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.
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.
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.
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.
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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