4Kids Productions

4Kids Entertainment

4Kids Entertainment (commonly known as 4Kids) is an American film and television production company specializing in the acquisition, production and licensing of children's entertainment around the world. The company is most well-known for its range of television licenses, which has included the multi-billion dollar Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Japanese anime franchises. They also run two program blocks: 4Kids TV on Fox and The CW4Kids on The CW stations, both aimed at children. Their Movies and Anime-dubbed films will be distributed by 20th Century Fox from 4Kids Entertainment.

4Kids licenses and productions

4Kids Entertainment licenses, develops, and distributes a wide variety of media products, ranging from video games and television programs to toy lines featuring the British Royal Air Force. These have included such well-known programs as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. Its most successful film to date is Pokemon: The First Movie.

4Kids focuses on licensing content for the children and pre-teen market, including content for both boys and girls. Many of its licenses come from English dubs of Japanese anime, including Fighting Foodons, and Shaman King, while others are Western animations or properties like Winx Club, Chaotic, or Back to the Future: The Animated Series.

Most programs are either licensed out to local stations, or broadcast on their dedicated programming block 4Kids TV. Typically, 4Kids will retain several properties on hiatus (such as Yu-Gi-Oh! GX), or in production to allow for turnover of their existing products. 4Kids also licenses, and merchandises, a number of non-animation based products, such as calendars like The Dog, and toys like Cabbage Patch Kids.


4Kids TV

In late January 2002, 4Kids Entertainment signed a four-year, US$100 million deal with the Fox Broadcasting Company to program its Saturday morning lineup. It premiered September 14, 2002 as the "FoxBox after Fox Kids was dissolved following the purchase of Fox Family Worldwide by Disney. The block was re-branded 4Kids TV in January 2005. 4Kids Entertainment is wholly responsible for the content of the block and collects all advertising revenues from it.

Many of the licenses distributed by 4Kids Entertainment, and presented on 4Kids TV are managed by 4Kids Productions, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of 4Kids Entertainment. First launched in 1992, 4Kids Productions deals primarily with television, film, home video, and music licenses, and currently manages the programming for 4KidsTV.

The CW4Kids

On October 2, 2007, Warner Bros. and CBS announced that the Kids' WB block on their co-owned network, The CW, will be ending in September 2008, and no longer be marketed and produced in-house, due to factors including building children's advertising and marketing restrictions, and cable competition. Rights for the five hour Saturday morning block were bought by 4Kids, and they began to program the time with their own programming (mixed in with three former Kids' WB originals) in September 2008. Because of this additional deal, 4Kids will be programming for both The CW and Fox in the 2008-09 season giving 4Kids nine hours of combined children's programming on two broadcast networks, as the current 4KidsTV deal runs until 2009. The new block is entitled The CW4Kids and started May 24, 2008; however, three former Kids' WB shows are still seen on the lineup (The Spectacular Spider-Man, Will and Dewitt, and Skunk Fu!). it is unknown if in 2009, 4Kids will have a total of 9 hour programming that combines both from the blocks on Fox and the CW or if 4Kids TV on Fox will end in 2009.

Outside the United States

In the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, several 4Kids TV-distributed anime (notably the Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon franchises) was carried by subscription entertainment channel Sky One, generally in early morning slots. (Note that Sky is a corporate relative of Fox, via parent company News Corporation.) Other channels which show or have shown 4Kids properties include CITV, Jetix, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network in the United Kingdom, RTÉ 2 in the Republic of Ireland, and RTL 2 in Germany.

Other notable business proceedings

4Sight Licensing Solutions Inc.

On April 18, 2006, 4Kids had announced a new subsidiary entitled 4Sight Licensing Solutions Inc. 4Sight will license and market brands aimed at adults, teenagers and pre-teens. "We have built an impressive roster of captivating and successful children's entertainment properties," said Alfred Kahn. "Given the increased number of brands that we are representing that focus on an older audience, we felt it would be beneficial to organize a new subsidiary primarily devoted to the marketing and licensing of these brands. We believe that we can successfully utilize our marketing and licensing expertise to build brand value for properties targeting an older consumer that are not necessarily media or character driven."

4Kids and Microsoft

On January 17, 2006, 4Kids and Microsoft signed a deal to license children's video games exclusively for the Xbox 360 gaming system, in an effort to put more child-oriented games on the system, whose gaming library is currently dominated by games targeted toward the 13-and-up market. One of the first titles announced was Viva Piñata which would be developed by Rare Ltd.

Editorial practices, criticism, and controversy

The management of 4Kids Entertainment has stated that they seek to "localize" anime so that children in English-speaking countries will understand it...", judging that localization is necessary in order for these titles to be marketable. For most titles, the editing 4Kids performs falls into a few broad categories – 4Kids may seek to "Americanize" a program by changing character names, dialog, music, food, or stereotypes which would be unfamiliar (or even offensive) to an American audience. They also may remove some materially suggestive objects such as cigarettes or guns (replacing them with lollipops and water guns), crosses, or content deemed too violent or suggestive for American children. For example, in Yu-Gi-Oh!, the issue of death is sidestepped in the localized version, with dead characters being sent to the "shadow realm". Other examples include removing many instances of violence and the elimination of several episodes from Pokémon.

In most or all the anime in which all the music score and all the sound effects are completely changed, much of the writing in Japanese or English are digitally airbrushed out or replaced with unreadable symbols.

In an interview with Al Kahn, CEO of 4Kids, when asked how the company decides what properties or anime to acquire, his reply was, "We look at things such as popularity, but also if it has a merchandising component; can we license it, can we license products for it? That's really the main issue for us... the playing pattern, if it's popular and how it merchandises. If we can't merchandise it, it really doesn't have a lot of interest for us." Kahn claimed in the same interview that this was necessary, because otherwise adapting an anime would not be commercially viable due to the re-dubbing, re-editing, and re-scoring that 4Kids performs. 4Kids Entertainment remains largely unmoved by these claims, stating "...if [anime fans] want this programming to come to the United States then they're going to have to accept the fact that it's going to be available in two styles."

Despite the edits against violence and other content not deemed appropriate for American children, moral conservative groups have criticized the programs released by 4Kids. For example, a March 2006 study by the Parents Television Council on violence in children's television programs pointed out the 4Kids dub of Shaman King. L. Brent Bozell also pointed out the 4Kids-dubbed Shaman King in one of his weekly column as an example of children's media he perceived as having undue "cultural landmines".


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