The first Pokémon movie ever released, Pokémon The First Movie – also known as Mewtwo Strikes back – was a landmark for the franchise and won over fans all over the world. The movie first released back in 1998, and was the first in a movie franchise that recently released its 21st entry in Japan earlier this summer. The film also marked the first of the Pikachu short’s – of which there have been an astounding 27 entries to date, with the last one releasing three years ago – that would become fan favorites.
The film has become a fan favorite, and remains a memorable part of many Pokémon fans’ childhoods, reminding them of a time when the series was the biggest pop culture phenomenon in the world. Given its age, there are a number of interesting bits of information regarding it that many fans might not have heard of. The art, script, soundtrack, plot and even voice actors all have some interesting stories behind or regarding them. While there’s a ton of information to sift through, this list compiles some of the most relevant and interesting of it all.
Here are 25 things you didn’t know about Pokémon the First movie.
While we’re all used to seeing all sorts of new Pokémon with the release of each new generation of games, but there are some cases where the games aren’t the first place a specific Pokémon makes its debut. The very first Pikachu short; titled Pikachu’s Vacation, did just that. A precursor to The First Movie, Pikachu’s Vacation introduced fans to two new faces from the upcoming second generation of Pokémon.
Both Snubbull and Marill made their debut here among some fan favorites.
It is here that fans are first introduced to Gen II Pokémon Snubbull and Maril. Fans would’ve had no idea who these two were for several months between the release of The First Movie and the Western release of Gold & Silver.
The Pokémon anime has had a ton of character of the week types come and go over the years. While some have been memorable, one that still lingers on the minds of fans is this Fearow and its trainer. Initially seen fleeing the storm at the beginning of the movie with the rest of the cast, we never see or hear from her again.
The sudden disappearance of such a minor character has led to a surprising amount of speculation by fans. Some think she never made it to New Island while others think she just turned back towards the mainland. The most likely answer here is that the animators just forgot about her.
Most adult fans of the Pokémon franchise have been following it since their early days. Everything about the franchise is made specifically with younger audiences in mind, and though it does attract an adult fan base now – that wasn’t the case back when it first hit the scene.
To most fans, the first movie holds a special place in their hearts. The same cannot be said, however, about many film critics. The movie was panned by many reviewers and to be honest – it’s pretty funny to read so many of them having such contempt for a Pokémon movie, considering the obvious target audience.
Errors made in localization are something of an inevitability, and while they’ve certainly been reduced in recent years, they were pretty problematic a couple of decades ago. Despite all the work that went into its localization, Mewtwo Strikes Back still has its fair share of errors.
A pretty notable one comes as a handful of Pokémon in the movie being identified by the wrong name. Some were pretty innocent, with Pidgeot being referred to as Pidgeotto and Sandslash being called Sandshrew. The most bizarre one by far is Scyther being confused with Alakazam.
Anything Pokémon related in the late 1990s and early 2000s was a guaranteed money maker. So massive companies like Burger King trying to get in on some of the action is no surprise. What is a surprise is how badly BK whiffed on their handling of distributing promotional toys for The First Movie back in 1999.
Instead of being a financial success for Burger King, this was a PR nightmare.
At the time, the $22 million campaign was one of the largest promotions in fast-food history. The first problem arose when the fast food chain ran out of toys in locations all around the West. Many parents were livid with the company and things didn’t get much better from there. The toys were later recalled when two infants tragically suffocated on the outer portion of the Poké Ball toy offered.
Part of what’s so interesting about a film like this is that it was so big, and so popular that a number of interesting events happened as a result of it.
Following the release of the Western version of the film, about 30 or so members of the film’s Japanese staff viewed the new version and were very pleased with what they saw. The updated visuals and new score were well received and greatly impressed the original staff.
In the games, Legendary Pokémon are so desirable not only because they’re so strong, but because they’re one of a kind. So one would assume that the same logic would apply to the animated universe, but that might not be the case.
For example; we see a Mewtwo in Pokémon the Movie: Genesect and the Legend Awakened, but that’s a female Mewtwo created by Team Rocket. So not the same as the one we see in the first movie. The same goes for Mew, since the one seen in Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew doesn’t seem to be the same one either.
If you talk to older fans of the series that were around when the original anime aired, you’ll get a bit of a mixed bag of reactions when you mention 4Kids Entertainment. The corporation responsible for licensing the original anime made some questionable changes when it came to censorship and plot points.
4Kids might have a bad track record with fans of the old series, but the changes they made to the first movie stand as a lone bright spot.
The biggest contributions they made to the film were fixing some noticeable plot holes that the Japanese version left unanswered. The biggest being the mystical properties of Pokémon tears and Mewtwo evening out the final fight by blocking every Pokémon’s special attack.
Like many successful Japanese games and anime franchises, Pokémon got a ton of spin-offs. One of the most notable being its various manga adaptations. So it only makes sense that the first movie in the franchise would get an adaptation.
The manga version of Mewtwo Strikes Back changes things around quite a bit. Artist Ono Toshihiro claims that he was commissioned to create the manga version only a few months prior to the film’s release. So while it’s supposed to be based on the first movie, it’s really its own story.
English voice acting in Japanese games, films, and television shows has come a long way since the 90s. Not only in the quality, but the resources put towards these projects. Now you might think that Pokémon being the behemoth that it is wouldn’t have any budget problems. But for whatever reason, the English dub of the first movie still reused some voice actors.
Misty and Jesse share a voice actor, as does Mewtwo and its creator Doctor Fuji. The same goes for Misty and Jesse. It’s actually pretty hard to differentiate between them all, so kudos to those voice actors.
The majority of Pokémon seen in this movie belong to the first generation, but there’s a pretty cool little easter egg in there hinting at what fans would get to see come the second generation.
Towards the beginning of the film, we’re introduced to a trainer named Raymond who trots out a Donphan – at that point not yet introduced to fans. It’s a very brief appearance but must have been enough to generate some curiosity in fans at the time.
Throughout the first movie, the audience is led to believe that Mew is some sort of ancient being, and is very subtly hinted as being a sort of creator. That would leave many with the impression that Mew was the Pokémon universes equivalent of an all mighty deity.
That belief held for several generations, until the Gen IV legendary Arceus was introduced. Arceus is said to have precluded the universe itself. This really changes how you see Mew in this film and throughout the franchise as well.
A show that’s been around as long as the Pokémon anime has been will meet with its fair share of changes. One of the most notable has been the changes made to the voice cast of the series over the years.
Though it hasn’t been an overwhelmingly popular move, not all of the new voice actors employed have been new faces. The voice actress who played Miranda in the film, Kayzie Rogers went on to voice Max from 2007 onwards.
As we’ve previously covered, Mewtwo Strikes Back was pretty ahead of the games in terms of what it was showing fans. There were several things fans hadn’t been introduced to yet in the games that were thrown at them in the film. One pretty notable one is the handful of new moves shown in the film.
The moves used were all introduced a short time later in Gen II. The moves were; Shadow Ball used by Mewtwo, Rollout used by Raymond’s Donphan and Rapid Spin used by Blastoisetwo.
The movie actually has a number of errors that dedicated fans have taken the liberty of documenting over the years. These are typically design or technical errors that were most likely overlooked by the staff.
Of these, there are some that are fairly noteworthy. Golem being taken down by Thunderbolt – a move it should have type immunity to – is certainly one of the most glaring. There’s also the picture above. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the Rapidash has no flames.
You had to know that this movie would be successful when it came out. Poké-mania was at its peak and the games, anime, card game and anything else carrying the Pokémon brand was making Nintendo all sorts of cash.
Mewtwo Strikes Back was a huge commercial success that Nintendo hasn’t really been able to replicate since its release. The movie made over $163 million worldwide and outdid the following two Pokémon films in terms of box office success.
There’s a good bit of crossover between the Pokémon anime and this film. The episodes The Battle of the Badge, It's Mr. Mime Time, and Showdown at the Po-ké Corral all feature Mewtwo in some way and were supposed to air prior to the movie’s release, but due to scheduling issues were aired months after it premiered.
These events in the anime were each supposed to tease Mewtwo in various ways and build up hype for its introduction in the film. This was all ruined when the infamous Electric Soldier Porygon episode aired and put the anime on a four-month hiatus.
While the Pokémon franchise is still one of the most popular in the world, the early years of its success were among the most frantic. This was on display pretty prominently when an overflow of fans messed up Warner Bros. landline communications back in 1999 vying for tickets to the premiere of Pokémon: The First Movie.
At one point, Warner Bros. was receiving around 70,000 calls per minute, had their voice mail systems crash and shut down communications at NBC and Disney due to all the frenzied callers.
The whole ordeal stunned nearly everyone involved and showed just how popular Pokémon was in the west in its early years. It’s interesting to look back on now, but mustn’t have been fun to deal with at the time.
We’ve already discussed errors in the film and the incredible amount of them that fans have found and documented. Well typically, distributors try to fix these with rereleases when the time comes. But in this case, the mistakes just kept piling up; this time in the end credits.
The end credits of the remastered version of the film were redone and retyped – giving it all a cleaner look. Too bad a lot of the information displayed was wrong. There were a good deal of typos – particularly when it came to the voice actors’ credits.
As is standard with anime films, Mewtwo Strikes Back first aired in Japanese cinemas before making its way to the West around a year later. In that time, several changes were made to the film’s visuals.
A small chunk of the visuals were switched from hand-drawn sequences to new CGI ones in order to make the scenes stand out and grasp the audience’s attention more effectively. This version of the film was used in all international versions and subsequent Blu-Ray and DVD releases. That means that only those who saw the original Japanese theatrical version and the Japanese laserdisc version.
Mewtwo’s adventure continued shortly after the film’s release, despite the neat ending the film got. However, instead of the big screen, the adventure was continued in the Pokémon anime.
This sequel was the first ever feature-length special from the animated series.
Mewtwo Returns aired back in 2000 in Japan and made its way to the West one year later via a direct to video DVD release. The special actually marks the first time that Ash and the gang meet Team Rocket boss Giovanni, and like the movie, featured a number of continuity errors and attempted fixes in the dubbed version.
One of the most poignant scenes in the film – as well as a memorable moment for many older Pokémon fans – occurs when Ash turned to stone while coming in between both Mew and Mewtwo’s blasts.
While many fans assumed that Ash bit the dust at that moment, things apparently weren’t all that they seemed.
According to screenwriter Takeshi Shudo, the blast hadn’t defeated Ash like many fans have assumed it did. He was simply petrified, and was later healed via his Pikachu’s tears.
Another thing to note about this scene; while coming up with the script for the dub, one of Misty’s lines was changed from “Pikachu…” in the Japanese dub to “Please, no…”. While many alternatives were being considered, the funniest and darkest one has to be “My Bike…” which references Misty and Ash’s first meeting in the anime.
Sci-fi fans might be surprised to hear that the Pokémon universe has a Doctor Who connection. The soundtrack for the first movie featured a ton of pop artists. Though many of them weren’t internationally popular, one of them would become a big name in the science fiction community years later.
Billie Piper is credited with performing the song Makin’ My Way on the film's soundtrack. Piper would gain international recognition for her role as Rose in the Doctor Who revival years later.
While many people still watch the Pokémon anime to keep up with Ash and Pikachu, the big draw going into this movie wasn’t everyone’s favorite perpetual pre-teen, but the intimidating legendary Mewtwo. While it was a memorable performance, Mewtwo’s voice actor wasn’t a fan of this role.
The role is credited to one Philip Bartlett, which is actually a pseudonym. Jay Goede – the actual voice actor – claims that at the time he saw no merit or artistry in voice work, thus the name change.
The first Pokémon movie was a huge effort that really pulled out all the stops when it came to making the production as successful as possible. For example; the film’s closing credits song, “Don’t Say You Don’t Love Me” is actually the debut single of Norwegian pop duo M2M.
The duo was active for several years before splitting up, and have gone on to have their own solo careers. But to many in the west, their most notable work will always be from Pokémon: The First Movie.