Toonzaki.com Updates: The Latest Yu-Gi-Oh! Dubbed, Subbed Episodes, More Anime Shows

April 9, 2013 at 3:05 am | Posted in Duel Monsters, Other Stuff, Saban, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | 2 Comments
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Tristan, Joey, and Tea freaking out after Yugi receives a package from Pegasus in episode 148

After months of stagnation, anime video portal Toonzaki.com has finally updated its Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal offerings to include the latest episodes. It’s about time! Uploads of new subbed episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and dubbed and subbed episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal had resumed on Hulu back in January, but Toonzaki’s feeds had curiously stopped refreshing to display the latest videos until now.

Toonzaki has also patched up its many missing images and broken links, and has picked up several more shows from Crunchyroll, including Fate/Zero, Polar Bear Cafe, Space Brothers, and Sword Art Online. How many new titles can you spot?

Toonzaki had been heavily neglected since mid-2012 after the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit wound down and 4Kids’ properties were changing hands. The site has even gone completely dark on a few occasions, most recently in late March. On Facebook, the Toonzaki crew remained optimistic and has long talked about improving its services, even mentioning a relaunch. In their most recent posts, they’ve casually discussed a “new Toonzaki” and offering “better functionality and more/new shows.”

With the launch of the Japanese-run anime video portal Daisuki.net right around the corner, the Toonzaki crew has picked a good time to polish their website and make sure it remains in the running to continually draw the attention of casual anime seekers.

Yu-Gi-Oh! on MyVortexx.com

Over on MyVortexx.com, the official website of Saban’s Saturday morning Vortexx block, links to the dedicated pages for Classic Yu-Gi-Oh! and Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal were finally set up in late March. When MyVortexx was revamped back in mid-February, both shows were missing from the website’s “Shows” page.

If you had noted my not-so-subtle hint and snooped around however, you would have discovered that pages for both shows had actually already been set up at the time MyVortexx’s new look was unveiled. The other main MyVortexx pages had simply not linked to them, for whatever reason.

So what’s new? Since then, the pages have seen the addition of the shows’ full episodes — most notably the subbed Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal videos. While this might not seem like a big deal to longtime Yu-Gi-Oh! fans, by deciding to post these videos, Saban has taken a momentous step forward. Younger Vortexx viewers, or other Vortexx fans who are browsing the website and who might not be as well-versed about what sorts of Yu-Gi-Oh! media are available out there, now have a chance to stumble upon the Japanese episodes and enlighten themselves with a slew of original uncut videos. Although official Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes have been around for a few years now, they had never previously been included side-by-side with other Saturday morning shows on Toonzai and 4Kids.TV’s websites.

Unfortunately, MyVortexx’s redesign suffers from a usability issue similar to that which plagued 4Kids.TV/Toonzai when that website was revamped in September 2010: its design is simply not suitable for linking to and posting full episodes. The organization of the videos is an absolute mess. Episodes aren’t numbered and aren’t listed in their proper orders, and dubbed and subbed episodes are all jumbled together.

4KidsTV/Toonzai eventually improved its layout to better accommodate its video listings. Will MyVortexx do the same?

The Last Traces of Toonzai Vanish

Speaking of Toonzai, the Facebook page of the former Saturday morning anime block managed by 4Kids was finally shuttered on March 22 — a little over seven months after its final broadcast. The last two wall posts were made on March 11 and directed fans to the official Yu-Gi-Oh! Facebook page and Toonzaki’s Facebook page.

Toonzai’s Facebook page was never very popular or heavily promoted. During its final days, it had a mere 691 Likes. Nevertheless, it was a window to an increasingly disregarded Saturday morning animation haven that many cherished, and it and the lifestyle the block embodied will be missed.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal to Premiere on Nicktoons This Friday

Let’s end on a happier note: Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal will be premiering on Nicktoons this Friday, April 12 at 9:00 pm EDT!

The newest series in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise joins Classic Yu-Gi-Oh!, which premiered on the Viacom-owned cable network on March 11 and now airs seven days a week.

4Kids Entertainment and The Deals That Never Were

October 5, 2012 at 7:59 am | Posted in 4Kids, Bonds Beyond Time, Other Stuff | 2 Comments
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Seto Kaiba contemplating the future of his company in episode 159

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.

On the other hand, the Bonds Beyond Time DVD was Manga UK’s #2 seller in 2011, second to the Akira BD’s nearly 12,000 units. Hmm, there may be hope yet for us Americans.

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.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Videos Removed From Toonzaki.com, MyVortexx.com Now Live

August 30, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Konami, Saban, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 2 Comments
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Screenshot of MyVortexx.com

Konami, Saban, and 4Kids are kicking up some dust as the trio continue to sort through the properties that recently changed hands. All Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes, including videos from the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, 5D’s, and Zexal series, have been removed from Toonzaki.com, the anime video hub previously managed by 4Kids (and now by Konami). This is especially unfortunate because the Toonzaki crew had worked to build up the website so that it appeared among the top search engine results for queries of Yu-Gi-Oh! videos.

There’s no need to panic though, as all of the Yu-Gi-Oh! videos are still currently available on Hulu. If you can’t find a former 4Kids show that you’re looking for (Yu-Gi-Oh! or otherwise), do a search on Hulu and you’ll likely find it there. It’s yet to be seen whether any Konami or Saban websites will pick up the Yu-Gi-Oh! feeds on Hulu for distribution. I’ll update my Yu-Gi-Oh! and Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters streaming video pages with new links once the dust settles.

In more positive news, MyVortexx.com, the official website of Saban’s Vortexx Saturday morning block, went live earlier this afternoon! It’s still looking a tad empty, but a Vortexx rep noted on Facebook that there’s much more to come, so keep your eyes peeled!

Meanwhile, 4Kids.TV (Toonzai.com) and 4KidsTV.com continue to be disassembled, with former 4Kids properties being removed from both websites.

Update (August 31): “We are transitioning the site,” says a Toonzaki rep on Facebook. “[I]t may be spotty the next few days – shows disappearing/reappearing, site being down etc etc but we’ll be back and better than ever in no time!” Hopefully that includes all of the Yu-Gi-Oh! series!

Saban Unveils Vortexx’s Debut Fall 2012 Lineup

August 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Saban, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | Leave a comment
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MyVortexx.com was updated to display characters from Vortexx's lineup of shows

This morning, Saban Brands announced the full lineup for Vortexx, its upcoming Saturday morning kids’ programming block on The CW. The five-hour block makes its debut with the following mix of old and new shows:

  • 7:00 – Cubix
  • 7:30 – Rescue Heroes
  • 8:00 – Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy
  • 8:30 – Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal
  • 9:00 – Iron Man: Armored Adventures
  • 9:30 – Justice League Unlimited
  • 10:00 – WWE Saturday Morning Slam
  • 10:30 – Dragon Ball Z Kai
  • 11:00 – Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic
  • 11:30 – Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal

Vortexx hits the airwaves on Saturday, August 25. As usual, check your local listings for the exact dates and times. And if you haven’t already done so, check out Vortexx on the web at MyVortexx.com, Facebook, and Twitter!

As previously discussed, the number of Yu-Gi-Oh! broadcasts has been trimmed from four episodes on Toonzai, to just three on Vortexx. One of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal broadcasts will feature a new episode.

You won’t really need to wait until August 25 to catch a new Zexal episode though! On August 18 — the final broadcast of The CW4Kids Toonzai — a new episode will air at 11:00, wrapping up a three-and-a-half hour Zexal marathon. The last episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic (“The Final Duel, Part 4”) will then follow at 11:30. Way to go, Toonzai! That’s how you sign off with a bang!

Saban Acquires Zombie Farm Creator The Playforge

Earlier this month, Saban Brands revealed that it had acquired The Playforge, the makers of the popular mobile game Zombie Farm.

The acquisition opens The Playforge up to a wealth of new licensing and merchandising opportunities, and also provides Saban with the talent and resources to expand solidly into the digital realm with the development of new mobile and online platforms.

Could we see social and mobile gaming playing a significant part in Saban’s Vortexx brand?

YuGiOh.com Closes, Redirects to Toonzaki.com

On July 20, YuGiOh.com shut its doors and automatically redirected all traffic to the anime video portal Toonzaki.com. There’s been no official word on what led to this change.

YuGiOh.com launched in January 2011 and was meant to serve as the international hub for all things Yu-Gi-Oh!, from the TCG, to the anime, to the merchandise.

Earlier in mid-July, a Toonzaki rep noted in a comment on Facebook that Konami was now the owner of Toonzaki, having secured the brand as part of 4Kids and Konami’s $15 million deal.

New Yu-Gi-Oh! Episodes Subject to 60-Day Streaming Delay under Konami Management

June 25, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Konami, Saban, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | 8 Comments
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Seto Kaiba being dealt the finishing blow by Yugi's Exodia in episode 1

If you’re used to waking up on Saturday mornings and catching Yu-Gi-Oh! on The CW, don’t worry, nothing’s going to change as a result of 4Kids’ upcoming transaction with Konami and Saban. From the point Konami and Saban assume control of their respective new businesses until the Fall season begins in September, Saban will broadcast two episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal and two episodes of classic Yu-Gi-Oh! every Saturday morning, just as 4Kids has been doing. Then, once the Fall season commences, Saban will continue to air two episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal while only broadcasting one episode from an older Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series.

As of the end of May 2012, 4Kids has purchased the first 41 episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, so expect 4Kids, Konami, and Saban to already be preparing these for the Fall season. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Yu-Gi-Oh! will continue to air on The CW at least through the Summer 2016 season.

The management of the Yu-Gi-Oh! property under Konami and Saban is not all happy news, however. As part of its deal with Saban, Konami will be imposing an exclusivity period on all new Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes, during which an episode will not be allowed to be exhibited on any platform for 60 days after it initially airs on The CW. That’s right, on any platform. Konami explicitly cites streaming on Hulu and Netflix as verboten during this period.

It is not immediately clear whether Konami’s exclusivity period extends to the new Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal episodes that are the counterparts of the new English-dubbed episodes that will air on The CW. Japanese episodes are not broadcast on The CW, so are they not subject to the restriction? This is assuming, of course, that Konami will even continue streaming subbed Japanese episodes as 4Kids has been doing.

Nevertheless, all of this does mean that Konami intends to seek approval from the Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! licensors to continue streaming the Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes. If given the okay, the episodes will appear on The CW’s and/or Saban’s websites. Episodes will not be available on download-to-own and subscription video-on-demand services.

Part of the streaming deal requires that the licensors allow Saban to stream footage from the Yu-Gi-Oh! series as part of short promo videos to advertise the streams. In the event that Saban is not granted these rights, streaming Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes will not be available anywhere.

…And you thought a 60-day delay was bad! Let’s hope Konami and Saban pull through and keep Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes on the web!

4Kids’ Sale of Yu-Gi-Oh! Business, CW Block to Konami, Saban Worth $15+ Million

June 23, 2012 at 7:16 am | Posted in 4Kids, Other Stuff | Leave a comment
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Joey cheering for Mai in her duel against Marik in episode 91

Further details of 4Kids Entertainment’s proposed sale of its Yu-Gi-Oh! business and CW programming block have emerged, the most significant of which is the hefty sum that 4Kids will receive for selling these assets to Konami and Saban: $15 million. Additionally, the sale will allow 4Kids to pay off all of its uncontested bankruptcy claims and still leave it with over $11 million for equity. As part of their deal, Konami and Saban will also be extending employment offers to certain (as yet unnamed) 4Kids employees so that their businesses can proceed uninterrupted.

The decision to consider a joint transaction — with Konami-affiliate 4K Acquisition assuming control of 4Kids’ Yu-Gi-Oh! business and Saban-affiliate Kidsco Media Ventures receiving 4Kids’ Saturday morning programming block on The CW — came about after six rounds of bidding during the June 5th auction. Before the auction was halted, Saban had the best bid of $11.8 million plus other “non-cash consideration,” while Konami had entered a prior bid of $11 million plus other “non-cash consideration.”

Konami and Saban’s joint bid is significantly more favorable to 4Kids than either of the individual bids alone.

Barring another abrupt rescheduling, a hearing will take place on Tuesday, June 26 where the court is expected to approve this transaction. The parties are then expected to seal the deal around the end of this month. If the deal is not realized by July 15, this transaction will be terminated and the auction will resume.

Why Did Konami and Saban Split 4Kids’ Assets?

While Konami and Saban were predominantly interested in different things, they were nevertheless initially bidding on nearly all of 4Kids’ properties.

The need to split up the assets was driven in part by 4Kids’ existing contract with The CW. According to their agreement, The CW is guaranteed $11.5 million from ad revenue each year. If the ad sales are sluggish and The CW doesn’t receive its full cut, 4Kids is required to pay the network the difference. Whoever assumes control of the CW block would have to shoulder this responsibility — no easy task considering how the children’s ad market has substantially weakened in recent years.

Saban, a seasoned veteran of the children’s television entertainment industry, was eager to pick up the programming block. It negotiated a better deal with The CW that dictated the amount it was responsible for paying the network if it took control of the block. Saban also established a limit to the amount that 4Kids already owed the network. The CW was enticed by the prospect of working with Saban.

However, when Konami entered the picture, The CW balked at the possibility of doing business with the less experienced company, insisting that if Konami purchased 4Kids’ programming block, The CW would still want the full $11.5 million annual ad revenue guarantee. For 4Kids, this was disastrous. There was an overwhelming concern that because Konami (or any potential buyer other than Saban) would need to put a significant amount of cash on the table to meet these demands, there may not be another bidder.

4Kids knew that Saban was primarily interested in The CW’s programming block and that Konami was primarily interested in the Yu-Gi-Oh! property. A week before the bids were due, 4Kids approached the two parties and suggested dividing up the assets. And although they were not able to reach an agreement right then and there, and 4Kids’ assets eventually headed to auction anyway, the trio were shrewd and resourceful enough to recognize the value of the splitting the assets. Ultimately, the path to the best possible deal had been paved, and each company was eventually able to get what it most desired.

Konami to Buy 4Kids’ Yu-Gi-Oh! Business, Saban to Buy 4Kids’ CW Programming Block

June 16, 2012 at 3:25 am | Posted in 4Kids, Other Stuff | 3 Comments
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Joey calling out Kaiba in episode 66
The face that 4Kids, Konami, and Saban’s execs will make upon inking their deals

Early details from 4Kids Entertainment’s “alternative transaction” with Konami-backed 4K Acquisition and Saban-backed Kidsco Media Ventures have surfaced, revealing that Konami is seeking to assume the entirety of 4Kids’ Yu-Gi-Oh! business, while Saban is looking to pick up 4Kids’ Saturday morning programming block on The CW. Shocking, I know.

For Konami, which already manages the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game and Yu-Gi-Oh! video games, adding 4Kids’ Yu-Gi-Oh! License to its arsenal will just be another step for the company to strengthen the Yu-Gi-Oh! brand. The fact that it will no longer need to pay royalties to 4Kids is also a plus, of course.

Konami’s deal with 4Kids will include every Yu-Gi-Oh! anime property in 4Kids’ repertoire, as well as all of the domestic and international merchandising and anime licenses that 4Kids has procured for the Yu-Gi-Oh! brand over the years. Additionally, Konami will be assuming the lease to 4Kids’ Manhattan property. (4Kids’ London-based subsidiary is not included in the deal.)

For Saban, the force behind the Power Rangers franchise, landing a children’s programming block will certainly evoke memories of the mid to late 90s, when it dominated that market on Fox. Saban will no doubt take full advantage of the Saturday morning children’s programming block on The CW (one of the last blocks of its kind on broadcast television) to showcase its Power Rangers brand and draw in some healthy ad sales. Saban will also score 4Kids’ broadcast rights to Cubix, Dragon Ball Z Kai, and Sonic X in the deal.

Needless to say, the details of these transactions are still subject to change and the sale still requires approval from the court. The sale hearing is currently scheduled for June 20.

Update (June 18): The sale hearing has been pushed back yet again to Tuesday, June 26.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Premieres October 15 on the CW4Kids Toonzai

September 27, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Posted in 4Kids, English dubbed, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | 5 Comments
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Screenshot from the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal teaser

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal will make its U.S. debut on Saturday, October 15! In less than three weeks, the newest Yu-Gi-Oh! series will be added to the 9:30 am time slot on the CW4Kids Toonzai, joining episodes of classic Yu-Gi-Oh!, Sonic X, Dragon Ball Z Kai, Magi-Nation, and 4Kids’ other new series, Tai Chi Chasers! (Check your CW affiliate’s local listings for the exact schedules.) This announcement came earlier today via Toonzaki’s Facebook page and 4Kids’ newest video upload to YouTube.

Details about 4Kids’ production of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal are still scarce, but Toonzaki is inviting everyone to chime in with their fantasy cast in its latest Facebook post. One thing is certain though: the “X” is no longer silent. It’s true! “Zexal” is now pronounced [zɛksəl], not [zil]. Gasp! I’m waiting for all of the ads and promos that take full advantage of the “X” in punny and extreme ways. C’mon, 4Kids, make it happen!

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal premiered in Japan in April earlier this year. Confirmation that 4Kids had exercised its rights to obtain the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal anime came to light in May, though it wasn’t immediately clear exactly when the company first picked up the series.

The Yu-Gi-Oh! Lawsuit: TV Tokyo and NAS v. 4Kids

Closing arguments for the first phase of the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit were delivered on Friday, September 23. Finer details about the trial have not been released as of this writing. Check my “lawsuit” tag for my previous posts about this subject, and keep it tuned here for more information as it arises.

It’s worth noting that, contrary to what you may have heard elsewhere, 4Kids’ production and debut of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal are unrelated to the outcome of the trial. As I’ve briefly commented on in the past, both the Japanese licensors and 4Kids have been operating — and continue to operate — as though each of them are in the right. Since March, the licensors have maintained that they justifiably terminated their licensing agreements with 4Kids. The licensors had also been soliciting new licensees for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal property and would still be doing so today had the court not blocked their actions. Similarly, 4Kids has maintained that it did not violate its agreements with the licensors and continues to produce and market the Yu-Gi-Oh! property, business as usual.

It’s equally worth noting that should 4Kids eventually lose its rights to the Yu-Gi-Oh! property, the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime will not abruptly be yanked from the airwaves, nor will Yu-Gi-Oh! merchandise suddenly disappear from store shelves. Per the terms of the Yu-Gi-Oh! License, the termination of the License won’t affect any third-party contracts that the 4Kids may have entered into. Contracts with TV broadcasters and home video and merchandise sub-licensees, for example, remain in effect and 4Kids retains the right to continue to act under the terms of those contracts. 4Kids will also still be able to continue earning money that is generated from its sub-licensing of the rights to the Yu-Gi-Oh! property, so long as those contracts were in effect before the License was terminated. 4Kids can continue to collect this money for either two years or until its contracts with the sub-licensees expire, whichever is less.

So don’t sweat it! Forget it! Enjoy the show — Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal! Saturday, October 15!

Toonzai.com / 4Kids.TV Revisited: One Year Later

September 4, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Other Stuff | 1 Comment
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The Toonzai.com Watch page

One year ago, when 4Kids.TV was relaunched with the Toonzai brand, I was impressed by the visual overhaul of the website and its new features but was nevertheless slightly taken aback by certain aspects of the redesign. In particular, I was really critical about the organization of its video library. Let’s look at what has changed since then.

My decision to take a closer look at 4Kids’ website stemmed from the company’s plan to move all of its shows to 4Kids.TV once it was rebranded as Toonzai. At the time, the only place to watch the entire Yu-Gi-Oh! series was 4KidsTV.com. Thus, if 4Kids wanted to move its full video library over to 4Kids.TV, it was important that everyone be able to navigate to and easily access those episodes. 4KidsTV.com had a great layout suited for organizing videos. Unfortunately, 4Kids.TV wasn’t really built for that.

I was originally turned off by 4Kids.TV’s flash video selection menu, a design that required a user to click on navigation arrows in order to shuffle through the episodes of a show. The worst part about it was that only four episodes appeared on each page. Can you imagine wanting to watch the final episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! and having to click through 50-plus pages of videos just to get to it? Although this design is still used today, only a handful of episodes are on 4Kids.TV, perhaps as a preview of what’s available. Rather than forcing users to adapt to that clumsy design, 4Kids integrated the easy-to-navigate 4KidsTV.com website into 4Kids.TV. Both websites share the Toonzai branding.

And, much to my delight, the each show’s “Episodes” page on 4Kids.TV — once home to only short summaries of each episode — now also contains links to the actual videos of the episodes rather than just descriptions. Hooray!

Of course, what brought about my concern at the time was 4Kids’ plans to phase out its video hub at 4KidsTV.com after moving everything to 4Kids.TV. Thankfully, that ended up not happening. But in any case, a better alternative to 4KidsTV.com — particularly to fans outside of 4Kids’ 6- to 11-year-old target audience — has since been set up: Toonzaki.com.

[4Kids-Toonzai] Which Yu-Gi-Oh! series should air on Saturdays?

November 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Other Stuff, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 2 Comments
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Toonzai's lineup for November 6, 2010

Want to lend a hand in programming a Saturday morning cartoon block? Here’s your chance! Toonzai is asking fans which Yu-Gi-Oh! series they would like to see on TV! Three half-hour slots are available. Toonzai’s current schedule is pictured above.

Cast your vote on Facebook! Your choices are:

  • Leave as is: 2 Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s/1 Yu-Gi-Oh!
  • Swap it: 2 Yu-Gi-Oh!/1 Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s
  • Add GX: One of each series
  • All Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s
  • All Yu-Gi-Oh!

I find it hilarious that Toonzai is restricting Yu-Gi-Oh! GX to just one slot, if any at all. “All Yu-Gi-Oh! GX”? Not on their watch! (Or on anyone else’s, I’d imagine.) ;D

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