Nintendo of America almost changed the physical appearance of one of its most famous characters, Pikachu.
Ishihara said in the interview that Nintendo of America considered the Pokemon too cute to catch on with the American audiences. So the company proposed some changes to the Pokemon, including Pikachu.
“They turned Pikachu into something like a tiger with big breasts,” Ishihara said. “It looked like a character from the musical “Cats.” When I asked how this was suposed to be Pikachu, they said ‘Well look, there’s its tail right there.’”
According to ComicBook.com, Nintendo of America and the Pokemon Company battled about early designs for the Pokemon, hoping to gain different design options from the pocket monsters.
A Polygon article confirms a lot of this too. Game Freak co-founder Ken Sugimori, character designer Atsuko Nishida, and game designer Koji Nishino said in an interview that Pikachu was designed to look cute, according to Polygon.
Here’s a deeper explanation:
Pikachu was specifically designed to be cute, Sugimori said, according to a translation of the interview. While Pokémon were originally envisioned to be more tough-looking overall, a few people in the company expressed desire for cuter Pokémon. Sugimori was unsure of how to approach a cute design since he was coming at it from a boy’s perspective, so he turned to the women in the company — specifically Nishida — for ideas on cuter designs.
But the series gained steam overseas. And so the company realized any localization efforts would fall flat, according to ComicBook.com.
That said, Pikachu’s design has changed over the years. He’s differed in size and shape as digital animation has changed.