Did you know for 20 years, The Pokemon Company didn’t allow Pikachu to wear clothes or speak?
The reason behind this was due to the company’s strict character license for Pikachu. As Pikachu has become more recognizable over the decades, restrictions have loosen up to allow Pikachu to speak and wear a hat (in the case of Detective Pikachu) and a whole load of other costumes in official merchandise.
Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai and Pokemon director Junichi Masuda discusses this in detail below, translated by Source Gaming.
Masuda: It was surprising. I decided myself that if Pikachu were to become a detective, he’d speak with an old man voice [laughs].
Sakurai: I thought to myself, “Is this really allowed…” Because while I was working on Smash, there were very stringent restrictions on how I could design Pokémon.
Everyone: [laughs] Masuda: I think that’s a natural reaction to seeing Detective Pikachu [laughs]. We had a lot of restrictions in place for Pikachu. For a long time.
Sakurai: According to the character license, Pikachu couldn’t speak and he couldn’t wear any clothing.
Masuda:That’s right. I felt that Pikachu as a character become very established and entrenched over the course of these 20 years. So I thought that it was okay to loosen up on some of those restrictions. For example, Pikachu can wear clothes now because Pikachu is so recognizable, and it’s obvious that it’s Pikachu even with clothing on.
Sakurai: I see. So what you’re saying is that even though Pikachu is wearing clothes, most people will understand that’s not his true form, so to speak. It’s just a temporary phase.
Masuda: That’s right. And that’s the same reason why Detective Pikachu wears a hat. So now, even if Pikachu says (in an old man voice) “Hey! Sakurai!”…