In the case of many of the 800 known Pokémon roaming the world, it's pretty obvious where their real-life inspiration comes from. For example, Charizard is derived from a fiery dragon, Zigzagoon is some sort of jagged racoon, and Mr. Mime is a street performer who won't leave you alone on your way home from work.
Then there are those that you think you have a firm grasp on, but you're actually woefully unaware. The one I'm thinking of in particular is Pikachu, the franchise mascot, who is quite famously referred to as a "mouse Pokémon." But as it turns out, Pikachu was actually inspired by squirrels.
In a recent interview with Yomiuri (via Kotaku), Atsuko Nishida, who worked with Game Freak during the days the original Japanese Pokémon Red and Green, revealed Pikachu's true origins: "At that time, I was really into squirrels. so I wanted the character to have puffy cheeks. Squirrel tails are cute (so I wanted it to have a tail). However, I wanted the character to have a lightning element, so I made it shaped like lightning."
Just looking at Pikachu, this makes a ton of sense. It stands on its hind legs, like a squirrel would. It also has a giant prominent tail, like a squirrel does. Pikachu's famous electric cheeks are even inspired by squirrel physiology, Nishida says: "For example, when hamsters stuff themselves with food, their entire bodies become round, right? But for squirrels, it’s just their cheeks."
Now that the squirrel is out of the bag, do you think there are any other Pokémon whose inspirations are different from what the world thinks? Share your wildest theories in the comments below!
Featured image: The Pokémon Company