In bringing The Pokemon Company's extensive library of visually distinct pocket monsters to photorealistic life in Detective Pikachu, the filmmakers behind the live-action video game adaptation had to gain approval from the Nintendo company for their final designs.
According to visual effects supervisor Erik Nordby and art director Ravi Bansal, The Pokemon Company was the most hesitant about how Lickitung appeared in the film with the production attempting to envision how a photorealistic version of the Pokemon would look.
"We interpreted his skin almost as marshmallow and dusted," explained Bansal in an interview with Time. "We needed a dry surface to accentuate the slobberiness of his tongue."
Appearing early in the film licking star Justice Smith's face, the production had to construct a physical version of the Pokemon to interact with the actor with the video game company initially unsure of how dirty the creature would appear to achieve a greater degree of realism before ultimately signing off on the design.
"We built that tongue in reality with a big chunk of latex. It’s completely gross, but we had to have something to wipe Justice Smith’s face with," continued Nordby. "For something to feel real, it has to have real world grit and texture. But The Pokemon Company would see that and think it was dirty. We had to walk them through a whole series of slides and build the trust that we weren’t going to make these things disturbingly dirty. I wouldn’t say that was The Pokemon Company’s favorite scene in the movie. That’s one where we got right up to the edge of what they would be comfortable with."
Directed by Rob Letterman from a script written by Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit, Detective Pikachu stars Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe and the voice of Ryan Reynolds.