Pokémon Live! Doc Explores How the Short-Lived Stage Musical Became Lost Media

A new documentary shines new light on Pokémon Live, a mostly forgotten musical from the video game and anime franchise's initial boom period.

The 68-minute long documentary, entitled Pokémon Live: How Pikachu Nearly Took Broadway, was created by Jonii Vee and Jamie D. Elms of the retro-gaming focused YouTube channel, Stuff We Play. While live show adaptations of popular kids' cartoons are often seen as shameless cash-ins, the new documentary explores the surprising amount of thought and effort that went into Pokémon Live and why the play was never released on home video. The play is also notable for being one of the first professional acting jobs for Andrew Rannells, who played Team Rocket's James in the play and would later go on to star in The Book of Mormon and Girls.

The documentary includes interviews with playwright Michael Slade, actor Jesse Nager, who played the role of an original character named Joe the Deaf Trainer, and actor Patrick Frankfort, who portrayed Professor Oak. The doc also features rare archival footage of the musical itself, which was never officially released on VHS or DVD. The film reveals several notable bits of trivia from the play's production, including a story about how the play's script had to be approved by Ikue Otani, the voice of Pikachu, and how the play's producers tried to create an all-new, original Pokémon for the stage show.

The play itself told a story focused around Ash, Misty and Brock, as they try to stop a new plot from Team Rocket's leader, Giovanni, who has created Mecha Mewtwo, a new version of the original games' most powerful legendary. Mecha Mewtwo is capable of copying any other Pokémon's moves, but still needs to learn how to copy Pikachu's particularly powerful electric attacks before it can be completed. Notably, the play features songs about Misty coming to terms with her romantic feelings for Ash, and a song performed by an anthropomorphized representation of the series' electronic Pokémon encyclopedia, the Pokédex.

Fans looking for even more late '90s/early '00s Pokémon nostalgia should also check out a recently released retrospective video from the producers of the Pokémon anime, which is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its premiere this year. Nintendo and Game Freak previously spent the majority of 2021 celebrating the 25th anniversary of the video game franchise, and recently offered a peak into the series' future with the first look at Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, a new set of games which will be released for the Nintendo Switch before the end of 2022.

Source: YouTube

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