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| The Flame Pokémon-athon!
Fire Pokémon Big Race!
|| November 11, 1997
| United States
|| October 21, 1998
|| Team Ota
|| 冨岡淳広 Atsuhiro Tomioka
|| 浅田裕二 Yūji Asada
| Assistant director
|| 浅田裕二 Yūji Asada
| Animation director
|| 玉川明洋 Akihiro Tamagawa
| Additional credits
The Flame Pokémon-athon! (Japanese: ほのおのポケモンだいレース！ Fire Pokémon Big Race!) is the 33rd episode of the Pokémon anime. It was first broadcast in Japan on November 11, 1997 and in the United States on October 21, 1998.
As Ash and friends near the Safari Zone, they come across a ranch, where they see a herd of Tauros. Wanting to catch one (believing they are in the Safari Zone), Ash tries to have Pikachu face down the stampede, but Pikachu refuses. When Ash sends out Charmander, it is immediately pinned by a Growlithe. After a brief trade of Flamethrowers by the two Fire Pokémon, Ash and friends are introduced to Lara Laramie, of the Laramie Ranch, a ranch that preserves and raises wild Pokémon. Brock immediately recognizes the name right away, as it is said that Pokémon bred by the Laramie clan are of superior breeding. After realizing that they are not in the Safari Zone, Lara invites them to a local festival, as a Pokémon race will be held the next day. Lara intends to race with her Ponyta, a Pokémon whose mane will burn anyone it does not trust. When Ash tries to touch Ponyta, he gets the burning experience firsthand, as he is forced to have Squirtle cool off his hand. Lara's main opposition is Dario, a Dodrio trainer. Lara explains that the winning team of Pokémon and Trainer will be named as an honorary member of the Laramie clan.
At the festival, while many are cheering Lara on, Dario arrives to tell Lara that her Tauros have suddenly began attacking each other over a bout of confusion. After they arrive on the scene, Lara tells Growlithe to tame the Tauros, but during all this Ponyta is spooked, causing Lara to be thrown off, injuring her arm. As Ash tries to rein in Ponyta, the audience learns that Team Rocket is behind spooking the Tauros and incapacitating Lara, at the request of Dario: Dario intends to win the competition by any means necessary, while Team Rocket seeks to make money from the Laramie fortune.
With her injured arm, Lara would not be able to ride Ponyta, but after seeing Ash try to rein in Ponyta, she tries to convince Ash to take her place. At first, neither Ash nor Ponyta feel right about it (Ponyta showing its reluctance by burning Ash again), but Lara insists that both stand to gain from winning (Ash from his trainer skills, Ponyta from its upbringing). Ash and Ponyta use the entire night to prepare for the race.
At the race, many pairs have entered: along with local farmhands and their Pokémon, Dario and Dodrio, Ash and Ponyta, Brock and Onix, Misty and Starmie, as well as the all-Pokémon team of Pikachu and Squirtle (representing Ash's entry), all enter the race. When the race starts, Dario and Dodrio quickly take the lead, while Pikachu and Squirtle quickly fall to the back of the pack (as nearly everyone else is larger), though they do eventually catch up to the pack. At the same time, Team Rocket has already begun eliminating the opposition - two well-aimed slingshot shots manage to spook a Tauros, and it runs into a Nidorina, and they take their frustrations out on each other. After a sprint comes a steep uphill portion, where Pikachu is forced to push Squirtle up the hill, putting them far behind once again. Then, the racers come upon a downhill section where another violent accident occurs: an Electrode and its trainer roll down the hill uncontrollably, and a pitfall trap dug up by Team Rocket manages to take out the Electrode and its trainer as they were rolling downhill with increasing speed. This gives Dario a significant lead, while Electrode's Explosion attack manages to incapacitate a Sandslash, Raticate, but most importantly Ash and Ponyta. Ash and Ponyta, however, are able to continue, thanks to Pikachu's ThunderShock and the fact that the two Pokémon were still lagging far behind.
Farther up ahead is a skipping stone portion, which Dario and Dodrio cross with ease. However, this does not bode well for the two closest chasers: Brock and a farmhand with his Rhyhorn - when Rhyhorn attempts to jump on a stone, it sinks. This forces both out of the race (as Brock, with the largest Pokémon in the race, couldn't cross due to Onix's fear of water). This leaves only four teams still racing: while Ash and Ponyta navigate the stones, Starmie and Squirtle Surf across the water easily. At the next portion, teams must make a stop and allow their Pokémon to eat an entire plate of Pokémon food before sprinting to the finish. Dario and Dodrio are the first to arrive, but Dodrio's three heads bickering at which head would be the first to eat causes the three remaining teams to catch up. Desperate to eliminate the other three teams, Dario is forced to use Team Rocket's assistance once more (from which Ash and Misty learns of Dario working with Team Rocket). Ash tells Pikachu and Squirtle (who had both been scarfing down Pokémon food during Team Rocket's motto) to take care of Team Rocket, but Arbok's Glare freezes the two in place, while Starmie is blinded by Weezing's Sludge. This allows Dario enough time to take off towards the finish.
As Misty implores Ash and Ponyta to keep going (leaving Team Rocket to herself and the three Pokémon), Team Rocket causes Ponyta to literally get fired up, and when Weezing tries to attack Ponyta, the flames ignite Weezing's sludge, sending Team Rocket flying. Now desperate to make up ground, Ash and Ponyta race towards the finish line. When Ash and Ponyta catch up, Dario then orders one of Dodrio's heads to Peck Ponyta for a cheap shot, slowing down Ponyta. Believing that victory is assured, however, Dario is surprised to find that the simple peck had allowed Ponyta to evolve into the much-faster Rapidash, and soon Ash and Rapidash manages to overtake Dario and claim the victory in a photo finish. Believing that he had been screwed out of the victory, Dario orders Dodrio to attack Rapidash, but is sent flying thanks to a Rapidash Stomp.
As the festivities wrap up, Ash and friends bid farewell to the Laramie Ranch, and continue on their way to the Safari Zone. Meanwhile, Team Rocket is chewed out by Dario on failing to deliver a victory and having been denied the honorary membership in the Laramie clan.
Who’s That Pokémon?: Ponyta
Various Pokémon seen at the ranch and in the race:
- It is shown that the flames of a Ponyta are directly under the control of the Ponyta: they will burn any riders that Ponyta does not trust.
- Although not an ability used by Ponyta in games, this could be seen as the use of something of an early concept to abilities, specifically the ability flame body, as it has been stated in episodes such as Sharpedo Attack!, Pokémon can control when a physical contact ability can affect individuals
- According to a rating system on the Pokeani website, this episode had the highest rating of any episode in Kanto.
- The race's rules state that a Pokémon must be used to compete. While not exactly the same, this ruling is similar to the bike race featured in the Pokémon Adventures chapter, Wake Up--You’re Snorlax! where Pokémon can also be used.
- The Laramie family's name may be a reference to Fort Laramie. Oddly enough, the name was the same in the original Japanese version of the episode.
- This episode is featured on the Volume 2: Fire copy of Pokémon Elements.
- In the English dub, after Electrode explodes, as Squirtle and Pikachu run up to Ash, Squirtle says "Zeni Zeni!" instead of "Squirtle Squirt!", implying that the line was not dubbed over by mistake. Also, right before it uses its Haze attack towards Ponyta, Weezing's Japanese voice can be heard.
- Incidentally, as the dub retains the insert song Pokémon Ondo, Koffing's Japanese voice can also be heard.
- A Trainer is shown in the starting line riding a Nidorino, but after Tauros is hit by Team Rocket with a slingshot, the same Trainer appears riding a Nidorina being hit by the Tauros.
- Throughout the episode, Ponyta's behavior and personality switches back and forth between an intelligent Pokémon -- understanding and responding to human speech -- and simply that of a "real-life" horse -- complete with real horse sound effects.
- The scene where Lara Laramie breaks her arm is longer in the Japanese version. When she falls off Ponyta and her arm hits the ground, the impact animation lasts for 1 second (30 frames). That impact animation in the English dub lasts for 1/10 of a second (3 frames). On a related note, Lara's arm was actually only hurt in the Japanese version, not necessarily broken.
- In the Japanese version, Lara never states that she is related to the Laramie family.
- Dario calls Team Rocket by their names in the English version, while he calls them "sensei" in the Japanese version.
In other languages
- Czech: Ohnivý závod
- Dutch: De mara-ponyta
- Finnish: Pokémonien liekkikisat
- French: Le Poké-marathon
- German: Das Pokémon-Rennen
- Hebrew: מרוץ הפוקימונים merotz haPokémonim
- Italian: La gara
- Mandarin: 火焰神奇寶貝大賽跑 / 火焰的神奇宝贝大赛跑
- Brazilian Portuguese: A Poké-Corrida
- European Portuguese: A Maratona dos Pokémons de Chama
- Russian: Безумные гонки
- Iberian Spanish: La llama Pokémon-athon
- Latin American Spanish: ¡La gran carrera!
- Swedish: Dagens trubbel
- Hungarian: Pokémon bajnokság