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.”


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

My Poke-Pinions | #54 and 55: The Duck Line

Psyduck

Name: A combination of the words ‘Psychic’ and ‘Duck’ Psyduck has a very simple but effective, funny, snappy and cute name. Few names in the Pokemon franchise are as iconic as little ol’ Psyduck.

Originally, it was named Koduck, which was ‘Duck’ in combination with ‘Ko’ for ‘small’ or ‘child’ which is fitting. Koduck’s a cute name too, but I love Psyduck much more.

Fun Fact: In French, it’s called Psykokwak, which is one of the best words I’ve ever heard in my life. It sounds like a metal band name. In Korea, it’s called Gorapaduck, which is also really cute and funny. It’s a combination of ‘Duck’ with ‘Gol’ for ‘brain’ or ‘head’ and ‘Apueda’ for ‘Sick’ or ‘Hurt’ in reference to its constant headache.

….Oh and in German, it’s called Enton, which I found hilarious. It comes from ‘Ente’ for ‘Duck’ but it just sounds like some dude’s name.

Design: Like its name, Psyduck’s design is quite simple, being just a pudgy, doofy yellow duck, but I do think Psyduck is pretty darn cute. I absolutely love ducks. They’re one of my favorite animals of all time. You can bet I’ll love pretty much anything if it has a duck on it. I just want to give Psyduck a hug. It’s like a big rubber ducky. Granted, it is kinda weirdly shaped for a duck. It doesn’t really have wings, and it doesn’t look like it’d swim very well at all (Misty’s Psyduck can’t swim…) but I still think it’s really cute.

Sprite-wise, I think Silver is really cute because it looks like its booping its own bill.

Look at Emerald’s little dance!

I don’t get DP at all….is it on a swing or what’s happening there?

HG/SS is hilarious. It looks like it’s being scared shitless.

Gen V is adorable. It’s just tilting its head quizzically, like a puppy.

Everything else is fine.

Shiny:

I love Psyduck’s shiny version. Not sure it’s one of my absolute favorites, but I do love it. It’s a great shade of blue for the body with a suitable shade of blue for the bill, and blue works very well as a shiny form for a non-blue Water Pokemon.

In Gen II, its coloring is a little different. It has a darker shade of blue, almost a purple, and I think it looks really cool.

Dex Entries and Backstory: As you probably guessed, a good chunk of Psyduck’s lore has to do with its intense and constant headache. It’s always seen holding its head because of the headache, and it’s mostly vacant and static demeanor are also attributed to trying to calm the pain, which is actually quite sad. When the headache gets particularly bad, it will unleash powerful psychic abilities. However, people are uncertain whether most Psyduck intend to do this.

Crystal mentions that the psychic abilities only manifest when the sleeping cells in Psyduck’s brain wake up….whatever that means. It never remembers these psychic episodes, which is why it constantly looks confused. Additionally, the more painful the headache, the more powerful the psychic powers that accompany these episodes.

Apparently in Legends: Arceus, the Pokedex notes that someone is trying to find a way to ease Psyduck’s headache pain, which is nice to hear after over a decade of people abusing the poor thing’s condition to use its psychic powers, COUGHCOUGHMISTYCOUGHCOUGH.

In regards to design, Psyduck is obviously based on a duck, but particularly it is inspired by the looks of rubber ducks, and it also seems to have physical traits of platypuses.

Golduck

Name: A mixture of ‘Gold’ and ‘Duck’ Golduck’s name is alright. It’s not as snappy as Psyduck, and I never quite got the ‘Gol’ part. I literally just learned right this moment that it’s for ‘Gold’ but I still didn’t understand why. Apparently, it’s because gold symbolizes psychic powers….and…sure. Okay? It’s a fine name, I just wish it were a little cooler and made more sense. Its original Japanese name is retained here.

Fun Fact: In France, it’s known as Akwakwak, for ‘Aquatique’ (aquatic) and ‘Couac’ (quack) which is amazing, one of my new favorite things ever, and the fact that that’s not the English name is a crime.

Design: I’ve always loved Golduck’s design. It’s one of my favorite Pokemon. It has a cool looking face, I like the jewel on its forehead, it’s a great shade of blue, and it does manage to look intimidating from its humble roots as a Psyduck.

My only real issue with it is that it doesn’t look like Psyduck in the slightest besides the fact that they’re both ducks. This isn’t inherently a deal breaker as many evolutions don’t look like their predecessors, but it does bug me when evolved Pokemon don’t look like their pre-evos at all because part of the fun of evos is taking something that looks small or childish and altering it in various manners to make it look like a tougher and more powerful Pokemon. Anyone can take two completely dissimilar Pokemon and claim they’re evolutions. Part of the challenge of Pokemon design is building upon base evos and making them look stronger.

Sprite-Wise, Gen I is hilarious. RB looks like it was hastily drawn by a second grader, and RG looks like its doing its damnedest to give a kawaii expression.

Yellow looks much better, but I must point out its back spite in that it’s not a back sprite at all. It’s a side profile. And it is awful. Its tail is pointing straight up, its shoulder is crammed into its head, its eye is pure white and makes it look dead. It’s one of the weirder back sprites I’ve seen.

Gen II’s alright with the highlight being the cool slashing animation on Crystal.

Gen III is alright. The animation on Emerald looks like it’s dodging something for whatever reason.

In Gen IV, DP looks insanely goofy because it looks like it accidentally set foot on very hot sand at the beach.

Platinum isn’t any better as it looks like it just barely avoided accidentally walking off a cliff.

HG/SS is a simply yell animation, and that’s fine.

The loop animation for Gen V is alright, and every other Gen is fine.

Shiny:

Golduck’s shiny is really nice. It’s what I like to refer to as a blue raspberry shade of blue with some pink in the bill.

Gen II’s version is quite weird, though, as the shiny pretty much looks like normal Golduck while the normal version looks purple in GS and navy blue in Crystal.

Dex Entries and Backstory: One of the weirdest things about Golduck is that it differentiates itself even further from Psyduck by most of the Dex entries not mentioning anything about psychic powers. Most of them just mention that it’s an incredibly fast swimmer and even claims it’s the fastest swimming Pokemon. It’s also such a powerful swimmer that even swimming in harsh seas doesn’t affect it at all, and its powerful swimming abilities have been used to help rescue sailors from shipwrecks.

It’s commonly mistaken for a kappa, which is a design aspect added to the evolution (IE the webbed hands).

Its psychic powers do get mentioned here and there, but nowhere near to the extent of focus that its given with Psyduck. It also seems like Golduck’s psychic power is at its peak when its swimming particularly fast for some reason.

Speaking of the jewel, Sun states that people believe the jewel grants the owner supernatural powers. As a result, Golduck were over-hunted for their jewels in the past, which is awful.

It will also fish along the banks of rivers, which is a quaint little note to cover before we get to Shield where apparently the newest legend around Golduck is that those who defiled its river were dragged underwater and “taken away” which I think is implying ancient Golduck drowned them, which…Uh…holy shit.

And uh…on that dark note we close out the Duck line.

Next time, we tackle the Monkey line!


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

Pokemon Episode 64 Analysis: It’s Mr. Mime Time

Pokemon Ep 64 Screen1

CotD(s): Stella – The ringleader of a traveling circus, Stella’s main act is with her Mr. Mime. Despite her kind demeanor normally, she’s an extremely harsh Trainer, whipping her Pokemon into shape and working them into the ground.

Reappears?: No.

Pokemon: Mr. Mime. It’s also implied that she owns all of the Pokemon in the circus such as various Ponyta, Rapidash, Machoke, Tangela, Exeggcute and Dodrio.

Returning Characters: Delia

Captures…?: Delia’s Mr. Mime, Mimey, debuts in this episode as a Pokemon that randomly came upon her house and bonded with her after she was so nice to it and fed it. She officially adopts it in this episode, but, strangely, it’s been kinda-ish confirmed that Ash actually caught this Mr. Mime offscreen at some point, because it’s frequently listed as one of the Pokemon Ash has caught. It’s very unclear whether Ash captured it to give to Delia so Mr. Mime could have a Pokeball to return to, even though it’s always out of a Pokeball, or if Ash caught the Mr. Mime and Delia just cares for it.

I was surprised to find this information on Mimey’s page. I always, always assumed Mr. Mime was just a Pokemon Delia adopted and never once thought it was a Pokemon Ash captured. Mr. Mime never even seemed to like Ash all that much. It’s possible that they just keep mistaking Mr. Mime for a Pokemon of his since it stays at his house.

Plot: After obtaining his eighth Badge, Ash heads back home to talk with Professor Oak about the upcoming Indigo League conference – most specifically where and when it even is.

Ash is so excited about finally going back home that he starts sprinting as he nears Pallet Town. He’s stopped dead in his tracks by an invisible wall, and the trio wonders what it is and who put it there. They glance upwards to see a Mr. Mime climbing the invisible structure, and, with a tip from Dexter, they realize it must have been the one to create it.

Excited to capture such a rare Pokemon, Ash readies his Pokeball, but he’s stopped by a girl in circus garb named Stella who asks if she can capture it herself. Ash doesn’t want to as he saw it first, but Brock forces him to step aside because he’s smitten with the girl.

Stella pathetically tries to capture Mr. Mime without attempting to battle it first, and the Mr. Mime gets away. She brings Ash, Misty and Brock to her circus where she works as ringmaster. She explains that she actually already has a Mr. Mime that she uses in her shows. The problem is that it refuses to perform anymore. It’s become a lazy slob after Stella worked it too hard to train it for circus shows.

However, Stella has a plan. She’s going to capture a new Mr. Mime, work with it instead of her own, and hopefully her Mr. Mime will get so jealous that it will start performing again. Brock, in an effort to win over Stella, tells her he’ll provide her with a Mr. Mime. However, he doesn’t plan on capturing one – he’s going to use Ash in a Mr. Mime costume instead.

Meanwhile, Team Rocket stops by a secret Team Rocket base in the forest to have a video call with Giovanni to apologize for the destruction of the Viridian Gym. He doesn’t want to hear anything from them besides capturing rare Pokemon, so he immediately sends them on their way. After the call ends, he states that it doesn’t matter how rare the Pokemon they might catch are – they’ll never be as rare as the Mewtwo before him.

As Jessie, James and Meowth figure out where to get some rare Pokemon to please their boss, a flier lands in their hot air balloon for the Pokemon Circus with the rare Mr. Mime front and center.

Back at the circus, Ash makes for a really convincing Mr. Mime in the costume Brock obtained, but he’s anything but happy about needing to humiliate himself in a Mr. Mime costume in front of everyone to go through with Brock’s little plan. He’s especially mortified when Stella starts training him and proves to be an absolutely hellish Trainer who literally whips him into shape.

At the circus, Stella and Mr. Mime!Ash enter the ring and prepare for their act, with Ash’s mother surprisingly in the audience watching them, but the lights suddenly cut out and Team Rocket enters the scene. They kidnap “Mr. Mime” and leave on their balloon.

Delia meets with Brock and Misty after Team Rocket makes their getaway knowing that Ash has been captured, but she’s not concerned because she knows Team Rocket will let Ash go once they realize he’s not a Mr. Mime. Misty, Brock and Stella agree, and Delia invites them all over to her house for a nice home-cooked meal while they wait for Ash to come back.

Meanwhile, Ash is tied up at Team Rocket’s little cabin hideout, but manages to wiggle out of his ropes and reveal himself to the trio. Annoyed above all else, Ash simply steals their hot air balloon and leaves, enraging Team Rocket.

A Mr. Mime shows up at Delia’s house as she bids Brock, Misty and Stella goodbye after their meal. She assumes this Mr. Mime is Ash, so she makes him up a nice lunch. When Ash returns to his house in his Mr. Mime outfit, Delia is thoroughly confused, but Ash clears everything up by taking off his mask and explaining the situation.

Delia is able to convince Mr. Mime of going down to the circus to take Ash’s place and help out Stella.

However, the circus is soon attacked by Team Rocket in a tank with missiles that shoot nets over all the Pokemon. The circus employees try to escape with the remaining Pokemon, but they’re all captured in nets. Stella makes off with Mr. Mime, who is touched at her display of caring.

Team Rocket chases after Stella and Mr. Mime but are suddenly stopped by the appearance of Ash, who has caught up to them in the Meowth balloon with his mother and the other Mr. Mime. Ash reunites with Pikachu and they launch a Thunderbolt on the tank. However, Team Rocket reveals that the tank is made of rubber – electricity won’t stop it.

Realizing he has no other option, Ash calls out Charizard to use his flames to melt the tank, but Charizard won’t listen. Delia calls upon the Mr. Mime that she befriended to help her son, and it does. It uses its Light Screen ability to make impenetrable invisible walls to stop Team Rocket in their tracks. Team Rocket opts to go around the wall, but Stella’s Mr. Mime, now jealous of the other Mr. Mime, rushes in to help, making another wall to stop Team Rocket’s tank.

Together with the other Mr. Mime, they create an unbreakable enclosed tower of invisible walls, trapping Team Rocket for good…..until, of course, they try to blast their way out anyway with a barrage of missiles that only results in blowing themselves up and blasting them off.

Mr. Mime returns to Delia, and she reveals that she’s nicknamed it Mimey.

Stella also reunites with her Mr. Mime and gives it some positive words of encouragement, making Mr. Mime once again motivated to perform.

Later, at Ash’s house, Mr. Mime is shown helping Delia out in the kitchen as she cooks. Delia has happily adopted the stray Psychic Pokemon as a new member of the family.

———————————————-

– The title of today’s episode is “Mr. Mimie Time” on the title card…..

Even if I wanted to be nice and say this was in reference to Delia’s Mr. Mime later being called Mimey….it’s spelled Mimey not Mimie.

Pokemon Ep 64 Screen 3

– Ash was about to try capturing Mr. Mime without battling it first……..

BMW Still be so stupid

– Okay, even Stella tried to capture it without battling first. Do you two need to go back to Pokemon 101?

– While Mr. Mime are not found anywhere in the wild in Gen I, you do obtain a Mr. Mime via trading with an NPC on Route 2. Applying a bit of continuity, you would indeed take Route 2 to get from Viridian City to Pallet Town, but Ash said he could see Pallet over the horizon, which he really shouldn’t because they’d arrive at Pewter City first. I don’t say this to be nitpicky, I just thought it was interesting.

– Intentional jealousy storylines are always kinda iffy. Yeah, bringing in a replacement and trying to make her Mr. Mime jealous could motivate him to show up the new Mr. Mime and perform….or it could just feel like it’s easily replaceable and give up even more. Or it could not care because, with a replacement, it wouldn’t be pestered so much to perform….

Also, Misty, dear, maybe not use Ash’s jealousy of Gary as evidence that this plan will work. I can think of zero times when Ash’s jealousy of Gary has actually made him better as a Trainer. He gets worked up, sure, and he strives to be better than Gary, but he doesn’t tend to do much to back it up. He gets upset that Gary is further along in his journey than him so he spends forever and a day getting to places that should be very closeby, taking numerous detours in the meantime, getting lost along the way and never improving his navigational or survival skills. He gets upset that Gary has more Pokemon than him, so he captures like one new Pokemon and sends it Oak, never to train it. He gets upset that Gary has more Badges than him, so he’s like ‘Okay I have eight Badges now…..let’s go home.’

– What is up with Stella’s hand in this shot?

Pokemon Ep 64 Screen2

– This episode also ties in with the first movie briefly by showing Giovanni after he speaks with Jessie, James and Meowth, explaining how they’ll never find a Pokemon as rare as Mewtwo. The shot then shows Mewtwo in his armor in front of him.

Also, something weird I just noticed….when does the movie really take place in the series? Because these last two episodes and the one following this buildup to the movie – it’s almost immediately after we see Mewtwo in the next episode that the movie seems to takes place. However, Ash and the others are still on their journey in the start of the movie, but they’re back in Pallet/going to the Indigo conference at this point. Did the movie technically start after the Indigo League ended?

– Also, yeah, they BLEW UP GIOVANNI’S GYM and he still won’t fire them.

– Brock’s plan is actually kinda dumb. That Mr. Mime costume is ridiculously good, admittedly (where the hell did he get that?) but Ash can’t use Mr. Mime’s abilities. How can he make Mr. Mime jealous when he can’t do the same things a Mr. Mime can do?

– Brock’s justification for not being the one in the suit makes sense (he’s too tall) but Misty’s is that she’s too cute to wear something covering her face? Come on, Misty….

– Ash: “I won’t do it. I’m not gonna dress like a clown.” You should say that BEFORE you put the costume on. Also, it is a little funny that Mr. Mime is based on a mime but looks more like a clown.

Pokemon Ep 64 Screen 4

– Okay, so he’s not actually making the invisible walls, he’s just miming for real…so why do you need the Mr. Mime costume? I’d think Mr. Mime would be jealous of any being taking its spot if it’s just doing his non-powered act better than him.

– I actually feel really bad for Ash here. He’s being forced into this dumb outfit for a dumb plan while also being screamed at and whipped at every two seconds by Stella while she tries to train him to do Mr. Mime’s act. She clearly acknowledges that her strict training method is what caused Mr. Mime to quit in the first place, even Ash points this out in inner monologue when he’s being trained, but she still decides that’s the best way to train Ash? He’s also a stranger, and a small boy, and someone who was kind enough to humiliate himself for her sake. Yet she’s still cool with treating him like this.

– This episode’s plot heralds back to AJ and his strict form of Pokemon training. However, whereas in that situation where it was just that AJ was hard and strict but he and his Pokemon understood each other and loved one another, so the harsh Training wasn’t cruel like Ash perceived, Stella……I guess doesn’t have that level of understanding with Mr. Mime or it’s simply a case of some Pokemon not taking well to that type of training. I totally get that. Pokemon and people work in similar ways. Some people and Pokemon take to strict methods of learning quite well while others learn through various means and methods and don’t respond well to such harsh tactics.

– Stella’s a ringmaster whose regular design is a ringmaster outfit, but when she’s first shown on stage she’s wearing a clown outfit……..okie dokie.

Pokemon Ep 64 Screen 5

– Team Rocket introducing themselves with a trapeze act and a human (or….cat) cannonball act was actually pretty cool. The amount of trust Jessie had in James to not drop her or miss is impressive, even if they did end up falling.

– Stella stops Ash from explaining that he’s not a Mr. Mime to Team Rocket because it would ruin her plan…..but….so would Ash getting kidnapped…

Brock also only grabbed Stella to get her out of the way of the net, even though Team Rocket clearly just wants “Mr. Mime” and would probably just let Stella go if they accidentally grabbed her. He could have easily grabbed both of them….

Everyone’s being awful to Ash today.

– Delia DOESN’T CARE THAT ASH GOT KIDNAPPED just because she assumes they’ll let him go when they realize he’s not a Mr. Mime? I mean, yeah, sure, they probably would, like I said about Stella, but they’d probably steal all of his Pokemon first. Or, since they have more of a vendetta against him, they might use him as a hostage to get Pikachu or something. In a darker show, they’d probably beat him up just for petty revenge. You’re his mother, dammit. These are actual criminals who have used guns and BOMBS in the past. Have some concern.

Also, nice emotional manipulation to have Delia clearly worried before the commercial break but then just like “Oh then there’s nothing to worry about!” with a big smile after they return from the break….

She doesn’t even want to go after him. She just wants to make Brock and Misty some food back at her place. Even in the best of scenarios, like they’d let Ash go without issue and not even steal his Pokemon, he was still kidnapped. That’s still something terrible happening to him.

And Brock and Misty instantly stop caring after that too and go to eat at Delia’s without Ash. Even without being kidnapped, it’s rude as hell to eat a home-cooked meal at HIS HOUSE without him. Why is literally everyone so awful to Ash today?

Stella doesn’t even seem to care despite the fact that it was her fault this all happened in the first place (and Brock’s, but she was the main cause).

I’d say it’s even weird that the audience gives zero fucks. A Mr. Mime was kidnapped in front of their eyes, the circus was canceled for the day because of it and no one is expressing any concern.

– Stella apparently changed back into her ringmaster outfit during the commercial break and between Delia’s lines.

– Why did they gag Ash when they think he’s a Mr. Mime?

Also, I find it pretty ironic that Mr. Mime isn’t a silent Pokemon….

Also also, Ash could have easily started talking and revealed who he was immediately considering the gag is over his Mr. Mime head not his actual mouth….

Pokemon Ep 64 Screen 6

– They realize Mr. Mime is a Psychic Pokemon, right? As in, tying it up would do pretty much nothing?

– The Team Rocket theme plays when Ash reveals himself because the original version had him starting to recite Team Rocket’s motto, but he didn’t in the dub, which is disappointing.

– Oh my god, Team Rocket actually believes Ash is still a Mr. Mime even after he takes his head off…..There are no limits to the stupidity of these three.

– Ash: “I’m not a Mr. Mime! I just play one on TV.” I’m assuming this is a fourth wall break, because I don’t think the circus is televised.

– Ash stealing Team Rocket’s balloon is one of the funniest and kinda badass things he’s ever done. Leave it to an episode where Ash is actually being kinda cool and very tolerable for everyone to treat him like garbage.

– Delia: *sigh* “I’m getting worried about Ash. I hope he’s alright.” Oh I’m so worried several hours after witnessing my son’s kidnapping. After all that time enjoying a nice visit and meal with his friends, he hasn’t come home yet. Golly. I hope he’s just hit traffic or something.

– So Delia knows from like 150 feet away that a Mr. Mime at a circus was Ash in a costume for no reason besides, I guess, mother’s intuition, but she instantly believes this real Mr. Mime is Ash when it’s right in front of her face…..Even when it’s talking, like they bought a costume that has an animatronic mouth or something. Then she believes the mouth is able to eat? Just how stupid is….I guess everyone in this show?

– Also, just to be nitpicky, I’d assume any mother, especially one as overbearing as her, would demand he take off the mask and costume before eating anyway just to be polite.

– Ash is pretty good at piloting that hot air balloon.

– Delia: *upon seeing Mr. Mime and Ash in his Mr. Mime costume in the living room* “Does Ash have a twin brother?!”

YOU’RE. HIS. MOTHER. I don’t even think I need to explain the layers involved in the stupidity of that line. Holy shit, Delia. Grow a brain cell.

– Delia: *when she realizes the Mr. Mime she’s been talking to wasn’t Ash* “I thought it was strange that you ate so nicely.”

Everyone is being SO AWFUL to Ash today. What is happening?

– He can’t even catch a break with Mr. Mime. He asks very nicely if Mr. Mime will come with him to help his friends at the circus, and it refuses, but Delia easily coerces it to go.

– Where the hell were they storing that tank? They parked their balloon right next to their little cabin and there was nothing else around. I won’t bother asking how and why they have a frickin’ tank on hand in the first place because this is Team Rocket. I will ask why they didn’t use the tank the first time they showed up, though, and why didn’t they steal all of the circus Pokemon the first time as well?

– I refuse to believe a Machoke isn’t strong enough to pull up that net…..

– I refuse to believe that that net is strong enough to trap three huge trucks moving at high speeds….

– I do think the little periscope camera Team Rocket has is cute and funny, though.

Pokemon Ep 64 Screen 7

– Stella’s Mr. Mime instantly forgives her and turns around just because she gave it a piggyback ride to get away from Team Rocket? I guess that’s not the silliest “Trainer does something for the Pokemon so the Pokemon instantly changes their tune” story element we’ve seen…..

………Why wouldn’t she just return it to its Pokeball and carry it away?

– Stella: “Ash!”

Brock: “Hey Ash!”

Misty: “You’re just in time!” Screw you all! You didn’t even wonder where Ash was when Team Rocket returned. For all you knew, he was dead. You all suck.

– Jessie: “Your electric attacks won’t work! This tank is made of rubber!” It…..is? It clearly looks like it’s made of metal. Rubber doesn’t typically shine like that. How is it even functioning if it’s made entirely of rubber? You could have just said it was some vague electricity resistant armor or coating or something.

Pokemon Ep 64 Screen 8

– Ash choosing Charizard here actually is smart because, of all his Pokemon, he’s the only one who’d be able to destroy a tank made of rubber as the fire would melt it…..However, of course, he won’t obey. I won’t ream into him for this like I usually do, because he admitted it was a long shot and this was his most logical play, honestly. Plus, too many people have been giving Ash shit today, so I’ll give him a break.

– How does Mr. Mime stand on the walls or climb up them like Spider-Man?

– One thing that has always stood out to me about this episode is the massive Light Screen tower. I dunno why that’s stuck with me over the years.

– Stella: “See, Mr. Mime? You can do so much if you just try!” That was never the problem. The problem was you being too much of a hardass that nothing was ever good enough for you. It only became a lazy couch potato because it was tired of trying so hard for nothing but demands for perfection and yelling and screaming in return. She does apologize for being so rough in the next line, but this particular line rubbed me the wrong way a little.

It turns out that there’s likely a reason this line seems odd. In the original, Stella (Atsuko, in the Japanese version) believed she spoiled Mr. Mime too much and it made him lazy. 4Kids probably kept this line without realizing it didn’t make sense given how they altered the script. I don’t know why they changed the reason why Mr. Mime became lazy.

– How long do those walls stay up exactly? Like, is the wall from the start of the episode still in the road? Because that’s dangerous.

– Brock: “Heh, that Mr. Mime is getting to be like a member of the family.”

Misty: “Only this member of the family has manners and helps out in the kitchen.”

Seriously, why is everyone being so awful to Ash today?

———————————————

Overall, I didn’t dislike this episode, but it wasn’t all that great. It has a very basic plot, and Brock’s little plan to make Mr. Mime jealous was both cliché and shaky. We never did see what the plan was for Ash during the show. Stella just kept telling him to do pantomime, which, sure, fine, that’s something a person can do, but does she really have her Mr. Mime do nothing else in her shows besides stuff a normal person can do?

Ash was surprisingly quite tolerable in this episode, even if he did send out Charizard again. The only thing I really want to ding him for in this episode is trying to capture Mr. Mime without battling it first. We’re 64 episodes in, he has eight Badges, he knew this was a rare Pokemon, there’s just no excuse whatsoever.

However, he did get some good lines and was pretty alright for most of the episode. That’s why it’s such a damn shame that everyone was, for some reason, treating him so poorly today. It was a non-stop barrage of either insulting him, tormenting him or not giving a single shit about him. He was kidnapped by people who have tried to kill them before, and they just brush it off like it’s no big deal – even his own mother.

As for Mr. Mime…..eh. I bounce back and forth between liking Mr. Mime and finding it cute to thinking it’s super annoying. I’m glad Delia has some companionship at home now, and I think a Mr. Mime is, oddly, a great fit for her since it is able to do so much around the house. However, I’m also glad Ash didn’t technically catch it (or, at least, decide to keep it with him?) because I can’t imagine having much patience for it over time. It popping up every now and then when Delia appears is enough.

Next time, Ash finally sees Professor Oak in order to learn more about the Pokemon League. Gary shows up to visit his grandpa at the same time as he also prepares for the Indigo League conference.

.Previous Episode


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 14: (The Time Has Come) (2006)

As they rounded the corner into 2006, 4Kids started wrapping up production on their eighth and final Pokemon season, Advanced Battle, as well their eighth and final Pokemon movie, Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation the Movie: Mew and the Wave Hero Lucario, retitled Lucario and the Mystery of Mew.

As I mentioned in my own review/comparison of the movie, I really feel like 4Kids wanted to go out strong in their last Pokemon excursion (even though, technically, the show still hadn’t finished being dubbed when the movie came out…..I’m still calling it as their last big hurrah) because their dubbing job on Movie 08 was one of if not their absolute best dubbing job. While there are some minor changes here and there, and some very typical 4Kidsisms, they weren’t that drastic or that bad, and the voice actors brought their A-game. It greatly helps that the original movie is also heralded as the best Pokemon movie to date.

While none of the Pokemon movies ever really seem to be big hits with critics, Movie 08 was about as close as they had gotten. The movie was praised for its action, comedy and excitement while also having a good story and great animation, but others criticized the dub’s more pop-ish music and the fact that the good story took a back seat to Ash and Lucario in the second half of the movie.

The Pokemon movies were also finally out of the hands of Miramax and into the more capable hands of Viz Video…..However, the movie was still released in 4:3 and would never get an American 16:9 release. It would be released in English in widescreen in Australia, but it’s disappointing that it’s never been released State-side in widescreen format. As far as I can tell, Movie 08 is the only Pokemon movie that was never re-released in 16:9 or given a Blu-Ray release in the US as Pokemon Movie 09 would be the first Pokemon movie to ever be released in the US as 16:9 from the start.

The DVD included some bonus features such as a letter from the director, a behind-the-scenes featurette and a slideshow. The original DVD release didn’t come with anything else. However, the Collector’s Edition, which was released at the same time, included two special bonuses – a limited edition Mew card and The Mastermind of Mirage Pokemon 10th anniversary special (re-dubbed version).

This is actually really awkward, when you think about it. The Mastermind of Mirage Pokemon, which was made specifically for American audiences to have something unique of their own to premiere during the 10th anniversary, which I think is pretty darn cool, was not dubbed by 4Kids. PUSA had already made their presence known and had dubbed the anniversary themselves, which, if you ask me, is one of the biggest passive-aggressive bitchslaps I’ve ever seen.

4Kids – at LEAST the cast and crew of the show – earned the right to dub the 10th anniversary special. Ripping it from them was bad enough, but oh no….They also aired it on Kids WB, which was basically 4Kids first domain, before the DVD release, and bundled it (redubbed, however, in order to improve the script and voice work) with the eighth movie in the Collector’s Edition, subsequently strong-arming 4Kids out of the limelight in what was supposed to be their final goodbye to the franchise. Just…wow.

I can say with certainty that PUSA made one of the worst first impressions as a dubbing company I’ve ever seen. Say what you will about 4Kids, but this whole situation with PUSA was just embarrassing.

As for 4Kids and their talented and caring cast and numerous hard-working crew members (Okay, mostly just the cast and crew.) who made the original dubbed Pokemon what it was – for better or worse – I don’t think we should forget that they introduced that awesome show and, to a degree, game to our lives as kids and helped make it the beloved franchise that it continues to be today for an entirely new generation and even the adults out there who still enjoy it, myself included…..I know 4Kids likes to pat themselves on the back and it’s usually unwarranted, but I think they deserve some credit here, and I think they deserve a proper send off as we move on from this historical moment in English dubbed anime history.

The time has come.

It’s for the best, I know it.

Who could have guessed that you and I,

Somehow, someway…..we’d have to say….Goodbye.

Next – Part 15: The Chaotic Nature of Rumors

Previous – Part 13: Pikachu’s Goodbye


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 13: Pikachu’s Goodbye (2005 cont.)

2005 was a year that would be historical for 4Kids and Pokemon. It was definitely the first sign of dark clouds on the horizon for one and rocky roads eventually leading to greener pastures for the other. On October 10, 2005, 4Kids sold their 3% stake in The Pokemon Company back to them, meaning they would not get anymore revenue from Pokemon in Asian markets. While I can’t find any information on how much they bought it for, they sold the stake for $960,000.

TPC then announced that they would not be renewing their contract with 4Kids which was set to expire on December 31, 2005. Pokemon USA was instead tasked by TPC to be their own in-house North American dubbing and distribution company. Beginning in 2006, they would be creating and launching their own dub of Pokemon. Pokemon USA was created all the way back in 2001 to handle overseas licensing in the Americas, meaning they were probably planning for this day for a while. They no longer needed 4Kids, stripping them of one of their biggest titles and being one of the biggest hits 4Kids would ever take. (Some sources say 4Kids just dropped Pokemon, but I can’t fathom why they would. It was still one of their absolute top earners, and would continue being so for years even simply through residuals after they lost the license. Dropping the license would cause nothing but problems for them, so I don’t see what the logic is in the assumption that they dropped it.) 4Kids would be allowed to dub season eight, Advanced Battle, as well as the eighth Pokemon movie, Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, but that would be it.

While Al Kahn publicly wished PUSA all the best and celebrated eight years with the show, the company losing its main tentpole was far from good news. In addition, the voice actors were not at all pleased at being spontaneously fired from a series that they had put eight years of work into and had become beloved to many of them. Keep in mind, Pokemon was not just 4Kids’ big break – it was also the doorway to relative stardom for many of the voice actors. And throughout the years both the company and the voice actors (but mostly the voice actors) had been endeared to the fans and vice versa. To quote my recently edited-in entry on the ninth Pokemon movie review;

“None of the original voice actors were happy about being dumped by the new company, even though Maddie Blaustein took it in stride. Eric Stuart said they were driven by greed and even implied that this would be the death of the show, even though we now know that was an incorrect prediction, Veronica Taylor stated PUSA cares nothing about quality and that it’s ridiculous for them to claim it will be identical when they’re gutting everything 4Kids and the original VAs did to the show, and Rachel Lillis was pissed, she straight out said so, especially towards someone I’ll address in a second. In fact, they were all blindsided by both the fact that they were all being ‘fired’ AND the fact that 4Kids lost the rights in the first place. No one told them anything, there was no warning, they just told them they were being replaced and moved on.

So why were the original cast members shafted anyway? According to Eric Stuart, Veronica Taylor and Rachel Lillis – it was all just to save money. It was cheaper to hire a cast of “sound-alikes” than it was to keep the new cast on board, and they thought the fans would be too stupid to notice or wouldn’t care because, again, voice actors are treated like shit. But, of course, the fans DID notice and DID care, but by that point it was too late.

None of them asked for more money. They all would have worked for the same amount 4Kids was already paying them, which, by implications, was already not that great, but PUSA never negotiated for their contracts or invited them back. They just showed them the door.

To make matters worse, one of the PUSA voice actors, Bill Rogers, the new voice of Brock, made a post on Serebii.net that Rachel Lillis did not take kindly to at all because he made off like the original voice actors’ old contracts had a clause that made it so they couldn’t come over to the new company and could never be involved in future Pokemon projects. According to Rachel Lillis, no such clause existed whatsoever and he had “no idea what (he) was talking about.” and said all of this was incredibly shady.

And she was right to think that way because some of the original cast were eventually invited back to play bit parts and reprise some of their roles (none of the main cast) briefly, barring, oddly enough, Veronica Taylor of all people, and Eric Stuart. TAJ Productions, which was originally 4Kids’ dubbing partner and was PUSA’s dubbing partner for a bit, went out of business in early 2008 and was replaced by DuArt Film and Video. They made the decision to bring in some of the old voice actors, although to what end I really don’t know. None of them reprised big parts, except Dan Green who got to reprise Mewtwo, and Ted Lewis, who got to reprise Giovanni, and the parts they got that weren’t reprisals were kinda insulting (the last two roles they gave to Rachel Lillis before she left were voices of Pokemon….) The biggest roles the old cast seemed to land were Erica Schroeder, who originally voiced Nurse Joy, voicing Bianca in Black and White, and Jason Griffith, who really only had CotD/CotM parts in the original series, eventually voicing Cilan in Black and White.”

However, due to the way 4Kids’ contract was structured, they would reap some benefits from Pokemon. An article from Business Wire stated “4Kids will continue to receive commissions for the next several years on payments made under existing Pokemon license agreements whose term expires after December 31, 2005. It is expected that commissions earned by 4Kids from the Pokemon property will decline over the course of the next several years.”

As I stated, this money flow from old licensed work would continue to be substantial enough to be one of 4Kids’ bigger sources of income throughout a good chunk of the rest of their existence….However, that was a bit of a double-edged sword. It would be revealed in 2011, when they were filing for their first round of bankruptcy, that 4Kids still owed TPC quite a lot of money, $4.7mil in fact. According to an audit that TPC did in 2010 for the years between mid-2001 and 2008, 4Kids didn’t account for nearly $4,700,000 in “deficiencies” from undisclosed sources. The only specific thing brought up in the document is Pokemon Movie 04. 4Kids surrendered its right to receive any profits from the movie as a result of the dispute, so I assume it had something to do with that, at least (Although the movie didn’t make nearly enough to be worth all of that), but there are likely other areas that contributed to those deficiencies.

In 2012, they completed a settlement agreement in which TPC would receive $1,000,000 plus interest.

As this storm started, 4Kids would be in the middle of releasing Pokemon season seven, Advanced Challenge, and Pokemon Movie 07, Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation the Movie: Deoxys the Sky-Splitting Visitor, which would be retitled, Pokemon: Destiny Deoxys.

Ironically, things would actually start looking a tiny bit brighter for 4Kids on the Pokemon front.

Despite Destiny Deoxys still not seeing a theatrical release, 4Kids had a better idea on how to give the movie more attention. They struck a deal with Warner Bros. to have the movie air on Kids WB on January 20, 2005 – three weeks before it would be released on DVD. This would turn out to be an incredibly smart move, giving Kids WB the best ratings they’ve had in their target demographic since 2003. The movie did need to be edited for TV – particularly 15 minutes of footage needed to be removed and some footage was sped up for it to properly fit the broadcast slot. However, the DVD version was left intact. You can find all of the cuts required for broadcast length on Bulbapedia.

On February 15, 2005, Destiny Deoxys would be released on VHS and DVD. For the final time, the movies would be released by Miramax, and for the first time, the movie would not be accompanied by a short – allowing the movie to be extra long.

To their credit, Miramax would actually do better with their cropping issues on this movie. Despite still being released in 4:3 as opposed to 16:9, they edited the cropped footage better and panned the shots instead of jutting the footage when characters needed to be in frame. In re-releases, the movie would be in 16:9.

The initial DVD release would include a promotional Deoxys card. However, unlike the other promotional cards, this one would be given out at various other events, making it not quite as exclusive as the others.

The DVD also came with special features such as a ‘Who’s That Pokemon?’ game, a behind-the-scenes featurette with the director, a Pokemon quiz game and gallery art for the posters. However, as has been the norm with Miramax, their subsequent re-releases of the movie would not include these features despite recycling the box art that claims they’re on the disc. However, again, this issue would be fixed in the 2020 re-release.

For the edits that were attributed to 4Kids alone, the movie actually didn’t fare too badly. It’s noted as being one of their better dubs.

Critically, the movie earned a resounding ‘Meh’ from non-fan audiences – claiming it was decent, but not much better than the average Pokemon episode. Fans responded positively to the movie, praising its intense action, more mature feeling and fun characters – particularly Munchlax and Deoxys. It’s still not considered one of best Pokemon movies, but it is fondly remembered by many.

Overall, 2005 was a lower year for 4Kids, which isn’t really a surprise. They had net revenues of $86,662,000, down from $103,306,000 in 2004. Their net income was basically halved with $5,069,000 compared with $12,730,000 in 2004. Declines in returns from Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kirby, Pokemon and TMNT as well as One Piece and Mew Mew Power were blamed for some of the loss while Cabbage Patch Kids and Winx Club were credited as helping offset it.

Next – Part 14: (The Time Has Come)

Previous – Part 12: Out of the Box


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 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


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 8 : Miramax Killed the Movie Theater Star (2003)

In 2003, 4Kids was still plugging along with Pokemon. As they were dubbing the fifth season, Master Quest, they also had to dub the fifth Pokemon movie, Pocket Monsters the Movie: The Guardians of Altomare, which would be retitled Pokemon Heroes.

Once again distributed by Miramax, the theatrical release of the movie was another disaster – somehow even worse than Pokemon 4Ever. The number of theaters given the movie for its premiere dropped again to a measly 196. To make matters worse, and weird, the number of theaters showing the movie fluctuated over its run. 196 theaters had the movie for May 16-26. Then it dropped to 45 for May 30 – June 1, rose to 200 somehow June 6-8, then dropped again to 78, 48, 22 and finally 14 between June 13 and July 6.

On its opening weekend, it only scraped together $260,372. And, in the end of its run, it only made $746,381. It stands as being the lowest grossing Pokemon movie in the United States to date. However, once again, the movie would be more heavily touted as a DVD release and would do slightly better when released on home video.

As a result, subsequent Pokemon movies would never see a theatrical release, instead shifting every future Pokemon movie to direct-to-DVD. This trend would continue for 15 years until 2017 when, at the behest of fans, the 20th anniversary movie, Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You! was given a limited theatrical release by TPCI and Fantom Events. The release even included creating a new Pikachu plushie and special trading cards that were sold in stores. Unsurprisingly, they’re all cards of Pikachu. However, the trend immediately started back up again as the franchise isn’t considered profitable enough to continue releasing the movies in theaters. I Choose You was an outlier that banked on being a 20th anniversary special event that would also be able to lean heavily into nostalgia for older fans, considering it’s largely a revamp of Ash’s origin story.

With critics, Pokemon Heroes did about as badly as Pokemon 4Ever as well, earning nearly identical scores on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, and one reviewer, Lou Lumenick, from the New York Post even being so bold as to say it was “surely a form of child abuse,”….Okay dude, calm down. However, among fans, it seems to have been received just fine. Many of the reviews on IMDB are favorable, and many posts I found discussing it speak of it as an underrated gem among the Pokemon movies.

In regards to the dub, it’s another mess. While 4Kids didn’t make new scenes for the movie or anything, they did cut the prologue, changed several aspects of the story, changed the antagonists’ backstory and replaced the theme songs. However, 4Kids was particularly lazy when doing the theme song this time – opting to just take the TV version of Pokemon Master Quest and extending it with the instrumental track, creating the illusion that it’s a movie remix. Miramax also made a notable change to the movie themselves in that they made it, for some reason, very blue when it wasn’t originally. This blue tint is not only completely unnecessary, but it’s also insanely distracting and makes some scenes a pain to watch.

The short, Camp Pikachu, however, fared a lot better, despite, again, not being included in theaters. Dogasu’s Backpack even claims the short has the best Pokemon dub ever. Unlike the main feature, it’s presented in widescreen, and nearly everything is kept, even the music, except the Japanese vocals to the theme songs, which are either replaced by English singing or removed entirely. However, the footage is made darker, and, despite being kept in 16:9, the footage is still cropped a little for whatever reason.

Like before, the theatrical release barely got any promotion. 4Kids didn’t make any new toys for it, and, this time, no trading cards were offered with a movie ticket. Japan had an exclusive reverse holographic Latias and Latios card given away in theaters, but the card was never released in America. Miramax only made one trailer for it, which would be re-used as the DVD trailer, and, again, they only made one poster, which would also wind up being the DVD cover art.

However, again, Miramax did better with the DVD release – including the short, which was originally released with the movie in Japan, and including exclusive Nintendo Black Star (After obtaining the TCG rights from Wizards) promotional Latios and Latias cards with the DVD. The DVD had additional special features such as a Pokemon trivia game, a behind-the-scenes featurette of the animation, and a special on-location scouting in Venice, which was the inspiration for Alto Mare.

However, their re-releases have the same issues Pokemon 4Ever did. All of those special features, including the short, despite being listed on the box art of the re-releases, have been removed, but they were still included on the box information. In 2020, the re-releases removed the mentions of those features on the box art, supposedly because they finally either learned their lesson in re-using DVD box information on re-releases that don’t contain the same features, or because they were getting flak from fans for seemingly scamming them out of content that they advertised but didn’t deliver.

On the television side of things, 4Kids still needed more content for the Fox Box, especially since, by mid-2003, they had already lost two of their flagship shows – Fighting Foodons and Ultraman Tiga. To help pick up the slack and help the Fox Box grow, 4Kids launched four new shows – Sonic X, Funky Cops, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) and Shaman King.

4Kids managed to nab another household name with Sonic X. Sonic the Hedgehog had already been a popular video game and cartoon character for years in the States, so scooping up the opportunity to dub a show based on him was a no-brainer.

The series is considered one of 4Kids’ most butchered dubs, censoring out alcohol (Hilariously editing out a bottle of wine to look like a sausage, and replacing an entire wall rack of bottles with French fries and burgers), smoking, coarse language, any sexual content etc. all of which are understandable edits, and anything further, such as pretty much any instances of violence or death, and Rouge’s cleavage, was blamed on Fox’s standards and practices. It also had the typical 4Kids trademarks already mentioned ad nauseum in previous entries.

However, no one can seem to reach a consensus on how bad the dub actually is. Unlike with Ultimate Muscle, 4Kids went in the polar opposite direction with Sonic X. The original series, despite having numerous instances of breaking the fourth wall, which were removed by 4Kids, was already written to be, from what I gleamed from some fans, overly written, dry, filled with exposition and just not fun. 4Kids opted to leave it mostly alone script-wise instead of making it fun and cheesy like they usually did. For once, it seems like people were actually complaining that a 4Kids dub was too loyal and wasn’t changed enough.

Years ago, I actually started making an SDC on Sonic X – I just never posted it. While I was a Sonic fan when I was a kid, I was never a fan of the Sonic X series, though I think I did catch a couple episodes when I was a kid. However, I quit the SDC after doing episode three because I found the series to be boring, and I specifically noted that, among the shows I had already started comparing, Sonic X was kinda uninteresting to write about because there just weren’t that many notable changes. There was nothing really funny to talk about, nor was there really anything angering. In fact, I went so far as to note at the end of the episode three comparison that it was actually one of 4Kids’ most loyal dubs. Now, granted, I can’t really make such a bold claim without comparing the entire series, but I’m not going to do that. I did find a full series comparison on Youtube, by Hensama, if anyone’s interested in the nuts and bolts of what was changed.

Despite the changes and the controversy over the quality of the dub, Sonic X was very popular in the United States. However, the same could not be said of Japan, where the show was experiencing such poor ratings that, despite a third season being produced due to the success internationally, they opted not to air the third season in Japan (Though it would suddenly be aired in Japan years later in 2020 as part of a promotional campaign for the live-action movie.) However, 4Kids still dubbed and aired the third season in the US as scheduled.

Dubbing their first French animated series, and making quite the confusing decision here, 4Kids acquired the rights to the seldom-known Funky Cops, which was a show about two cops in the 1970s who become disco stars but also do cop things sometimes.

Golly, I wonder why this series didn’t appeal to the children of the early 00s.

I really can’t find much information at all about this dub. There was already an English version of the show available by Kabillion before 4Kids got the rights to it, but obviously 4Kids did their own dub. In terms of edits, they changed the theme songs, and 4Kids changed a character named Dick to Jack, supposedly….because….Dick=penis? But….Ultimate Muscle….Dik-Dik….eh whatever. I guess they also didn’t catch that Jack is a common dirty word too. Also, for some reason, they left in all of the guns, which were realistic-looking guns. So….I guess the gun thing isn’t a huge deal to Fox’s standards and practices? That’s about all I know.

As I subtly hinted at before, this series didn’t do too well. Not just with 4Kids’ dub, but as a whole. It was canceled in France after 39 episodes, and it was canceled after only being aired less than a year on the Fox Box. 4Kids never released the show on DVD, and their dub has officially become lost media, with only the, admittedly very catchy, theme song available on Youtube. I did find one episode on Archive.org, but the episode won’t load. When I try alternate links, the sound has been disabled. The Youtube account linked to that lone episode upload has been terminated. Another episode was uploaded on Mega, but the file was deleted due to violations of terms of service. However, the Kabillion English dub and the original French version are readily available online.

I just don’t understand why 4Kids picked this show up. It’s a very dated setting, it can’t have that much appeal to kids, and what is even the merchandising aspect here? Afro wigs? A cop badge with a disco ball on it or something? I don’t get it. Were the executives just like “Hey, my son liked this stuff when he was a kid back in the 70s! Let’s license it!”?

For a more understandable decision, we have their 2003 production of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Helmed by Lloyd Goldfine, who was a huge fan of TMNT all the way back to the original comics, and co-produced by Mirage Studios, the company founded and owned by the creators of TMNT, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the 2003 series was notably significantly darker and more serious than the 1987 cartoon series that had preceded it, which was a surprising move by 4Kids of all companies. Goldfine even convinced the crew at 4Kids to go to Mirage Studios and get guidance and approval from Peter Laird and the CEO of Mirage, Gary Richardson, both of whom seemingly really liked the show pitch, approved scripts and character designs and even provided additional guidance as the series went on.

The 2003 TMNT series was one of 4Kids’ few crown jewels. It found massive success on the Fox Box, and has remained as one of the most beloved TMNT series. It was so big, in fact, that it was earning enough revenue to be counted among Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! as being one of 4Kids’ top earners for years. As a TMNT fan, I always really enjoyed the series. It was a nice middleground between the dark grittiness of the comic and the general goofiness of the 1987 series, both of which I also greatly enjoy.

TMNT 2003, despite being such a huge hit, has never fully been released on DVD. 4Kids and Funimation had weird and poor release schedules for the DVDs, as always, releasing just a few episodes at a time, usually, instead of entire seasons at once. For example, season three was released across seven different DVD releases, starting in March of 2005 and ending in May of 2006, and the episodes were out of order.

Season four, for some reason, was peppered throughout the season three DVDs, also out of order. When season four was finally released on its own set, with the remaining episodes in order, it was missing its season finale, Ninja Tribunal, which wouldn’t be released until the season five DVD set released two years later.

For some reason, they also completely skipped releasing season five at first and went on to season six after releasing season four. And then they were like “You know what would be fun? If we re-released season one, this time in two parts, just for funsies.” Then they started re-releasing season two in the same manner, again, before season five was released. The season five release was in full when it finally came out, but it was missing an episode – in number only.

Season five episode six was a never completed episode that was deemed too controversial and dark for Fox to allow it to air. It was called Nightmares Recycled, and it was about conjoined twins, Hun and Garbageman, who were separated in a back-alley surgery. As a result, Hun wrapped Garbageman in a blanket, knocked him out and threw him in the dumpster, leaving him for dead. The end of the episode would have involved Garbageman being thrown into acid and slowly reaching his hand out for his brother as he was horrifically dying while the Turtles and Hun watched….which…..kinda holy shit, there, 4Kids. The episode went through several drafts and rewrites, with Peter Laird offering quite a bit of advice and suggestions to tone it down, but 4Kids just opted to shelve it entirely, not even completing it for a future DVD release.

They had to stop producing the DVDs when Nickelodeon bought the rights to the entire franchise in 2009, including the rights to TMNT 2003. Nickelodeon has released some more episodes, but their release schedule is just as weird and poorly planned as 4Kids’ and Funimation’s.

First of all, it took them six years to even start releasing DVDs of the show. Second of all, their first DVD release of the series was just three episodes of season one, which had already been released on DVD twice at this point. And this DVD release was also out of order. Their episode releases went, season one episodes 21, 22, 23 on the first DVD, titled NYC Showdown, then 1, 25, and 26 on the second DVD titled The Search for Splinter. Some DVD releases had even been officially announced in press releases, those of which being Meet Casey Jones and The Shredder Strikes, both of which were set to be released on September 15, 2015, but the DVDs never surfaced. It’s unclear what episodes would have been on those DVDs.

The last TMNT 2003 DVD release was on October 13, 2015, labeled Cowabunga Christmas, and it was just a collection of three episodes that had already been released on DVD; season three episode 13, as a Christmas special, then two random episodes from season one, episodes seven and eight, to fill up some space I guess. To date, the series has yet to be fully released on DVD, missing season seven, but the entire series is available for steaming on Paramount + and Pluto TV. I wouldn’t hold my breath for Nickelodeon to release season seven, either. It was widely regarded as the worst season of the show and did poorly in ratings when it aired on TV. I can’t imagine they’d find it worth it to bother.

Finally, we have Shaman King, which was another confusing grab for 4Kids considering the subject matter. Shaman King has a lot of violence and mentions of death. The series basically revolves around death. So why 4Kids thought this would be something in their wheelhouse is beyond me.

All of the general already discussed common edits were alive and well in the dub of Shaman King. However, to their credit, 4Kids was trying to keep the general vibe of the show alive. In an effort that I’ll call ‘It could’ve been worse’ they kept in some religious imagery and mentions/discussions of death and violence. They did add some humor and cheesiness, and they changed some storylines and characters’ ethnicities, they obviously censored a bunch, but basically, from my understanding, they had the same problem with Shaman King as they eventually did with One Piece – they didn’t fully realize until it was too late that the show’s demographic might be too far off of their target.

According to the Dubbing Fandom page, 4Kids’ seeming leniency with the show was not met very well. They received complaints from parents and network executives about the content, which is supposedly one of the reasons why they went so hard with the changes and censorship with One Piece.

Because of this, Shaman King and later One Piece and the 2003 TMNT series would have their advertisements run during prime time hours to help hook in older viewers, but obviously there’s a huge flaw there. The Fox Box is meant to be geared towards kids. Trying to drum up more ratings for the show by bringing in older audiences isn’t really a solution to the problem. Later, all three series would air perfectly fine later in the day on Cartoon Network.

Again, I’m surprised to discover that fans found the show to either be meh or generally okay. People especially liked 4Kids’ theme song for the show. All things considered, Shaman King was a pretty decent hit for 4Kids. They dubbed the entire series, people seemed to like it, much to the annoyance of Fox who kept getting pissy about the content and the older audience it was attracting. However, they were hoping it would be a Yu-Gi-Oh! level hit, and it wasn’t.

The home video releases, either broadcast cut or the unedited/uncensored release, needed to be canceled after two volumes because of low sales, presumably, and because that was also around the time 4Kids’ partnership with Funimation was falling apart. Al Kahn stated the sales for the broadcast DVDs were “extraordinarily successful,” but claimed there was a limited market for the uncut DVDs.

Either way, neither version got a very long release window before being canceled. They announced uncut DVD sets all the way through episode 15, and even had cover art released for volume three, but canceled the DVDs after only six episodes were released of the 64 episode series. As far as I could tell, the broadcast DVDs got canceled after two volumes as well since I can only find covers for two of them, and I can’t even find a listing for the second one, which makes me think the second one might not have even been released. There were also full DVD sets released overseas, but as far as I can tell they were only in German and French.

Discotek Media would later acquire the rights and finally released the entire English 4Kids dub on Blu-ray in 2021.

There was one new lawsuit to mention for this year, although this was at its subsidiary, Summit Media. DSI Toys, Inc. sued Summit for payments they made to Summit prior to DSI’s bankruptcy, totaling $1,159,000 and, for some reason, it was legally owed a refund of the money. Summit would later settle the matter for $5,000 in 2004.

Overall, 2003 was a great year for 4Kids. Their net revenues were up 92% from $53,140,000 in 2002 to $102,079,000 in 2003. They were obviously experiencing higher production costs due to how many series they had picked up in the meantime, but they were getting substantial returns and then some from their Fox Box block. At the end of the year, they had a net profit of $14,799,000, more than twice as much as 2002, which had $6,990,000.

Next – Part 9: Be Careful What You Wish For

Previous – Part 7: A Fox in a Box and a 4Kids with a Block


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 6: 4Kids 4Ever (2002)

As 4Kids entered 2002, they were sitting fairly pretty. They now had two successful cash cow franchises under their belts along with a slue of other non-anime-related licensing deals to create various sources of income. In 2000, they had even topped Fortune’s 100 Fastest Growing Companies list. It seemed 4Kids was overdue to be hoist from their petard and make their first big fumble.

As 4Kids was dubbing the fourth season of Pokemon, Johto League Champions, they dubbed the fourth Pokemon movie, Pocket Monsters the Movie: Celebi – A Timeless Encounter, and retitled it Pokemon 4Ever, which is a title that has so many hilarious layers to it, especially in hindsight, it’s almost impressive.

Since Pokemon’s returns were on the decline, especially in the theaters, Warner Bros. bowed out of distributing the fourth Pokemon movie, meaning 4Kids had to find someone else to take the reins. Why they chose Miramax is unclear, but the company was owned by Disney at the time, and Disney had recently been dipping their toes in the anime market after gaining the dubbing and distribution rights to Studio Ghibli movies to varying degrees of success.

Their first Ghibli outing, Kiki’s Delivery Service, was a fairly strong success, but when they gave another Ghibli title, Princess Mononoke, to their subsidiary, Miramax, things did not go nearly as well.

Miramax was helmed by famed piece of burning ultra garbage, Harvey Weinstein, and he wanted to make significant cuts to the film. According to Production Manager, Steve Alpert, who had spent 15 years as Senior Executive at Studio Ghibli, Weinstein wanted to cut 45 minutes from the film, even though he reportedly had promised Hiyao Miyazaki that he wouldn’t cut the film at all. Alpert told him Miyazaki would never agree to that. In response, Weinstein rationally and calmly…..yelled at the top of his lungs in a fit of unbridled rage, “‘If you don’t get him to cut the fucking film you will NEVER WORK IN THIS FUCKING INDUSTRY AGAIN! DO YOU FUCKING UNDERSTAND ME?!! NEVER!!’”

Alpert, who didn’t get him to cut the fucking film, would go on to work in that fucking industry for another decade before retiring and becoming an author discussing his experiences in that fucking industry.

In response to the news that Weinstein intended on cutting the film, one of Miyazaki’s producers famously sent Weinstein a katana with a message that said simply “No cuts.” Disney’s deal with Ghibli required the company and Miyazaki have consent over any changes, a clause that was likely spurred from being burned by Manson International when they dubbed and horrifically mutilated Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Weinstein was massively pissed at this rejection.

In an interview in 2002, when asked about his penchant of heavily editing films acquired from foreign markets, Weinstein replied, “I’m not cutting for fun. I’m cutting for this shit to work. All my life, I’ve served one master: the film. I love movies.”

Speaking of which, guys, I love paintings. I love them so much I bought The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali. Then I cut it up into tiny pieces, threw away a bunch of them, and superglued what was left, grabbed a Sharpie and drew a butt farting. Thank god. Now American audiences can finally appreciate this wonderful painting.

Princess Mononoke was released uncut, but was not very successful financially upon initial release. It made Disney so wary of their new territory that they didn’t release the already-dubbed Castle in the Sky until 2003, after their release of Spirited Away, this time handled by John Lasseter of Pixar, did significantly better, even if it still wasn’t a massive financial success.

Which brings us back around to the question of why 4Kids chose Miramax. If they’re so geared towards money, why would they choose a company whose only anime title under their belt wasn’t very successful and had been lead by someone like Harvey Weinstein?

Harvey Weinstein had only offered $1mil up front to get the international distribution rights to Pokemon Movies 04 and 05 from 4Kids, but he also offered 75% of back-end profits, which is a very good deal in the long term. Chances are that they also didn’t have that many companies vying for the rights anyway, so Miramax won out.

Harvey Weinstein was reportedly very optimistic about the movies’ future success State-side, despite the fact that the fandom was waning, and the movies had been in such a steady decline since the first entry that low profits was the reason Warner Bros. gave up to begin with. Weinstein thought he could “reinvigorate” the Pokemon franchise and that they’d come up with a “bolder, smarter marketing concept.” which is equally confusing.

4Kids technically wasn’t doing anything wrong in the marketing department. Interest in the franchise was just decreasing, and that’s to be expected, to some degree. Original fans were growing out of Pokemon a bit, and newer younger fans had yet to come into it. It’s true 4Kids lightened up on advertising as the movies went on, but that was probably because they knew the returns, no matter the marketing, weren’t going to be as strong as based on their numbers for revenue from the TV show and whatever they got from toys, games and the TCG. Plus, they might be able to gauge success based on how well the movie did in the Japanese box office.

There wasn’t much wrong with the franchise either – it’s just that the movies weren’t heralding as much attention. And that also makes sense because initial interest in a brand-new franchise that had already exploded elsewhere would most likely be incredible. The second entry would lose its initial mystique, but still be very appealing. People would start to get a little tired of the formula by the third.

Not to mention that, the more the series goes on, the more niche it gets. Moviegoers who aren’t very familiar with the series won’t feel compelled to watch installments of a movie franchise beyond the first one unless they become fans of the TV show or games after that. Pokemon the First Movie was more or less accessible to everyone because it was new to pretty much everyone. It was a starting point, even if it did have a slight learning curve in catching onto Pokemon names and certain mechanics.

The same cannot be said for sequels. Even if fans understand that they’re usually contained stories, people who are less familiar might not. If you ask someone if they want to watch a first movie of any franchise, there’s a much higher chance they’ll agree than if you ask if they want to watch the fourth without having seen the first three. I imagine that’s why they constantly introduce every single Pokemon movie with ‘The World of Pokemon’ intro. You have to give a baseline each time to help catch any new people up with how this world works.

What makes this claim even more confusing is that Miramax did the polar opposite of what they said they would do. They didn’t reinvigorate the movie franchise – they brought it out behind a shed to beat it with a rake.

Apparently, Weinstein’s idea of “bolder, smarter marketing concept(s)” is to basically do as little promotion as humanly possible. They made precisely one poster for it, which also ended up being the DVD art, one trailer (TrailerAddict has two listed, but they’re both EXACTLY the same barring the slight change to the Miramax Films logo….) which I can’t remember seeing anywhere whatsoever, and only released the movie in very few theaters. To put it into perspective, Pokemon the First Movie was released in 3,043 theaters. Pokemon the Movie 2000 was released in 2,752 theaters. Pokemon 3 was released in 2,675 theaters.

Pokemon 4Ever was released in……..

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

249 theaters overall.

No, that’s not a typo.

249 theaters.

Wizards and 4Kids apparently still wanted to do their card promo, so, once again, any lucky American theatergoer to actually know that this movie existed and was in a theater near them could obtain a promotional Celebi card with their ticket purchase as long as supplies lasted. And supplies did last, because no one saw this movie in theaters. A promotional Suicune card would be included in the later DVD release.

Obviously, Pokemon 4Ever was not financially successful….at all.

In its opening weekend, Pokemon 3 managed to snag around $8.2 million.

In its opening weekend, Pokemon 4Ever scrounged together $717,061.

Again, no, that’s not a typo.

Pokemon 3 ended its run with a return of $17,052,128 from the box office.

Pokemon 4Ever ended its run with a return of $1,727,239.

One last time. Not a typo.

Pokemon 4Ever had become the franchise’s first complete flop.

But not all of the blame can be put on Miramax’s shoulders….Although, a lot of it can be. Not only did 4Kids not do nearly as much of its own promotion as it normally would, not making any new toys or anything as far as I can see, but 4Kids also mutilated this movie so badly that it was being compared with the first movie in that it had so much altered and, oddly, added to it instead of removed.

4Kids, in one of their most confusing moves ever, contracted out the original animation company of Pokemon, OLM, to have three new scenes added to the movie. The reason for two of these scenes was for the sake of making the ‘big twist’ of the movie be more obvious to the audience, even though it absolutely 1000% didn’t have to be. Not only was it already fairly easy to figure out given the clues the original already had, but the revelation wasn’t anything significant or mind-bending. It was more like a ‘Huh…..okay.’ kind of thing. However, those at 4Kids didn’t get this twist when they watched it, so they decided they needed to make it more obvious for kids, even if the twist has absolutely no bearing on the movie at all besides basically being a cool Easter egg.

The third scene was the most confusing. It was an entirely pointless scene of Team Rocket just kinda bantering and having a slight moment of slapstick. It didn’t contribute to the big reveal at all, so why they bothered having that scene made is a huge mystery. There’s no information on how much 4Kids spent to have these scenes made for the movie, but the more petty side of me hopes it was more than $1,727,139.

In a very surprising, but welcome, move, 4Kids did keep the soundtrack to the movie barring the opening theme song and the end credits song. I have no idea why. I would say it was to save money, but their completely flippant waste of however much money they spent on the extra scenes blows that idea out of the water. Some people speculate they started having issues with The Pokemon Company or Nintendo about replacing the soundtracks, but I can’t find anything concrete on any theory. As a result, this is the first Pokemon movie without an accompanied English soundtrack. There is a Japanese one, but it was never released in the west.

Unlike the previous two movies, which had only received slightly better critic reviews as they went on, Pokemon 4Ever’s critical response was very much negative, earning it the reputation of being the worst film of the four that had been released at the time, with many critics claiming it was dull, boring, paced poorly and emotionally manipulative.

As with the first three movies, the fourth installment also premiered with a short, this time Pikachu’s Pikaboo. However, for the first time ever, the short was not included in the theatrical release. Yet again flipping on their head, 4Kids did absolutely no editing to the short outside of just changing the title card to an English one and creating new theme songs. They even kept the end credits sequence, which leads me to believe they knew Miramax wasn’t going to include the short in theaters and were perfectly fine with that.

Speaking of Miramax, it’s time to shift speculation on this situation to something a little more sinister.

I’ve been keeping something from you. One of the worst things to happen to the Pokemon movies, at least internationally.

When Miramax bought the international distribution rights to Pokemon 4Ever and Pokemon Heroes, and later Movies 06 and 07, because for some reason they thought it was a good idea to give them the rights to even more movies after this disaster, they bought them permanently. As in, to this day they still have the international distribution rights to Movies 04-07. And TPC cannot do a damn thing about it. They can’t get the international rights back, they can’t stream any of the English dubbed movies on Pokemon TV or release the movies outside of Asia. Not even Disney XD was allowed to air the movies on TV when it aired a Pokemon marathon after they gained some distribution rights. Miramax or Paramount, who currently owns Miramax, are the only ones who can.

It seems this wasn’t out of character either as Weinstein had made a habit out of shady business practices like this, such as putting a hold on the release of certain films, particularly foreign films and arty films, so he could abuse a loophole in a bonus deal he had made with Jeffery Katzenberg and make as much money as he possibly could for himself. As Edward Jay Epstein of Slate put it, he was “hemorrhaging rivers of red ink.”

Miramax clearly did a better job promoting the DVD release than they did the theatrical release. I actually remember commercials for the Pokemon 4Ever DVD release constantly playing on TV, and it did both alert me to the fact that this movie existed and prompted me to buy a copy.

My conspiratorial head believes Miramax initially set it up for a permanent deal so they could keep milking DVD and other home video releases forever, even if they only got 25% of the share. Getting 25% of the back-end of a largely expensive theater release that would compare with the previous three movies, while also paying for promotional materials, and getting pitiful returns likely didn’t seem appealing to them. Churning out cheap DVDs and milking them until the end of time was likely much more appealing, especially if they could lure more people into buying the DVD by including the exclusive short, Pikachu’s Pikaboo, on it.

Pokemon was still very popular, and they likely figured it would still have a consistent following for years, even if the hype was dying down. They would still keep making money on the DVDs no matter what, and the theatrical releases were likely part of the contract (at least for Movies 04 and 05) that they simply had to uphold. At any rate, they would certainly make back their $1mil investment and then some.

However, this situation is still confusing because they’ve largely ignored these movies for years. They have been re-released a couple of times, but not to anywhere near the extent you’d think would be necessary to justify not just selling the rights back to TPC, whom I’m sure would pay reasonably for them.

What’s especially insulting is that Miramax basically scammed people with the re-releases. Despite the original DVD having the short, multiple special features and subtitles, the re-releases it had after that didn’t have the short, any other special features or subtitles, even though all of those things were listed on the covers. The only thing the re-releases have over the initial release is being in 16:9 widescreen instead of the cropped 4:3. What’s even funnier is that they released a Blu-Ray collector’s set containing all four of the held movies (on one disc) in 2012 and, again, they just re-used the poster art for Pokemon 4Ever for the box art.

This cover doesn’t even say which movies (in a manner that kinda misleads you into thinking that it has the first four movies, not Movies 04-07) or includes some of the other Legendaries to the front. It’s one of the laziest DVD covers for a movie collection I’ve ever seen.

What’s confuses me even more is why 4Kids and/or TPC even let Miramax buy the permanent international rights. 75% of the back-end profits is appealing, but, if you ask me, running risk of a company – one that barely has any experience whatsoever with anime, the experience they did have was terrible, and was lead by the human embodiment of all things awful – holding your films hostage forever doesn’t seem worth it.

But 4Kids being 4Kids, they were frequently planning for bigger things. Right as everything was being mucked up with Miramax, 4Kids was making a deal to expand their anime reach even further.

Next – Part 7: A Fox in a Box and a 4Kids with a Block

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


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 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


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 3: 4Kids 2000 (2000)

Before I start, I’d like to note something funny I found in the 1999 financial report for 1998. 4Kids stated one of their concerns for operating in the year 2000 was Y2K. There’s an entire section outlining the issues they think they might have to deal with in regards to their systems rolling over into the year 2000. They even said that they might not be able to license certain things in that year because their clients and licensees might not be “year 2000 compliant,” and, yes, they include a note about the biggest concerns being “disruption of television broadcast signals, including satellite distribution and commercial integration vendors as a result of the general failure of systems and necessary infrastructure such as electrical supply.”

I know Y2K was a big concern back then – it was an issue no one had any frame of reference for since this was a unique situation – and it’s not like 4Kids was the lone paranoid one since the entire world for the most part was losing their shit, but looking back it’s kinda funny to stumble upon such significant concerns about what wound up being pretty much nothing. Although some people say the reason it wound up being mostly nothing was because of intense Y2K preparedness, some countries that did little to no Y2K preparedness basically experienced the same minimal effects, so yeah.

Getting back on topic….

It’s the year 2000, when absolutely no one could resist the siren call of giving literally every title of everything that was released in that year the suffix of ‘2000.’ In comes what 4Kids would title Pokemon the Movie 2000. Or, if you’re actually watching the movie’s title screen – Pokemon: The Power of One.

As 4Kids was working through the second season of Pokemon, also known as the Orange League, the first sequel in what was going to become a seemingly never ending Pokemon movie franchise was released in Japan on July 17, 1999 – Pocket Monsters the Movie: The Phantom Pokemon – Lugia’s Explosive Birth, and, almost immediately after, it was handed to 4Kids to be dubbed, localized and released in English.

Pokemon the Movie 2000 had a very similar and even bigger marketing campaign as the first movie including nearly the same Burger King toy tie-ins, which had now been made safer to avoid suffocation hazards (Such as the previously mentioned warnings as well as poking an air hole in the plastic) and included new toys, and giving away Wizards Black Star promotional cards in theaters – this time of Moltres, Articuno or Zapdos. However, the most notable promotional change to the second movie was introducing an entirely new and incredibly unique Pokemon card – the Ancient Mew card.

Only those who attended showings of the movie in the first week of release and at participating theaters obtained an Ancient Mew card with their ticket purchase. I was one of those people, and the Ancient Mew card has remained one of my absolute favorite cards over the years. The card technically had the same information as normal Pokemon cards, but the color of the card was changed to make it look like a holographic/rainbow-ish almost stone slab, and the text was written in medieval Futhark Runic and Gothenburg Runic.

The Ancient Mew card was carried over from the same marketing campaign in the original Japanese release of the movie, but unlike in the States where they were given away for free with the movie ticket, the Japanese versions were sold inside of a movie pamphlet explaining some background and plot details of the second movie, including quite literally any information on the main villain of the movie because they didn’t bother actually including that in the movie. American audiences were not offered any such pamphlet, so they were left largely in the dark about anything involving him.

Making the Ancient Mew card a part of the promotional campaign in both the US and Japan (as well as several other countries) worked like a charm, but it was quite confusing. Mew never appears in the movie at all, and the Ancient Mew card Lawrence III has gets absolutely so explanation. It randomly appears in the ending in the rubble of Lawrence’s ship. He claims this card was the start of his collection, and that he’ll restart his collection with that same card, and that’s it. Whether that’s meant harmlessly or not is never made clear.

Apparently, the card was going to play a bigger part in the movie, somehow, but those aspects of the film never made it beyond the earliest stages, leaving only brief glimpses of the card, rather randomly. Takeshi Shudo, who wrote the screenplay, took responsibility for the card being left in the film at all as he intended to have it entirely cut from the film if the rest couldn’t be included, but somehow that shot still wound up in the final cut.

I’d like to know what the card even is, because it’s not like they based this card on a stone slab or something – it’s still a normal card in the movie. How did ancient people make a Pokemon card and why?

While the movie was still incredibly popular and even did slightly better with critics, Pokemon the Movie 2000 didn’t do quite as well as the first Pokemon movie, earning $9,250,000 at the box office in its premiere, $1mil less than the first movie, only reached third place at the box office, two spots below the first movie’s coveted first place spot, and ended its US run with $43,758,684 in total domestic returns, $42mil less than its predecessor. It was still a big success, but not quite the same level of success that the first movie garnered.

Additionally, the film still wound up getting nominated for Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, being nominated for Worst Achievement in Animation and The Remake or Sequel Nobody Was Clamoring For. It lost the first award to Digimon the Movie, and the second it lost as well, but wasn’t even a direct nomination because it was lumped together in the “All Films with “2000” in the Title” group. I’m really starting to understand why these awards ended. It actually seems like it’s somehow less fair and worse than the Razzies.

Pokemon the Movie 2000 managed to get away with not being as mangled as the first movie. More or less all of the original scenes are intact, and the story is essentially the same, but 4Kids changed the tone or message of the movie to be more towards the power of one person rather that the power of individuals working together, leaned more into ship tease between Ash and Misty, and, of course, changed the entire soundtrack so they could sell their own pop music heavy soundtrack as well as their separate orchestral soundtrack.

You can find the full breakdown of the changes 4Kids made to the movie on Dogasu’s Backpack here.

Like before, the movie came accompanied with a short, this time titled Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure. And again, like before, the dub’s version of the short had the same changes in that it removed the credits, changed the entire score and messed with the narration. Except where Pikachu’s Vacation changed the narrator, the dub short just removed the narrator entirely and let audiences try to follow the story by themselves. And no movie-related dub would be complete without a misidentification, this time incorrectly identifying a Poliwrath as a Poliwhirl.

One more note about 2000, however, is the Brock and Tracey…..let’s call it a controversy.

When Ash and Misty entered the Orange Islands, Brock left the series to be with Professor Ivy and learn about Pokemon with her. In came Pokemon Watcher, Tracey Sketchit, winner of the most on-the-nose last name award, to replace him as Ash’s second companion. According to Pokemon anime director and storyboard artist Masamitsu Hidaka, the reason Tracey, known as Kenji in the Japanese version, was created was because they realized Pokemon was taking off globally and were worried Brock, known as Takeshi in the Japanese version, would be viewed too much like a Japanese stereotype given his eye design, even though no one had complained about it in any region. Kenji/Tracey was created explicitly to look “tall, white and Anglo-looking” for the sake of preventing any stereotypes.

……*lip smack* Really is kinda funny looking back considering that they’ve gotten in trouble more than once for instances of perceptions of blackface with Jynx and even Ash himself way later in Sun and Moon, and needed backlash to realize the issues there, but with Brock they almost immediately pulled him entirely with basically no backlash to prompt it. I should be clear, though, that Hidaka’s the only person who has said this and, as far as I know, this claim hasn’t been backed up by anyone else, but it is very difficult to dispute. Even without that statement, it’s how Tracey’s character came off to so many people.

Brock would return a season later when Johto came around because people missed Brock and they realized that people didn’t care how he was designed, they just liked him as a character. Brock would remain as Ash’s companion for several years, being one of the longest running regular characters on the show, until Black and White when he would finally retire fully from being Ash’s companion in order to study to be a Pokemon Doctor.

2000 was another great year for 4Kids. Their stocks were up, their consolidated net revenue was up 45% – $87,997,468 compared to $60,482,369 in 1999. Again, this was almost entirely credited to Pokemon, but many of their other licensed properties were also doing well. While their spending was up slightly as a result of their new licensing and dubbing practices, they still netted $38,772,580 in income at the end of the year compared to $23,638,426 in 1999.

Over in lawsuit land, we have Morrison v. Nintendo (and 4Kids) – Sued for supposedly infringing on their trademark for Monster in my Pocket. In 2001, the suit was dismissed, but the plaintiff filed an appeal. In February of 2003, the appeal was denied and the dismissal was upheld.

Then we have EM.TV and Merchandising AG v. Nintendo (and 4Kids) – Sued for breaching some contract agreement for Pokemon television broadcasts? It’s really unclear. The matter was settled a year later with no damages awarded, but some undisclosed amount paid as an amount owed.

Next – Part 4: Entering Unown Territory

Previous – Part 2: Pokemon – I License You!


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