Parents introduce kids to the original starter Pokemon on TikTok

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They pass the torch to their children

Brandon Stell, center, plays Pokémon, surrounded by his children (RL) Venasera, Roslyn, Margery and Morgan.
Brandon Stell, center, plays Pokémon, surrounded by his children (RL) Venasera, Roslyn, Margery and Morgan. (Stephen B. Morton/For The Washington Post)
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Mike Bridges films his 8-month-old son, Finn, crawling towards the plush stuffed animals of the three original starter Pokémon – Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle.

At first, as Finn rushes to the mat – flailing his feet and clapping his hands – he walks towards a winking Bulbasaur. Then he looks towards a smiling Squirtle. Finally, Finn reaches out to Charmander, the fiery baby dragon.

“Good choice man!” one of the video’s 2.2 million viewers responded on TikTok.

“It’s not the one I would have chosen,” Bridges later said in an interview with The Post. (He would have chosen Bulbasaur). “But we will love him and support him no matter what.”

Parents often save the firsts of life. A baby’s first steps, a child’s first bike ride, a teenager’s first dance. But recently, some couples have started to cherish something new: their child’s first Pokemon. It’s a recreation of a franchise rite of passage, in which players must choose one of three starter Pokémon before beginning their journey.

The 26-year-old Pokémon franchise is one of the highest-grossing media franchises in the world, right next to Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse. And kids who grew up catching Pokémon are now parents.

“We can talk at length about what his favorite Pokemon is,” Bridges said of Finn. “We’re one of the first generations where it’s entirely possible, and probably a bit more normal, for video games or media to be shared between adults and children.”

The Pokémon Company International, which is responsible for managing the Pokémon brand outside of Asia, fully recognizes that the franchise’s fan base now spans generations, even from grandparents to grandchildren. Torrie Dorrell, the company’s vice president of marketing, said she loves watching parents ‘pass the baton’ to their children – and she added the company is ‘just getting started’ on how it plans to serve all of these audiences.

“We just continue to diversify our offerings,” Dorrell said, without providing details. “We can’t share our future too much, obviously, and what we plan to do, but we definitely see it. It’s not lost on us.

A boy sold his Pokémon cards to pay his sick dog’s vet bill. Then the donations started.

Randy and Stephanie Timmerman recorded their daughter choosing her starter Pokémon and posted the video on TikTok in March – not to go viral but just to have a recording of the moment. “Because it’s adorable,” Stephanie said.

For Randy, a pastor who lives on the east coast of Virginia, parents have always wanted to show their children the hobbies they are passionate about. For him, it’s Pokemon. For his dad, it’s the love of fishing.

“I love fishing to this day, especially when it comes to being side by side with my dad,” Randy said. “Whether or not our daughter ends up being a Pokémon nerd like me, or us, doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is how we seek to connect with her.

When Pokémon first arrived in North America in the late ’90s, the franchise was a ubiquitous form of children’s entertainment – one TV show, trading card, and video game rolled into one. Brandon Stell, a 32-year-old mechanic who lives in Hinesville, Georgia, remembers seeing the first movie at the theater, collecting the cards with his friends, and going to Burger King to collect all the monsters. in plastic.

For Stell, video games are an integral part of his life. It all started when his dad found an original gray Game Boy with a version of the first Pokémon game on it while cleaning a car at work one day. Stell said his family didn’t have a lot of money growing up and his father was an alcoholic who was “in and out of the picture”. The game has become an escape.

“My brother and I would just go into the bedroom, pull out the Game Boy, and kind of hide from each other playing Pokémon together,” Stell said. “It’s always a form of escape for me.”

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Years later, in high school, Stell would ride his bike to his girlfriend Kimberly’s house just so the two of them could play “Pokémon Sapphire,” a sequel to the Game Boy Advance. And she often beat him with a “Level 100 Dodrio”, a three-headed ostrich that knows a one-hit move called “Tri Attack”.

“It was high school, mind you, so we were thinking about other things,” Stell said. “But all we did when we got there was she pulled out her Game Boy and I pulled out my Game Boy.”

The two are now married and have five children. Stell remembers when they first started talking about starting a family together. Eventually, he thought then, he could introduce his children to the world of Pokémon. And he did. Once or twice a week, Stell plays the trading card game with her 9-year-old daughter, Venasera.

“As corny as it sounds, it was one of the things I really looked forward to having kids,” Stell said. “Being able to share not just Pokémon, but all of my interests.”

Natasha Vadori-Canini, a mother of two who lives near Toronto, is watching the original animated series again with her four-year-old son, Jonathan. Vadori-Canini told the Post that the show beats What’s Happening Today, like Peppa Pig or Caillou. When she was a child, Vadori-Canini remembers running home from school so she could see the latest episode. She didn’t have tapes or a DVR at the time, so she either caught the episode live or missed it, she said.

The anime series sparked fury from fans and critics when it was first released. In 1997, hundreds of children were hospitalized in Japan after suffering seizures and other symptoms while watching a scene from the show. An estimated 55% of elementary and middle school children in Tokyo were watching the show that night.

But it wasn’t just a weird night of television. The franchise has a long history of stimulating moral panic. Educators have banned the game of playing cards on school grounds after a series of robberies, fights and a stabbing in Quebec over the cards. To allay the concerns of Catholic parents, the Vatican said the first film in the Pokémon franchise, released in 1999, had “no harmful moral side effects” on children.

Nearly two decades later, “Pokémon Go,” the mobile game that uses augmented reality to place monsters in real locations, has become an international sensation. It’s been six years since the title was released and “Pokémon Go” is still one of the most popular mobile games to download. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, fans again clamored for the trading cards; players camped out in queues outside retail stores to purchase packs. Target eventually suspended sales of the cards, citing security concerns.

As a kid growing up outside of Seattle, Douglas Haines rarely played with Pokémon cards. He remembers his pastor bringing a little barbecue to Sunday school for the kids to burn their trading cards. The way the church saw it: “Pokémon evolved, and evolution was bad,” Haines said. Trading cards fall into the same forbidden bucket as Harry Potter and Dungeons & Dragons. As a replacement for Pokémon cards, the church offered biblical trading cards depicting scenes like Daniel in the lion’s den, Haines said.

“I can’t imagine how many thousands of dollars worth of rare Charizard holograms were burned that day in the 90s,” Haines, 35, said. “I cry thinking about it now.”

Two decades later, Haines is a father of four and a film producer in Las Vegas. His Max, his six-year-old son, wakes his father “almost every morning” to play with Pokémon cards on his bedroom floor. Haines said a Pokémon card booster and a trip to McDonalds is a “huge deal” for Max, and it’s easy for him to take his son on a whim.

“As an adult, I really like Pokémon more because I’m able to connect with it on that level,” Haines said. “Five bucks for a Pokémon booster is nothing.”

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