An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 9: Be Careful What You Wish For (2004)

2004 brought a lot of change to the Pokemon franchise. With the release of the games, Ruby and Sapphire, an entirely new generation was born yet again. In the anime, now branded Advanced Generation, Ash finally got a brand new outfit, an entirely new roster, and this season brought Misty’s departure. After several years of being Ash’s companion, close friend and pseudo-love interest, Misty was forced to say goodbye to Ash and, unlike Brock, not return for several years. The ‘girl spot’ in Ash’s team was taken up by May, who would help bring the new addition of Pokemon Coordinating to the spotlight in the anime. Her little brother, Max, would also come along and act as a rare fourth companion.

As per tradition, another year also brought another new Pokemon movie – Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation the Movie – Wishing Star of the Seven Nights: Jirachi (Seriously, is there some secret anime/movie title length competition going on?), coined by 4Kids as Jirachi: Wish Maker.

This would mark the first time a main Pokemon movie didn’t get a theatrical release and instead went direct-to-DVD. As a result, I have no clue how good the sales were as that information, as far as I can see, is not available anywhere. I found one article on Animation World Network that claimed that rental sales of Jirachi: Wish Maker in the US between June 1, 2004 and October 2004 were $1.16 million, which is okay, all things considered, but those are rental figures so I’m not sure how much of that sees Miramax’s or 4Kids’ pockets.

Yet again, the movie was released in 4:3, which resulted in the worst cropping jobs and errors that any of the Pokemon movies had ever seen. At several points, the shots very obviously start out in one orientation then jut to being in the center of the screen. Since Miramax forces the aspect ratio due to the original movies always being in widescreen, I’m to assume that 4Kids’ original version didn’t experience the same janky issues with the editing in regards to getting characters in frame and all of the problems were Miramax’s doing.

Critically, it seemed like Pokemon was starting to recover as reviews for the movie were significantly more favorable than either 4Ever or Heroes.

The dub fared okay in regards to edits. While there were some changes, nothing was really drastic. It was moreso a case of ‘the original did this better’ more than ‘the dub completely butchered this.’ It’s also the first (and only?) instance of 4Kids opting to take a lyrical Japanese song and translating the lyrics into English instead of just replacing the entire song (‘Pokemon Hoedown’ doesn’t count as it used the same music but made entirely different English lyrics that didn’t even follow the melody on top.) The song in question is Asuca Hayashi’s ‘A Small Thing’ or ‘Chiisaki Mono,’ which was retitled by 4Kids in their English rendition to ‘Make a Wish.’

Not only that, but in one of the most shocking things 4Kids ever did, they kept the original Japanese version in the song as well. They only translated and covered half the song in English. The other half is retained in its original Japanese. They even got an English singer who sounds almost exactly like the original Japanese singer so you can barely tell a changeover happened – that singer being Cindy Mizelle.

In addition, when May is humming the lullaby version of the song in the movie, Veronica Taylor isn’t doing her voice – KAORI, May’s Japanese VA, is.

The DVD was released with the short, Gotta Dance!, which would wind up being the last time a Pokemon movie was ever released with a short film. Gotta Dance! also escaped the dubbing process mostly unscathed. The only drastic change was replacing the original narrator, who was once again a soft spoken lady, with Meowth, who was treating the short as a flashback.

As per marketing tradition, the DVD also came with a promotional Jirachi card. It also touted several special features such as another trivia game, artwork, and a music video for the song ‘Make a Wish.’

Like with 4Ever and Heroes, Wish Maker’s re-releases also just re-used old boxart that promised all of the special features that weren’t included after the initial release. It also used a 4:3 aspect ratio in the first re-release when a widescreen format was advertised. This problem would be fixed in the 2020 re-release of the film, however, and like the other movies, it would eventually see a widescreen release.

Moving on to other notable debuts in 2004, while the Fox Box had largely been centered on a young boy audience, they knew they had to appeal to girls as well, or at least make an effort to see if they could capitalize on that demographic. In comes Winx Club – an Italian fantasy series created by Iginio Straffi and licensed by Rainbow S.r.l. 4Kids acquired the rights to dub the series in 2004, and it was just as badly edited as any anime that 4Kids bought.

All of the hallmarks of 4Kids shows are present in Winx Club, including removing any instances of Italian culture in order to be more American-friendly, drastically changing storylines, changing characters’ personalities, and editing out the tiniest of curves during a transformation sequence because it implied the existence of the character’s boob. Again, this is merely scratching the surface of the various changes 4Kids did to the show, to the point where it was basically an entirely new show. For a detailed account of the changes, visit the Winx Club Fandom page.

Despite the heavy edits, 4Kids found success with the series for several years, spanning three seasons and launching toy lines, dolls, books, its own magazine, a card game and even a couple video games after teaming up with Mattel and Konami. In regards to the card game, Al Kahn was cited as saying;

“Girls play differently than boys, and it is in understanding these play patterns and appeal that led us to work with Upper Deck and create a trading card game that is more about friendship, fun, fashion and magic.”

The card game then went on to be a huge success and totally didn’t flop and fade into obscurity quite quickly to the point where even the very detailed Fandom site for the franchise has absolutely no mention of it.

According to what I could find, both Straffi and Al Kahn were happy with the success of the show and the possibilities of expanding its reach worldwide right as Winx Club was getting ready to take off in America.

Well, Straffi was happy with the other companies they were partnering with and the eventual success of Winx Club. He, as well as most everyone else at Rainbow S.r.l., were not happy with the changes that 4Kids made to the show, most of which were not approved by Straffi or anyone on his crew before being made. In 2009, Viacom started showing interest in the show. Details are unclear regarding this situation, but from all of the information I could gather, Viacom made Straffi a very good deal to help produce and localize the show from season four onward. With a new and seemingly much better American deal on the table, Straffi and Rainbow S.r.l. told 4Kids to take a hike and permanently revoked their license for the show.

4Kids would claim that their season three finale was the series finale, which wasn’t true. However, it might as well have been because, as stated, the series was basically an entirely different show from what it originally was in Italy. Even though Nickelodeon handled the show from season four onward, technically continuing the show, it didn’t continue on with everything 4Kids was doing, making season four kinda look like a soft reboot that started in the middle of the story.

Finally, 4Kids acquired the rights to the anime, F-Zero Falcon Densetsu, which would be retitled to F-Zero GP Legend in America. The series was launched to coincide with the North American release of the game of the same name. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, GP Legend also suffered from the same editing wounds as nearly every other 4Kids series. Most notably, they completely replaced the soundtrack, which was incredibly disappointing considering the F-Zero series is practically more well known for their great songs than they are for the games themselves, completely rewrote scripts and changed the main character from Captain Falcon to Ryu Suzaku, known in the dub as Rick Wheeler because haha cars have wheels.

Despite a strong promotional effort, the show was a total bomb. After releasing only 15 episodes on the Fox Box, the show was dropped. The reason for this is unclear, but was very likely poor ratings. The Lost Media Wiki page says there were rumors that the vague plot was to blame, while others claim the dark and edgy tone put off younger viewers while simultaneously having characters and storylines that were too childish for older viewers. The failure of the show combined with the failure of the game resulted in the sequel game not getting a North American release, and the entire F-Zero franchise has been put on ice to this day. Nintendo also seemingly put an end to any anime adaptations of their franchises, beyond Pokemon of course, also to this day.

It’s rumored that at least two more episodes were dubbed and unaired, but it’s unclear. Episode 16 at least was slated to be run in its normal air spot before it was canceled, so it’s safe to say that the dub at least got to episode 16. Supposedly, 4Kids got the rights to dub the entire 51 episode show. According to Captain Falcon’s English voice actor, David Willis, the entirety of the 51 episode show was dubbed, but he only remembers as far as dubbing a scene that came from episode 36. Whatever dubbed episodes do exist beyond the 15 that aired are considered lost media considering that it’s highly unlikely that whoever owns the rights now would be willing to release the episodes on home video, especially since the show was seemingly dropped so quickly due to poor reception.

All of those troubles pale in comparison to what was on the horizon, though. Yes, it’s finally here. Rejoice villagers! Or weep. Whichever. Because we might not make it out of the next section….in one piece….:D

Hey, if I’m going to write a 100 page retrospective on 4Kids, I’m going to use all the puns I have and you can’t stop me.

Next – Part 10: One Piece in Pieces

Previous – Part 8: Miramax Killed the Movie Theater Star


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5 thoughts on “An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 9: Be Careful What You Wish For (2004)

  1. Wow, I had no idea that Winx Club was Italian! I don’t think I watched it much, but I kind of remember that it was cute. What I do remember about that series the most is when I was working for a library and a dad came up to the service counter with a DVD of Winx Club and complained that the characters in the series “Looked like they were strippers” and he was horrified when they got home and watched the DVD. The library had a policy that we assumed that guardians would help their little ones select materials that were appropriate for their family’s tastes and values. I tried to explain it to the gentleman, but he kind of expected me to personally edit the DVD and censor out anything he didn’t like. I ended up spending 20 minutes trying to explain that public libraries don’t censor materials!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh wow. I give 4Kids and other dubbing companies a lot of crap for going overboard with censoring, but then I remember that people like that guy do exist and are very vocal and pushy about keeping anything even slightly questionable away from kids and I kinda get sympathetic towards the dubbers for a second or two. I think it’s absolutely hilarious that he practically expected you to edit the DVD on the spot, though. lol

      My friend’s a librarian, and she tells me funny, weird and irritating stories from her run-ins with parents all the time.

      One of them I remember was a dad who had like an eight year old son and he wanted to basically wean him off of books with pictures – not picture books. Literally ANY books with pictures. He demanded no pictures and said flatout “He shouldn’t be reading anything with pictures anymore.” She gave him an explanation of the value of pictures and how they contribute to storytelling and even non-fiction. She also explained how much books with pictures and especially comic books help build children’s vocabulary and he responded by saying his eight year old son was too old for comics. My friend is around the same age as me and she is a huge comic book fan, so she was not amused lol The way some people think is just insane.

      Liked by 1 person

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