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.