As we all know, Pokemon is one of the biggest franchises in the world, and as with any huge franchise, chances are you’re bound to see something relating to it pop up in other TV shows, books, or movies from time to time. This could be a direct reference from a character, a parody or even just a Pokemon-related prop inserted into the background of a set. References to Pokemon have been made by an abundance of different media outlets all over the globe ever since Pokemania was unleashed upon us back in the 1990s, but as this is a UK-based collectors blog, today we’ll be looking at a few obscure references and cameos that are a little closer to home, coming from the weird and wonderful world of British media!
Pikachu Guy Fawkes Dummy – Eastenders Bonfire Night Episode – 2000
If there’s one thing you wouldn’t normally expect to see in The Queen Vic pub, it’s a gigantic stuffed Pikachu. Popping up rather unexpectedly from this 2000 Bonfire Night episode of the long-running soap, our favourite yellow mouse appears not only to be wearing a facial expression resembling the Shocked Pikachu meme brought to life by his anime counterpart (though that is probably due to the fact that dummies made on the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot do usually tend to end to end up on a bonfire), but also like he might have been helping himself to a few too many packets of pork scratchings or nuts from behind the bar…
Confiscated Pokemon Cards – The Worry Website by Jacqueline Wilson – 2002
Comparable to Pokemon in also being a staple of many British childhoods in the 90’s and 00’s (though the similarities probably end there, as I don’t recall there being any fire-breathing orange lizards or malevolent genetic experiments with telekinetic abilities in The Story of Tracy Beaker, unless you count Justine Littlewood) Jacqueline Wilson’s books have not only entertained millions of children over the years but also helped young readers gain an insight into serious topics such as growing up in foster care, coping with grief and loss, mental illness and a variety of other subjects.
As many Jacqueline Wilson fans will know, her books tend to be littered with pop culture references akin to the time of the book’s publishing (anyone fancy joining Tracy Beaker for a trip to Mcdonalds/a new Mickey Mouse pen or alarm clock?) and in 2002’s The Worry Website a character named Samantha notices a selection of confiscated Pokemon cards in the school’s lost property boxes. During the first wave of Pokemania in the late 90’s/early 00’s Pokemon cards were frequently confiscated and even banned in British primary schools due to fights breaking out over trading, so this is a nice little era nod from Jacqueline Wilson, though I can’t help but wonder if there were any rare cards in that lost property box…
Michael Says Goodbye To His Pokemon Cards – My Family – “Pain In The Class” – 2000
Whilst it was consistently disparaged by TV critics, My Family was popular with audiences throughout its eleven-year run and the antics of the Harper family often included references to relevant aspects of early and mid 2000s pop culture. In the season 1 episode “Pain In The Class”, the Harper’s youngest son Michael finds himself on the wrong side of a school bully. Fearing the worst after an unsuccessful attempt from his parents to rectify the situation, Michael bids farewell to his most treasured possessions, including his Pokemon cards, of which he states he only had “212 left to collect”.
Sally Metcalfe Plays Pokemon Go – Coronation Street – 2022
Sally Metcalfe (also known as Sally Webster/Seddon) has been a resident of Weatherfield since 1985 and during her time on Coronation Street she has been at the centre of a wide variety of storylines, including being elected Mayor of Weatherfield, fighting cancer, witnessing a tram crash spread devastation across the street, being held hostage, numerous bouts of relationship turmoil and spending time in jail, amongst many, many other things. So what sort of hobby does a woman with so much going on do to find a little bit of relaxation? Why, she plays Pokemon Go of course!
In this scene from an early 2022 episode we see Sally trying to track her husband Tim on a mobile app, but her friend Abi seems to think that Sally is back catching critters on Pokemon Go again. Given how exasperated Abi sounds and the fact that this scene was broadcast over 5 years after Pokemon Go’s launch, it does suggest that Sally has been a fan of the game for quite some time, which leaves us with a variety of questions such as what level is she at? Is she Team Mystic, Instinct or Valour? What Pokemon does she have as her buddy? I very much doubt the Coronation Street writers will respond to these questions in any upcoming plots, but personally I would very much like some answers (and for Sally to add me as a Pokemon Go friend so we can send each other gifts/raid invites).
Kid in Pikachu Hat – “Robot Wars” – Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights – 2001
Taking place in the fifth episode of the first series of Peter Kay’s brilliant Phoenix Nights, we see club doormen Max and Paddy competing in The Phoenix Club’s own version of Robot Wars. Their deadly machine “Ass-Kicker” destroys the other competitors, including one unfortunate robot crafted out of a Celebrations tin. Following Max and Paddy’s victory, a young member of the opposing team can be seen prising a Celebration’s tin lid away from Ass-Kicker’s axe. The lad is sporting a hat bearing a certain electric rodent, but judging from the slightly odd proportions of this Pikachu’s face design, there’s a good chance that this cap may be one of the countless pieces of bootleg Pokemon merch that were floating about in the early 00s.
Sarah’s Pokemon Poster – Coronation Street – 2000
So we’re back to the cobbles of Coronation Street again with this one, during a controversial and widely debated storyline from 2000 when Sarah-Louise Platt discovered she was pregnant just weeks after her 13th birthday, which led to all different manners of stress and drama for both Sarah and her family. Whilst coming to terms with her predicament, Sarah is visited by a social worker who wishes to speak to her privately in her bedroom, but what’s that in the background on Sarah’s wall? Why, it’s only a classic old-school Pokemon poster showing off the first 150 Pokemon!
The poster can be spotted again in a later episode during the pregnancy storyline when Sarah is discussing her woes with her best friend Candice. In a similar vein to the unveiling of Sally Metcalfe as a secret Pokemon fan that I mentioned earlier, this poster cameo did make me wonder, is Sarah still into Pokemon? Which character was her favourite? Did she play the video games or was she just a fan of the anime and/or trading cards? Again, I doubt the Corrie writers will ever address these queries, but personally I think Sarah and Sally coming together to form some sort of Weatherfield Pokemon Appreciation Society would be great.
Ancient Mew Card and Pokemon Merchandise – Spaced – 2001
And finally, last but by no means least, here we have what would nowadays be a Pokemon merchandise collector’s dream in this classic scene from Spaced. As Tim is berating a child who has entered the Fantasy Bazaar wishing to purchase a Jar Jar Binks toy, eagle-eyed viewers will be able to spot an Ancient Mew trading card in the cabinet beneath where Tim is standing. This promo card was available to movie-goers during the cinematic run of Pokemon 2000 upon the film’s release in late 2000 and has since become a gem in many a fan’s collection. As the shot pans out, we are able to catch a good glimpse of the store and many pieces of Pokemon merchandise can be spotted, including Tomy action figures, Hasbro plushies and some very fetching t-shirts featuring Ash, Misty, Brock and Pikachu.
As Spaced is now essentially a time capsule of quintessential 90’s and early 00s pop culture (as well as being hilarious) it was imperative that they would include some reference to Pokemon. I particularly like the fact that in this shot the Pokemon merchandise seems to have taken over literally half of the store, which pretty much sums up just how big Pokemania was at the time.
Honorary Mention: Pokemon World Magazine Prop (With Free Knives!?) – Coronation Street – 2022
This might be perhaps the most perplexing Pokemon cameo in this blog, as in a June 2022 episode of Coronation Street (another entry for Corrie, they must really love Pokemon!) a copy of the (now defunct) unofficial magazine Pokemon World could be spotted on the shelf of The Kabin. Nothing too unusual there right? Just a nice little Easter Egg for us fans of Pikachu and friends right? Look again. While some aspects of the magazine seem pretty normal, as it appears to be from some time around the 2005 release of Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, judging by the Shadow Lugia on the cover (why the Kabin would be stocking a 17 year old Pokemon magazine I’m not sure but who knows, maybe Brian and Cathy were fans of catching ’em all too, alongside the previously mentioned Sally and Sarah), it’s hard not to notice the fact that the Pokemon World logo on the outer cellophane wrap is splattered with blood and it is also stated that the magazine comes with a free gift of “Bleeding Weapons”. What!?
As a relatively family-friendly franchise for the most part (let’s not talk about that time an Arbok got cut in half in the Pokemon Adventures manga…) a gory item like this seemed rather out of place and although Pokemon World was an unofficial magazine, as someone who bought the magazine on a regular basis for a number of years I can definitely say that none of the free gifts that were included with the copies I bought were anywhere as strange and un-Pokemon related as this. Which made me wonder, was this a copy of Pokemon World that someone on the Coronation Street prop department re-packaged? Could it just have been a bit of an in-joke from someone on set? Was it placed on the shelf purposely to attract the attention of an eagle-eyed Pokemon fan so they’d get far too invested in figuring out why a magazine from their childhood included a free bleeding knife and end up going off on a bit of a tangent at the end of their already rather long-winded blog? Well…
I was so curious about this particular prop I decided to do a little bit of investigating and got in touch with Dan Hyde, a member of the Coronation Street prop department team. Dan very kindly replied to my initial message where I asked if the Corrie props team had repurposed an old copy of Pokemon World magazine or if they had received the magazine with the free weapon gifts included, and his response provided me with a bit more insight into the story behind the magazine:
I was very pleased to get a reply from Dan so I posted his response in the r/coronationstreet subreddit, then another user by the name of ChihuahuaMammaNPT posted a link to a very helpful article they had found regarding peculiar free gifts included in the issue. The North Wales Live article from January 2006 explains that a number of trading standards bosses and shop owners from the Conwy area raised concerns regarding the magazine upon its release as they didn’t feel that its inclusion of the bleeding weapon gifts was appropriate for a children’s magazine, particularly as there had been a spike in knife crime in Conwy at the time. Later in the article a mother who was interviewed stated that in her opinion Pokemon “should have been boycotted” after the incident (i’m guessing she didn’t know that Pokemon World wasn’t officially affiliated with The Pokemon Company). But you know, maybe she had a point, as clearly it was Pikachu and all his little pals that were responsible for giving these offensive items away with the magazine, and not some short-sighted publisher who obviously didn’t read the room when it came to their target audience… Yep, we should definitely blame the yellow mouse.
Anyway, strange props aside, do you have any memories of seemingly random references to Pokemon in TV shows, books or films? There is something quite exciting about seeing or hearing a cameo from our favourite Pokemon characters in places we wouldn’t normally expect, and the amount of references to Pokemon in different forms of media all over the world outside of the few UK-specific examples listed here really is staggering. So, if you have a favourite obscure Pokemon media cameo or reference, let us know!
Written By Emily Carney
Special Thank You’s to Dan Hyde and ChihuahuaMammaNPT for their help regarding the Pokemon World Magazine prop!
References and Further Reading:
Coronation Street: Sally Metcalfe Pokemon Go Reveal Clip – lhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9QBn9878DA
Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights – Robot Wars Episode Clip – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3hXtB-QVTI
Spaced – Tim’s Jar Jar Binks Rant Clip –
Bulbapedia’s List of References To Pokemon In Popular Culture –
North Wales Live Pokemon World Magazine Free Gift Controversy Article –