4Kids Entertainment, which won the bidding war to take over the four-hour Saturday morning block on the Fox Network (see '4Kids Gets Fox Kids Block'), has announced two programs that will be airing on Saturday mornings beginning September of 2002: the action-packed Kinnikuman anime series will be joined by the live action Ultraman Tiga series. Ultraman, who is no stranger to these shores, is one of the most venerable characters of the 'kaiju' genre of Japanese live-action monster movies and TV series, though he is far less well known than Godzilla, the most famous kaiju property. Kinnikuman, based on a manga property, was the most popular superhero anime of the 80s, with over 125 episodes and seven features. Toys appeared in the U.S. as M.U.S.C.L.E..
4Kids also has the rights to develop shows based on Nintendo properties and the animation house is considering producing or co-producing a series based on the videogame 'Kirby,' but so far only one hour of the four-hour block is set.
The latest twist in this interesting tale is a rumor that appeared on the Toon Zone website indicating that 4Kids had asked competitor DIC about providing some programming for the Saturday morning Fox block. DIC was heavily involved in the bidding for the Fox Block before losing out to 4Kids, so it would be surprising if 4Kids did turn to them, but according to FCC regulations one of the four Saturday morning hours has to be 'educational' and nothing that 4Kids currently has in its stable fills that bill, even by Hollywood standards, so it is quite possible that 4Kids will turn to some other source to fulfill its 'educational' requirements. Or, since the Fox Block will have to have strong ratings to gain enough advertising dollars to pay off 4Kids' $25 million dollar annual rental, perhaps 4Kids is looking for Sailor Moon or some other high profile DIC property to bring some luster to new Saturday morning fall lineup? Stay tuned for more details.