It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know Pikachu, a cute and round yellow Pokémon. But for Americans, things almost went differently.
The Pokémon Company president Tsunekazu Ishihara revealed in a recent interview, translated by Dr. Lava in collaboration with Did You Know Gaming?, that Pikachu could have looked different from what fans of the franchise know and love today.
Nintendo had to translate Red and Blue, the American version of Pokémon Green, to Western consumers, including the designs and names of all 150 first-generation Pokémon, so players could relate better with the game. But when Nintendo showed off some Pokémon in the U.S. in 1999, the American staff came up with a few shocking ideas for Pokémon Blue.
Nintendo of America thought some of the original designs for certain Pokémon, including Pikachu, were “too cute.” And Nintendo of America reportedly “turned Pikachu into something like a tiger with huge breasts.”
“The staff in America submitted their ideas for replacement designs, but we just couldn’t believe the kind of stuff they were proposing,” Tsunekazu Ishihara said. “They turned Pikachu into something like a tiger with huge breasts. It looked like a character from the musical Cats. When I asked ‘how is this supposed to be Pikachu??’ they said, ‘Well look, there’s its tail right there’… Seriously, that was the kind of stuff being proposed.”
The broadway musical Cats was popular at that time in America—and it still is. It received a movie adaptation last year featuring big names like James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, and Taylor Swift. It’s a unique musical that features feline characters who resonated with many children in the U.S., so the Nintendo of America staff may have thought the same thing could happen with their “tiger” version of Pikachu.
Of course, Nintendo rejected that idea and stuck with its original design. Even though Pikachu has changed a bit over the years, its cuteness is part of what made Pokémon globally popular. Pikachu used to be a little rounder in the ’90s, though, and has been getting slimmer over the years.