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| The Flame Pokémon-athon!
The Great Fire Pokémon 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！ The Great Fire Pokémon 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 his 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 he 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 Rapidash.
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, and Dario has Dodrio to use Peck on the three of them.
- For a list of all major events in the anime, please see the timeline of events.
Who's That Pokémon?: Ponyta
Squirtle's missing belly lines
- Although Ponyta's height is 3'03" (probably measured like regular horses are, at the shoulder) in the games, the one featured in this episode appears much taller. This was likely done to make it appear large enough to be ridden by a person.
- The Laramie family's name may be a reference to Fort Laramie. The name is unchanged from the Japanese version of the episode.
- It is shown that Ponyta can directly control their flames: they will only burn riders that Ponyta does not trust.
- 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! in which Pokémon can also be used.
- Although the Pokémon race should have a human rider riding a Pokémon, Pikachu is shown riding Squirtle. This is most likely for humor.
- With 18.6 million viewers in Japan, this episode had the highest rating of any episode in the entire anime.
- This episode is featured on the Volume 2: Fire copy of Pokémon Elements.
- During a scene in which Team Rocket is talking to Dario, dollar ($), Cifrão, and Japanese yen (¥) signs appear behind James instead of the Pokémon Dollar () signs used in the localized games.
- The English name of this episode is similar to the Pokéathlon, a Pokémon competition introduced in HeartGold and SoulSilver. However, the two have different Japanese names and are unrelated.
- At the beginning and the end of the episode, the Narrator states that they are in the Safari Zone. However, they are on the Laramie Ranch, part of the Pokémon Reserve. This is probably because the actual Safari Zone episode, The Legend of Dratini, was skipped in the dub.
- 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.
- After Electrode explodes in the English dub, Squirtle says "Zeni Zeni!" as it runs up to Ash with Pikachu, a line that went mistakenly undubbed. Also, right before Weezing uses its Smog attack on Ponyta, its Japanese voice can be heard.
- Incidentally, as the dub retains the insert song Pokémon Ondo, Koffing's Japanese voice can also be heard.
- When Misty tells Ash to continue on with the race, the lines on Squirtle's stomach are missing.
- As Ponyta begins to evolve, Ash begins glowing as well and isn't visible until the Pokémon finishes evolving into Rapidash.
- The finish line's banner reads "GOOL", likely a misspelling of "GOAL."
- After Lara calls Ash a great Pokémon Trainer, he has no shoes while the camera zooms out.
- Dario calls Team Rocket by their names in the English version, while he calls them sensei in the Japanese version.
- The scene in which Lara breaks her arm is longer in the Japanese version. When she falls off of Ponyta and her arm hits the ground, the impact animation lasts for 1 second, which equates to 30 frames. That impact animation in the English dub lasts for 1/10 of a second, which equates to 3 frames.
- On a related note, Lara's arm was actually only hurt in the Japanese version, not necessarily broken.
- This is actually not a dub edit, but caused by the fact that the version used for the dub came from pre-EP038 source material. However the rest of the episode was from post-EP038 source material
- In the Japanese version, Lara never states that she is related to the Laramie family.
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