As far as introducing an audience to the live action world of Pokémon, Detective Pikachu was a super effective film. Fan favorite creatures like Cubone, Gyarados, and Greninja were each given a moment to shine, their iconic designs brought to life by glorious CGI models that many of us never expected to see faithfully adapted on the big screen.
However, even though fans were satisfied, the same couldn’t be said for those at The Pokémon Company, the Japanese firm responsible for brand management and licensing of the franchise. According to the movie’s visual effects supervisor Erik Nordby in an interview with Time Magazine, the company had a strong reaction to Lickitung’s textured design early on in production:
“For something to feel real, it has to have real-world grit and texture. But the Pokémon Company would see that and think it was dirty. We had to walk them through… and build the trust that we weren’t going to make these things disturbingly dirty.
I wouldn’t say that [the scene with Lickitung] was the Pokémon Company’s favorite scene in the movie. That’s one where we got right up to the edge of what they would be comfortable with.”
In the same interview, Art Director Ravi Bansal revealed that The Pokémon Company also had reservations when it came to Mr. Mime:
“When Rob [Letterman, the film’s director] suggested using Mr. Mime, we asked the Pokémon Company, “What is he?” They went: We don’t know.” They were actually trying to dissuade us from using him, because they weren’t sure what he was or whether he’d work well on screen. That was a bit of a strange one.”
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As far as Pokémon go, Lickitung and Mr. Mime are perfect examples of creatures with strong visuals and a comedic game already built into their characters: Lickitung has a ginormous, slithery tongue and Mr. Mime, as its name suggests, is a mute clown that can mime things into existence. It makes perfect sense that those behind Detective Pikachu would want to include them, as their scenes are two of the funniest in the entire movie.
Yet, it’s equally understandable that The Pokémon Company would hesitate to see two of their more horrifying monsters introduced so early into the franchise’s cinematic universe. A beady-eyed pink monster with a tongue longer than its body is a hard sell to even the most diehard Pokémon fans, so I can’t imagine what unsuspecting mothers or babysitters were thinking when it popped up in the film’s first act.
Creepy creatures aside, Detective Pikachu seems to be a hit amongst fans and critics alike and has already pulled in enough at the box-office to guarantee a whole slew of sequels and spinoffs. If you’ve seen it, let us know in the comments below which live-action design was your favorite and which Pokémon you hope to see brought to life in a future outing. Personally, I’m waiting for Onix’s big break.