During the 2018 Pokémon World Championships, POKÉMON Detective Pikachu was showcased to the public for the first time. The Pokémon Company president Tsunekazu Ishihara introduced movie director Rob Letterman and actors Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton to talk a little about the upcoming film. IGN’s very own Joshua Yehl was in attendance and had the opportunity to interview Letterman, Smith and Newton about a number of different topics.
“The Pokemon Company, they’ve already made many, many movies of Ash, and they came to Legendary with this idea of using a new character. So when I came onboard, I was pitched this character of Detective Pikachu, and I fell in love with the story behind it,” Letterman said. “It’s a really great story. It was something with a lot of heart, and it was just very unique. And because there’s already been so much work done with Ash, for the first live-action movie I thought it was a really good idea to try something new with a new character, but bake it into the universe of Pokemon. So it still follows all the rules, and we get to see a lot of our favorite things.”
The digital creation of Detective Pikachu is being voiced by Ryan Reynolds. The two leads lit up at the mention of Reynolds. “He’s hilarious, and he just brought so much to the character,” Smith enthused, with Newton adding, “He brought Pikachu to life.”
“There was something delightful about that big personality and voice that he has in this small package. There’s something really fun about that idea. It sounds like a mismatch, but it’s really organic. It’s really hilarious, they’re hilarious together,” Letterman said.
With more than 800 Pokemon to choose from, Letterman and the film’s production team had a hard time deciding which to use in the film.
“There was a long process, before [Smith and Newton] were even involved, of working closely with The Pokemon Company, with Game Freak, with [The Pokemon Company president] Ishihara-san, [Pokemon illustrator] Sugimori-san, and the whole team. Of going through every single Pokemon, different evolutions, and really narrowing down not only the favorites – which, we tried to do as many of those as possible. But also, what worked in the story, and from the visual effects teams’ point of view, what would actually work really well for a live-action movie. Because you do have to remember, the movie is live-action, it’s not animated. We’re using some of the best visual effects companies in the world to bring the characters to life. So it was a combination of all those things,” Letterman explained.
Letterman also admitted that he has an affection for the Generation I Pokemon, but audiences can expect to see a “good spread” of Pokemon from old and new generations alike. Letterman’s main goal is to present Pokemon that look as authentic as possible.
“They’re incredibly real, you should think of it as the way [Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy character] Rocket Raccoon sits in the movie as if he’s really there. It’s that technology. The same group of people that worked on that, or worked on Jungle Book. We’ve got the people on it that worked on Fantastic Beasts. They’re technically, some of the most high-end visual effects in the world,” Letterman said. “It’s completely photorealistic, like they are alive and in the movie.”
“I will say that it’s exactly how I wanted to see the Pokemon portrayed when I was a little kid,” Smith said.