Maurizio Nichetti: between multimedia, Game Boy and PC Olivetti

Maurizio Nichetti: between multimedia, Game Boy and PC Olivetti

Maurizio Nichetti

In the videogame medium, communication has often traditionally been linked to cinematic narrative. On the other hand, when the videogame found itself having to share the same television screen, the natural aspiration to imitate cinema or, at least, to use that already codified language came naturally. Already in 1982, Coleco spent one million dollars (equivalent to the current three million euros) to make a game - later also released for Atari - based on the film WarGames, even before it was released in theaters. Forty years later, on YouTube there are videos that retrace a video game in its entirety, eliminating the interactive sequences, transforming it into a real film. For titles such as Life is Strange and The Last of Us, videos of the genre also reach millions of views.

Communication influenced by cinema, however, does not end only in the game, but in the past it also influenced the commercials televisions. Companies such as Atari first and then Nintendo and Sega have generously invested in the production of high-profile advertising, albeit with results that - for the most part - we find it hard to define as cinematic. In Italy, for a certainly smaller market like ours, such investments have rarely been seen. Either because of the aforementioned problems relating to the mixing of toys and video games, or because large investments have never been found in advertising for toys. Advertisers of the time, such as Giuliano Doccioli (ex Diaframma and Leader), remember the sector of commercials for children almost as inferior. "All my colleagues wanted to work on the commercials for adults, since these went in prime time, the ones for children remained anchored to the TV dedicated to the latter and, therefore, in the afternoon", recalls Doccioli.

Super Nintendo: a super promotion with a super spot

Maurizio Nichetti GiG, with Nintendo, was the first toy distributor to change the pace in video game marketing, promoting it no longer as a simple product intended for children. Before distributing the Japanese company's products, GiG used to use a Florentine advertising studio, clearly with lower budgets and demands. The Super Nintendo, in fact, was the first console to which entire advertising pages in newspapers were dedicated. Instead, in order to restart the Game Boy portable console market - to which Mattel previously did not seem to have paid much attention - it was decided not to spare any expenses. The creative agency in charge was Armando Testa, the production studio that of Bruno Bozzetto, behind the camera? A rather well-known name in the film industry: Maurizio Nichetti.

The Milanese director and actor was not new to the advertising world, he himself remembers how he had already worked in the sector for twenty years, "from 1971, first as a screenwriter then as a director, from 1987 to 2002 I shot something like 150 different commercials ". Nichetti recalls how GiG had rather serious intentions: it would be the first children's commercial to require a major financial investment.

The director continues, recalling that the Bruno Bozzetto studio proposed him to direct because it was a project that already appeared complex on paper. "It was my specialty to deal with films with" special effects ", which today can make people smile, but which nobody knew how to deal with in 1993. In Bozzetto, all coming from the cartoon, we had a particular ease with what is now called scene compositing and which at the time, for us in animation, simply meant working on different layers of image ", explains the director.

What was complex in the vision of the Florentine toy company? The director explains the script: "a group of teenagers entered a transparent external elevator and climbed, floor by floor, to the roof of a skyscraper. On each floor they crossed a video game: Super Mario, seabed, spaceships. In thirty seconds, the storyboard was composed of 43 shots and in each one we had to "compose" the image of the boys in the elevator shot from life, with the parts of the skyscraper flowing, while the various game worlds were "crossed", which in a second had to be recognized and appreciated by kids. I confess, I was worried! " In short, GiG had a futuristic idea that the Bozzetto studio accepted, but the production was certainly high.

The Spot Game Boy that divides

An advertisement for the Super Nintendo Despite the talents involved , the final result ends up not satisfying the customer. The former marketing director of Nintendo at GiG remembers it, in fact, as an unsatisfactory experience for the company. This is echoed by some former Armando Testa employees, who confirm many discussions and little satisfaction on the Game Boy commercial, despite the generous investment and expectations. What happened? Nichetti tries to give an explanation "in fact, after editing, I too was perplexed. It all seemed too fast and dynamic, unclear. I called the editor of my feature films for an opinion and, in the end, she had to see it four times to understand it, with the director nearby who suggested some passages. " In short, the final product seemed a bit confusing.

The goal, however, seemed to have been achieved, confirms Nichetti, who shares an anecdote: an experiment with his two children, at the time 8 and 4 years old. One evening, after the passage of the commercial on TV, Nichetti pressed his children - who were with their backs to the TV - to find out more about the plot and what happened in those thirty seconds. The children showed that they understood the point of the commercial and the crossing of the video games with the elevator / Game Boy well. "Needless to say, in the end I had to buy him the console! That is to say that two children had a more sensitive image decoding speed than a director, an editor and a marketing director! It is the generation that will then prefer the active participation required by a video game, rather than being passively in front of a film "comments the director.

A poster by Maurizio Nichetti In short, despite GiG's lack of satisfaction, which will not repeat such investments, Maurizio remembers the spot with pleasure. "For me it was an exciting experience that I have always cited as the beginning of a change in the taste of the public, which resulted, ten years later, in the frenzy of certain cartoons or certain virtual realities, destined for a new audience. Millennium." Nichetti also confirms that he still happens to meet people who remember the commercial, "something strange was happening, the children, addicted to the first video games, had a much more reactive perception of the image than an adult, even of us who worked in the advertising, accustomed to extreme synthesis. "

Nichetti and Olivetti: a perfect match

An advertisement with Nichetti Yet it was not the only flirtation between the director and the multimedia world, since between 1994 and 1995 Nichetti was the testimonial of a line of Olivetti personal computers. Maurizio remembers how the Ivrea company specifically requested it, "I was a veteran of technologically original films, innovative for the time, I represented a link between the" young "and the official world of cinema." Nichetti mentions accepting out of curiosity about this new digital and interactive world that he wanted to understand more about. "I have always been curious, never too technological, I have always felt more a craftsman in what I did than a coordinator of virtual technologies that would have made me dependent on the professionalism of others."

Subsequently, Nichetti was also involved in a multimedia experience to transform his film Stefano Quante Storie into a sort of crossroads story, released on CD-Rom. "The film, with the protagonist's six intertwined lives, lent itself perfectly to the experiment. Everything was already shot and written, the CD allowed you to follow a personalized path, choosing a different path at each crossroads: marry or not, teach or enters the carabinieri ". Somehow the experience anticipated what we would find on DVDs years later. The advance on the times did not help, commercially, Nichetti recalls: "it was really ahead, too much for the time. The interactive CD was not a mass product and in two years [in 2000 ed] would have been replaced and wiped out. from the DVD. In fact in 2005 I made Stefano Quantestorie's interactive DVD, after having been testimonial for Blockbuster for the relaunch of Italian cinema on DVD. By now, even this medium has aged, the Blockbuster chain of stores has closed all over the world and Netflix presented last year a couple of proposals for "interactive" products as a big news. "

Myst But we still have one last curiosity before saying goodbye to Maurizio Nichetti ... but is he a passionate gamer? "To tell the truth not much, but in the nineties I was passionate about Myst, it was my favorite! I even found it relaxing, away from the anxious adrenaline of fights and monsters I didn't like. But I was wasting too much time on it and I didn't want to give the bad example in the house .. "

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