Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a movie that brings the pocket monster world to (mostly) real life, making a live-action movie for the first time in the video game franchise’s history. While not everyone has loved the movie, it’s a visually stunning feat for people who grew up catching pixelated Pikachu on Game Boys and watching animated versions of the creatures on TV.
Considering how easily a video game movie can go astray visually, it’s no small feat that Detective Pikachu looks as good as it does. Kotaku has a good look at the lengths the movie went to not go all Sonic the Hedgehog on us, and they also pointed out a Time Magazine piece with the creative team of the movie.
The film’s art director, Ravi Bansal, and Eric Nordby, the visual effects supervisor, dished about characters like Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Gengar and more as they were CGI-rendered into the real-looking world. And Nordby said in the interview that the Pokemon Company, which is in charge of all things Pikachu and Co., wasn’t thrilled with one scene in particular with Lickitung, one of the series original 150 Pokemon.
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 a whole series of slides 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.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you can see the start of this scene at the 42 second mark of this trailer, after staring deeply into the eyes of a Bulbasaur.
If you don’t want light spoilers, stop reading here, but what happens next is a bit gross: the Lickitung, well, licks Tim’s face for no real reason at all other than to give him a somewhat jarring welcome to Ryme City. And getting that scene right took a bit of practical effects to make especially gross.
We built that tongue in reality with a big chunk of latex. It’s completely gross, but we had to have something to wipe Justice Smith’s face with [the actor gets licked by Lickitung in one scene].
It made for an extremely gross moment, and it’s obvious why the Pokemon Company might not like that being one of the first things fans see in the movie. It seems they eventually trusted the team to get the movie right, and they did a good job sneaking as many Pokemon into the film as possible.
The whole interview is fascinating, and includes a great comment about Mr. Mime, which had one of the funniest silent roles in recent memory: asked what Mr. Mime, you know, is according to Bansal the people in charge of Pokemon were blunt about it.
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.
The truth is that Mr. Mime, like of all of us, is just trying his best.