Detective Pikachu Doesn't Actually Use A Ton Of Green Screen

Pikachu holding magnifying glass

The Pokemon franchise has experienced a resurgence of popularity in recent years comparable to its heyday in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. That’s only going to increase in the future, particularly with the Detective Pikachu movie coming out this summer. Over two decades after the world was introduced to these Pocket Monsters, they’re finally appearing in a live action movie, although the Pokemon themselves are obviously CGI creations that strike a weird balance of looking realistic and cartoonish simultaneously. As it turns out, though, even with all this VFX work, Detective Pikachu didn’t rely on green screen too much. According to star Justice Smith:

There wasn’t a lot of green screen. Our director, Rob Letterman — I’m getting better at saying last names, Rob Letterman — wanted to shoot on location as much as possible. We shot in London, and for like a week in Scotland which is like a desktop background. He had this vision to put the Pokémon up against this urban backdrop and use this gray, grainy filter. We shot on film so it gave it that natural grain.

Given how VFX-intensive making a live action Pokemon movie is, it would have been easy enough for the Detective Pikachu cast and crew to get most of their work done on green screens, similar to what the Star Wars prequels did. But no, director Rob Letterman decided to take everyone out on location frequently, resulting in much of Detective Pikachu looking less artificial. Justice Smith added that the use of film and the grainy filter made Detective Pikachu feel like a noir and that the Pokemon actually “pop more” against this realistic backdrop.

Even though the Pokemon in Detective Pikachu are put together with CGI, the crew did design incredibly detailed statues of how many of these Pokemon would look in the final cut. Continuing in his interview with Vulture, Justice Smith recalled how he reacted when he first saw these designs, saying:

When I first saw them, I freaked. The inner child in me was having a field day. They brought in a statue of Pikachu that was all covered in fur and it was soft and everything. Its nose was rubber and wet. It was so lifelike, and I was just like internally crying, because I was like, ‘This is exactly how I wanted to see them portrayed.’ It was a childhood dream come true.

Starring Justice Smith as Tim Goodman and Ryan Reynolds as the voice of the deerstalker hat-wearing, amnesia-suffering Pikachu who only Tim can understand, Detective Pikachu follows these two joining forces to find Tim’s dad, Harry, who has mysteriously disappeared. The cast also includes Kathryn Newton as Lucy Stevens, a reporter also looking into Harry’s disappearance who is accompanied by her Psyduck; Ken Watanabe as Detective Yoshida, a colleague of Harry’s who has a Snubbull; Paul Kitson as Harry and Omar Chapphro as Sebastian, a Pokemon trainer running a battle area who has a Charizard.

Detective Pikachu opens in theaters on May 10, and a sequel is already in the works. If you’re curious about what other movies are coming out this year, look through our 2019 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.