Voice of Mario Was Inspired by a Shakespearean Character
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Younger gamers may think that Mario's always had a voice, gleefully exclaiming phrases such as "Wahoo" and "Yippee" for all time, along with the occasional sentence. The voice fits the character, and it seems like Mario wouldn't be the same without his famous catch-phrases.
It's easy to forget, then, that Super Mario 64 was the first video game appearance of Charles Martinet, who to this day is still the voice behind the moustache; the opening "it's-a-me, Mario" no doubt caught plenty off guard back in the day. The famous voice is now an irreplaceable part of the character, appearing in a lot of games.
In a short interview with the BBC, Martinet explained the origins of pitching for the role at trade shows, how he came up with the voice and the move into games.
He told me I was an Italian plumber from Brooklyn, so my instinct was to try a gruff and coarse voice - 'hey you, get outta my face!'
What popped into my brain was a character I'd played in Taming Of The Shrew. I was Petruchio going back to get his wife in Italy, and I was a sort of 'Mamma mia, nice ol' Italian guy'. So I thought I'd do something like that. I went on and on about spaghetti and meatballs. After half an hour the producer said, 'cut, stop, we've run out of tape!' And he called Nintendo and said 'I've found our Mario'. Mine was the only tape he sent back.
Eventually, Nintendo called me up and said, 'Mr Miyamoto would like you to play the voice of Mario in a new game', which was Mario 64.'
It's such a profound honour. When I was in London for the launch of Mario Galaxy, this wonderful young man approached me and said - and I quote: 'Mel Blanc [Bugs Bunny] was the voice of my father's generation, you are the voice of mine.'
Martinet also shared that, in the early days of speaking at trade shows with electrodes glued to his face (to animate a CG Mario), he would shout out "Papa" whenever he spotted Shigeru Miyamoto. What we'd give to see a video of that.