There are plenty of video game and anime series that have evolved and grown over the years, but Pokémon is an extremely special case. Both Pokémon’s video game franchise and the various anime series have been at the top of their game since they started. The properties’ popularity may not be at the fever pitch they once were, but they’re still very much in the public consciousness.
With the recent successful release of Pokémon: Detective Pikachu and mainline games headed to Nintendo’s Switch, it looks like Pokémon may be due for another resurgence. Pokémon has been entertaining people for years, but there are still many details about how the anime and series came together that largely fly under the radar. Accordingly, Here Are 20 Things That Actually Happened Behind The Scenes Of Pokémon.
20 Ash’s Starter Was Supposed To Be A Clefairy
Pikachu’s popularity is largely because he’s Ash’s sidekick and go-to Pokémon. The Pokémon anime helped push this narrative, but originally he was going to be paired with a Clefairy. In a last minute decision, they pivoted towards Pikachu instead, but even in the manga for Pokémon Red and Blue, Ash's counterpart it still accompanied by a Clefairy. What a difference this would have made in the Pokémon world.
19 The Events Of 9/11 Affected The Dub's Production
Out of respect for the horrible events of September 11, 2001, there was an episode that was supposed to be named "A Scare in the Air" that they renamed to the more tasteful, "Spirits in the Sky." Additionally, the episode "Tentacool and Tentacruel" was initially pulled in some markets since it revolves around a Pokémon that destroys skyscrapers.
18 Celebrity Voice Actors Were Considered For The Early Pokémon Movies (Sean Connery Turned One Down)
Pokémon: The First Movie for years has been the most successful anime film of all-time in North America and its first few sequels still performed especially well. Obviously, the movies didn’t need to rely on star power to get audiences in seats, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t consider it. In Pokémon: The Movie 2000, both Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were considered for the role of master collector, Lawrence III. On top of that, in Pokémon 3: The Movie, Sean Connery turned down the role of Molly’s father, the Professor.
17 Pokémon Has Been Under Attack By PETA
Pokémon obviously has pure intentions and is meant to be a playful, enjoyable franchise for children, but that didn't stop PETA for giving them a piece of their mind. PETA argued that the games promote cruelty towards animals and produces situations not unlike dog fighting or cockfights. These are fair points, but to change these things would dismantle Pokémon's entire universe and how it operates.
16 "Catch 'Em If You Can" Was Nearly The English Marketing Slogan
Even if you’re not super familiar with the Pokémon series, it’s safe to say that you’ve probably heard the phrase “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” at some point. The marketing slogan has stuck with the series, but it was very nearly something else. “Catch ‘Em If You Can” was almost the show’s slogan and it got so far along that it was even featured in an early version of the anime’s theme song.
15 Natural Disasters Led To An Episode Never Airing In Japan
Pokémon has had to deal with some unfortunate timing when it comes to the airing of their episodes, but the case of "AG101" is the most extreme as this episode never even ended up airing. On October 23rd, 2004, a massive 6.6 magnitude earthquake caused devastation in Japan. Episode "AG101," which was set to air a little over a week later on November 4th, was set to introduce the Pokémon Barboach. It was also supposed to feature copious instances of the moves earthquake, fissure, and magnitude. Obviously, this would have been in extremely poor taste.
14 The Dub Is Sometimes Used To Correct Plot Holes
The series' production team is very busy and sometimes they miss things or make mistakes. Thankfully, due to the lead-time between the Japanese episodes airing and the dub being released, there's time to fix these mistakes through the dub's script. A major example of this is in Pokémon: The First Movie. The final fight strangely sees all of the Pokémon only using physical attacks. The dub has Mewtwo explain that he's psychically blocked all of their special attacks to level the playing ground.
13 The Anime Induced Seizures In Over 700 Children In Japan
This has gained quite a bit of attention, but in December of 1997, the episode "Electric Soldier Porygon" featured such intense flashing lights and images on a red background that it triggered epilepsy in children. The episode was only shown the one time in Japan. For the dub, the animation was slowed down and the strobe effects were removed, but it still didn't air.
12 The Creator Based The Series On His Bug Collecting Obsession
It's been widely reported that Pokémon's creator, Satoshi Tajiri, based the collecting and battling aspects of the Pokémon series on his passion for collecting bugs. As a child, Tajiri's obsession with bugs was so severe that he was even mocked with the nickname, "Dr. Bug." He probably has a particularly special affinity for Bug-type Pokémon.
11 The GS Ball Was Supposed To Contain Celebi, Who Would Become Ash's Companion
Masamitsu Hidaka, a member of the Pokémon production team, revealed that the original plan for the mysterious GS Ball would result in it containing Celebi. Not only that, but Hidaka said that they wanted Celebi to operate as Ash's new companion in the Gold and Silver anime series. In the end, it was decided that Celebi was a better surprise reserved for the movie, Pokémon 4Ever. Meanwhile, the contents of the GS Ball are still a mystery.
10 Meowth Was Almost Super Smash Bros.’ Pokémon Representative
The Super Smash Bros. series has been a brilliant way to mash together various Nintendo franchises, with Pokémon always receiving heavy representation. In the original game, it’s Pikachu and Jigglypuff who are playable characters, but Meowth was in contention due to his popularity in the anime. Curiously, he’s never appeared as a playable character in any subsequent Super Smash Bros. games.
9 The Team Behind The Show's Theme Song Thought The Show Was "Incomprehensible"
Pokémon’s English theme song was written by John Siegler and John Loeffler, who were flummoxed by the concept of the show until they understood that its backbone was friendship. Jason Paige, who provided the vocals for the theme, has barely seen any footage of the show and didn't understand at all what he was talking about. In spite of all of this, the show's theme has gained a major following.
8 Pokémon's Japanese Staff Were Moved To Tears Over The Theatrical Dub
Over two dozen members of Pokémon: The First Movie's production staff flew to America to watch the film with American audiences and they absolutely loved the changes that were made in the dub, whether it was the animation, script-work, or the music. In fact, they thought this adaptation was so moving that they even cried out of joy according to the film's audio commentary.
7 Mewtwo's Voice Actor Performed The Role Under A Pseudonym
Mewtwo's voice in Pokémon: The First Movie is performed by Jay Goede, however, it's credited to Philip Bartlett. Goede has since revealed that because he was an actor at the time and didn't fully understand voice acting, embarrassment led to him creating an alias for the role (Philip is his middle name and he grew up on a Bartlett Boulevard). Goede has since changed his attitude on the craft of voice acting, but it's still a bizarre credit inclusion.
6 Nearly 20% Of The First Movie Was Reanimated After Screening In Japan
This is a pretty drastic overhaul, but after the film screened in Japan, about 20 percent of it was reanimated to improve the visuals and overall quality. This happens in many action-heavy scenes, like the storm on the way to Mewtwo's island, but other moments are completely replaced and the change in animation quality is noticeable. This improved version has since become the standard and replaced the original, even in Japan.
5 The Anime Was Only Supposed To Last One Season
The show's head writer, Takeshi Shudo, had even plotted out the finale where Ash defeats Lance and achieves his dream of becoming a Pokémon master. Shudo was persuaded to prolong Ash's story and keep the series running, however, considering that the number of Pokémon, and the franchise's popularity, was growing.
4 The Episode "Pikachu's Goodbye" Wasn't Supposed To Happen
"Pikachu's Goodbye" is one of the most emotional episodes from the original run of the anime series and it seriously made fans think that Ash's faithful Pikachu may exit the series. Believe it or not, this episode was only thrown into production after the snafu that followed "Electric Soldier Porygon." The situation left a gap in their schedule, which led to this new episode.
3 English Version Of The Anime Was Made Before Japanese For First Four Seasons
Pokémon is clearly an anime from Japan, but during the infancy of the show, Pokémon was arguably more popular in the United States than it was in Japan, thanks to both the video games and trading card game. Accordingly, the first four seasons had their dubs produced before the Japanese versions would air on television and used them as the foundation (mouth movements match the English). This production shift would change as the series would continue, but it's crazy that it operated this way for so long.
2 Pokémon Crystal Had Cell Phone Connectivity In Japan
Before Pokémon titles were officially going online, Game Freak was still experimenting with the concept in some regard as early as Pokémon Crystal. The Japanese version of the game had a special connection cable to make the Game Boy Color connect with cell phones (Mobile System GB) in order to collect special items. Due to American cell phones being much further behind in technology at the time, the feature was scrapped for US releases.
1 A Version Of The Theme Song Endorsing Ron Paul Was Produced
Inexplicably, in 2012 during the primary elections, Jason Paige recorded a new version of the Pokémon theme song that supported Republican candidate, Ron Paul. Not only is it surprising that The Pokémon Company didn’t try to shut this down, but in 2015 a viral push even led to this parody theme being voted to be included in Dutch Top 2000's radio marathon.
Sources: ScreenRant.com, Nintendo.com, IGN.com