Given the tremendous success of the augmented-reality game Pokémon Go, it’s no surprise that Hollywood is taking notice of the Pokemon franchise once again — and now the quest to catch ’em all is headed back to the big screen in a major way.
It was recently reported by Deadline that Legendary Pictures, the studio responsible for the Warcraft movie (as well as 2014’s Godzilla reboot, Pacific Rim, and other recent, big-budget “spectacle” films) was working on a deal to develop a live-action Pokemon movie — or series of movies — based on the franchise. The first project to come out of that deal has now been confirmed, with Legendary and The Pokemon Company announcing plans to develop a live-action film based on Detective Pikachu, the subject of a Japanese game released in February as a spinoff from the Pokemon franchise.
Although story details are being kept secret, the announcement indicates that the film is being fast-tracked for development, with cameras expected to begin rolling in early 2017. As with previous Legendary Pictures projects, Universal Pictures will distribute the film outside of Japan, while Toho Pictures — the longtime producer and distributor of Godzilla movies — will handle the film’s distribution in Japan.
Published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 3DS, the Great Detective Pikachu: Birth of a New Duo game tasked players with solving mysteries while teamed up with Pikachu, the mascot of the Pokemon franchise.
The initial report on the Pokemon movie deal indicated that plans for films based on the games and various spinoff projects have been in the works for a while now, but the success of Pokémon Go has bolstered the push to secure movie rights to the property.
First released in 1996 in China and Japan before moving to the U.S. in 1998, the Pokemon games quickly became a global phenomenon that now ranks as the second-most successful game franchise of all time behind Nintendo’s Mario Bros. properties.
The games went on to spawn a wildly popular anime series, trading card game, and 19 feature-length animated movies over the years, along with a long list of handheld, console, mobile, and arcade game releases. As of February, more than 279 million units of Pokemon games had been sold worldwide.
Update 7-21-16: Details of the first Pokemon movie, based on the “Great Detective Pikachu” game, were added, along with confirming the Pokemon movie deal with Legendary Pictures.