Pokemon 3: Spell of the Unknown (2001)

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Released 3-Oct-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Pikachu The Movie 2001
Featurette-Making Of-To Know The Unknown
Audio Commentary-Norman Grossfeld (Prod/CoWr) & Michael Haigney (Dir/CoWr)
Music Video-Jonto Pokerap
Theatrical Trailer
DVD-ROM Extras
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 87:31
RSDL / Flipper Dual Sided Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Haigney
Kunihiko Yuyama

Warner Home Video
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Ralph Schuckett

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Greek Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Hebrew Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, action continues through the credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Last year, I volunteered to review Pokemon 2000 - I was curious about the Pokemon phenomenon. I can't say I was too thrilled, but I survived. Clearly I don't learn fast - I volunteered again this year. Interestingly, the cover of this disc says Pokemon 3, and so does the menu, but the title on the movie also says Pikachu the Movie 2001. I wonder if that was a working title for it?

    Just like last year's movie, this one is split into two pieces, which play one after another. I don't understand the logic of this, but it seems to be the way things are done in Pokemon movies.

    The first piece is called Pikachu and Pichu. It is 16:59 long. Unlike last year's, this one has a voice-over which explains some of what is going on. Unfortunately, the voice-over is in the tradition of cinema newsreel attempts at humour - very dated, and considerably un-funny. The music is of a similar nature.

    The second piece is called The Spell of the Unown - it is 70:32 in length. I did not understand why they spelled the name "Unown" - it was pronounced "Unknown", and that was clearly the intent. I wondered if they were trying to imply that the "Unknown" Pokemon could not be captured - that they were "unownable" - but that was probably seeing more in it than they intended.

    This is not a happiness-and-light story. It concerns a 5 year old girl whose mother has disappeared some time back, and now she loses her father - he vanishes while researching the Unown Pokemon. (There's an error in the animation at 15:40, where they spell it "Unknown" on a computer screen.) Her unhappiness is communicated to a bunch of Unown Pokemon, which proceed to construct a fantasy world based on the fairytales (about legendary Pokemon) her father used to read her. They populate it with a powerful legendary Pokemon called Entei, who the girl accepts as her father (he doesn't look like her father...). She sees Ash's mother (Delia) on TV, and causes Entei to kidnap Delia to be her mother. Ash and his friends try to rescue Delia. Things get fairly scary in spots. I'm a bit surprised that this is considered a kid's story.

    There seems to be a relationship between the Unown Pokemon and a set of Scrabble tiles, but this is never explained.

    Apparently the Pokemon movies come between seasons of the TV show, and feature the same characters, voiced by the same actors. I guess you'd get more out of it if you watched the TV series - I haven't. I'm not sure I could stand it.

    There's one thing I really do not like about this disc. It is double-sided, which makes it hard to handle carefully - you are pretty much guaranteeing that even a fairly careful adult will touch the data surface occasionally. And this disc will be handled by small children... Moreover, the English language soundtrack is only on one side. How do you tell which side? Well, you look at the tiny lettering on the label ring near the centre of the disc, and you see that it is labelled "Widescreen DVD Pokemon 3" on both sides. The only real indication to side is in the serial number - it ends with A on the side with English on it, and with B on the other side. Put it in with B upwards and you get the joy of Pokemon in Italian. This is an incredibly dumb move, I think. It is hardly family-friendly. At least the previous movie had English on both sides. After all, this is being sold as a Region 4 disc, and to the best of my knowledge there is no country in Region 4 where Italian is an official language; had it been Spanish, I could give them a few points, but they haven't even included Spanish on this disc!

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Transfer Quality


    This movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The cover claims that it is 1.85:1, but it isn't - I do wish they'd stop assuming we can't tell the difference. The original aspect ratio was 1.85:1.

    The image is clear and sharp, with no low-level noise.

    There are no visible film artefacts. There are no MPEG artefacts. There's a little bit of aliasing, but it is not troubling. There is no shimmer. All up, it is quite an impressive effort in the way of a transfer.

    There are eight subtitle tracks, including standard English and English for the Hearing Impaired, and the same for Italian. All the subtitles appear to be present on both sides of the disc. The subtitles are white, with a fine black border. They are presented in a simple sans-serif font, and are easy to read.

    The disc is double-sided and single layered. As I mentioned earlier, I do not understand this choice. It seems terribly inappropriate for the target market of this disc. If they had placed all of the languages on the same side, they might still have fitted everything on one layer, but even if they hadn't, it would have fitted very easily onto a dual-layer disc - after all, the only difference between the two sides is the language tracks.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    This disc offers four soundtracks on the side I listened to - the feature soundtrack in English, French, and Dutch (all in Dolby Digital 5.1) and the audio commentary in English.

    The dialogue is clear and easily understood, at least from the humans - many of the Pokemon make noises that are almost dialogue, but not quite understandable. Audio sync is impossible to judge on animation, but the timing of the dialogue looks very good.

    The score for the English language version is by Ralph Schuckett - apparently it is very different from the Japanese score - the Japanese score is silent for a great deal of the movie, while this score is much more extensive.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer are not much used. There are just a few moments of surround use here and there. 

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are better than I expected.


    The menu is static, but has music behind the main menu.

Making of To Know the Unknown (2:53)

    This is a fluff piece, sort of interviewing the members of the group Innosense who sing the song that plays under the closing credits. They mouth the platitudes, but are unconvincing - they come across as very shallow.

What the Filmmakers Say

    This surprised me. I was expecting a brief interview, or something like that. Instead, it turns out to be a full-length audio commentary. The people speaking are largely responsible for the English language version of this movie (and the TV series). They have a lot to say, and they begin by explaining that they do rather more than simply translate the Japanese language. The Japanese script follows a Japanese tradition of story-telling, which is very different from the English. What they do is take the story and re-tell it in a way which will be comprehensible to us. They are trying very hard to be true to the sense of the story, rather than to the actual words. Sometimes this results in some major changes, including adding some things at the start of the movie so that things at the end make sense.

    This is entertaining, and educational. I thoroughly recommend that you push the kids away from the disc for long enough to listen to it. It will give you an insight into the amount of work they've done so your kids can get just as addicted to Pokemon as Japanese kids, and so you can become just as impoverished as Japanese parents, buying the new Pokemon games, etc.

Johto Pokerap (2:54)

    A chant of many Pokemon names, punctuated with some "yeah"s, and spelling out of "P O K E M O N". At least it is fairly short.

Theatrical Trailer (0:48)

    This is a teaser trailer; I fairly sure it's the same one as on the Pokemon 2000 DVD. 

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on:

    I have to back the Region 4 this time - the widescreen transfer with 16x9 enhancement is very much the preferable format.


    This DVD is a well-transferred disc of a movie that is probably very interesting to fans of Pokemon.

    The video quality is very high.

    The audio quality is quite good.

    The extras are better than I expected.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Tuesday, October 02, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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