Hollywood industry websites like Variety are reporting that The Pokemon Company and Legendary Pictures have reached a deal to launch a live action “Detective Pikachu” movie, which will go into production next year. This is following rumors earlier this year that several studios were quietly bidding for Pokemon’s live action movie rights, including Legendary, Warner Bros., and Sony.
Detective Pikachu is a talking Pikachu from Great Detective Pikachu, a quirky Pokemon spinoff game that was released in February for the Nintendo 3DS. In the game, you and Detective Pikachu go around town solving various crimes. Detective Pikachu is bossy, loves coffee, has trouble with women, and loves visiting cafes. He learned all his sleuthing skills from his Pokemon Trainer, who died in a car accident.
Judging by the game’s (mostly) light subject matter, it seems a movie based on the game would be family-friendly with some emotional undertones about friendship, loss, and the bond between Pokemon and humans. With all of that in mind, I wonder if Pokemon created Great Detective Pikachu with a live action film in mind, especially since it features actual voices, cinematic cut scenes, and a humorous tone? After all, the game did come out of left field and is very unusual for a Pokemon spinoff game. Perhaps they were using it to test the waters?
Since Pokemon is all about Pokemon battling, one of the biggest industry fears with making a live action Pokemon movie has always been the comparisons to animal fighting (at least from what I’ve been told from studios that created test footage to present to Pokemon). Perhaps making a Pokemon movie about a funny coffee-drinking Pikachu who solves crimes helps avoid that comparison, at least for now?
Legendary Entertainment and The Pokémon Company announced today they will partner to launch the first-ever Pokémon live-action film franchise based on DETECTIVE PIKACHU, a new character and story in the Pokémon universe. The world first met Detective Pikachu through a video game in Japan, and further details of how his story will be told are being kept under wraps for the moment. The film will be fast-tracked for production start in 2017.
First introduced in Japan in 1996, Pokémon has delighted fans of all ages around the world for two decades. With more than 279 million video games sold worldwide, 21.5 billion TCG cards shipped to 74 countries, and an animated series spanning 19 seasons, Pokémon is one of the most successful entertainment brands in the world.
Universal Pictures will handle distribution of the live-action film outside Japan as it has done with Legendary’s other films for years. The Pokémon Company’s long time movie collaborator, Toho, will handle distribution of the film franchise in Japan, as it had similarly done in its partnership with Legendary on the iconic monster reboot for Godzilla.
The deal was brokered by Don McGowan, General Counsel at The Pokémon Company International, who led the negotiations with outside counsel Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig. Marty Willhite, Legendary’s Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel along with Daniel Feinberg, Vice President Corporate Counsel and Mike Ross, Senior Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs, represented the studio.
Here’s the game’s trailer from earlier this year, which features live action, as well as the first few minutes of the game itself:
A Detective Pikachu movie is probably the best idea The Pokemon Company could have agreed to for their first foray into live action. It’ll give them time to test the waters and figure out how to present the Pokemon world both creatively and technically before potentially going into live action films that deal with the larger core ideas of Pokemon.
My lifelong dream has always been to work on a live action Pokemon movie. Who knows where I’ll be in a year — probably further in debt from film school, haha. But a man can dream… :p