'What the hell is this thing?': Designers on the new 'Pokémon' movie detail the bizarre process of translating cartoons into reality

‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’/Warner Bros. Pictures‘Detective Pikachu’ depicts Pikachu as a furry, rodent-like creature.
  • A new, live-action Pokémon movie starring Pikachu arrives on Friday, named “Pokémon Detective Pikachu.”
  • The movie transforms cartoon Pokémon into “real” creatures through the magic of visual effects.
  • In an interview with Wired, the VFX production team related the hilarious challenges they faced in converting Pokémon from cartoons to reality while balancing the interests of The Pokémon Company.
  • “‘He’s obviously wearing Speedos and he’s wearing a wrestling belt.’ And they said, ‘No that’s his skin.’ So then we said, ‘Well if that’s his skin, why is it shiny?'” said Erik Nordby, the visual effects supervisor on the film.
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How do you adapt Pikachu – the most iconic Pokémon of them all – into a live-action movie? How about the other several dozen Pokémon that appear in the upcoming “Pokémon Detective Pikachu“?

It’s a tough question, and it begets even more questions.

“How could he not be furry? If he’s not furry, then what is he?” visual effects supervisor Erik Nordby told Wired in a recent interview.

Pokémon: Detective PikachuWarner Bros.

That’s just for starters – Pikachu is one of dozens of different Pokémon that appear in the new movie.

Read more: ‘Detective Pikachu’ will bring dozens of cute and creepy Pokémon to theatres this week. Here’s every live-action Pokémon shown in the trailers so far.

For every one of those Pokémon, Nordby and his crew had to answer a lot of questions that, frankly speaking, sound ridiculous.

An absolutely delightful anecdote about how the visual effects team adapted the Pokémon named Machamp perfectly highlights the type of negotiations the team had to make.

First, here’s a look at Machamp in the movie, directing traffic with his quartet of muscular limbs:

Pokemon Detective Pikachu Snorlax MachampPokemon Detective PikachuPay no attention to the Snorlax in the foreground.

And here’s Machamp in the cartoon:

Machamp (Pokemon)The Pokémon Company

When Nordby brought the design to The Pokémon Company – the Japanese company that oversees everything Pokémon – they hit a snag: the character’s Speedo isn’t actually a Speedo, apparently.

“They came back and said, ‘We think it’s good but it appears as though he’s wearing clothes and Pokémon can’t wear clothes.’ So then we said, ‘Well, what is he, then? Because he’s obviously wearing Speedos and he’s wearing a wrestling belt.’ And they said, ‘No that’s his skin.’ So then we said, ‘Well if that’s his skin, why is it shiny?'”

And that’s just one Pokémon in a movie full of dozens.

The full interview at Wired is worth reading, and digs into the often hilarious discussions that went into the absurd yet charming film. Do yourself a favour and check out the whole thing.

And if you’re still in the dark about the movie, check out the latest trailer for “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” right here:

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