Legendary Entertainment and The Pokemon Company announced today they will partner to launch the first-ever Pokémon live-action film franchise based on Detective Pikachu, a new character and story in the Pokémon universe. The world first met Detective Pikachu through a video game in Japan, and further details of how his story will be told are being kept under wraps for the moment. The film will be fast-tracked for production start in 2017.

First introduced in Japan in 1996, Pokémon has delighted fans of all ages around the world for two decades. With more than 279 million video games sold worldwide, 21.5 billion TCG cards shipped to 74 countries, and an animated series spanning 19 seasons, Pokémon is one of the most successful entertainment brands in the world. The franchise kicked off its 20th Anniversary celebration with a Super Bowl commercial earlier this year.

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Universal Pictures will handle distribution of the live-action film outside Japan as it has done with Legendary's other films for years. The Pokémon Company's long time movie collaborator, Toho, will handle distribution of the film franchise in Japan, as it had similarly done in its partnership with Legendary on the iconic monster reboot for Godzilla. No writer or director is attached for this Pokemon movie quite yet.

The deal was brokered by Don McGowan, General Counsel at The Pokémon Company International, who led the negotiations with outside counsel Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig. Marty Willhite, Legendary's Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel along with Daniel Feinberg, Vice President Corporate Counsel and Mike Ross, Senior Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs, represented the studio. No release date has been given at this time.

There had been rumors of a live-action Pokemon movie for quite some time, with a mysterious trailer debuting back in 2010 that was supposedly from a Pokemon live-action movie project. The franchise is more popular than ever thanks to the launch of the mobile augmented reality app dubbed Pokemon Go, which has already become a cultural phenomenon ever since launching just a few weeks ago. We'll be sure to keep you posted with more updates on Detective Pikachu as soon as more details surface. In the meantime, take a look at the video game trailer for Great Detective Pikachu, which was released by Nintendo in Japan earlier this year.