An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 24: Everything Changes (Conclusion)

So, class, what have we learned over the past 24 blog posts and 100 pages besides the fact that I desperately need a life?

All joking aside, this wasn’t really a passion project or anything, more of a long-standing curiosity that I wanted to explore, thought would just take a few days to research and write, not two months (even as all the parts were sitting in my scheduled posts queue for weeks after finishing the entire thing, I still went back and edited them many times), and wound up finding so many rabbit holes that I think I literally am a rabbit now.

However, I am very glad that I decided to write this up because it helped me understand a lot about why 4Kids was the way it was, a lot of their business practices, what was happening behind the scenes, why they truly died, and I even got to do some sleuthing and maybe clear up some rumors. Maybe you even learned something and had some fun. I hope so.

I think a big takeaway here, though, is that 4Kids, at the end of the day, wasn’t this big boogeyman of anime, when you get down to it. They were mostly just….grossly incompetent. I know it seems weird to say that of such a big name as 4Kids, but, they pretty much were. They propped up their business on a few big titles with no plan as to what they would do should those titles be taken away, they lucked out with a few huge licenses, especially Pokemon at the start, they greatly overestimated their skills and knowledge in the industry, and then whined that Japan didn’t consistently come up with more merchandisable cash cows for them to license on a regular basis as if that was in their control.

They disrespected their audience, which earned them ire, they disrespected anime and manga as a whole, which earned them ire, they disrespected their peers in the anime (and manga) industry, which earned them ire, they didn’t bother to do proper research on their own licenses before obtaining them or research into Japan and how their economy and content works despite working with their properties for years, which earned them ire, and they constantly wanted a pat on the back for doing so much for anime while also desperately not wanting their audience to know what they were consuming was anime….which earned them ire.

Even their production of merchandise and marketing, two things you’d think a licensing company that has existed for over four decades and has had several massive properties under its belt would be able to do quite well consistently, wasn’t all that good at times. From not properly advertising certain shows to supposedly not getting a toy deal for Mew Mew Power to their ridiculously spotty and frustrating release schedule for DVD and VHS releases, especially in regards to ‘uncut’ releases, to making a deal with Miramax and Harvey Weinstein for the Pokemon movies to the disaster that was Toonzaki. It’s amazing how they were both very good at marketing and advertising while also making some incredibly baffling and poor business decisions.

Some things were out of their control, of course, especially the financial crisis and the overall death of Saturday morning cartoon blocks, but many aspects of their downfall were their own doing. If you want to look at the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit from a different perspective, the fact that they said they’d do anything to keep the Yu-Gi-Oh! license, including go bankrupt, was a little on the insane side. I get that Yu-Gi-Oh! was their top earner and losing the license would have been the death of them anyway, but it seems very immature and backwards to basically stamp their feet and say they’d rather kill themselves than let someone else do it. Even if they did rightfully win the lawsuit in the end, they didn’t get anything substantial from it, and they had to have known that.

I won’t really hold Chaotic’s situation against 4Kids because that was also largely out of their hands. It was just a financial gamble that failed in a time of economic turmoil. Again, even without the financial crisis at the time, Chaotic likely would have just been a fairly beneficial property to them through the rest of their years. I sincerely doubt revenue from it would have saved them from their eventual fate. They probably would have just sold it back to CUSA or someone else in the bankruptcy auction. Looking back, maybe one of the reasons 4Kids didn’t want to give up the license to CUSA was because they had injected so much of their own money into it that any offer CUSA gave probably didn’t seem like it was worth it, even though, ya know, it doesn’t make them ANY money by latching onto it forever.

I do think they also had a big issue with their all-or-nothing attitude. They were constantly dead set on finding the next huge thing – the things that would rake in insane profits and make them the top of their field – but they were very bad at long-term strategies. Let me be completely fair and clear – I don’t have a mind for business, much of it goes over my head, but even I can tell that they had a big problem with this. Even when they did say this property or another would be a big earner for years, they either dropped them early because they weren’t being massively successful immediately or they would keep the property but give up on it in spirit, so to speak, by just letting the license rot in their hands.

This reflected very well in their aforementioned attitudes towards Japan in which Al Kahn said anime and manga in Japan were dying because they hadn’t had any generation-defining merchandisable hits in over a decade, which was objectively wrong in a lot of ways. If he thinks an entire country is “over” just because their anime and manga sales were down for a bit, even to the point where he gave up on licensing anime for three years as a result, then it’s not surprising that he views his company in the same way.

This was even reflected when they tried to branch out a bit into female-oriented shows. Winx Club did well, but they had it taken from them because the creator didn’t like what they were doing with it. They gave it another go with Mew Mew Power, which also did well, but dropped it halfway through because they couldn’t get a toy deal for it. Magical DoReMi was good, but it wasn’t good enough so they dropped it. And they didn’t even dub Precure because they likely thought ‘Why bother? If there’s one thing we’ve learned here it’s that there’s no money with girl stuff.’ And then there was whatever the hell they were trying to achieve with Capsule Monsters, which comes off like they gave up on that idea almost immediately while also having no real direction on what they wanted it to be in the first place.

I do concede that a large amount of 4Kids’ edits, as with other child-demographic anime dubs at the time, were a result of FCC constraints and regulations, but I’ll only concede so far with that assessment. Yes, certain edits were necessary to meet broadcast standards, but many of their edits, such as their localization efforts, changing entire soundtracks and removal of all things text, were squarely on 4Kids. As far as I know, the FCC has no regulations about changing foreign content to better suit young American audiences. The only entity that really benefits is 4Kids. In their eyes, it made them more marketable and appealing, and the only people getting offended were the pre-existing fans who knew better, and most of those people weren’t in 4Kids’ target demo, so they didn’t care. Also, let’s not overlook the fact that some of their edits were just entirely nonsensical, and many of their content edits were still commonly present in their movies, which are not controlled by the FCC.

Let’s also not forget that many of their practices were a result of just being terribly condescending to their audience. From making things way too obvious through dialogue changes/additions, editing scenes around or even having new animation created to drive certain points home to thinking every single second of a show needed to have music or talking in it to keep kids’ attention to making mistakes in their dubs and not fixing them on purpose just because they didn’t care and then later claiming it was on purpose as a little weird Easter egg thing.

4Kids, as much as it sucks to say, weren’t entirely wrong when it came to those views, either. Looking back as fully grown anime fans, yeah, we see how bungled the dubs were for a variety of reasons, and we feel rightfully disrespected as fans, but, back when we were kids, most of us didn’t care. The fact that 4Kids, by design, made their shows to trick viewers into not thinking they were watching anime (which failed after a while) definitely had a hand there, but I can’t honestly say that my experiences looking back at enjoying these shows is in any way tarnished knowing what I know now because 4Kids, despite their backwards best efforts, helped make me an anime fan, and they wound up being a significant part of the anime boom in the late 90s and early 2000s.

I don’t attribute my being an anime fan to 4Kids because other shows dubbed by other companies, such as Sailor Moon (DiC), Digimon (Saban) and Dragon Ball and DBZ (Ocean/Funimation) and a slue of others certainly helped push me there too, but they were a big part of it. Plus, many of the shows that they dubbed are now available in high definition subbed versions (not all of them, admittedly), the ones that aren’t weren’t made unavailable or obscure because of 4Kids (It’s likely some people only know of a few obscure shows because 4Kids dubbed them once upon a time) and they also helped pioneer anime streaming options with 4Kids.tv, Toonzaki and even their Youtube channel.

4Kids isn’t even really special when it comes to them mangling their properties. As I’ve already covered in my Sub/Dub Comparison series, companies like DiC, Saban and Nelvana were awful in their own rights with similarly awful and confusing changes, but what makes 4Kids special was that they were the best damn manglers who left a trail of shows and movies in their wake. All of those other dubbing companies had rather limited libraries of anime compared to 4Kids. They wanted that kid anime market cornered, and they cornered it as much as they could. They were the kings of mangling, and I say that with legit praise because they were so much better at digital paint and editing magic than any of the aforementioned dubbing companies.

Even on Cartoon Network where they were more lax on that stuff because their anime was geared towards older kids and teens, and adults with Adult Swim, they had to make edits to suit airing. Some famous examples include Naruto and Yu Yu Hakusho. I specifically remember sloppy paint edits on Yu Yu Hakusho where you’d see the digital paint very obviously shaking as it was covering up wounds and middle fingers. And obviously there were awkward edits to replace Yusuke’s swearing. Even on Adult Swim there was some instances of editing for content. I remember Blue Gender had a sex scene hinted at in the next episode preview with a few clips between Marlene and Yuji, and it just wasn’t there in the episode on Adult Swim where it is there in the Japanese version.

This stuff happens. Sometimes, their dubs were just legitimately entertaining because the cast and writers were having a ball with the show. Their music could even be legitimately good. It was a crap shoot with them sometimes.

Speaking of the cast and crew of their shows, I really do want to emphasize that, in my opinion, they were the best parts of 4Kids. I poke fun at some 4Kids actors’ acting abilities and even just their voices sometimes, and I make fun of a lot of writing choices, but as far as I’ve seen the regular 4Kids cast and crews typically had a blast doing what they did and were proud of their work. For many of them, 4Kids productions were their first foray into mainstream voice acting work, and for some of them it was their first venture into voice acting period. They also seem to be good with the fans, happy to talk about their experiences and were understandably upset whenever a project they were working on fell through, especially in the situation with Pokemon where the rug was pulled out from under them from all angles. The main problem in 4Kids’ wheelhouse were almost always the executives, especially, yes, Al Kahn.

That being said…..there’s a reason 4Kids died when many other dubbing or licensing companies went through similar hardships and came out on the other side with their feet on the ground. As I just mentioned, 4Kids was terribly pigeon-holed. They were exclusively, well, for kids. Older kids and even teens and adults may have had a place in their audience, but their demographic was kids.

When you’re dealing with a kid demographic, you have to work in a landscape that is probably the fastest changing landscape in media. Kids grow up super fast. They outgrow Kids WB and move on to Toonami. They outgrow Toonami and move on to Adult Swim. They may not move on to other anime at all. Within a few years you have an entirely new audience of kids you have to impress with things that are new and exciting, and in the world of licensing, especially when you’re primarily licensing imported shows, you’re chained to whatever is being offered/is available in other countries.

It’s true that trying to make certain properties more fitting for newer audiences helps keep properties alive for years, just look at some of the American kids’ properties that have existed for decades without changing a whole lot, but when you’re dealing with licensing other properties that you don’t have a whole lot of creative control over, you need to find different avenues to evolve.

The thing is that they recognized this. Their problems with having few big properties holding them up and focusing on a demographic that practically demands constant change was in nearly every single financial document as concerns about their company, but they very rarely presented anything that would help solve that issue.

They did create 4Sight, which would’ve been a fantastic move to branch out into older audiences and get a more stable income stream, but, as all-or-nothing attitudes go, they pretty much went the ‘nothing’ route with 4Sight. They didn’t make any big moves with it. They barely made any small moves with it. It pretty much just sat in a corner collecting cobwebs for half a decade.

Toonzaki was a weird outlier in this regard because it’s almost like they went too far in the other direction by having a streaming site where a lot of graphic titles were offered alongside uncut 4Kids properties with no parental controls or age confirmation that I could see. This would have been the perfect project for 4Sight, but they didn’t give it to them. It was entirely a 4Kids website.

Localization is an issue too, but not fully. Yes, some references and jokes need to be changed because they just don’t translate well in English, but that usually not the problem. They were worried their audience would be put off by foreign things. Or, for some reason, an American audience would never be able to connect with Japanese characters and settings. But then again, you’ll never know if the localization is what killed it in the States either. It was largely a matter of gambling with pretty much any property 4Kids acquired.

They were also largely stuck on broadcast TV. They had trouble with releasing movies after a point, and their DVD production and sales were incredibly inconsistent and lacking, something that got exponentially worse when they attempted to release uncut DVDs. Other companies also took to TV a lot, but they tended to be better about releasing uncut DVDs. For example, people complained a lot about Naruto’s censored airing on Cartoon Network, but the uncut version was made readily available as the series aired, starting when the series premiered and completing the DVD releases when Naruto ended its run on TV.

By the time 4Kids broke out into streaming, they just handled it badly. Streaming their edited shows on 4Kids.tv? That’s great. Streaming those and some uncut stuff on their Youtube channel? Awesome. Toonzaki, however, was a great idea that was also somehow a massive mess in practice. As I mentioned, it’s just weird to have a 4Kids streaming service that had so many graphic titles with seemingly no parental blocks or age confirmations. If they were comfortable streaming uncut Yu-Gi-Oh! titles on their Youtube channel, why did they feel the need to use that as a tentpole for Toonzaki? Why not just release the episodes on 4Kids.tv, maybe with a warning or something, and keep all non-4Kids stuff on Toonzaki?

Their official promotions, few of them as there were, didn’t push it as the place to get uncut Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes, just anime in general, but literally everywhere online that’s what it was being hyped as because the little information available, again, mostly from Mark Kirk’s interview, was that it was a 4Kids website for their uncut shows for general audiences. When you don’t have any other frame of reference, that’s what people are going to run with.

They also didn’t seem to realize that just being an aggregate site for anime sourced from other websites with only Yu-Gi-Oh! titles being unique wasn’t a good long-term plan. They acted as if they’d host more stuff directly on their website in the future, but they never did. Everything was hosted from Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation, Viz or other places for the entirety of its life.

That’s not entirely on them since the landscape for streaming was in its infancy back then, especially when it came to licensed properties, but still. It was a decent idea sitting on a bad execution. And while it came during a time when 4Kids really needed that opportunity to grow, it also came at the worst time because this was just a year before the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit. If they had a longer lifespan, maybe they could have ironed out the kinks with Toonzaki, but I really doubt it.

A part of their downfall was also the death of Saturday morning cartoons. Animated shows were no longer something only available on Saturday mornings, making their inconvenience a bother. Why would I wake up early on a weekend to catch an anime that I can watch anytime streaming? Or get on DVD later? Or catch on syndication on another network? Or why watch those shows when cartoons are constantly on Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon? Or why watch those cherry-picked kidified anime when I can watch a big variety of less edited shows on Toonami or Adult Swim, or, hell, even blocks like Anime Unleashed on G4 Tech TV?

They were also prisoners of their merchandise. They treated every property as a merchandise machine. Al Kahn and Mark Kirk said it straight out – if they can’t merchandise it, they’re not interested in it. A large portion of their money came from toys and other kids merchandise, which was also evolving at a breakneck speed as Al Kahn pointed out several times. The problem there was evaluating it improperly a good chunk of the time. I don’t really think they allowed a lot of these shows to have enough time to secure an audience before they decided the merchandise wasn’t worth it. They dropped so many shows because of merchandise when they barely had a few episodes to a full season under their belts.

Honestly, the lawsuit really was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. 4Kids was already on the ropes, they were teetering on the edge, and that lawsuit pushed them over and they couldn’t recover. If it wasn’t the lawsuit, it would have been something else very shortly, I guarantee it. It may seem overly pessimistic, but I just didn’t see 4Kids having a significant future anymore. They were consistently going down for years and could barely even glance up a few times. Either they would have died shortly on their own anyway or they would have stumbled into some miracle property that would save them from the Shadow Realm (and Tai Chi Chasers was not going to be it), and even then I can imagine that would only eek out a few more years for them. They just didn’t have the steam to go on.

At the end of the day, when everything is said and done, 4Kids was and still is an icon….an icon of what, is up to you, but it’s still an icon. Let’s be honest, we still have a blast with 4Kids shows just in poking fun at their ridiculousness, and some still enjoy them legitimately. I won’t deny for a second that, even though doing my SDCs of 4Kids shows chips away at my soul sometimes, the shows still commonly wind up being fun either because I’m legitimately enjoying it or I’m just laughing at the 4Kidsisms.

I’m not going to dance on 4Kids’ grave, but I’m also not going to mourn it. 4Kids was, somewhat fittingly, a product of its time. There’s just no way a company like 4Kids could survive today. There are too many sources of good, loyal dubbed anime, and there are plenty of kids anime that are dubbed just fine and made readily available to children because many dubbing companies today will dub a wide range of anime for a nearly endless demographic from kids to adults to every gender and across every genre. And if you don’t like dubs, subtitled anime, official or fansubs, are readily available at thousands of sources.

Maybe we could have seen an entirely different 4Kids over time, but I doubt it. Also, there was a certain charm with shows being on Saturday morning lineups that you really can’t get anymore, and I think 4Kids thrived on that one very specific area that we can’t replicate now. 4Kids cut out a niche for itself and dominated in that one area, and there just wasn’t a place for it once that niche was gone.

It’s an entirely new world for kids, and it’s not a world for 4Kids.

4Kids will always have a special place in my heart for helping me discover some of my favorite shows and helping spark my love of anime. I won’t excuse what they’re guilty of, and I won’t overexaggerate any good they did. I’ll just say “Thank you, 4Kids. As much for dying as for living.”

Part 23: Where in the World is Kahnmen Sandiego?


If you enjoy my work and would like to help support my blog, please consider donating at my Ko-Fi page. Thank you! ♥

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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


If you enjoy my work and would like to help support my blog, please consider donating at my Ko-Fi page. Thank you! ♥

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com