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Why I miss 4Kids Entertainment, and the problems with Saban’s Vortexx


Thankfully, Toonbarn has done well to show what has happened to Toonzai/Toonzaki and so on. However, here is a point people tend to forget: 4kids was different from the other kids’ companies that existed during and after the last 10 or so years. You have to realize the type of marketplace that existed when the company was at its peak and when it passed on. The problem with people’s recollection of the history of 4Kids is that it doesn’t tell the whole story about why 4Kids did what it did and what it could have done better.

You see, the only two companies that the big three (Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney) felt any sort of threat from was 4Kids at one end, and Toonami (when it was apart of the cartoon network) on the other.

Even given an aside, 4Kids respected Toonami for what it was (but im not truly sure if Mr Demarco, now the Senior Vice President of Marketing over in Cartoon Network and Adult Swim – felt the same way about Mr Kahn’s company)

But you have to understand, and people really don’t – 4Kids tried to do different things with animation and anime that many others didn’t really care to do – outside of you guessed it – Toonami (under CN and now under Adult Swim)

There is a form of censorship not only in the anime news media – but in the animation community as well – this affects Saban too in a way – the animator unions (such as Tag 839, which works with both the big three, and well as their owners, the big six – Adding Sony, Universal and Fox) tend to look down upon the non-union (unless you’re in Sag Aftra as they are now called in Voice Acting) because they are Union Busting. (that’s why for a lot of non union work, a lot of Voice Actors have a name change)

However, the censorship got really onerous concerning 4Kids’s bankruptcy. This was a problem, and on a future topic I will go into this in depth.

However, 4Kids did something that others now blame 4Kids for doing.

It brought Japanese “Doga” (also known by its francophone lone word, Anime) to the Masses.

Till this very day, the highest grossing anime movie is still Pokémon The First Movie – 82 Million in the US alone. There is also Yugi-Oh, even though it was no where near the success of Pokémon, was a mega success in its own right.

But if I told you 4kids aired more International works than a lot of the other networks, would you believe me?

Lets look at Funky Cops which first aired in France back in the mid 2000’s.  It was a interesting mix of cgi and cel-shaded animation. And at times it showcased the 1970’s in a interesting light.

How about the Cramp Twins, which aired in Cartoon Network Europe?

The great surprise from the international shows, was the Winx Club. Now here’s something interesting for you. There was another show that Disney had (because – this happened around the same time Sailor Moon aired Super in the states on Toonami) that there was a rush to get more girl power series. While 4Kids was airing the Winx Club franchise (made in Italy by RAI), Disney – after the shock of a stockholders meeting in Philadelphia back in 2004, where Michael Eisner was given pretty much a vote of No Confidence – the next year aired a series called WITCH. This was based on hit books that European girls loved and they felt if 4Kids could do it, Disney could do it.

WITCH only lasted a few episodes.

It was one of the biggest victories for 4Kids.

And not to be out done – The TMNT – which aired in 2003, was regarded as a great show.

The industry was changing and 4Kids was part of the change.

In the later years, they also brought Huntik to the states.

They also created Chaotic (or bought the rights to aspects of a card series that later became that franchise). The later seasons were interesting but expensive.

But what I miss most from 4Kids Entertainment is that they had something different about them. Everybody complains about the editing. True. But the question is why? The Saturday morning blocks were never meant to do the same things content-wise  as a show that aired in late night. And before people go like “but how come some shows in the 60’s were more extreme than today?” Let me remind you that those shows were syndicated and never meant to air on the networks. The Networks were under their own BSnP and the FCC’s. It continues to be that way.

The issue stems from a change in culture, which 4Kids and other companies got caught up in. This change didn’t start because of their editing – it started in spite of their editing. The US Animation dubbing industry felt that they could make more money because 4Kids showed them the way. What ended up was that the networks were not getting money (see the issue of the Cardcaptor series) from DVD sales, and stopped production of said series. The same industry, in other places were producing 2 episodes a DVD. Most of 4Kids and other DVD’s were 5 to 6 episodes a dvd disc.

This, along with issues concerning One Piece and the way it was perceived, broke the back of everybody involved. Plus, with the expansion of the Children’s TV Act of 1990 to include the DTV transition (small aside here, the only reason we had a DTV transition, was that particular law.) even 4Kids had to get E/I compliant shows.

But 4Kids did more than that. It did contests where others didn’t really care – it got stars from different walks of life when other companies didn’t. It did songs and covers that tried to show case something that it could be something joyful for the fans of some series to agree that it wasn’t going to be bad, it was going to bring everybody to the franchise (One Piece). And at its final days, it tried to reboot a whole industry caught up in such hubris that if it wasn’t for the return of Toonami back late last year,  would have been called the way its been called by certain fanbases in both the video game industry and other aspects of geekdom, a worse form of porn, to be made fun of – to be called trash and childlike.

4Kids gave – while others continue to take.

This leads into what is wrong with Saban’s Vortexx.

There is nothing new.

There is the use of stars, but there no where as big as their past versions (in Nascar, Pro Wrestling and Music to name a few)

They air shows that have already seen success in other networks and seen by larger audiences.

The thing that makes it worse, is the concept of the Vortexx approved bumper.

This is the worst thing, anyone has done. Its shows the lack of tact. The respect between what we know whats right and what is told whats right.

But this is Saban and his company for you. They go back to what used to work and failing because we are a completely different society than what we were in 1996.

Nick, CN and Disney (the latter slowly understanding) are starting to adjust to new models. They also have problems too.

But Saban didn’t understand then, when he lost Fox Kids Worldwide to the lucky plucky, 4Kids and Pokémon.

He will never understand now, as the whole TV world is changing forever.

That’s why I miss 4Kids. It was meant for the tykes and those at the cusp of the teen years.

And now its lost to the winds, of what it has done and what could have been.

5 replies on “Why I miss 4Kids Entertainment, and the problems with Saban’s Vortexx”

I’d say what else lead to 4Kids downfall is the treatment of their employees. My husband had a teacher in uni who worked for 4Kids before going to teach at that school. 4Kids treats their employees like less than human.

They also were making unauthorized changes to certain shows which lead to their bankruptcy. So I can’t really show any sadness for the loss of 4Kids.

As for the work conditions, this is true with many of the smaller tier kids companies. Saban was the same way in the 1990’s, so was DiC. Titmouse has one side Union (Cali) and the other non Union (NYC). The difference is that that company does respect the workers despite the 12 hour days they work on the shows. 4Kids has some leeway, because Al Kahn wasn’t worth billions as Saban or Andy Heyward were. But to be fair to your point, they could have done a lot better for themselves and their employees new and old. Saban is the same way then (having people under the employ still that has used anti-gay slurs against a actor etc) as he is now.

What was needed now, is new leadership. Jason Demarco and Danny Choo in my opinion are the only ones who can possibly reach the youth in the US and treat their employees with respect. The sad thing is that Mr Demarco has been constrained budget wise with Toonami (because Turners focus is on revamping CNN and keeping NBA rights) and Mr Choo is too busy trying to keep a good face on a Diet (Japanese Parliament) and Japanese Administration that is heading towards fascism.

As for making unauthorized changes – this is the problem with the history concerning one piece in particular. The issue stems from what I stated before – 4kids was caught in a generational change. In which these changes are post modern – see tumblr for example. Anime is seen more as a form of a darker form of Animation or a freer form of animation. That’s why there is a such a split between both the Video Game Industry and the rest of Nerd culture between western art and Japanese. The “dudebros” want more Star Wars/Marvel/Call of Duty Hollywood style works, while the NeoOtaku wants all of what New Protocuture (Moe) entails.

This is a style clash and a cultural/demographic clash. One side remembers the era of what anime was (Dragon Ball Z and the like) and the other sees what anime has become (Lucky Star, Strike Witches) and the two may never see eye to eye. That’s part of the reason why One Piece was the breakup of the two sides. They didn’t like the censorship at all, but one side felt if anime wasn’t going to be shown the way it was meant to be shown, what was the point (and they went back to Marvel etc) while the other cheated the system and created Crunchyroll and a new culture with it (along with 4Chan and the like).

These are also some of the reasons why My Little Pony has become successful. The break up also effected what shows were going to succeed.

Thanks again for your response.


I liked their website – the old one, not the recently revamped one. I liked how you could put the secret code in that they showed on TV to get some points added to your account. I especially liked the OLD arcade. The forums were alright too. I also liked chatting with “admin”, as well as many of the other members with whom I had spoken on a regular bases. 😀

I never understood why so many people hated on the English versions of many of their cartoons. They didn’t like the dubs. They didn’t like the English voice actors. They seemed fine to me. I just didn’t get it. :\

There was this one show that they were running for a short while: Mew Mew Power (I think it was Tokyo Mew or something). From what I understand, the show had 52 episodes, but 4Kids was only able to prepare 26 of them. I wish they were able to finish that project.

I also liked G.I. Joe Sigma 6. Would have also liked to see how that one ended.

As for work conditions, I can’t vouch for those, but I did try to pitch my Flash game to them once. This was back when they still had their old arcade. Basically, they game me the run-around. After showing them the game, they first brought FlashGameLicense, now known as simply FLG to my attention, which I had long since been familiar with that sight. In fact, this game has already been sponsored using the services of that site. Second, they said something about some waiting list, which I had no problem being on, but I never heard from them again after that. Some of you may know this game as Blast Force, and of course, it ended up right here on Toonbarn instead. 😉

– Ziro out.

4kids butchered anime by heavily censoring scenes, characters, dialog and other stuff,… there’s a reason no one likes 4kids dubbed version of the anime they got a hold of

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