Previously, HN Entertainment’s own Nicholas Whitcomb spoke with creature designer Carlos Haunte about his work on Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, Joe Johnston’s Jurassic Park 4, and David S. Goyer’s incarnation of The Masters of The Universe reboot.
In our latest chat with Carlos, Nicholas was able to ask questions about his work on Legendary’s Detective Pikachu, the first live-action Pokémon film that was just released and how he helped bring the beloved video game/anime characters to the big screen.
HN: How did you initially get involved with Detective Pikachu?
HUANTE: “The film’s production designer Nigel Phelps and I had been trying to work together for many years, but for one reason or another it just never worked out. This time it did with Detective Pikachu. A director had yet to be hired and I had no idea who the director was going to be, but within a week we found out it would be a friend of mine, Rob Letterman. I was very happy to hear it was Rob as we had worked together on the first Goosebumps movie. He is a very nice guy and easy for me to work for because he understands the whole creature character world.”
HN: This film is loosely based on the video game of the same name Detective Pikachu. How familiar were you with the world of Pokémon before this project, and what kind of research did you do?
HUANTE: “I only knew of the anime, but not much about it other than seeing the commercials for the TV show. I didn’t know storyline or characters other than Pikachu, so it was all new to me. I was an adult when the Pokémon show released, so it wasn’t my interest considering my age at the time it came out. That being said, I was actually excited about this one and I’ll tell you it was one of the hardest projects I ever worked on. The source material was rich and there was so much to learn to remain faithful. It was very challenging to be mild, I couldn’t just start drawing. I had to study each character before I did a thing and it was really hard as I had to reference heavily so I wouldn’t deviate too much.”
HN: The Pokémon franchise is very iconic, and its fans are very loyal to the designs of the creatures, what was your approach to them? Did you want to try something completely different or stay faithful to their appearances?
HUANTE: “Yeah well, that is the big question for any project that is being interpreted but this one was that times ten. I drew in a sketch pad the first couple days trying to feel the characters out and I started with Pikachu himself. Once I did a couple two or three little sketches the production designer Nigel Phelps and I talked about it. After a little back and forth and then director Rob Letterman getting hired, I came to the conclusion after seeing all the artwork that was being done that we should remain as faithful to the anime as we could. I spoke with Rob directly about that. I wasn’t in charge of any of this decision making mind you, I was merely a hired hand but I felt it pretty strongly. I had to share my opinion that if we deviated too much even stylistically the movie would fail because the fan base is so devout.”
HN: Which Pokémon were you directly involved with designing?
HUANTE: Well, a lot of them actually. The Pokémon I worked on included Pikachu, Mewtwo, Snorlax, Machamp, Machoke, Muk, Grimer, Hitmonchan, Hypno, Mankey, Tyranitar, Lugia, Xerneas, Pichu, Blastoise, Zubat, Pinsir, Aipom, Mr. Mime, Greninja, Psyduk, Rayquaza, Rufflet, Braviary, Tyrantrum, Aerodactyl, Bastiodon, and Gurdurr.
Here is a whole bunch of Pokémon concept artwork that Carlos has posted on his Instagram account.
HN: You’ve been able to work on so many incredible projects over the years, and design so many cool monsters. What were some of the challenges you faced with this project since the Pokémon are inherently cute and cuddly?
HUANTE: “You’d expect the cute factor to be a problem for an artist that likes hard-hitting science fiction like myself, but I started in this whole business drawing on the Alvin and The Chipmunks animated series from the 1980s. Discovering the direction was hard, whether entirely real which could change it all too much or stay entirely faithful to the source material which would make it cartoony, neither worked. We had to work thoughtfully rather than instinctively and it was a really hard one.”
HN: Did you end up having any favorite Pokémon?
HUANTE: “Of course, I liked the weird ones but I’m still not versed enough to say. Greninja, Rayquaza, Machamp, and Machoke are cool. I could go on, it’s just an extremely fun universe to play in.”
HN: Legendary is already started work on a sequel to this film, would you be interested in coming back to continue designing a part of this universe?
HUANTE: “Especially now that I know the material better, sure yes!”
HN: Where can we expect to see your art and design work next?
HUANTE: “New Line Cinema’s IT: Chapter Two will be the next big film release I believe. I’ve also been working on several TV series for Netflix and others as well, several small science fiction films. I can’t say what they are because I’m not sure of their current status.”
We’d like to thank Carlos Huante for sharing his time with HN Entertainment and encourage everyone to see his work on the big screen with Detective Pikachu if you haven’t seen it already. We’re also certainly anticipating seeing his work in IT: Chapter Two on September 6th, when the film is released.