Last week we posted leaked footage of a live action, dark, gritty Pokemon movie. After a week of sleuthing, we finally managed to get the full story of the project. We are able to confirm there is not a Hollywood budgeted production of Pokemon happening.
Under the circumstances in which we received the footage, it was unlikely that there was actually a movie coming to a theater near you; however, the time, money and manpower needed to create a trailer of that quality left many people certain this movie was legit. Especially when you consider the utterly appalling, disgraceful and insulting anime live action films that have been released in North America.
The comments received on our YouTube post were really the best part of this story. For the past week the internet has essentially been divided into two very distinct camps since the leak. Do want, and burn it with fire.
To help provide some background to this madness, we managed to track down the creators and sit down with them to answer some questions based on the various comments, articles and speculations running around online. We are also very happy to present a world exclusive look at the HD full length trailer.
Hate it or love it, this team of people put together an amazing fan-fiction trailer. After watching the full trailer and reading the responses to our questions below, it's going to be pretty hard for even the most diehard Poke-Purist to hate on them. The project is extremely well done and given the new confirmed origin and details, it really shows you fan fiction has taken huge strides since the days of silly handy-cam movies that look like Bob Sagat should be narrating them.
HD Pokemon Live Action Trailer:
Synopsis: Celadon City hasn't been the same since the Gyms closed down. Pokémon fighting has gone underground, and the sport has gotten a taste for blood. Ash, Misty, and Brock have been forced deep into the city's seedy underbelly to keep training, but the Pokémon aren't the only ones in danger. Now, Ash must choose to either become a master in the grim world of illegal pokémon fighting, or make a desperate stand to free them all from the criminal grip of Rocket Industries.
Interview with Kial Natale (Director & Brock) and Lee Majdoub (Executive Producer & Ash Ketchum)
COREY ROLLINS: First off, this trailer has exceptional production value for a fan-fiction piece. Was this a side project for fun? Part of a university program?
LEE MAJDOUB: It was a side project we came up with while working on a short film. We were talking about live-action ideas. Kial wanted GTA. I wanted Dragon Ball Z. I think somebody mentioned something about Pokemon and Kial and I made eye contact and ideas just started flowing. Kial wrote a script almost immediately. I read it and sent him back my thoughts, and we did that back and forth for a while. We actually wrote it as a film and filmed full scenes. We wanted to make it as legitimate as possible. Major kudos to Kial for actually taking the first step.
KIAL NATALE: This project really snowballed out of control. For me, it started off as an attempt to make a video on par with College Humor’s original content: their parodies are spot on, with amazing production value. Somewhere down the line, however, my long dormant pokémon fanaticism kicked in and I just wanted it to be more and more. I started adding more scenes and re-working the pokémon effects: for anyone who thought our CG looks bad now, you should have seen them before!
COREY ROLLINS: This project was obviously a huge undertaking. Exactly how long did this take to put together and many people were involved?
LEE MAJDOUB: Wow. It took us a while. Wrote back and forth for about 4 months. As far as getting ready and organized, Kial took that initial step as well, but so many people wanted in. I think ultimately, Kial, Barry Liu (Director), and I started meeting up to hash out the shooting schedule, wardrobe, and types of locations we wanted. We started holding auditions and it was crazy how many people came out that weren’t actors, but fans of Pokemon. We had some phenomenal actors come out that didn’t fit the description of the characters so we tried to find them something in the project. I think from beginning to end, we’ve been working on this for a year and half.
KIAL NATALE: With regards to crew size we had about 4 major shoot dates, with crews ranging from 7 people to just a camera operator and sound recordist. It’s hard to remember exactly because work on the film was done very sporadically when we could fit it in, as it was a labor of love.
COREY ROLLINS: The full version of the trailer is loaded with iconic one-liners and features the classic 150 Pokemon roster, so you're obviously big fans of the original series. Some people have loved it and will be crushed that the film is not real. But at the same time some hardcore Pokemon purists were extremely upset over the idea of a live action Pokemon movie being real. Especially one with guns, suicide references and dark gritty violence.
What made you decide to take the project in this direction?
KIAL NATALE: I remember being on set one day, talking with Nicholas Porteous (the future editor of Pokémon) about an article he read in which a producer theorized that the original Hulk movie bombed because it wasn’t dark and gritty, like Batman Begins.
I think attributing the success of Batman Begins to the level of tone and aesthetic is an insult to Nolan’s incredible genius. We joked about how popular it currently is to make dark ‘reboots’ of popular franchises, and started talking about shows we loved from our childhoods that would make interesting adaptations: pokémon glazes over some horrific animal rights issues.
LEE MAJDOUB: Well we wanted to see how far we could take it without being absolutely ridiculous. We knew it would be difficult to take something like Pokemon and make it live-action, but personally I was sick of seeing corny films based on video games and/or anime. I’ve always wanted the live-action films to be dark. I’m 28, and grew up with DragonBall (and Z), Pokemon etc. and wanted to see a mainly ‘mature’ spin on them.
COREY ROLLINS: Destructoid.com mentioned the full trailer was shown at the recent Vancouver Anime Evolution convention, but gave no other details or sources for this information. Is that true?
KIAL NATALE: I tried to host an impromptu screening at a Pokémon panel, but we ran into technical difficulties. This recent release might have gone differently if I had succeeded!
COREY ROLLINS: Was Anime Evolution the source of the leak? If not, where did the original "leaked" trailer come from? Was this actually leaked or was this a viral marketing move?
KIAL NATALE: The "leak" was indeed entirely staged by a friend of mine. No crowd, no screening. Just a timecode burn-in and cellphone footage. In retrospect, I would have chosen a clip that gave a clearer impression of the overall trailer. It would have answered a lot of questions about why are the characters older, why it's dark etc. but I also did enjoy the sense of mystery that the last 30 seconds created. Props to the people who scrutinized the video so closely to determine its validity!
COREY ROLLINS: Of the fans who really liked this idea, the most asked YouTube question was, "Even if it's 'fake,' would there eventually be a full fan-fiction short film or web-series based on your dark interpretation of Pokemon?"
LEE MAJDOUB: I, personally, would absolutely love to do more. Ultimately, it would come down to Kial. He put more work into the project than anybody. If we had a hand with the CG, I think it’s something we would be much more likely seriously consider.
KIAL NATALE: There were fans who liked the dark viral release?! Ha-ha I’m just kidding: we’re VERY grateful for the positive write-ups and responses we got, and I personally apologize to those who were devastated by believing our adaptation was real. Those who hate the trailer are definitely in luck, however, because I have no intention to make anymore pokémon related films: I have enough childhood restraining orders to last a lifetime!
COREY ROLLINS: From my past work in film and editing, I know there's always scenes that get left out final edit because of time, budgeting or they simply didn't fit the piece as a whole. Are there any clips or scenes that didn't get make the final release that you wish you could have left in or shot differently?
LEE MAJDOUB: Definitely. It feels like we shot a lot of stuff, and at the same time didn’t shoot enough. We wanted the trailer to tell a story, but realized that we would have to cut some footage in order to make it still feel like a trailer. We had a scene that took place in James’ apartment. Giovanni confronts James and yells at him, then chucks a wad of cash at James and tells him to get the job done right. I really would have loved to see it in the trailer, but we couldn’t give the scene the time it required.
KIAL NATALE: There were a few jokes we ended up cutting, like Meowth snorting crushed up lines of Rare Candy, and Ash using a Geodude to block a bullet. Otherwise, we pretty much used at least one shot from every scene we filmed. Asking a filmmaker what he would have done differently, however, is a very humbling question.
I’m tempted to say everything, but that’s the point--we are all constantly learning and growing. I was staggered by how divided the internet was on this project. We saw those who cried out against the unfaithful adaptation of their favorite shows into big-budget movies, and it struck me that modern fans not only have a voice, but possess the technology to participate in the telling of their favorite stories. Spend an hour a day less on Facebook or Starcraft 2 and show the world the film you would want to see! We'd love to see other interpretations of Pokemon and others!
COREY ROLLINS: We'd like to thank Kial and Lee for their interview with us and send a huge shout out to everyone who helped build this little piece of internet awesomeness.