Nintendo branches with a new Pikmin animated series

Pikmin 3

Nintendo is no stranger to cartoons. It’s been licensing out its characters for animation since it entered the video game business more than thirty years ago. Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. both got their turn on Saturday mornings, while Super Mario Bros. went through three different transformations from 1989 to 1994 – and then there was Captain N: The Game Master that featured a bit of everything. But despite its long history with animated programming, Nintendo has rarely been directly involved with the cartoons’ production. Even Kirby: Right Back At Ya! Was developed by a new company formed by Nintendo and Kirby’s creators HAL Laboratory. That’s why the proposed new Pikmin cartoon is so interesting: Nintendo’s creative guru Shigeru Miyamoto is himself involved in the production.

Speaking with Polygon, Miyamoto confirmed that he is overseeing the development of a mini-series of Pikmin cartoons.

“They’ll be released sometime before the release of Pikmin 3,” said Miyamoto. Pikmin 3, one of the very first games announced for Nintendo Wii U, is expected out sometime between April and June of this year. “Possibly as a Nintendo Video. If they’re popular we could consider selling them.”

“We were working on several Pikmin CG animated videos and wanted more people to be able to see them. I had gone to a movie theater and saw the videos telling people to turn off their cellphones and thought we could create a Pikmin version of that, but instead decided to do the 3D glasses video.”

The 3D glasses video in question was a brief collaboration between Nintendo and movie theater franchise Toho Cinemas, but it was also a test bed for Nintendo to see how people liked its take on 3D cartoons. Miyamoto himself is showing his Pikmin experiments on a Nintendo 3DS, built using test images and notes he made in the Flipnote Animation app on the handheld gaming system.

Miyamoto stressed that this doesn’t mark a huge move into cartoon production for Nintendo, though. “It’s just a fun side project,” said Miyamoto. It’s rare that Miyamoto makes anything that is ultimately just a fun side project for Nintendo. To date, Nintendo has flirted with internal video production. It’s been airing Nintendo Channel programs on the Wii for years and it’s been contracting outside companies like College Humor to produce original content for the Nintendo 3DS’ Nintendo Channel.

If there’s enough interest in these Pikmin shorts, Nintendo could find a lucrative new creative outlet, and maybe a new outlet of expression for its aging artists.