RJ Palmer is a fan artist’s dream come true.


The first Detective Pikachu trailer set the internet ablaze in hype. Not only was it the live action Pokémon movie fans have dreamed of for decades, but it also showed a world of realistic looking Pokémon that were equal parts adorable and terrifying. And as it turns out, we have one ambitious fan to thank for that.

RJ Palmer is a concept artist who graduated from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. If you take one look at his resume, you’ll see he’s worked for major names like Sideshow Collectibles, Fantasy Flight Games, and even Disney on a “new intellectual property.” In other words, the guy’s not lacking in professional credentials. But as you might have figured out by now, RJ Palmer is the person responsible for all those realistic Pokemon designs in Detective Pikachu. And the reason he got the job is because… well, he already designed them.

In 2012, Palmer started an art series known as “Realistic Pokémon.” As the name implies, these drawings took iconic Pokémon designed and imagined them as if they were prehistoric dinosaurs. The fusions were equal parts horrifying and amazing, depending on the monster in question. Illustrations like his Ninetales and Vaporeon (pictured above) make you want to snuggle both monsters in question, while his take on Mewtwo is… I mean, let’s just say it probably knows Dream Eater.

It was these works of fan art that actually got Palmer on board to design the Pokémon of Detective Pikachu. According to Kotaku, Palmer was literally discovered by the film’s production designer after he searched “Realistic Pokemon” on Google.

“He gives me a call, and he’s like, ‘Would you like to work on the Pokémon movie?'” Palmer told Business Insider. “And I’m in shock, it was amazing. I’ve always been really into Pokémon as just a franchise, because I think it’s really fun and creative.”

Palmer wound up spending seven months on monster designs for the movie. Though his signature style veers towards unsettling amounts of realism, his art for the movie embraced more of the inherent style of the Pokémon games. Pikachu in particular got special treatment, with Palmer basing him off “rodents and lagomorphs.”

Funny enough, even though Palmer has official credits for working on the Pokémon franchise, he’s still gifting the internet with new Realistic Pokémon art. After the reveal of Pokémon Sword and Shield, Palmer got to work on reimagining newcomer Sobble in his iconic style. Even if it’s safe to say Sobble won’t be making an appearance in Detective Pikachu, his take gives us a pretty clear idea of “what if.”

On one hand, RJ Palmer’s involvement with Detective Pikachu is a pleasant surprise for Nintendo fans. With the company’s tough stance on fan games, it’s refreshing to see a fan artist get rewarded for their passion. On the other hand, it’s amazing to see an accomplished artist rewarded for contributing to the same fan community that all of us do. Many people like to attach a negative connotation to fan art and fan games, but we’re entering an era where the passionate fans of yesterday are the content creators of today. So stories like RJ Palmer’s reminds all of us that, while perhaps our passion should not be reliant on a professional occupation in the future, we should celebrate the things we love in any way we can. Even you could one day find yourself on the staff of a Detective Pikachu in the future.

To see more of RJ Palmer’s work, visit https://www.rj-palmer.com/

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Written by TimM
Tim is a video game aficionado who is fascinated by pop culture. He built his first collection in 1999 by catching all 151 monsters in Pokemon Red, and he hasn't stopped collecting since. His work has been featured multiple times on Destructoid.com.