It’s been over a year since 4K Media (Konami) last offered new Yu-Gi-Oh! anime on Netflix, but the popular streaming platform today added two new titles to its ever expanding library. First is Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL season 1 (episodes 1 through 49) and season 2 (episodes 50 through 98), which are streaming in English, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. And second is the Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time movie, which is streaming in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. The actual availability of each language track will vary depending on which country you’re streaming from.
Tags: cinedigm, contv, wizard world
CONtv, the new digital streaming network from independent content distributor Cinedigm and pop culture convention organizer Wizard World, opened its doors to viewers today, March 3. The over-the-top network already boasts nearly 1,500 hours of programming targeting its convention-embracing audience. Among its launch titles are the English-dubbed versions of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s season 1 and the Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time movie. Other available animated titles include Digimon, Ghost in the Shell, Saint Seiya, Voltron, and Zatch Bell.
CONtv is available on the web and on iOS and Android. It’s free to watch and supported by ads, and also offers an ad-free version for $6.99 with exclusive content and benefits to Wizard World’s Comic Con events. CONtv is currently available to the U.S. only. Further details about the network, including its upcoming original programming initiatives, are available in a press release.
Independent media distributor Cinedigm today added “The Yu-Gi-Oh! Collection: Volume 1” to its catalog, a two-DVD set introducing the universe of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime. Included in this collection is the Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time movie in English and Japanese, along with the first two English-dubbed episodes from each of the Classic Yu-Gi-Oh!, GX, 5D’s, and ZEXAL anime series.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! Collection: Volume 1 is scheduled for a March 10, 2015 release on Cinedigm’s Flatiron Film label at a suggested retail price of $16.95.
Tags: cinedigm, manga entertainment uk
Out today is the long-awaited release of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time movie in the United States on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms. The film, a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, made its theatrical debut on 300 screens across the U.S. in early 2011 but is only now getting a home video release. The title is licensed by 4K Media (Konami) and distributed by Cinedigm as part of its Flatiron Film Company label and includes both the English-dubbed and original Japanese subtitled versions of the film.
This post will provide an overview of the contents of Cinedigm’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time DVD and Blu-ray releases. Comparisons of Cinedigm’s products to Manga Entertainment’s Region 2 UK releases and to the original Region 2 Japanese releases from King Records/Marvelous Entertainment (“MMV” for short from here on) will also be included.
The World of Licensing Restrictions: How to Handicap a Non-Japanese Anime Video Release
Cinedigm’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time is the first official Yu-Gi-Oh! video product released in the United States to include both an English and Japanese version since FUNimation’s short-lived uncut DVDs of the Classic Yu-Gi-Oh! series from 2004-2005. Fans in the United Kingdom also received a bilingual release in July 2011 from Manga UK. A Yu-Gi-Oh! title that includes the original subbed Japanese version?! Yes, it’s true! But there must be a catch, right?
Both Cinedigm and Manga UK’s Japanese versions of the film include subtitles that are permanently fixed; on both of their DVDs and BDs, the subtitles are burned into the video (i.e. they are “hard subs”). While some viewers may see this as an annoyance, this is the price that licensees often have to pay if they want to release some anime titles outside of Japan at all.
The issue of forced subtitles and other crippling restrictions that afflict such anime releases has been discussed extensively by anime fans and pundits as well as industry insiders. Numerous episodes of the Manga UK podcast have touched upon the problems and their causes.
“Reverse importation, as far as some Japanese licensing companies see it, is a big problem on Blu-ray,” said Jerome Mazandarani, the Director of Marketing and Acquisitions at Manga UK, in episode 18 of the company’s podcast. “Blu-ray is where they derive most of their finished packaged goods’ value now in Japan, and they are very, very concerned about it.”
The price of anime outside of Japan is considerably lower than that within Japan, Mazandarani explained. And if large Japanese production companies are very worried about an American or UK edition BD getting imported back into Japan, they have the leverage to curb the perceived threat. For instance, they can mandate that licensees burn the subtitles into the video of the Japanese-language versions of their titles. They can also disallow licensees from releasing a title for a certain amount of time after a DVD and BD are released in Japan, or disallow them from releasing a title in a certain way (e.g. no complete box sets).
In the same vein, the audio tracks of Cinedigm and Manga UK’s Japanese versions are inferior to the audio tracks on King Records/Marvelous Entertainment’s releases. While MMV’s DVD and BD contain both a 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio track, Cinedigm and Manga UK’s contain only a 2.0 audio track with the Japanese version. The table below summarizes the audio streams found on the six releases.
Dolby Digital 5.1
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Dolby Digital 2.0
DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Dolby Digital 5.1
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Dolby Digital 2.0
Dolby Digital 5.1
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
These types of restrictions are not by any means unique to Yu-Gi-Oh! titles, nor are they unique to English-speaking territories. Forced subtitles have even reared their ugly heads in France, a country whose anime industry is even bigger than that of the United States, explained Mazandarani in the fifth Manga UK podcast. Ultimately, Japanese companies simply don’t want to give Japanese fans any incentives to import less expensive releases from overseas, so some anime titles — and Blu-rays in particular — released outside of Japan will continue to be marred by these restrictions and deficiencies. It’s an unfortunate issue that the anime industries in Japan and throughout the world need to find a way to deal with.
The Lack of 3D: Falling Flat
Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time is a historic film in Japan. While 3D movies that use computer-generated graphics are commonplace, Bonds Beyond Time marks the first time anywhere in the world that a traditional, hand-drawn 2D animated feature had been converted into 3D for the big screen. MMV’s DVD and Blu-ray releases preserved this viewing experience for the Japanese home video market, delivering the film in both 3D and 2D formats.
When it first arrived in American movie theaters, Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time was titled Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D Bonds Beyond Time. 4Kids Entertainment embraced the film’s 3D elements and even hired Cinedigm to render in 3D a special 10-minute back story of Yugi, Jaden, and Yusei using scenes from their respective anime series.
Sadly, none of the hard work that went into creating the 3D theatrical experience was retained for Cinedigm’s DVD or BD; its releases contain only the 2D version of the film. What happened? Manga UK’s BD included the 3D version of the film, so why doesn’t Cinedigm’s?
Whether one believes that 3D adds an exciting and worthwhile layer to the cinematic experience or is just another gimmick for money-grubbing producers, it’s regrettable to see the hard work of others disregarded for the American home video market, and even more so when the 3D materials had already been provided for another English-speaking territory’s release.
Packaging, Extras, and Artwork
Cinedigm’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time DVD and BD come packaged in ordinary plastic keep cases. The case housing the BD is about 25 percent thinner than a standard case.
Extras are something that Cinedigm’s Yu-Gi-Oh! releases have been lacking, and sadly, its Bonds Beyond Time DVD and BD fail to buck the trend. Cinedigm’s bonuses include a “Feature Flashback,” which is just the 10-minute back story exclusive to the English-language version of the movie, and the English-subtitled Japanese version of the movie, which I would hardly consider an extra. (The Japanese licensors probably consider it one heck of a generous extra though, given the dearth of Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! media available in the West!)
Manga UK’s DVD and BD fared slightly better in the extras department, having included a Super Rare version of the Malefic Red-Eyes B. Dragon TCG card with their initial print run. In addition to listing the Feature Flashback and subbed version of the movie as extras, Manga UK also included the original 30-second theatrical trailer.
Neither Cinedigm nor Manga UK’s products hold a candle to MMV’s DVD and BD, which were predictably packed with collectibles while being sold at predictably exorbitant collector’s prices. In addition to including the standard disc and case, MMV’s initial print runs also included an Ultra Rare version of the Malefic Red-Eyes B. Dragon OCG card, a booklet filled with line sketches and illustrations of the movie’s characters and monsters, and a slipcover that features original artwork of the main characters.
All of the home videos releases of Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time around the world use the same image of Jaden, Yugi, and Yusei striking a pose while crossing their Duel Monsters cards dramatically like swords. Cinedigm’s are no different, though the characters aren’t posed in front of the familiar green wall of hieroglyphs seen on the original English-language movie poster and on other home video covers, including Manga UK’s. Instead, the main characters are standing amidst a backdrop of outer space (or is it the Malefic World?) while being surrounded by a bright ring.
The only home video release that uses different artwork is of course the Japanese release from MMV, whose limited-edition slipcover shows the main characters standing unflappably straight while their monsters leap into action in the background. This exclusive artwork has not been included with any other territory’s video release.
Title: Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time
Street Date: July 15, 2014
Distributor: Cinedigm Entertainment
Label: Flatiron Film Company
Licensed by: 4K Media (Konami)
Disc count: One double-layer DVD disc
Language: English & Japanese with English subtitles
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (16:9)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) & 2.0 (Japanese)
Closed Captions: Yes
Disc count: One single-layer BD disc
Language: English & Japanese with English subtitles
Video: 1920×1080 (16:9) at 23.976 fps
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English) & 2.0 (Japanese)
Closed Captions: Yes
Also available as part of Cinedigm’s ‘Yu-Gi-Oh The Complete Set‘ DVD Megaset box and on various digital platforms for rental and download.
– Bonds Beyond Time
It’s… so… beautiful…
Today, YUGIOH.com formally unveiled details of Cinedigm’s upcoming Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic DVD Megaset! Titled “Yu-Gi-Oh! The Complete Set,” the 32-disc collection is scheduled to be released on July 15, 2014 as an Amazon exclusive at the suggested retail price of $229.64.
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Complete Set will be the first time ever the entire Classic Yu-Gi-Oh! anime has been released in one package. The Region 1 DVD set will include the English-dubbed version of all five seasons (224 episodes) of the series and all 12 episodes of Capsule Monsters, as well as the English and Japanese versions of the Yu-Gi-Oh! 10th anniversary Bonds Beyond Time movie. The DVDs will be housed in a special slipcase box that also contains a collectible booklet.
A few DVDs in this Megaset have been reauthored to fix various audio/video problems that were present in the original releases of seasons 2 and 3.
Update (October 14, 2014): Amazon’s exclusivity period for Yu-Gi-Oh! The Complete Set ended today. Other major online and brick-and-mortar retailers are now carrying this title. Your favorite local video store may also be able to order it for you.
Get ready — the classic Yu-Gi-Oh! anime will soon get the “Megaset” treatment from Cinedigm! This summer, Cinedigm will re-release the entire English-dubbed Yu-Gi-Oh! series in one massive collection. Mirroring the completeness and collectibility of its other Megaset video products, Cinedigm’s 32-disc Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic Megaset will include all five seasons of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series (as well as Capsule Monsters in season 5) along with the Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time movie together in one package.
For fans who haven’t yet purchased any of the season box sets, or for anyone who wants to get a Yu-Gi-Oh! anime lover the perfect gift, the Megaset is for you.
The exact contents, price, and release date of the Megaset will be confirmed by 4K Media (Konami) at a later date. Stay tuned!
Reauthored DVDs: What They Are and How to Get Them
Of special note, the Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic Megaset will include three reauthored DVDs that contain fixes to an assortment of audio/video problems present in some episodes of seasons 2 and 3.
In an email, Cinedigm’s Marketing Manager Vanessa Varous explained that the following discs have been reauthored and will be included in the Megaset and in new printings of the individual seasons:
- Season 2 Volume 2: Disc 1
- Season 2 Volume 2: Disc 3
- Season 3 Volume 2: Disc 2
Yu-Gi-Oh! fans who already own the original releases and who will not be purchasing the Megaset can still have their discs replaced.
To request a replacement, please contact:
Unfortunately, the new printings of the individual seasons will not be labeled any differently than the original printings, said Varous, so there will be no way to determine whether a product contains the old or new DVDs by visually examining the packaging. If a customer notices any A/V issues in any of the listed discs, contact the email address above for a replacement.
Other oddities found in the series, like the inconsistent appearance of the DDM dice between episodes (described at the end of my season 1 overview’s video contents section), will not be fixed. Such visual quirks are the result of the masters provided by 4K Media and were not authoring errors.
Tags: cinedigm, manga entertainment uk, movie
Today, 4K Media (Konami) formally announced that Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in the U.S.! The long-awaited home video release will include both the English-dubbed and original Japanese-subbed versions of the memorable 10th anniversary movie, as well as the 10-minute introductory flashback exclusive to the English version. The DVD and BD will be released by Cinedigm on July 15 and will retail for $9.95 and $14.95 respectively.
Up until now, the English-language version of Bonds Beyond Time was only available in the United Kingdom from Manga UK, who released the film on DVD and Blu-ray in mid-2011 in both English and Japanese. The similarities between Manga UK’s products and Cinedigm’s upcoming releases end there, however.
Yu-Gi-Oh! fans who have 3D capable video equipment and who are looking to relive the thrilling theatrical 3D experience that they enjoyed on the big screen will unfortunately not have their needs met with Cinedigm’s BD release. While Manga UK’s BD included both 2D and 3D versions of the film, Cinedigm’s will sadly only include the 2D version.
And while the first press of Manga UK’s DVDs and BDs included a Malefic Red-Eyes B. Dragon promo card for the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, Cinedigm’s releases will not.
Make no mistake about it — a U.S. home video release of Bonds Beyond Time is long overdue and it is fantastic to see that 4K Media hasn’t forgotten about it. Nevertheless, it is disappointing that the American release is lacking features that the UK release included. American fans who have already picked up Manga UK’s releases and who value these components might want to think twice before parting with them in favor of Cinedigm’s releases.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time was screened in 300 theaters across the United States on February 26 and 27 and March 5 and 6, 2011 by Cinedigm.
The Long Road to Home Video
Former Yu-Gi-Oh! license holder 4Kids Entertainment originally intended to release Bonds Beyond Time on home video in the U.S. back in July 2011 via A&E Home Video (whose titles were handled by Cinedigm at the time). However, the lawsuit and bankruptcy protection proceedings between 4Kids and the Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! licensors in early 2011 completely stifled this and other potential licensing deals from coming to pass.
Yu-Gi-Oh! fans in the UK were more fortunate. 4Kids Entertainment International, the overseas licensing arm of 4Kids based in London, was not embroiled in the U.S. lawsuit and was able to secure a distribution deal for the United Kingdom with the UK division of Manga Entertainment. The home video release was originally scheduled for May 30, 2011.
A brief scare caused the release to be pushed back about two months, leaving Manga UK and fans to wonder whether the effects of the lawsuit had rippled across the pond and were impeding the ability of 4Kids’ London-based subsidiary to conduct routine business.
Eventually, 4Kids and Manga UK pulled through, successfully releasing Bonds Beyond Time on DVD and BD on July 25, 2011. The DVD went on to become Manga UK’s second best-selling title of 2011.
Tags: blip.tv, littlekuriboh, youtube
Artwork by CrikeyDave
Rejoice, Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged fans, for LittleKuriboh has completed episode 59! “Crowd Atlas” was released late last night and is available exclusively on the official YGOTAS Blip.tv channel for one week (more on that below).
As an abridgment of Yami and Kaiba’s six-part Battle City semifinal duel, this episode sure does cover a lot of ground: death, Enemy Controller, DK Mode, adoption jokes, God cards, ancient Egyptian flashbacks, cartoon dragon wallpaper, off-screen resurrections… Wait, I think some of those weren’t in the original.
But the best part of the episode (super spoiler alert!) is easily the awesome new song: a parody of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”! We haven’t gotten killer music from LK in quite a while, and there’s no better way to summarize the events of this episode than with the lyrics, so here we go:
Yugi, you’re a fool
Winning big duels, trying to play it cool
Buddy, I’m gonna screw the rules
You got mud on your face, big disgrace
Seto Kaiba’s gonna put you back into your place
We’ll play, we’ll play card games
Kaiba, you’re a man
You’ve got no fans, beat me if you can
Try to summon your Blue Dragon
It’s gonna end just the same, King of Games
Then somebody’s gonna put me in the hall of fame
We’ll play, we’ll play card games
Is there a longer version of the song? We can only hope!
Episode 59 certainly has been a long time coming. LittleKuriboh has been working on the script since January, juggling his YGOTAS production with his other projects and real life obligations. By May 26, LK had finally finished enough of the episode to show a three-minute preview to some very lucky attendees at his Fanime panel. Then, at the beginning of this month, he presented a nine-minute preview at A-Kon.
Hmm, after watching the episode, I suddenly have a strange urge to follow the official Team Four Star Tumblr account.
Bonus: Espa Roba’s baby makes an appearance in the episode, looking very much alive. Can you find him? …Uh oh, a plot hole!
YuGiOhAbridged.com Gets a Facelift
Coinciding with LittleKuriboh’s release of YGOTAS episode 59 is a revamp of YuGiOhAbridged.com. The most notable change is the website’s new layout, which now features a much improved organization of the Blip.tv video embeds. And with YouTube’s copyright infringement-sniffing “bots” frequently taking down CardGamesFTW, Lord knows fans have been needing an easier way to watch the episodes.
As a way to raise awareness of the website, LittleKuriboh is keeping episode 59 a Blip.tv exclusive for one week, after which he’ll upload it to YouTube. It’s a fantastic idea, though I wish he’d place more emphasis on the official YGOTAS Blip.tv channel rather than just drawing attention to the website. His videos are uploaded to Blip.tv and embedded on YGOTAS.com; they aren’t stored on YGOTAS.com’s servers. Making the distinction is important.
Minutes after LK announced that episode 59 was available on YGOTAS.com — and how the website would remain a “stable and permanent place” for watching his videos even when his YouTube channel was suspended — the website actually went down due to a massive influx of visitors. Ungrateful individuals promptly criticized LK on Facebook and Twitter, knocking the reliability of his claims (and of the website). Savvier fans knew to head over to Blip.tv instead.
Anyway, check out LK’s announcement video on YouTube to hear him discuss more about the updates.
A Rough Cut From Bonds Beyond Time Abridged
While browsing through one of his hard drives last month, LittleKuriboh found a gem from a very rough cut of his Bonds Beyond Time Abridged movie. The video shows his super early edits on the Paraboss scene and features him voicing all three of the protagonists: Yugi, Jaden, and Yusei. How’s that for a neat little extra?
What’s Next For LittleKuriboh?
What’s LittleKuriboh’s next anime convention stop? At this very moment, he’s on his way to Anime Blues Con in Memphis, Tennessee where he’ll hold a panel this Sunday at 1:00 pm and signings on Friday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm.
Next week, from June 28 to 30, LK will be guesting at AniMinneapolis in Bloomington, Minnesota. And the week afterward, from July 4 to 7, it’s Anime Expo in Los Angeles, California where he’ll be holding a fan panel with friends. After that, he’ll have a well-deserved break until Otakon in August. Whew!
Update (June 25): Looks like LittleKuriboh’s announcement didn’t come a moment too soon. In the wee hours of this morning, CardGamesFTW was banned yet again from YouTube, continuing the ongoing trend of end-of-the-month terminations that have been plaguing his channel for far too long. As usual, the takedown is a result of automated copyright infringement claims from Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! producer Nihon Ad Systems (NAS).
Today’s takedown is lucky number 13 for CardGamesFTW. Prior to today’s incident, the previous termination took place on April 28, with the account being restored on May 10.
It’s a shame that this keeps happening to LK. He hadn’t even uploaded episode 59 to YouTube yet, so it must have been some of his previous video projects that were sniffed out. Since he addressed his fans of this problem again just last week, hopefully there will be less uncertainty from everyone about what’s going on and where to find his videos. (Though with the Internet being the Internet, I predict that there will still be a lot of “ZOMGBANNEDAGAIN” hysteria coming from uninformed individuals.)
Update (July 1): CardGamesFTW was reinstated this evening. That was, dare I say, resolved quite quickly!
Tags: lawsuit, manga entertainment uk, toonzai
On April 6, 2011, 4Kids Entertainment filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to stop Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! licensors TV Tokyo and NAS/ADK from seizing the rights to the coveted Yu-Gi-Oh! property after they had terminated their dealings with 4Kids. Since then, a lot of good things have happened to 4Kids, including a victory over the licensors in a lawsuit to retain the Yu-Gi-Oh! rights, an $8 million settlement paid to 4Kids, and 4Kids’ subsequent sale of the Yu-Gi-Oh! property for $15 million.
Given the company’s lack of accomplishments in the ever-weakening children’s licensing and advertising markets in recent years, it’s an odd notion that the turmoil from being driven into bankruptcy and the resulting court proceedings have put 4Kids in a position of success that it hasn’t seen for years on end. Not only is 4Kids free from its toxic relationships and able to pay off its creditors in full, but the company is also left with plenty of cash to maintain a healthy equity balance. But what did 4Kids lose in order to attain this position?
When 4Kids and the licensors first announced their intentions to settle, I invited you to consider how the parties may have arrived at the $8 million settlement figure that 4Kids received. Today, October 5, 2012, is a turning point in 4Kids’ history. Almost exactly 18 months to the day it filed for bankruptcy protection, 4Kids will be submitting its Chapter 11 disclosure statement, the first step to exiting bankruptcy. The company will reveal its current financial situation and discuss its intentions to reorganize. As we enter this pivotal day — one forever to be inscribed in the annals of children’s licensing, marketing, and programming — let’s revisit my thought experiment in more detail.
The Broadcasts That Never Were: New Shows From Toei Animation, Dentsu, and Viz Media on Toonzai; Yu-Gi-Oh! on Nicktoons
In July 2010, 4Kids unveiled its plans for Toonzai, a complete rebranding of its Saturday morning programming block on The CW that would serve as a hub for children’s anime. The success of Toonzai would rely on 4Kids’ ability to pick up new shows for the block. As presented during the lawsuit, 4Kids was in discussions with three companies to license new anime: Toei Animation, Dentsu, and Viz Media. These plans ground to a halt due to the lawsuit and bankruptcy.
Toei, with whom 4Kids had had a long-running business relationship over the years, refused to license any more of its shows to 4Kids, a decision that 4Kids believed was induced by ADK. Dentsu declined to continue negotiations with 4Kids until after the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit had been resolved. Viz Media agreed to continue informational discussions with 4Kids, but would not be closing any potential deals. The future of Toonzai was bleak.
What anime series could have graced us with their presence on The CW? We may never know. Toonzai’s chances of picking up new shows had been devastated, and the block was relegated to a paltry handful of new content and a slew of reruns.
It wasn’t only the acquisition of new anime that suffered, however. Prior to the lawsuit, 4Kids had been in negotiations to sell TV broadcasting deals for the Yu-Gi-Oh! series to Nicktoons, as well as to several other overseas networks. These parties, too, backed out under the weight of the lawsuit.
The Home Videos That Never Were: DVD and Blu-ray Releases of Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time
In 2011, Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time arrived in the United States. The movie saw a limited run in theaters, with digital film distributor Cinedigm holding screenings on February 26 and 27 and again on March 5 and 6. Fans might remember seeing some trailers for the movie posted on 4Kids.TV and 4KidsTV.com that mentioned a home video release. Whatever happened to that? Or was that a dream?
No, you aren’t imagining things. There was indeed a trailer for the movie featuring narrator Dan Green, who invited fans to “look for the home video release this fall,” and featuring a mock-up of a video cover with the text “Coming This Fall!” proudly displayed. And indeed, there were Internet retailers offering a Bonds Beyond Time DVD for pre-order, with a July 19, 2011 street date and A&E Home Video listed as the distributor.
Some Yu-Gi-Oh! fan sites were quick to declare that the highly anticipated video release of Bonds Beyond Time had come. I, on the other hand, was puzzled by the lack of press and held off on posting an announcement. In April 2011, fans who had pre-ordered the DVD suddenly saw their orders canceled; retailers removed all traces of the product from their virtual store shelves; the trailer disappeared from 4Kids’ websites, never to be seen again; and to this day, there has been no home video release of the movie in the United States. What happened?
Although some fans questioned the legitimacy of A&E Home Video’s involvement with the Bonds Beyond Time DVD, the lawsuit revealed that 4Kids had in fact been negotiating the licensing of certain Yu-Gi-Oh! home video rights with parent company A&E Television Networks since March 2011. The cancelation of the pre-orders in April was no coincidence, as A&E severed its discussions with 4Kids because of the lawsuit and bankruptcy.
Across the pond in the UK, British fans were still treated to both a theatrical and a DVD and Blu-ray release of the film. 4Kids Entertainment International, the London-based subsidiary of 4Kids, was not entwined in the bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. and was thus able to conduct business as usual, securing distribution rights for the movie with Manga UK. Bonds Beyond Time was screened on May 14 and 21, 2011. The DVD and BD, initially targeted for a May 30 street date, were released on July 25, 2011.
The UK’s theatrical screenings were made possible through a partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas and Everyman Cinemas. They were not successful. In episode 4 of Manga UK’s monthly podcast, Jerome Mazandarani, the Head of Marketing and Acquisitions at Manga UK, revealed that the occupancy rate for the 26 screens showing the movie was less than 10 percent. Comparable numbers are not available for the U.S. theatrical release, which saw a limited distribution on 300 screens (up from the originally planned 250), but it’s a safe bet that everyone who participated in this release lost money. The movie’s poor performance puts a damper on the possibility of a future DVD and BD release in the U.S.
The Acquisition That Never Was: A Merger with Classic Media
In 2009, 4Kids Entertainment hired Montgomery & Co., an investment bank specializing in mergers and acquisitions, to help it develop a financial strategy in light of the challenging economic climate and 4Kids’ continual loss of revenue. Strategic alliances, mergers, or even outright sales of the company or its assets were all possibilities. 4Kids’ search for investors and suitors continued as it entered Chapter 11, with the company retaining the services of BDO Capital Advisors in June 2011.
Although 4Kids had referenced a possibility of an acquisition early on in the bankruptcy, it wasn’t until the preliminary stages of the lawsuit in June 2011 that a name finally emerged: Classic Media. With an already vast library of over 400 titles, including Casper the Friendly Ghost, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and Voltron, Classic Media looked to further enhance its offerings by acquiring the rights to the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise.
Classic Media had been in discussions with 4Kids about a possible merger since November 2010. Between January 2011 and March 2011, the pair set the stage for an all cash buyout of 4Kids at a “substantial premium” of its then market value. The merger was to alleviate some of the Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! licensors’ concerns about 4Kids’ financial state. However, the same month Classic Media and 4Kids were set to sign a letter of intent to begin carrying out the merger, the licensors severed their ties with 4Kids, effectively killing the deal.
In November 2011, seven months into the bankruptcy, Classic Media returned to the negotiating table, again offering to buy 4Kids’ entire business. At the time, the lawsuit had still not been resolved and 4Kids was in need of cash, putting Classic Media in the driver’s seat and allowing it to offer a significantly discounted price. 4Kids, lacking a suitable alternative, proceeded to negotiate with Classic Media well into December 2011. Discussions between the pair advanced considerably, so much so that an asset purchase agreement, bidding procedures, and a sale motion had been prepared. Intrigued by the progress that had been made, I reached out to 4Kids for comment, who predictably was unable to offer any substantive comments.
On December 29, 2011, the court issued its ruling on the lawsuit. In light of the favorable decision, 4Kids ended its discussions with Classic Media, believing that it now had what it needed to leverage a better price elsewhere.
While it’s not clear exactly how much Classic Media offered 4Kids during its second crack at buying the company, 4Kids later noted that Saban’s $10 million offer for its Yu-Gi-Oh! property alone was “substantially greater” than Classic Media’s offer for its entire business.
4Kids did well to reject Classic Media’s second offer. But what about the original offer from March 2011? Where would Yu-Gi-Oh! be today if the parties had consummated the deal?
In July 2012, Classic Media was purchased by DreamWorks Animation for $155 million.
What’s Next For 4Kids?
Contrary to what you may have heard elsewhere, 4Kids isn’t dead, nor is it in dire straits. However, the “old” 4Kids that so many people are so familiar with, consisting of animation production and broadcast management teams, is no more, with Konami and Saban snatching up those businesses as part of the trio’s deal.
4Kids still exists as a licensing company, just as it once was before it made it big with Pokemon. It is still holding on to various properties (including animated children’s titles). And it is still headquartered in the same location in Manhattan. 4Kids’ settlement with Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! licensors TV Tokyo and NAS, along with its successful assets sale to Konami and Saban, have left the company with mountains of cash.
Since the end of July, 4Kids has been looking to settle the other legal proceedings it is involved in, including one with The Pokemon Company International over various alleged “deficiencies” in payments (which I briefly touched upon when the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit first made news in March 2011). It had also been looking at liquidating its London-based subsidiary 4Kids Entertainment International, the plans for which were finalized on September 30, 2012. On the same day, Michael Goldstein, the Interim Chairman of 4Kids’ Board of Directors who assumed the position in May 2011, also retired.
What will happen next with 4Kids? Will the company exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and continue to trudge along, seeking out new properties to license in hopes of finding the next big hit? Will another company take a fancy to 4Kids and buy it out? Or will 4Kids use this opportunity to wind down and cash out while it is on top?
After 4Kids files its disclosure statement today, any parties with a vested interest in the fate of the company will have until October 25 to file an objection. A hearing to okay the disclosure statement is scheduled for October 30.
Tags: blip.tv, littlekuriboh, movie, wha-chow
Yes, this update gets its own post — because the Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time Abridged movie is awesome. Earlier today, Little Kuriboh added the film to Blip.tv. You know what that means: it’s also available for direct download! Links to the AVI, M4V, and MP4 versions are on my YGOTAS Downloads page (it’s listed as “BBT Abridged Movie”). Sadly, Blip.tv wasn’t very accommodating when LK originally tried to upload the video in its glorious HD format, but at least you have something to take with you on the road now.
If you still prefer streaming on YouTube, LK also made the full, undivided version of the movie available on his ObeyMyRod channel last Thursday. And unlike his original three-part upload, this version is available in 1080p! Woohoo!
Watch the YouTube videos now while you still can! Not to be a downer, but because the abridged movie contains so much footage from the source, I get the feeling that the videos might be on the receiving end of an automated copyright infringement claim from NAS in the future. Better enjoy them now in case they’re yanked! Waiting for those counter-notifications to go through is always a nuisance.
Live From Detroit, It’s Wha-Chow!
Also worth checking out is the most recent episode of Wha-Chow!, which was filmed live at Youmacon and uploaded by Psyguy last Tuesday! Little Kuriboh and some of the usual Wha-Chow crew chat in Psyguy’s hotel room about the Roast of Little Kuriboh and a few other panels at the anime con. Relax and enjoy as they describe their fond memories of the roast (both wasted and sober perspectives are fairly represented), and remember to kill Masako! An MP3 version is available at the usual website.
– Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time Abridged