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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Sided
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Dutch: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Animated menus
  • Music video
  • Awards/Nominations

Pokemon 2000

Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 98 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

A Disclaimer.

Pokémon. To the uninitiated, the word implies nothing more sinister than an invitation to a card game with a group of friendly Jamaicans. But to anyone under the age of 14 - and, of course, their parents - Pokémon signifies a global phenomenon spawned from a Nintendo Game Boy cartridge and now bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in sales of games, trading cards, toys, TV rights, and now feature films. This reviewer knows precisely nothing about Pokémon, other than the fact that small human beings have a lot of time for it. So if you’re a Pokémon fan, you’re going to want to completely ignore what follows and skip to the sections about video and audio quality. The last thing any true Pokémon fan needs is to read the incoherent and ill-informed opinion of someone whose idea of the pinnacle of the art of animation starts and stops with Chuck Jones.

A Reviewer, Puzzled.

Despite a fair bit of online research, it’s hard to be prepared for what faces the Pokémon novice in Pokémon 2000. The mystery begins the moment you load the DVD into the player. The familiar Warner Home Video trailer gives way to a menu screen that’s visually louder than Tiny Tim’s wardrobe and is enhanced by audio that appears to be a Ricky Martin record rescued from a recording session in a helium balloon factory. Obviously, there’s only one course of action. Play the movie.

The first thing that’s apparent is that Pokémon 2000 isn’t actually Pokémon 2000 at all. It’s actually comprised of two separate films; a 20-minute short feature called Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure, and a 77-minute main feature titled Pokémon: The Power Of One. While “worked on” by the same US-based team in both cases, these two very different films were produced by two very different teams of people in Japan.

What’s All THAT About, Part One:
Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure.

Pikachu is, it appears, a tiny (but inexplicably cool) bright yellow drug rabbit. Whether it be dire peril, a laugh with his Pokémon friends or a day in the forest collecting mushrooms, Pikachu appears to only be capable of two things. He (it?) smiles with the sort of wide-eyed optimism reserved only for the very young, the very intoxicated, and the very animated. He (or it) yells out a lot, but only has one thing to say. “Pika! PikaCHU!!” We don’t know what he’s on about, but fortunately his friends do. His friends, by the way, include a menacing blue snail-pig, a circular and slightly obese mouse, a big purple ball of fur, an upright platypus with an insecurity complex and a morose tree-hugging turtle. All of these apparently have names, numbers and size statistics accompanying them, but that’s not important right now. Encountering a group of angry eggs and an eggshell-clothed starfish, they set out to rescue an anaemic cat strung up to a tree, but take the time to bounce happily off some leaves and chat with a group of hyped-up mice along the way. They also meet a strange hybrid between a bee and a carburettor crankshaft, who joins the rescue mission. A storm happens, there’s a spot of starfish-and-egg aerobatics, and the rescue is done. Then the eggs hatch, there’s a burst of light and… it’s… EXECUTOR!! (Err, that’s pronounced “exECuTORRRR”). Executor is a giant dancing pineapple with several round egg-like smiling faces attached to its stomach. Much dancing and yelling of “PikaCHU! Executorrrrrrrrr!” ensues. Your reviewer heads for the liquor cabinet, and makes a mental note to do some research on acid flashbacks.

What’s All THAT About, Part Two:
The Power Of One (No, not the Bryce Courtenay epic.)

The English-language dub team crank into action as we meet young Ash Ketchum and his pals, who are out sailing. Ash is a Pokémon trainer, which essentially involves conjuring strangely-shaped creatures by issuing commands to a red and white ball with a great big dot on it. Ash’s own Personal Pokémon, our friend Pikachu, is along for the ride, which gets a little rough when the ocean currents go unexpectedly haywire. It appears an evil Pokémon collector is screwing with the forces of nature by disturbing a triumvirate of mythical-style birds, who take care of the balance between fire, ice and lightning. Things need to be done to save the day, and our Ash is the reluctant but impossibly perky hero that’s going to be handling the saving. Will he succeed, or will the world be plunged into eternal darkness, interrupted only by a garden-bound creature chanting “mine, mine, mine, mine…”? Only time will tell, but you can be sure there’s plenty of bad poetry, cornflake-box mythology and the odd spot of subliminal life advice to be found along the way.

Play Misty For Me.

“One person can make all the difference,” proudly boasts the film’s tagline. And it’s hard to escape the impression that something similar was pasted on the wall of the animation studio that put this together - the end titles credit a small army of animators, both traditional cel artists and CG manipulators.

A lot has been written and said about the Pokémon phenomenon, and the franchise’s trading cards and games have just been banned in Saudi Arabia amid accusations of hidden religious propaganda (ironically, this DVD includes an Arabic subtitle stream). Once the initial shock wears off when sitting down to watch this disc, though, what Pokémon 2000 appears to be is simply a none-too-subtle kids' cartoon that espouses the virtues of friends, family, self-empowerment and collecting the Whole Set. Not that that’s stopped a few dodgy lines from making their way into the script, the best of them coming from an exchange between Ash and his not-girlfriend, Misty:

“You coming, Misty?”

“No thanks! If you want somebody to do whatever you want whenever you want, you should find yourself a girlfriend!”

Thousands may be (justifiably) outraged, but Ash gets his girl, like you knew he would.

Seemingly set in the same mythical world as Nintendo games like Waverace and Super Mario 64, Pokémon 2000 basically takes some fairly quick ’n’ cheap cel animation, throws in some snazzy computer graphics for relevance (some of these were added by a US company for the English-language release, as well as some re-editing being done to the original Japanese footage) and goes for the bigger-faster-louder approach to telling what’s basically a straightforward story that owes much to Tolkien and other fantasy mavericks, the whole thing playing like a pre-ordained 16:9 enhanced video game.

  Video
Contract

Offered in a 16:9 enhanced aspect ratio of 1.78:1, this DVD transfer looks for all the world as though it was sourced from a master intended for HDTV - which, being destined for Japanese television, it probably was.

The best thing about cel animation on DVD is the colour - great big solid blocks of colour that make up parts of the characters may tend to wash out or attract chroma noise on broadcast TV or VHS, but on DVD the reddest of red characters or backgrounds is saturated, noise-free and stable. Throughout both the short feature and the main film, everything on screen looks crystal-clear, artefact-free and immensely colour-saturated, the latter being very much what’s expected from Japanese animation. Close inspection reveals a few jaggy lines around characters on occasion, but as nobody watches their TV with their nose to the screen this is unlikely to bother many people.

While their film-to-video transfers can vary, Warner along with their WAMO authoring facility have been achieving great things at the compression stage of their titles of late, and this one’s no exception - that fact that this pristine-looking compression job is a 100 minute feature on a single layer with extras speaks for itself. The average bitrate for the Pikachu short is notably higher than that of the main feature, incidentally.

  Audio
Contract

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack here was largely created by a US company named 4 Kids, who handled the translation and re-editing as well as the recording of a new music score. And they’ve done a superlative job, their soundtrack making full use of its channels and making sure you know about it, as voices, effects and music whiz around the soundstage like a rabbit in a trampoline factory.

Though encoded at the lower bitrate of 384Kbit/sec, everything here sounds fine, creating a totally immersive world of sound that does a lot to keep the adrenaline level of the visuals up.

Intriguingly, this is a two-sided disc with exactly the same content on both sides - ignore the usual back-cover inaccuracy that instructs you to turn over “at the end of side A”. The difference between the two sides isn’t immediately apparent, but the answer lies in the languages available - English, French and Dutch on side A, and English, German and Italian on side B. While this formatting is easily explained by the sheer volume of data on each side (both are jam-packed full), one wonders why Warner didn’t just opt for a dual layered disc in this case. At any rate, English-language viewers get two identical copies of the film in case the kids inadvertently scratch one side into oblivion…!

  Extras
Contract

Amazingly, given the encoding quality and the relatively small space available, Warner is still able to offer Pokémon fans some bonus material.

Trailers: The theatrical trailer for Pokémon 2000 (complete with blatant trading card plug at the end!) as well as a teaser for the upcoming Pokémon 3. Both are of excellent visual quality, and both originate from the US team. Quality is excellent.

Soundtrack Live: Of far less quality in terms of MPEG encoding - though the video source itself is just fine - this section offers excerpts from what appears to have been a TV special to promote the Pokémon 2000 soundtrack album. Songs, performed “live” in front of an enthusiastic shopping-mall-style audience, are They Don’t Understand by an incredibly young boy band called Dream Street, an even younger solo singer named Alysha (at the age of twelve, already part of the record company machine!) with a quick who-is-she doco and a song called Dream, and Youngstown with Pokemon World. I’ll refrain from making critical comments about the quality of this music (or, err, lack thereof) as I am, of course, way too old to be objective…! All of these are presented full-frame and are not 16:9 enhanced.

Making Of The Soundtrack: Interviews and studio footage of those who contributed songs to the US version of the soundtrack - including Donna Summer and “Weird Al” Yankovic!

  Overall  
Contract

Kids will love it without question, while the rest of us will alternate between puzzlement and embarrassed laughter. But regardless of anything else, the visuals in Pokémon 2000 are strangely compelling, thanks in no small part to the sheer weirdness of it all. Despite not wanting to enjoy this in the slightest, it was hard not to be a little bit taken in by the eye-popping art and out-there ideas, even if the story is the largest slice of pure cheese to arrive on DVD this year so far.

Warner’s disc is excellent, and presents Pokémon 2000 with pristine picture and sound - so if you’ve got kids that are also budding technophiles, feel perfectly safe here. They’ll love this disc - and so, if you’re in the right frame of mind, might you!


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      And I quote...
    "(Kids will) love this disc - and so, if you’re in the right frame of mind, might you..."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 103(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          Creative Encore DXR2
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-AV1020
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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