Japanese publication The Yomiuri Shimbun has spoken to the developers who worked on the original Pokemon back in 1996. They revealed that yellow Pokemon mascot Pikachu was inspired by a squirrel. As the publication notes, this is the very first time the designers have revealed the story behind Pikachu’s origin. The team say they were tasked with making a Pokemon that an electric-type and has two stages of evolution. Pokemon art illustrator Atsuko Nishida said that the character she initially created was “vertically long daifuku rice confection with ears.” She was then told it needed to look cuter and she designed a creature based on a squirrel which she wanted as a pet at the time.
“The name combines the words “pika,” an onomatopoeic term for flashing light, and “chu,” which has a cute sound. Although the character was not modeled after a mouse, Game Freak President Satoshi Tajiri called it a mouse character.”
“I hope people will feel closer to Pikachu by understanding the story behind its creation,” – Pokemon illustrator Atsuko Nishida