All live action art comes from georgeevangalista on Instagram!
Digimon: Digital Monsters was one of the many monster capture clones to fail in the attempt to dethrone Pokémon. It was originally a line of digital pets you kept on a key chain to feed (I’d say Tamagachi, but most people don’t know what that is now a days), than later became an anime, video game, and card game franchise. It lasted longer than the likes of Monster Rancher and Legendz (I got all of the Legendz manga and need to do something on that trash), but it did fall.
It has still lived on and remains important to a lot of people today. They had a big new series/movies for there 20th anniversary with Digimon Adventure Tri (which meandered and was boring) and released the Cyber Sleuth games for switch/PC! The first three seasons of the show specifically: Adventure – Tamers is well remembered for its strong characters, classic interactions, creatures, villains, world, and bonding with a single talking animal.
Wait… single talking animal. A movie like that just came out… Detective Pikachu!
Detective Pikachu came out in 2019 as a not surprising commercial success, but surprising critical success. That movie featured Justice Smith trying time find out what happened to his father, while bonding with a talking Pikachu. It was great film and loved the Pokémon world. But it also occurred to me that it is takes a lot from Digimon. Enough that it could be considered a Digimon movie if you take off your glasses and squint.
See, in Digimon the main characters (in Adventure – Tamers, and Data Squad) bond with a single talking creature. The bonds they make facilitate growth for both parties. The tamers get emotional growth while the Digimon literally evolve into stronger and stronger versions to help their friend. Detective Pikachu (the character) doesn’t evolve, but he grows to learn to fight, and (spoiler). Also, the villain ploy of using Pokémon to turn people into them is not a plot in the Digimon series (I am aware of), but does happen in Digimon Frontier. In that series the tamers become Digimon to help save the digital world. Humans turning Digimon also happens in Data Squad when we meet hybrid Digimon which are people who can shift into Digimon.
The similar elements alone do not mean that Detective Pikachu ripped Digimon off or anything of that nature. Instead it shows how ready and willing audiences are for stories like that. They are ready to see a wolf that breaths fire, or just an angel, or a dinosaur dragon that has a mechanical arm and chest rockets (maybe not that far, but some people definitely are).
A Digimon movie doesn’t have to be just seeing all the Mons like Detective Pikachu was. The most memorable element of Digimon was how well defined the humans were for an children’s anime dubbed kids show. Characters like Tai, Matt, TK, Kari, Joe, Izzy (sorry Sora and Mimi, you’re arcs are not as memorable), Ken, Cody, and the whole Tamers cast all get sizable, satisfying, complete arcs. They make the show.
Arcs are an essential part of the narrative. Seeing a character grow from how they start to being a better version of themselves is nice, but not the only part of a movie. Themes carry a film, and boy does Digimon have some mighty relevant themes.
We live in a world we’re everyone is attached to an internet connected device, have coffee makers that can play Nicki Minaj, and google can spy on our conversations to recommend me personally and only Raid Shadow Legends and AFK Arena. We are so connected, use technology, and grow, and we will keep growing. To that end we need to learn better ways to live with technology. Science fiction has used robots, artificial intelligence, and holograms to get that across. Digimon has been doing a similar thing since 1999.
Digimon are creatures from a digital world that often times overlap with ours to cause chaos (in their media). This puts the tamers in charge of helping right those wrongs and often times teach the digital monsters how to behave. This is ripe for a good modern story about technology.
Digimon is just so versatile that it doesn’t have to be some dower think piece film either. The core cast of Digimon were always kids or teenagers. That makes it a great multiple pronged coming of age story. It’s possible to have characters grow emotionally, physically, in their relationship to technology, and find friends in unlikely places. You can get monsters interacting with human stuff to be funny, or vice versa. It has so much untapped potential before you get to the Norse seal with thunder powers fighting literally the devil, or a cactus punch a frog with brass horns for cannons. Like, how is this not a film.
If you’re a little gross and like that stuff you have literal pieces of poop that can grow wings. Hey, don’t want to yuck anyone’s thing here.
All of that is to say if it was done correctly it could be a masterful family film. The main question is who would do it, and how much would it cost?
The rights do Digimon do not seem to be concrete from what I could find. I know that Disney bought Sagan (which it was part of with Power Ranger), then eventually sold it back to Hiam Saban, who sold it to Nickelodeon. I do not know if that was all of his company’s series or just Power Rangers. If Nickelodeon has it then it would seem like Paramount or one of their subsidiaries would handle the production. It could still be owned by Disney (or gotten when they bought Fox because the Digimon Movie was released by them), or a third studio owns it and can make a movie with it. It is unclear, but does not have to costly to make.
The easily solution is to have a small cast of humans and digital monsters, and have the monsters come into our world. Now, we all moan when movies leave the mystical world to just come to earth, and they usually suck (Howard the Duck, Sonic maybe), but it can work and be done well. Remember that many of the themes in Digimon are about learning to work with others and technology. This meant that Digimon would cross over physically into our world meaning there is precedent. There are also cheap ways to get the idea of a foreign world where technology goes to die across. The solutions are not perfect, but they are easy to use in making a film (I would assume).
I am not here just to say I want a live action recreation of Omnimon blasting his cannon and swinging his sword against any of the villains from that series or pitch my own movie. I’m sure it would look cool and be satisfying once, but it would not be accurate to Digimon the franchise. Digimon has been about connections, bonds, and growing. I might be able to push out a good outline or spec, but that’s now what this is about.
I mean Detective Pikachu didn’t have Red, or Ash, or Brock, Misty, Giovanni, Team Rocket, or any of the big game pieces. Therefore you do not need Tai, or Davis, or Takato, or Marcus, or Takuya. You don’t even need to use the the computer art posted here. They can have their own style. It would be cool to have all that stuff present and the whole cast, but if you have the spirit it can live on.
If you have a kid or group of kids wind up in a mysterious world, or have their phone app creatures come to life and bond just in time to fight an evil creature in a good battle you will have a Digimon movie, and fans. We all may want Godzilla fights all the time, but you can add real character to it that Pokémon doesn’t usually have.
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