Hollywood Flashback: Pokemon Fever First Hit the Red Carpet in 1999

Jeff Bezos_Pikachu_Hug - AP - P 2016
AP Images

Jeff Bezos_Pikachu_Hug - AP - P 2016

Seventeen years before Pokemon Go, Warner Bros. launched the first 'Pokemon' movie and Amazon's Jeff Bezos hugged a Pikachu while announcing that his company was expanding into more than just book sales.

Nintendo's Pokemon has had plenty of prosperity to spread — including some to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who hugged a stuffed Pikachu in 1999 while announcing that his site would sell more than just books. This came as Bezos wanted his company’s personalized product recommendations to "build an electronic soul mate for the customer."

Clearly Amazon wanted a financial soul mate in Pokemon, which eventually would amass total worldwide revenue of $46 billion; now, the new Pokemon Go quickly has become the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. But before the app was luring players off their couches and into public spaces (not to mention off cliffs), Hollywood had a taste of Pokemon prosperity.

In 1999, three years after the original Game Boy version appeared, Warner Bros.' Pokemon: The First Movie sprung onto screens. The producers spent $5 million on dubbing and upgrades to the Japanese original that left THR unimpressed. "Decidedly low-tech, on-the-cheap animation," began its review. However, THR was enthused by the film's box-office might: The opening domestic gross was $52 million ($75 million today), then the best for a five-day November release.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.