An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 4: Entering Unown Territory (2001)

In 2001, 4Kids was still riding pretty high on their Pokemon wave. They had two full seasons of the anime dubbed, and they were in the middle of dubbing their third season, named The Johto Journeys. This was an especially exciting period because this was the first time an entirely new generation of Pokemon was being released both in the games, which had just released Gold and Silver for the Game Boy Color in North America in late 2000 with Crystal coming up in the summer of 2001, and in the anime, which had Ash, Misty and a finally returning Brock exploring the region of Johto. In addition, 4Kids made another commitment with Pokemon by purchasing a 3% stake in The Pokemon Company to better profit from the franchise as a whole by also gaining money from their original Japanese market and overall Asian returns.

With another new year, new anime season and new Gen of games came, of course, another Pokemon movie. Pocket Monsters the Movie: Lord of the Unknown Tower, Entei, which would later be titled, Pokemon 3: The Movie – Spell of the Unown: Entei and what I would later title What the Hell? The Movie – Can’t Anyone Come Up With Anime Movie Titles of a Reasonable Length?: Entei, was released in Japan on July 8, 2000 and would be released by Warner Bros. and 4Kids in North America on April 6, 2001.

Interestingly, while Pokemon 3 was the first ever Pokemon film to be released in IMAX theaters in Japan, the same did not happen in any other region, probably for financial reasons.

Like the previous two installments, 4Kids and Nintendo maintained the same basic advertising structure, although, notably, they did not push nearly as much as they did with Movies 01 or 02. They didn’t release as many toys nor did they get a comic or novel adaptation. This was also the first Pokemon movie release to not get a Burger King deal, meaning no new collectible toys.

They did, however, keep the aspect of a Wizards Black Star promotional trading card. With the purchase of a ticket, moviegoers were given a reverse holographic Entei card, and included in the DVD and VHS releases was a special Unown card – and it was always J, which is kinda random. The Entei card was particularly coveted in America, because it was the first ever reverse holographic Pokemon card released outside of Japan.

Sadly, the downward trend of Pokemon movie releases in North America was continuing. While the third installment did better with critics again, it still wasn’t viewed all that favorably, even if fans regarded it quite highly. It only managed to reach the fourth spot in the box office on its opening day, and it now sat $2mil behind the release of Pokemon the First Movie by only collecting $8,240,752 upon release. Even worse, it hadn’t even made half as much as Pokemon the Movie 2000 after its closing, making only $17,052,128 domestically. Despite this clear decline in returns over the years, the movie was largely a financial success.

To make matters a little better, it seems 4Kids learned a few lessons over the years and made a significant effort in the dub of this movie. It still had a couple rewrites, some questionable dialogue choices, scene shifts, and a completely replaced soundtrack, but overall it was kept much more loyal to the original than the previous two movies were. They didn’t even stab the ending credits repeatedly with an overabundance of unrelated pop songs like the previous two movies……They just loaded up the official soundtrack with an abundance of songs that had already been released in North America and Australia on the Totally Pokemon CD three months prior. So, you’d basically be getting scammed in either territory if you bought the soundtrack and already had the Totally Pokemon CD as only three songs, ‘Pokemon Johto (Movie Version),’ ‘To Know the Unknown’ and the medley from ‘Spell of the Unown’ were new to the set. This was done for the sake of attracting European audiences to buy the soundtrack without them needing to record any new music.

Additionally, it’s clear that, at this point, 4Kids probably knew their music was marketable enough to not spend a lot of money bringing in big pop stars to sing songs for them.

For a complete breakdown on what they did change, see Dogasu’s comparison here.

As was tradition by this point, Pokemon 3 was accompanied by a short called Pikachu and Pichu, and, surprisingly enough, 4Kids left this short almost entirely alone, barring clipping the credits, cutting the opening and making their own, altering the logos a little and, of course, including a Pokemon misidentification – this time incorrectly having a Voltorb say “Electrode.” Even the soundtrack was left intact.

After this point, Warner Bros. would no longer be handling the distribution of the Pokemon films. The reins would be handed to Miramax, which is arguably one of the worst things that could have happened to the movies for international release. But let’s save that for later.

Speaking of Pokemon, 4Kids had another Pokemon ‘movie’ or special to release, but this one was a direct-to-VHS/DVD movie called Pocket Monsters: Mewtwo! I Am Here ‘MEWTWO SAGA’ or as 4Kids dubbed it, Mewtwo Returns.

It chronicled the life of Mewtwo and the other clones immediately following the events of Movie 01. In America, this marked the first time westerners would be able to see the ten minutes that were cut from the beginning of the first movie, marketing that segment as The Uncut Origins of Mewtwo on the DVD. It also holds the coveted title of being the origin to the meme line “Hey I know! I’ll use my trusty frying pan….as a drying pan!” It also contained the incredibly confusing baby Nidoqueen and Rhyhorn, which should have been physically impossible to create considering Nidoqueen can’t breed at all and is a fully evolved Pokemon, meaning its offspring would be a Nidoran not a Nidoqueen.

There’s certainly quite the list of changes between the original and the dubbed version, with a large bulk of them being dialogue changes or additions. There’s really not much else to talk about with this special besides the fact that it hasn’t seen a single re-release and has never been made available on Blu-Ray. The movie/special is also usually broken up into three episodes when listed on streaming sites.

Since it was direct-to-VHS/DVD, there’s no real public information on how much it made, and the very vague title of Mewtwo Returns makes finding relevant information a pain in the butt. However, from its IMDB page, it seems fans view it positively for the most part, though some still criticize the special for being just as preachy as its predecessor.

In nonPokemon news for 2001, 4Kids picked up their first venture into Korean animation with Cubix: Robots for Everyone. The series was actually co-produced by 4Kids in conjunction with two Korean companies, Daiwon C&A Holdings Co., Ltd and Cinepix, making Cubix a unique property for them. They were both helping produce it, but also dubbing it as the series would be created with a Korean track first. The Wiki page credits the entirety of the series to Cinepix and claims 4Kids just dubbed it, but they are on the production credits, and financial reports show that they were co-producing it. This series was valuable to 4Kids both as a merchandise machine and as a suitable fit for their required half-hour of educational and informative programming credit in 2010 on the Fox Box.

Despite only running for two seasons, Cubix was a fairly decent success. 4Kids played it a lot in reruns between the years 2003-2004, then again in 2010. It spawned three video games and plenty of toys. It even had a toy tie-in with Burger King at one point. However, since the show only had two seasons and it wasn’t a massive hit, it kinda ran out of steam a few years later, which is totally understandable.

The show never got a full VHS or DVD release in America. Only the first three episodes were released on DVD in the US, and they were marketed as a movie titled The Search for Solex. There was also a European and/or Australian release for at least most of the episodes. I say “most” because I can only find proof that up to volume five even exists. I found an eBay listing for volume five, and it seems legit. Considering that volume five covers up to episode 20, and there are only six episodes left after that, I assume that a volume six would have been the last one, but I can’t even find a picture of that volume, should it exist.

Cubix still has a bit of a following from what I see, and despite not leaving a huge impact on pop culture throughout the years or anything, is still remembered fondly by numerous people. My experience with the show is that I definitely remember it being promoted a lot on Kids WB, and I remember the Burger King promo, but I don’t remember actually watching it. I would think it would have been advertised so much that I at least watched some in passing, but I can’t remember anything about it besides the fact that it was promoted a lot.

Sadly, 4Kids would experience a bit of a drop off financially in 2001. Their net revenues were down 53% earning $41,538,000 in 2001 from $87,997,000 in 2000. This was attributed to the popularity of Pokemon going down at the time since it was no longer hot and new. Sales of the trading cards, for some reason, were noted as suffering the worst declines, but Pokemon still remained the number one children’s show on domestic broadcast television. Most of their income streams were down barring their media sales and television syndication services, which were up 10%. As noted in the report, Al Kahn took a significant bonus cut to help keep expenses down. He graciously only accepted $370,000 as a bonus cutting off $1,809,000 from what he was originally intended to have. I think we can all agree that he should have been given sainthood for this act.

In the end, their net income dropped from $38,773,000 in 2000 to $12,244,000 in 2001.

Don’t you worry your pretty heads about 4Kids quite yet, though. We’re still talking about 2001. In September of that same year, they would be premiering their second most massive franchise that would once again grant them incredible success.

Next – Part 5: I Summon Yu-Gi-Oh! in Attack Mode!

Previous – Part 3: 4Kids 2000

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3 thoughts on “An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 4: Entering Unown Territory (2001)

  1. Oddly enough, I stopped watching Pokemon close to the time the third movie came out, but I did hear about that reverse holographic card. That is so weird how they used the cut footage from Mewtwo Strikes Back in that short and I didn’t know the frying pan meme came from there. The more you know. Cubix is something I definitely remember being promoted on Kids’ WB back then and I saw a couple of episodes, but I thought it was weird. I would’ve never guessed it was a Korean co-production to begin with. It’s cool how you broke down the financial numbers and the cultural impact of 4Kids so far, so this was informative and fun to read.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I love reading this! Wow, 2001 was a really bad year for 4Kids! I had no idea that their profits went down that much! That had to hurt! Yay, Yu-gi-oh is next! I was a huge fan when I was much much younger!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Yeah, I would’ve never guessed with 2001, but I’m curious to see how 4Kids worked after that as YGO would be their next big moneymaker. I can’t lie, I watched that show back in the day, too. Of course, they wouldn’t dare touch Season Zero though! Haha!

        Liked by 2 people

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