An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 12: Out of the Box (2005)

On January 22, 2005, 4Kids announced that they would be rebranding the Fox Box as 4Kids TV and would be greatly increasing their marketing efforts through TV, the internet, print sources, tie-ins and more to help 4Kids grow.

Time for another round of new 4Kids content – this time releasing their new animated series based on the new GI Joe toy line, GI Joe: Sigma 6, and dubbing two new shows, Ojamajo Doremi, which would be renamed Magical DoReMi, and Tokyo Mew Mew, which would be changed to Mew Mew Power.

Mew Mew Power got off to a weird and rough start, and it was one of the first real indications that Al Kahn’s views on the company’s content was….a bit odd. It was first licensed in February 2, 2004, and was obviously another effort to help draw in a female audience. When discussing the dub with Animation World Network, he said the more female-oriented shows in Winx Club and Tokyo Mew Mew weren’t purely directed at girls, but were more to attract both genders by “empowering girls while giving boys cute babes and plenty of action to look at.” which is definitely one of the creepiest things I’ve ever heard him say, especially considering he’s talking about children. It’s also backwards. Like, yeah, talk about how the girls will be empowered while you also objectify the girls in the shows as being eye candy for the boys in the audience.

What I find most interesting about this interview is that they talk about the possibility of dubbing more mature shows. While the article mentions Shaman King, this was before One Piece had been announced. He said,

“It’s interesting, network TV is always complaining about the loss of their 18 to 35-year-old males. It was a big story a couple of months ago with the Nielsens; all the networks were very hard pressed. If you look at the anime ratings, even the stuff on Saturday morning, you will find that primetime ratings don’t do any better than us, even with our much smaller base. All of which suggests that much older boys will watch anime. I believe anime products that are much more aggressive and sensual are going to become more available in the appropriate timeslots. Certainly we, as a company, are looking at how we can expand our programming opportunities in order to do different things at different times.”

Add “Sensual” to the list of words I never ever want to hear Al Kahn say ever again.

Maybe I’m tin-foil-hatting right now, but this kinda leads me to believe that them acquiring One Piece was less of an accident or oversight. Some sources did suggest that Al Kahn actually did know what he was getting into with One Piece, some people in the company warned him, but he didn’t care…..Purely conjecture on my end, probably a reach, but still, it’s interesting to consider.

Al Kahn also said some things that anime fans probably weren’t too happy with. When discussing importing anime, he talked about how he downplays the fact that they’re imports at all.

“I think the term ‘anime’ is misleading; I think kids don’t know from whence we cometh. By the time we localize the programs, kids don’t even know they’re from Japan any more. We as adults tend to label this stuff, but kids don’t really know it.”

So, apparently, despite the fact that 4Kids was a big part of the anime boom back in the day, and they kept encouraging fans to appreciate what they did in making anime more widely available in the west, they didn’t want kids to know what they were watching was anime?

Indeed, as Tokyo Mew Mew’s original dub title was to be Hollywood Mew Mew. It was later changed to The Mew Mews sometime between February and August, and it was finally changed permanently to Mew Mew Power in August of 2004.

The airing of the show was odd as well. 4Kids released episode 12 as a preview for the show on February 19, 2005. The episode was smack dab in the middle of the mid-season finale and included a shocking plot twist in Aoyama, Ichigo’s love interest, meeting her in Mew form, causing her to panic as she believed this outed her secret identity to him. 4Kids changed this, including changing Aoyama’s, now named Mark, expression from a frown to a smile, and instead of him not really saying much to Ichigo, now named Zoey, they had him accept her and tell her it’s okay to be different. And instead of Ichigo reacting in shock and dismay before running away, Zoey happily responds.

Unlike with the way Battle Aboard the St. Anne was launched as a preview episode before the start of Pokemon, this preview didn’t drum up tension for what was to come. In fact, it did the polar opposite. This basically spoiled the entire plotline about Zoey trying to keep her identity a secret from Mark out of fear that he’d reject her, even though the series would never revisit this again and act as if nothing happened. It would have been much more tense and interesting if they had left it alone because it was a legitimate cliffhanger. They could have had the girls in the audience wonder how badly Mark is actually taking this revelation and how this will affect their relationship, instead of just brushing it off and having him immediately accept her without question.

The next episode preview also called the show The Mew Mews, meaning they didn’t correct the mention of the title in the preview despite it already being changed everywhere else to Mew Mew Power.

As my only fully complete Sub/Dub Comparison, I stand by my assertion that Mew Mew Power is one of 4Kids most mutilated titles. They really went all out with trying to make the show as unrecognizable from the original as possible. In addition to all of the normal edits and localization efforts, they also made everyone very unpleasant, cut out large parts of episodes and swapped scenes for no real reason. They changed storylines a lot, the dialogue was awful, the catchphrase in particular gives me ulcers to this day, and it’s just a very unpleasant experience for the most part with only some songs on the soundtrack being any solace.

The show ended with only 23 episodes being aired on 4Kids TV, and the final three episodes of the first season being aired on Canada’s YTV. The series ended in a cliffhanger, which was driven home further by 4Kids when they overlaid a foreboding shot of Deep Blue over the final scene to end the last episode on, and wrote “To be continued…” on the bottom of the screen.

Why Mew Mew Power ended before it ran the full 52 episodes is unclear.

One theory is that 4Kids’ only licensed the first season and were unable to acquire the second because the original creators of the anime, Studio Pierrot, Tokyu Agency, We’ve Inc., and TV Aichi, didn’t like what they were doing with it, so they refused to allow them to license the second season.

An admin on 4Kids’ forums said,

“Sorry everyone – I’ve seen the 4Kids TV schedule – from now thru April and there is no Mew Mew Power on.

I’ve checked with the television scheduler and 4Kids does not HAVE any more Mew Mew Power episodes – they’re working on trying to get more, but can’t say when or IF this will happen.”

The wording is confusing. Because you can either take this as 4Kids not having anymore episodes and they’re trying to get more, or the television scheduler didn’t have anymore episodes to list and they were working on getting more to fill out the schedule, or 4Kids didn’t have anymore episodes dubbed and they assumed they were working on getting more episodes dubbed.

I can’t imagine 4Kids only got the rights to season one and they planned so poorly that they aired all the way to the end and were like “Oh shit! I forgot! We have to get the rights to season two!” That doesn’t make much sense to me. It also doesn’t make much sense that they’d pull the show three episodes from the end of the season if they were intent on getting the second season. In every official announcement I’ve read on them acquiring the licensing rights, nothing ever mentioned they were only for season one.

In 4Kids’ documents, it said they had the rights to Tokyo Mew Mew until 2010 and doesn’t say it was just for one season. Why would they only get the licensing rights to one season if they were keeping it for six years? Why would Studio Pierrot, Tokyu Agency, We’ve Inc., and TV Aichi give the rights to season one for six years but not season two at all?

Also, that’s typically not how licensing works. You either get the license to the anime or you don’t. They typically don’t separate the license by seasons unless the show is currently airing and is in the middle of a season or something, and Tokyo Mew Mew had long since been over since January 26, 2003.

Either way, I don’t believe this was a case of them revoking the rights because they didn’t like what 4Kids was doing. Partially because it doesn’t add up very well, and partially because I believe the other theory a little more.

The theory in question posits that 4Kids wasn’t getting much revenue from Mew Mew Power since they couldn’t secure a toy or merchandising deal with anyone. I don’t know where the merchandising thing came from. I see a few people saying it, like TV Tropes and even the Wiki, but nothing actually confirming it. The forum thread which contained the initial announcement has 17 pages of comments, but the 4Kids forums are long since dead, and the Wayback Machine can’t access anything beyond the first page.

My one hangup with this theory is – how could they easily get merchandising deals for literally every other property, but not Mew Mew Power? Especially considering that 4Kids has decades of experience with tons of merchandising companies. Japan was able to release merchandise – dolls, CDs, art books, posters, DVDs, toys – they even had all of the transformation items as life-size toys. And isn’t one of the things they say they always do when acquiring licenses is determine if it’s profitable from a merchandising aspect? I can’t imagine no merchandising company would want to take this show, especially since they’ve managed to get toy deals for even their most obscure shows. It’s just very strange.

There IS no Mew Mew Power merchandise in America (there are some DVD releases in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France, but that’s about it) and revenue for the show was poor, according to 4Kids’ financial reports, so it’s quite possible this theory is correct, but I just can’t see why they would have such trouble with it, especially considering that Mew Mew Power wound up being their highest-rated show on 4Kids TV at the time.

2005 would also be the year 4Kids released Ojamajo Doremi, retitled Magical DoReMi. This had been in the works for years. They started discussing the licensing deal with Toei in October 2003, but they wouldn’t solidify the contract until 2004 and the show wouldn’t air until late 2005. DoReMi was another effort to hook in a female audience to 4Kids TV. Unlike Mew Mew Power, however, they intended to have the audience be even younger by having a lighter tone.

4Kids teamed up with Bandai to launch a huge line of merchandise for the show comparative to Winx Club. There were dolls, figurines, toys and even costumes. I’m surprised they managed to get such a massive merchandise deal for DoReMi but not Mew Mew Power. They’re both team-based magical girl shows. The only difference is one is based on witches (which you’d think would make deals more difficult because parents’ groups would probably get pissy) and one is based on animals. I’d actually think Mew Mew Power would be more popular toy-wise considering the cute animal vs. witch thing, but what do I know?

DoReMi was obviously given the same 4Kids editing treatment as any other show, but many people assert that the dub was one of their better efforts. Not great, but it could’ve been worse.

4Kids aired episode four on 4Kids TV on August 13, 2005 as a preview with regular broadcasting from episode one starting on September 10, 2005.

4Kids aired 26 episodes on 4Kids TV and then moved the rest of the series, barring one episode they never dubbed (Due to the on-screen death of a child, religious references, a shot of a dead character, and the frightening atmosphere of a cemetery at night being the backdrop for most of the episode.) to stream on 4Kidstv.com. 4Kids opted not to acquire the license for the second series, Magical Doremi Sharp, reportedly due to poor performance. Despite this decision, they had definitely planned to keep dubbing the series beforehand as evident by their unreleased merchandise for the second series which had been previewed at a toy fair, but I guess it didn’t pan out.

The reasons for the poor ratings were attributed to the show being aired at 7:30AM, which was way too early for many kids even for Saturday morning cartoons, the fact that it was aimed at an even younger audience than usual, and the sad facts that both Saturday morning cartoon blocks were dying and magical girl shows just weren’t entirely popular in America. I mean, I mentioned how Winx Club and Mew Mew Power were doing well, and of course there was Sailor Moon and Cardcaptors, but they really weren’t massive media franchises in anywhere near the same realm as Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh!

The fact that 4Kids chose to stream what episodes they had left on their website instead of 4Kids TV kinda drives that point home. Yeah, at this point, we had some modicum of streaming. Kids no longer had to wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch their cartoons. They could either watch VHSs or DVDs or watch shows online. It wasn’t nearly all that good back then considering the video quality was typically bad, there wasn’t a huge selection, and internet connections, usually dial-up, sucked for watching videos, but it was an option.

Airing the show on TV and also airing the show online was always a great idea, but moving the entire show to streaming was basically a death sentence back then. It’s kinda like how when Disney Channel or Nickelodeon wants to silently kill a show they typically move it to Disney XD/NickToons.

Magical DoReMi would be aired one last time on The CW4Kids in 2010 in an effort to get some more mileage out of the show right before their license would be up. It’s really, really depressing that 4Kids had two brand new shows for girls premiering this year and both wound up being canceled within the year.

But enough of the girly stuff. It’s MAN TIME.

Since the girls got new shows, 4Kids had to bring in new blood for the boys. In order to tie-in with the new generation of GI Joe toys being launched by Hasbro, 4Kids created GI Joe: Sigma Six, which shared the name of the new toy line. While the production of the series was handled by 4Kids, famous anime studio, Gonzo, handled the animation.

I watched some of the series recently, and, honestly, it was okay. Not great, but pretty okay. Perfectly watchable, kinda fun, and I say this as someone who loved the classic GI Joe show in her childhood and still enjoys the franchise to this day.

But the toyline bombed, and they returned to the classic version two years later. The show didn’t do any better. 4Kids produced 26 episodes of the show, but stopped airing the episodes on 4Kids TV sometime around or after season one (13 episodes). YTV, however, completed airing the entire run of the series.

The fact that all three of these series bombed rather quickly was bad enough, but 2005 would hold one of the biggest blows the company would ever take. One that they never really recovered from.

Next – Part 13: Pikachu’s Goodbye

Previous – Part 11 – Playing Their Cards Wrong


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2 thoughts on “An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 12: Out of the Box (2005)

  1. I never remember watching Magical DoReMi on 4Kids Saturday mornings, but than 7:30am is super early! It’s no wonder I would have missed it. As a kid I didn’t roll out of bed on the weekends until like 10am, 8:30 at the earliest. As a kid, I loved my sleep!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I remember being surprised at how much Magical Doremi merchandise there was. I do have a couple of framed prints of them up on my wall despite never having seen the show! I got them secondhand and thought they were cute, and I wanted to see the original, uncut version.

    Liked by 1 person

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