After hopping on the back of the nearest Pidgeotto, I flew across the pond to Shepperton Studios, located just outside of London, where
There are approximately 60 Pokémon featured in the movie
Choosing a favorite Pokémon can be a grueling task. With more than 800 options, it’s a bit like reading the menu at the Cheesecake Factory: what feels like an exercise in futility that will ultimately flood your body with endorphins when all’s said and done. When it comes to
“There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Pokémon in the Pokémon universe. Movies I’ve done before, we’ve had dozens of CG characters, and that’s been a lot,” Baxter explained. “And this one … this moment we’re budgeted to do 60, which even that, honestly, is a massive undertaking, because each one of those has its own muscle structure and all the things we build to make something move.”
So why 60? Well, it’s a mostly a matter of budget, but also part of their plan not to totally overload the world of
“And how we arrived at that number … It keeps changing, by the way, every time we shoot a scene, we think, ‘Oh, maybe we should put an Octillery over there,’ and then that’s not something we’re budgeted for, so then we’re racing to build this Octillery character,” Baxter said. “The idea, I think, is that [if] we have about 60 of them in the film, [it] should give us enough for primary characters and also background characters. But other than the top, maybe, ten that we know have specific scenes, the other ones are changing a bit as we film the movie, as we kind of find what our world is going to be and what Pokémon would fit nicely into the scenes.”
They had to film every scene two or three times
It pains me to write this because the trailers have looked shockingly realistic, but Pokémon don’t exist in real life. While they could likely utilize highly detailed puppets to achieve the aesthetic they’re after in
“For every take we have, there’s like two takes for Pikachu and Psyduck,” explained Kathryn Newton, who plays the wannabe investigative journalist Lucy. “Because they have to do one take. It’s called a reference pass with the puppets, and then they remove the puppets. So we have eyelines and then they know where the Pokémon will be, and everything. And then they take them out, and Justice [Smith] and I act with nothing for a while, and then they put them back in and we do it all over again.”
While they do use puppets as well for certain shots, nothing beats the human touch, which is why for reference passes, Newton is occasionally joined by a costumed partner playing her best bud Psyduck.
“Well, Psyduck only says ‘Psyduck’ and I have someone named Lauren who actually wears a Psyduck costume,” Newton told us. “So she’s really, really short and small. She only comes in on a reference pass, like we’ll do the first take with me, and then leaves. I think our AD will say ‘Psyduck’ sometimes if he has to say ‘Psyduck.'”
Filming with Ryan Reynolds was a challenge
How can you make a movie that is so dependent on having back-and-forth patter with a costar who isn’t even there? It’s simple: you fly him out to film the movie with you for a week and then try your damnedest to remember everything he did.
“We basically went through the whole film with Ryan [Reynolds] on a soundstage, with Ryan in a motion-capture helmet,” Justice Smith, who stars as Detective Pikachu’s unwitting partner Tim Goodman, explained to us as we crowded into a tent on the side of the stage. “And, so I got to see how he improvised, what he was gonna do, what he was gonna say, how he was gonna act. And then we have a reader who reads Ryan’s lines, but I essentially have to remember what Ryan did on … that day. And then do my side of it, when we’re shooting. And things change around, and they’re gonna fix some stuff in post with Ryan, but for the most part it comes down to memory. We also recorded the tape so I can listen to them back, and remember what he did. But it’s just the whole team trying to work together, and they have been. It’s a really difficult beast.”
While it may have been more difficult beast to tame than many of the Pokémon that populate Ryme City, Smith’s hard work does not go unnoticed by his colleagues.
“[Justice] has this thing called an earwig, so he’s hearing Ryan’s lines as Pikachu, and me,” added co-star Kathryn Newton. “I don’t think any of you have ever had to wear one of those, but they are so annoying. They are the most annoying things because you hear this fuzz, and it’s like having a radio in your ear. The funny thing as an actor is I learned my scenes with everyone’s lines. I learned Pikachu’s lines and Tim’s lines, and then the first scene I had was with the three of them and then I realized, ‘Oh, my gosh, I don’t understand Pikachu. I don’t hear Pikachu. Only Tim can hear Pikachu.’ So the first scene that we did, I was like, ‘Wait a minute, now the beats are all different, it’s so strange.’ So during the scene that Justice hears Ryan in one ear, and has to act at nothing, and then continue the scene with me, and I’m just like, ‘What is he talking to?’ So it actually works out pretty well, but it’s still really difficult for him. He’s so impressive.”
Detective Pikachu was shot on film
Yes, you read that right. In spite of the fact that the movie is jam-packed with hyperrealistic CGI Pokémon,
“There’s like 800-plus Pokémon in the universe. We’re using upwards of 60 individual, fully CGI Pokémon characters of all shapes and sizes, all different colors, all different behaviors, and they all have to be represented in here,” Letterman explained to us as we watched them film a massive battle scene between Charizard and Pikachu at the Roundhouse, the warehouse-rave set featured heavily in the recent trailer.
“So you’re in a set, this is our big Pokémon battle set piece. Pokémon are battling in the arena, but people in the audience also have their Pokémon with them,” he continued. “We have to leave space for that, we have to create eye lines for all of that, we have to interact with that. In this case … Charizard’s tail is on fire all the time, so we have to have a light that represents the fire tail, and whenever he blows flame we have to have another light that lights the crowd. It’s insane. And on top of that, I added insult to injury for the entire crew—I wanted to shoot on film. So I made it extra, extra complicated. But it looks amazing.”
When it comes to on-screen pairings, there’s just something magical about seeing two people have to spend quality time with one another who get along like oil and water. That’s the relationship between Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) and Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) in a nutshell. They both have a vested interest in finding out the truth behind what happened to Harry Goodman, Tim’s missing father and Detective Pikachu’s missing partner, but they are polar opposites personality-wise.
“Tim is a very cynical guy, who kind of masks a lot of his emotions through wit and irony and being dry,” Justice Smith told us in between takes. “So when he’s matched up with this very exuberant, boisterous character, it kind of frustrates him. He’s constantly annoyed, and … yeah. But it’s fun to watch, though.”
While Tim chafes against his past and has a strained relationship with his father, his quest for the truth brings him closer to both Detective Pikachu and his missing pops.
“I think Tim slowly steps into those shoes as he’s trying to find his father, as he’s trying to solve this mystery,” Smith continued. “He gets closer to who his dad was. But I think he rejects that, because he’s estranged from him, he rejects being like his father. But it’s almost inevitable.”
While Tim Goodman is hot on the trail of his Schrödinger’s Dad, his worldview is largely shaped by his complicated emotions tied to his mother’s untimely demise, which affects everything from his relationship with his dad to his opinions on Pokémon.
“Tim starts the movie having a particular aversion towards Pokémon because of the relationship he’s had with his father,” Smith revealed. “His mother passed away on the day that he was supposed to get his first Pokémon, so he associates Pokémon with that memory. … As a kid, he loved Pokémon, and then kind of stepped away from that. But as he’s going along this journey, he’s kind of remembering how much Pokémon brought joy to his life, and how happy they made him, and how much he really cared about them, and he really cared about learning about them. So he’s slowly falling back into that. He’s stepping into his father’s shoes, and he’s stepping back into this younger self, this younger, passionate self.”
I Choose You, Detective Pikachu!
“What really excited us about it was,
Psyduck might steal the show
The movie might be called
“It’s a BabyBjörn, but we’ve turned [it] into a backpack BabyBjörn,” Newton said of how she’ll transport her fine feathered friend. “It’s a Psyduck Björn.”
It’s not that Psyduck is incapable of walking; rather, he just isn’t as dexterous as someone like
“It’s because the physicality of what we do in the film, like running and all this action, he genuinely would not have made it,” Newton explained. “Like, he couldn’t have done it, he wouldn’t have been able to run that fast and he would’ve been left behind, and we can’t have that! We gotta have Psyduck. So I had to carry him on my back.”
Being Psyduck’s partner-in-crime is quite the workout, too. Newton revealed that she carries a “giant blue tape ball” on her back, which weighs between 20 and 30 pounds.
“I think Psyduck weighs like 70 pounds, something like that, and so my thing I’m carrying is about 30,” she explained. “Just so that way when I’m walking and stuff, I’m not rundown and I can get into to the action, but at least I look like I have something heavy on my back.”
The movie is inspired by ’90s Japanese streetwear
If you were big into anime and Japanese street culture during the late ’90s and early 2000s, chances are you’re familiar with
“Some punk meets goth meets Tokyo street fashion,” costume designer Suzie Harmon said of the Roundhouse denizens’ aesthetic. “It’s Tokyo meets New York meets London … it’s very urban, it’s cool, it’s fun, but it’s not overly cartoony. If you look at the Japanese street scene, there’s a whole brand called FRUiTS. It was big in the ’90s, and in the millennium, whatever those ten years are called. And so we’re trying to bring in that, as well, definitely.”
In addition to
“[We] did a lot of research on the anime to get a sense of what the key looks were,” Harmon said. “Especially for the lead actors, just to give it a grounded but that slight cartoony feel about it. Just to give it the silhouette and how the guys tend to wear their clothes in the anime, and the women, with those lovely little skirts, and the hair. So yeah, definitely to get a sense of [the] anime, rather than the games.”