To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Pokémon franchise, the first animated film of the series is set to return to select theaters across the U.S. for a limited time. According to the official Pokémon website, select Cinemark theaters will show Pokémon: The First Movie October 29 and November 1. In addition to the first full-length animated feature film which centers around Ash and Pikachu’s encounter with Mewtwo, the short film that accompanied the original theatrical release in 1999, Pikachu’s Vacation, will also be shown.
Directed by Kunihiko Yuyama the English-language adaptation of the first theatrical releases of the franchise were produced by Nintendo and 4Kids Entertainment. Pokémon: The First Movie was an instant commercial success, debuting at number one at the U.S. box office charts and making $10,096,848 USD on its opening day. When the film closed it had generated $85,744,662 USD in North America and $163,644,662 USD worldwide, making the film one of the highest-grossing anime films to this day.
Just as important as the film itself, was the hype and legacy that was built around the release, as it served as the driving force that made the Japanese series what it is now globally. Here is our retrospect of the key promotional releases that accompanied the release of Pokémon: The First Movie.
Burger King Promotional Pokémon Toys
With the initial release of Pokémon: The First Movie fast-food retailer Burger King released a set of toys and a special edition Burger King crown were distributed with kids meals before and during the movie’s run in box offices. Additionally, the promotion used the slogan “Gotta catch ‘em here!,” a play on Pokémon’s slogan “Gotta catch ‘em all!.” In total 59 unique toys were released which included light-ups, keychains, beanbags, spinning tops, launchers, water squirters and talking plushes. All the toys that were released were paired with trading cards, that were made exclusively for the promotion. A set of six 23-karat gold plated cards which came in Poké Balls were also available for purchase at participating Burger King restaurant chains.
Though with the Burger King promotion came quite a scandal, as within the same year the toys were recalled. The recall was due in part to the deaths of two infants who suffocated to death because of the Poké Ball that came with every toy. A $1 million USD recall campaign was initiated by Burger King, which included television advertisements, warnings on take-out bags and tray liners from its restaurants. Additionally, more than 100,000 notices and fliers were sent to health-care providers and sites frequented by Pokémon fans.
Pokémon the First Movie Trading Cards
Trading card manufacturer Topps released a set of Pokémon-themed trading cards that coincided with the first films release. The set contained 72 cards in total, with 41 cards featuring scenes from The First Movie, 18 cards featuring scenes from Pikachu’s Vacation, 12 evolution cards and a checklist. Each card also had two foil variants and there were 30 bonus “chase cards,” 12 die-cut embossed evolution cards and 18 sticker cards not included in the checklist. Additionally, a promotional foil card numbered 0 was distributed with the rental of the first film at Blockbuster Video locations.
Pokémon the First Movie Trading Card Game Promo Cards
The Pokémon Company and Wizards of the Coast card manufacturer for the first film released a range of promo cards that were given out at cinemas and obtainable with media connected to the movie. The general Wizard Black Star Promo cards were Pikachu, Electabuzz, Mewtwo and Dragonite, and were given out to those that watched Pokémon: the First Movie in theaters during its initial release. Additionally, a variant Mewtwo card was included with VHS/DVD purchase of the film and a Jigglypuff card was included with every purchase of the film’s soundtrack.
Let us know if you remember these nostalgic pieces of Pokémon history that serves as part of the hype behind the series and legacy.