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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next – Part 10: One Piece in Pieces

Previous – Part 8: Miramax Killed the Movie Theater Star


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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons): Winx Club

Plot: A teenage girl named Bloom finds a fairy named Stella being attacked by an ogre out in the woods. In an effort to save her, Bloom discovers that she has fairy magic too. This is just the start of something much bigger for Bloom.

Breakdown: Alright, I need to prepare myself for this one. Just gonna jump into my subconscious for a tad.

*poof*

Girly part of me! Where are you?! I need you for 20 minutes and 14 seconds! I know you’re in here! I felt your presence when I was looking at puppy pictures earlier! Ah there you are. I don’t know why I don’t always look in the nook with my Beanie Baby collection first.

Away!

*poof*

So, yeah, as you can probably guess, despite having the girl parts, I’ve never been that girly. I’ve always been more into things that were more traditionally boy-like. I had some regular girly stuff like Barbies and bead sets and a fake plastic kitchen (I make the best plastic omelets), I’ve even had the tea parties and dressed like a fairy princess once. But if you ever asked me to choose between something like Power Rangers and My Little Pony, I’d be imagining piloting the Megazord before you’d finish your sentence. I never disliked girly things, I was just more interested in boy-ish stuff…..It was cooler….No My Little Pony dolls shoot lasers or explode, okay?

With that in mind, it goes without saying that I never really watched Winx Club. I caught a few minutes of it here and there but—OOH BEYBLADE’S ON!

*cough* Something else would usually come on.

But I’m not without my girliness. My femininity. My female…itude…..I have a purse.

Let’s see if I can get into Winx Club.

*one episode later*

Mmmmmmmm…..Nrrghhh……Unf.

Alright, let me level with you. This show is not terrible on the basis of rampant girliness. The girliness levels are high, damn near ridiculous (The main character’s animal sidekick is a damn bunny for crying out loud), but I was able to get through that relatively fine…

This episode is just poorly written.

Right off the bat, the pacing for the first half is breakneck. In the first three minutes, we’re briefly introduced to our main character, Bloom, who is a normal average teenage girl. She sees a fairy girl with a valley girl accent fighting an ogre that is quickly defeating her. Bloom goes to help her, reveals she suddenly has powers, knocks the ogre away, the fairy girl, named Stella, gets back up, defeats the ogre with ease and then faints.

The pacing slows down a bit then ramps right back up after the ten minute mark. For example, in the time span of a minute, Stella brings Bloom to Alfea, an all-girls boarding college for fairies, pixies and something called…gowylians? Gowillians?….Uh those – Most of whom are princesses because of course they are. They learn to be magic users, protectors of their realms and queens.

This place is right down the road from the boy’s school – The Red Fountain School for Heroics and Bravery (A place ‘full of hunks’ according to Stella), where young men learn to become military heroes utilizing such things as hand to hand combat, weapon use, basic survival, magic swords and DRAGONS. Look! Look! The boys get magic swords and dragons! They get the cool stuff!

They’re also close to the Clow Tower School for Witches, which could not be more designed to be a villain factory if you tried.

Then, in the same minute mind you, she informs Bloom that she already invited some of the boys from the Red Fountain school to her house. When did she do this? She never had the opportunity as far as I saw.

If the pacing doesn’t get you, the story won’t do you any favors. It is extremely cut and dry ‘normal person discovers she has magic powers and is tasked to save the world’ shtick. The good guys are obvious, the bad guys are even more obvious, and they practically go out of their way to separate everyone into their respective groups. For God’s sake, if sectioning off good from evil wasn’t enough, they have to cordon off the boys into their own school too. So we can wrangle the love interests? What’s that about?

Wait a minute.

*One Wiki Later*

Yup, that’s literally it’s purpose. All of the future members of the Winx Club will have either fiancés or boyfriends and, you guessed it, they all, barring one, come from the Red Fountain school. Wow.

Bloom’s parents are unreasonably stupid. Not believing your daughter brought home a fairy is one thing, being one room away from a door that is being brutally pounded on by someone, seeing a pet freaking out about it and constantly wondering why the animal is freaking out and pointing to the aforementioned door is another. They have to shake the whole house and actually enter before they realize, holy crap, someone’s at the door.

Anyone familiar with Tuxedo Mask Syndrome in magical girl shows can rest assured that the girls do indeed get rescued in the end by the hero boys she mentioned. At the very least, they barely know what they’re doing too.

The dialogue is okay at best and cringe-worthy at worst. There’s a lot of lame slang, valley girl speak and just horribly written lines delivered in lackluster ways. Par for the course for 4Kids.

The art and animation are horrid. It’s not the absolute worst I’ve seen, but it is quite a ways down there. Italy, I hate to keep giving you crap, but….you kinda keep giving me crap. It’s weird. There isn’t really a tidal wave of animation errors – it’s moreso like an unfinished animation or just sloppily done. The action actually isn’t the worst part of it. The bad animation is most highlighted in the speaking scenes. I laughed out loud when we saw Brendan speaking in that extreme closeup. If there was ever a shot where bobble-head physics applied, it’s that one.

The music is about what you’d expect from a girl-targeted show from 4Kids. Girly earworms. I will wag my finger in 4Kids face for one moment of music faux pas. They very clearly use a piece of BG music from Pokemon when Bloom wakes up. Tsk tsk.

As a first episode, it does the job just fine. Mostly because they’re mowing down the plot of the episode to shove every bit of exposition down our throats as quickly as possible. It introduces us to the characters and their universe just fine. They don’t really explain too well what fairies are in terms of what they do, nor do they explain how their magic works. They also never explain why or how Bloom is a fairy. She just shows she has powers, and Stella spends half the episode gushing about how awesome she is.

They show the big bads, but we have no clue what they want besides power and, I can only assume, world domination.

Verdict—wait a minute.

While this first episode, in my opinion, is a hot mess that doesn’t make me want to watch anymore, I will concede for a bit. Winx Club is a huge franchise spanning over several seasons, movies and even comics.

I’ve read some stuff from future storylines, and it seems somewhat interesting. I don’t want to write off the entire franchise for you all here, so let’s leave this as an;

ebzss3e

I, personally, won’t be continuing because it’s just not my cup of tea. However, if you can find yourself getting into shows of this vein, I recommend giving it a go for a few episodes. If anything, the art and animation seem to improve over time.


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