlance.”
Later that day, he was offered the job and in fact, was the only tape considered.
Though he may have just started out as a character portrayed at trade shows, Martinet soon made his video game debut, even adding characters like Luigi and Wario to his repertoire, and has been going strong ever since.
It’s a role the actor takes great pride in and one he said he definitely wouldn’t be giving up anytime soon.
“I absolutely never get tired of being Mario. It continues to be such an honour and a joy for me, to be part of a legacy of fun that people always remember,” he said. “I always like to say people always come back to Mario because it’s so much fun and it’s joyful exploration. I have a job where I get to hear that the thing I love to do more than anything brings people joy, how cool is that?”