Chris Meledandri, the American film producer and CEO of the Illumination animation studio, has been nominated as a new outside director of Nintendo.
The news was confirmed as part of Nintendo’s latest financial results on Thursday. Meledandri will be appointed as an outside director upon approval at its annual shareholder meeting on June 29.
Meledandri is currently producing Illumination’s upcoming Super Mario animated movie, alongside Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto.
Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa recently indicated that the company is exploring the potential of creating more animation content featuring its other game series, and Meledandri’s appointment could suggest a future relationship with the Despicable Me creator.
Outside directors, or “non-executive directors”, are required by public companies and in theory, are more likely to provide impartial advice. Nintendo currently has three other outside directors, but Meledandri is the first Westerner.
Meledandri founded Illumination in 2007, after almost a decade at 20th Century Fox, where he oversaw the creative and business operations of Blue Sky Studios, the CGI firm behind the Ice Age movies.
At Illumination he produced animated hits Despicable Me, The Lorax, Minions, The Secret Life of Pets and more. The Super Mario movie is being produced by Meledandri and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, who Nintendo’s president recently said is “very, very hands-on” with production.
Speaking as part of a wide-ranging feature on Fast Company published last week, Nintendo’s Shuntaro Furukawa said the company was looking into creating animation content for its other series, and suggested that this would be dependent on finding partners who “deeply understand” the source material.
“Animation, in general, is something that we are looking into, and not just this franchise,” he said.
Nintendo has historically been very protective of its intellectual property, only greenlighting television and film projects for the Zelda animated show and Super Mario Bros. movie 30 years ago.
However, during the past decade, the company has increasingly moved to leverage its popular IP in various ways. The company’s Nintendo Tokyo store opened in November 2019, and Super Nintendo World theme parks are set to open at Universal Studios locations around the world.
In its corporate management meeting in September last year, Nintendo said it had “already embarked on multiple other visual content projects” alongside Illumination’s Mario movie.
“Visual content” initiatives may not be limited to film, it said, suggesting that it could expand its game franchises via other mediums such as television or comic books.
The scale of our investments will vary based on the type of project, but we will continue to invest in these entertainment expansion initiatives to increase the number of people who have access to our IP.”
Nintendo reportedly cancelled plans for a live-action Legend of Zelda series and Star Fox claymation show after Netflix leaked details to the press.