For fans of Pokémon — from the animated series to the addictive card game and everywhere in between — one simple, memorable catchphrase has been the crux of the franchise.
Players and viewers alike have been long been repeating, “Gotta catch ’em all!” as they eye the series’ ever-expanding collection of creatures. This is why the latest Pokémon news comes as such a shock: the signature was originally something quite different.
John Siegler, co-writer of the Pokémon anime theme song, sat down with The Huffington Post to discuss how the iconic tune came to be. Siegler spilled details on the songwriting process, revealing that the lyrics went through several revision processes because Nintendo wasn’t satisfied with the hook. “Lyrically, it changed a few times,” Siegler stated. “Because they kept changing their hook line, ‘Gotta catch ‘em all.’ Before that it was something else.”
But what was that “something else,” if not the ubiquitous line fans know and love? Siegler revealed that Nintendo initially wanted the Pokémon catchphrase to be “Catch ’em if you can,” and that he even penned a full song using that line as the hook.
Siegler’s collaborator Norman Grossfield, the current head of production at 4Kids Entertainment, the company that commissioned the Pokémon theme song, spoke on the connection between the franchise phrase and the anime series’ tune. “It was always my intention to come up with a tagline for marketing purposes that would also be included in the theme song,” he said. “‘Catch ‘em if you can’ was one of the original contenders and did make its way into an early version of a theme song.”
Funnily enough, Siegler and his bandmates were unaware of what Pokémon was all about during the time of writing, which explains the tune’s rather generic wash-over themes of friendship and loyalty. Suffice to say, Siegler and co. were in for a surprise when Pokémon, something they once thought was just another strange cartoon, took the world by storm — breaking game sales records and attracting players and viewers by the millions.
“We really had no idea. It was incomprehensible to us what the show was about… we just wrote a song,” Siegler said. “It was just some weirdo cartoon to us. It was just another gig. That’s all it was, it was just a gig and we did it. And it turned out to be [this] phenomenon.”
Admittedly, it’s pretty difficult to imagine “Catch ’em if you can” as the defining phrase for Pokémon, as it’s less optimistic and less emphatic than the one that ended up sticking. Thankfully, the many song drafts yielded a cheery rallying call for fans to both believe in their monster-catching abilities in-game and get their hands on any and all Pokémon merchandise stocking store shelves. Uplifting fans and providing Nintendo with a serious profit? Sounds like a win-win.