Memories of The First Movie
"Welcome to the Stadium...
Those words echo in my mind even today. Pokemon: The First Movie was an event. It's still the most successful anime movie released in U.S. theaters, &, given the virtual death of tradional animation on American cinema screens, it'll probably keep that record. It was released with Pikachu's Vacation, a cute short film where Ash's Pokemon have fun meeting new friends, including Marril & Snubbel, two Pokemon from the then-unreleased second games. If you saw it in theatres you got one of four limited-edition trading cards. I, however, didn't get to see it in theaters.
My cousin went, & durring Christmas lunch (I Think) she told me Mewtwo "was just a robot." In my mind, the plot went like this: Ash & co. met a trainer on a road outside of town, as they often did in the TV show. They had a battle, & at the end of the battle robot-Mewtwo fell apart, complete with a "Boing!" sound effect common to cartoons. I don't remember including Mew or the trailer's stadium in my imaginings, but I still wanted to see the movie.
I got my chance a few months later, when my Dad bought me the VHS as a birthday present. We watched the movie over & over again, till I'm sure my parents were sick of it. The VHS started a bit differently than the DVD, or the theatrically released move. Professor Oak introduced the movie; then you got to watch Pikachu's Vacation. The movie proper started in a South American Jungle, where scientists have found a fossil of Mew in an old temple. The lush forests filled with Pokemon were quite beuatiful; the temple was properly mysterious, & I was drawn in.
The next scenes brought action; Mewtwo escaping from the scientist's lab; Ash batteling a new trainer. And then there was a mystery, who was the mysterious Pokemon Master, who challanged Ash? Of course we knew the answer; that was probably the point, to let kids feel like they knew something the characters did not.
It all led to a grand reveal & an epic showdown where the entire Pokemon world was at risk! (Luckily, the main characters were stuck in an arena, so the animators didn't have to draw a lot of expensive disaster scenes.) Eventually, everything turns out fine, & our parents learned an important lesson: Pokemon's not about fighting. Not real fighting. Not this sort of fighting. Just contests. That moral may seem contradictory to the central point of the series, but there were already episodes of the TV show with the same moral, Charmander, The Stray Pokemon hinted at it, & Showdown at Dark City made it front & center.