For years, the Pokemon brand has proven highly successful in all fronts, including card games, video games, movies and TV shows. So it should be no surprise that the franchise’s main star, the electrically charged hero Pikachu, could very well be turning into a recognizable icon, along the same lines as Mickey Mouse, according to Polygon.
Part of Pikachu’s success lies in the ongoing sales of the Pokemon brand. It hasn’t shown any signs of dwindling since its debut back in 1996, while other brands, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers, have faded a bit in popularity, even with the release of new films. The video games by themselves have managed to sell more than 260 million copies globally, and there have been more than 21.5 billion cards picked up by fans.
“Time Magazine said he was one of the most beloved animated characters,” said Dr. Arnold Blumberg, who serves as an expert in media and pop culture studies over at the University of Baltimore. “There are plenty of people that have put him in the list of most iconic, most recognizable, and yet, what’s interesting about that is he’s only been around since the 1990’s.”
He probably won’t yet reach the popularity of Disney’s Mickey Mouse, who’s been around since the 1920’s, but he’s getting there, becoming globally recognized in different markets, even to those who usually don’t deal with Pokemon products. “It’s quite an astonishing achievement,” Blumberg added.
When it comes to Pikachu’s appeal, it lies in a combination of being both adorable and tough, especially when taking on rival Pokemon and other enemies. “Being cute doesn’t hurt,” said Blumberg. “Then there’s reliability, and I know that might be weird for a character that (only) says its name, but in a way, that’s simplicity.”
Fans can even recognize the powerful Pikachu just from a silhouette, the same way they would Mickey Mouse and other similar characters. “When you look at the Pikachu or Mickey silhouette, it’s cute, it’s energetic, it’s child-like and there’s innocence to it,” said Blumberg. “All those things go together and make something powerful and iconic in pop culture.”
But how is Pikachu able to stay so popular after so much time “Think of a band like The Rolling Stones, or a character like James Bond, or a fictional creature like Dracula, or a concept like the zombie, or a comic book character like Batman or Superman, or a game like football, or a food like KFC,” said Rob Weiner, popular culture librarian at Texas Tech University. “They’re all iconic because they’ve embedded themselves in our popular culture in a way that transcends trends and history and age.”
Expect more Pikachu goodness in Pokemon products for years to come. CHUUUUUU!