According to the sources, the first Pokemon movie initially wanted Leonardo DiCaprio to voice over for Ash. However, the producer decided against it. The first theatrical Pokemon movie was first released in 1998 in Japan. Later, Norman Grossfeld produced its English-dubbed version in the US. The English version needed a different voice-over cast, along with a slightly adapted script from its Japanese version. Ultimately, the producer chose Veronica Taylor to voice Ash Ketchum in the English-dubbed version.
By the time the movie came under development in the US, Leonardo had already gained international recognition for his work on Titanic (1997). However, we know that Titanic was not Leonardo’s first movie. He got his first breakthrough at a very young age in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” where he worked alongside Johnny Depp. But it was his Jack Dawson persona in Titanic that marked him as a true Hollywood superstar. Currently, DeCaprio is one of the most expensive, popular, and talented actors in the world. In his illustrious career, Leonardo mainly chose live-action films to perform. In fact, he has not lent his voice to any animated film so far. However, now we know he was close to playing his voice role in Pokémon First Movie.
CBR reported the news from one of The Big Hit Show podcast episodes. The episode brought to light that it was Leonardo who was initially identified as a voice for Ash. While looking for a studio to distribute the movie, a studio proposed that Grossfeld cast DiCaprio’s voice for Ash. Even though the studio seemed confident and determined to get DiCaprio on board. However, Alex Pappademas explained in the podcast that Grossfeld declined the offer.
According to Grossfeld, Pokémon was already an established franchise. So, it didn’t need to invest in big names like DiCaprio to lure audiences. Moreover, DiCaprio’s voice is completely different from what Ash’s has been over the decades. Actually, the character has always had a woman’s voice in English-dubbed versions. In that case, although adults would be familiar with DiCaprio’s voice, it would definitely not capture children’s attention. In fact, the younger audience can reject the drastic change in Ash’s voice. Therefore, even though Leonardo DiCaprio was an icon of that time, we can see the reason for Grossfeld’s decision.
It’s impossible to know if DiCaprio would have ever agreed to play Ash. It is amusing, however, that the idea was even pitched. Grossfeld’s argument that DiCaprio should not be playing Ash’s voice is particularly interesting, given the recent recastings of Buzz Lightyear in Pixar’s Lightyear. Another news that Chris Patt will lend his voice to Marios adds to the intrigue in Grossfeld’s decision. It raises the question of whether a well-known actor is better for such animated projects. Pokemon: The First Movie ultimately chose the best option for its audience. They turned down a prominent Hollywood actor to make sure kids got an Ash they loved and felt comfortable with.