Animation or Live Action: What Style Would Suit Zelda Best on the Big Screen?

Updated: 12 hours ago



By Carlos Gomez


I’m sure everyone reading this article has either seen the Sonic the Hedgehog movie or, at the very least, knows it exists. As I was watching SEGA’s flagship character race around in a blue CGI blur, I couldn’t help but ponder Nintendo’s own foray into the big screen. We all know of its disastrous attempt with the Super Mario Bros. movie; however, it’s been a long time since Nintendo branched out with its intellectual properties (IPs). It’s best to strike while the iron is hot. In fact, there is a confirmed Mario movie in the works: it’s a CGI cartoon developed with Illumination (think Minions). With Nintendo’s effort to broaden and strengthen its fan-base, the options are plentiful with IPs, yet this is Another Zelda Podcast--you can imagine where I am going with this.


The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises, and every year or so, there is a rumor of the series making it to TV or the big screen (with everything from April Fool’s Day pranks to random internet chatter) that leads to dead ends. Other than the 1989 cartoon series featuring the iconic “Well, excuse me, princess” tag line, there has been nothing on this historic franchise.


So, if the Big N were to make a Zelda movie, what would it do? As far as I can tell, there are two basic camps of fans: the group that wants a live action version and the group that wants a cartoon.


There are pros and cons to both mediums.


Animation: This really encompasses everything from anime to CGI. It’s the easiest format to pull off as it relies solely on voice acting. Action sequences and visuals would have no limit and could be as creative as the director desires. Live action movies, in contrast, are limited by both human and technological factors. Wires and computer augmentation can only do so much. An animated feature would surely be able to accommodate and maximize the fantasy in the world of Hyrule. Many have cited anime as a natural art style suiting both complex action sequences and more mature concepts. For titles like The Wind Waker and Skyward Sword, animation seems like a natural fit. Wind Waker’s cel-shading style in particular could easily be translated for the big screen. Animation makes sense from a marketing aspect as well. The next generation of Zelda fans is sitting in grade school as I write this. If there’s one thing that kids love, it's animation. That’s what makes big companies like Disney so successful. The Zelda animation fans of today will be the purchasers of Zelda games tomorrow.


Live action: From my previous remarks, it may appear that Zelda as a cartoon or CGI film would be a foregone conclusion; however, there is a certain magnetism about live action that doesn’t happen with a cartoon. Imagine for a moment a Legend of Zelda film that was part Lord of the Rings and part Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The world would be more believable; it would feel as if we could reach out and touch Hyrule or hold the Triforce in our hands. It's why superhero movies are doing so well--they are just the right combination of real and make-believe to trick our minds into believing the impossible. Nintendo could easily comb the list of talented young actors to find the perfect Zelda, Link, and Ganon. Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess both have more mature themes that would benefit from a live-action perspective. Just imagine the beautiful places that the movie would be filmed, from snow-capped mountains to scorching deserts. There are many unique places on earth that could be used to film the various temples, shrines, and dungeons. The emphasis would not be on how Zelda is a fantasy but on how the fantasy of Zelda could be real.


I personally would love to see a live-action Zelda. I think The Witcher’s success, as well as that of Game of Thrones, shows that the appetite exists for compelling stories filled with enchantment. However, I think Nintendo is very cautious. The Super Mario Bros. movie was a huge flop that Nintendo never fully let go. Instead, I see the company looking at animation. With Nintendo’s building onto Universal Studios’ theme parks, I see it really making that push for the younger crowd.


Either way, I am sure that when Zelda does hit the big screen, it will be a smash hit. As long as the studio producing such a film captures the wonder of exploration and the excitement of the moment the Master Sword is drawn, it will be a success.


Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Tell me what you think. Is animation the way to go for a Zelda film, or is live action the only way to do the story justice? You can reach me @The_Lost_Hylian on Twitter, thelosthylian on Instagram, or my Facebook page, The Lost Hylian. You can check out some other stories here.