The infamous 4Kids Entertainment, the now defunct Summit Media Group, and their parent company Leisure Concepts.
Ever since the 1970's there was a company in New York called Leisure Concepts. It was never a really popular corporation but they did their jobs well enough to be able to last this long throughout the years. They didn't have a lot of involvment in animation but they had their moments namely with their created publication company Summit Media Group. You might remember their name for being in the end credits of shows like the US Mega Man series and the like. However in 1998, Leisure Concepts decided to do more with animation namely on the English dub of Pokemon and thus 4Kids entertainment was born. And ever since the later 90's they have been deemed geniuses at Marketing when it comes to animation. Nowadays they are more considered to be complete has-beens in Marketing strength since their various shows nowadays usually either get atrocious to subpar ratings. But the thing is was their marketing all that great even back then? How can I say such a thing you ask? Simple, lets take at how Pokemon could've been.Viz and Hasbro, two other companies that were substantially with Pokemon as well.
One of the flaws about 4Kids/Leisure Concepts is that they took their business practices too simple and pretty much had them first and everyone else second. Even though I like the Pokemon dub I could picture it going intrestingly even better. Viz would be one certain choice since they had quite the distribution rights on Pokemon already (and still do) and they have the most experience in anime dubbing. Hasbro would've in one way be a potential alternative or maybe they could work with Viz. (Even though Pokemon came in a few years before the Zoids shows in which Hasbro and ShoPro worked together on them IIRC.) And unlike Viz, Hasbro is still mainstream and was enjoying the success of Beast Wars back then. One might mention Pioneer but they only got involved with Pokemon tape distribution because back then in the late 90's they and Viz had quite a distribution deal going on. (Pioneer did the DVD distribution of several Viz dubs back then.)Love the old dub of Pokemon we got too much? Not too worry I have some somewhat positive news for you.
The old dub is not one of the most praised dubs ever... (for example 4Kids created a bit of a plothole by making Ash want to be a Pokemon Master. In the original version Ash just simply wants to travel about and only get the Pokemon he wants to get. And thats just an example of course.) However the old dub of Pokemon definitely had its fanbase. (After all there is that absolute uproar that occured when the VA switch occured in the recent Pokemon special.) After all during 1998 when Pokemon first came in it was one of those few dubs that actually got a good showcase in American Syndication Television. (Beforehand anime english dubs usually get a weak showcase and are usually only in early weekday mourning hours. Such as the Saban/FUNi dub of DBZ back in the mid 90's and well just about anything Saban did with Anime until they became regulars with Fox Kids.) However Pokemon was substantially different, it actually had a good showcase in morning and surprisingly enough afternoon showings as well. It was a rare success when it comes to anime dubs on syndicated television. But lets just say that things could've gone better, how so? Well I'll show you...Kids WB and Fox Box, the latter now 4Kids TV due to Fox's subpar support of the Fox Box. (And thats putting it mildly IMO.)
At LEAST some might say that Kids WB is more to blame here, like how they are for various other anime shows like Cardcaptors and Mega Man NT Warrior. I can genuinely understand why there is such a sentiment and I do agree on how Kids WB has made several mistakes with the animation industry, let alone anime. However is 4Kids completely innocent about this? Not quite... In more recent years ever since 2002, 4Kids tried to step away from doing shows like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! for Kids WB. However the ratings for that block have been rather weak ever since. (In which other blocks have very quickly followed suit.) But one should realize that unlike shows like DBZ, Pokemon was actually doing well before it became a infamous star attraction for Kids WB. Its kinda sadly ironic really on how 4Kids' attempts to make successful syndicated shows before they made hits for Kids WB were more successful than how it was afterwards. Some might say Fox is more to blame here for their poor support for the Fox Box. But lets be honest was it really a good idea on 4Kids' part to go with Fox on a syndication block? Ever since Fox Kids was in its dying years and even after it died, Fox was already highly deemed as absolute has-beens in the animation industry. I may not be a business major in animation but Fox is pretty much the LAST folks I would go with for support. Granted there is hardly that much better when it came to blocks but still. And on how 4Kids highly used Mattel didn't help either. They have highly used Mattel in the past but they often don't get anything all that good out of it for the most part. (Especially over shows like One Piece and the like.) Hasbro and Playmates (TMNT) have actually given them good support before for the most part, a pity the amount of shows they support was small. The marketing scheme on Pokemon ever since 1999 was a financial success at first however it is why both 4Kids and Kids WB have gradually been declining on the absolute stumps they are at today.
Some might still say that the idea of picturing Pokemon with a different dub is not necessary, anime such as these shows on the other hand are a bit of a different story.
All of this talk about how Pokemon could've stayed as a moderate but substantial success on syndicated television and the like can make one wonder about this. What about 4Kids other properties? Or even more respected shows such as the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series as well too. How much better would they have went if they kept with their own syndication showcase instead of letting Kids WB make Pokemon to be the big spectacle it was since 1999. (And one could wonder how other shows from other companies would've went through it not for Kids WB and 4Kids' overzealous success in marketing back then.) Granted there are some shows that 4Kids would probably HAVE to work with others in their showcase in the US in one way or another but still. Some might say I'm not giving 4Kids fair treatment here, I mean how is 4Kids suppose to know that working with Kids WB to make Pokemon a big moneymaker would gradually to their weaker state today? However if the way you were doing the show was successful enough, why change it? After all Pokemon hasn't been around in the US for a long time before it became a infamous focus on Kids WB. How do we know that Pokemon wouldn't gradually be more successful in the US if it didn't stay as a known syndicated show like how it was back in 1998? After all Nintendo was doing a good enough job to make sure that Pokemon is doing well in the states. (And the help in other Pokemon Products such as from Viz and Hasbro certainly helped as well.) Kids WB may've made Pokemon a lot more known and famous yet infamous in 1999 and 2000 but ever since 2001 it gradually became more apparent over the years that Nintendo was one of the main forces keeping Pokemon alive. One can't help but wonder if 4Kids really should've went with Kids WB at all in the first place like this. This man by the name of Alfred Kahn is the president of 4Kids Entertainment/Leisure Concepts and the like. Many have deemed him any synonym of "evil" you can think of. There are those whom find him to be a flawed but misunderstood businessman. And there are those like myself whom find him to be just a good-natured sort whom is a total figurehead to his company with substantially questionable sorts in his payroll.
One could say that the meteoric rise of Pokemon in Kids WB has substantially changed US syndicated broadcast TV channel animation. Would Fox Kids ended up in its tragic but highly self-inflicted demise? Would Syndicated animation still be pratically on life support like it is today? It just might be but one cannot deny on how much of an effect Kids WB's changes in 1999 went out in the industry. Besides there is various other ways which could work even if it is rather niche. 4Kids as Leisure Concepts has been around for a while now and one of their deals from the 80's was with having a good merchandising license ties with Nintendo. And for the most part it seemed like any Nintendo-game based anime would either be dubbed by 4Kids or stay as a Japan only release huh? Not quite sure, before Super Smash Bros. Melee gave Fire Emblem recognition in the US it had an Anime which got english dubbed and released in the US? By whom you ask? Why from ADV of all people, yes believe it or not out of all the anime 4Kids could've ended up dubbing ADV actually managed to get the rights to dub this feature. And some might say that 4Kids TV is really their attempt to get back to their syndication roots. Unfortunately after being the former hit-maker of the now ailing Kids WB and the weakly supported Fox Box it was needless to say that 4Kids TV is easily too little too late.ShoPro Entertainment, while its more known as Shogakukhan Entertainment in the land of the rising sun it's US portion went a bit differently. It has been said that this was brought up by both Viz and 4Kids over the years until when Viz recently merged with it form Viz Media.
It has been said before that 4Kids actually was trying to get ShoPro to be more involved with their anime acquisitions. (Kind of like their licensing deal with Sonic X.) Whether if this is true or not one can't help but wonder on how if 4Kids did better in business beforehand ShoPro might've had a better fate. There is Zoids dubs that they worked with Hasbro on. However there is the rather underrated and undershown Hamtaro. And Kids WB's overly botched up showcase of Mega Man NT Warrior didn't help either. There is no reason to deny on how much the success of shows such as Pokemon were such a change in the industry. The question is was it for the better? FUNimation was once in a similar rut on how they tried to make new franchises when DBZ was dying down in popularity such as Yu Yu Hakusho and the like. However over the years they have pretty much accepted their fate as a provider of Niche entertainment and with a more quiet life of a anime dub company such as the likes of Geneon (Pioneer) and such. Those such as 4Kids and Kids WB on the other hand are not quite as humbled to be honest. (And sadly enough Cartoon Network is dangerously going borderline on that path as well recently.) The infamous Jamie Kellner, known for infamous deeds such as the idea of Pokemon becoming a new major-hyped hit on Kids WB. Easily one of the more hated executives in the modern entertainment industry.
Whether if 4Kids allowed others to more work on their dubs such as Pokemon or do it themselves a bit more but stay as syndication at first is debateable. The Anime News Network recently mentioned that 4Kids closed down their distribution company that is Summit Media Group due to rather poor profits over the years. One could wonder if Leisure Concepts should just drop the name of 4Kids and try to leave a bit more of a quiter life in distribution like how they use to as Leisure Concepts. It has been said that Moderation is the key to a more fulfilling balance, shows like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! and the like may've been major financial successes at first but that kind of success can only go on for so long. Would 4Kids still have dwindled down to considerable losses if they never made that deal with Kids WB in the first place and stayed with markets such as syndicated broadcast television? Maybe, but the thing is like I've been saying plenty of times in this article is on how well 4Kids actually was doing before that deal. One can't help but wonder how well Pokemon could've expanded even more before it went on Kids WB. Whether it be their own dubs such as Pokemon and the like or their own shows like their renowned take on TMNT or various other shows from other companies. So are 4Kids absolute marketing geniuses? That is well lets just say I'm uncertain of but they had the potential to do better than they are now.