The Cartoon Network has announced that Transformers: Armada and The Big O 2 will be part of an expanded Toonami block in the fall of 2002.  The Toonami block had been shortened to two hours as part of the reorganization of the Turner networks last year, which tended to favor the Kids WB over the Cartoon Network.  But the experiment with a WB version of Toonami appears to be over (though some Cartoon Network shows may still appear on the WB), and the Cartoon Network will go back to a 3-hour Toonami block (4 to 7pm) this fall.  Among the series slated for the expanded Toonami block are Big O 2, Transformers: Armada, G-Gundam, and a revived He-Man: Masters of the Universe.  All of these new series present merchandising opportunities for pop culture retailers.


Transformers: Armada

The appearance of the Transformers: Robots in Disguise anime series on Fox last year (see 'Fox Adds Two New Anime Series For Fall') helped spark an 80s revival that has produced amazing results, including the first ever non-premier published comic to reach the number one position on Diamond's monthly sales chart (see 'Retro Rules in April').  But since Fox has decided to opt out of the kids entertainment business (see 'Fox Axes Daily Toons'), it is great to see that the Cartoon Network will keep the Transformers on U.S. TV since retailers have a wealth of Transformers merchandise available including vintage toons (see 'Retro Toon Update'), toys from Hasbro (see 'Licensing is Back At Hasbro'), a brand new CCG from Wizards of the Coast (see 'WOTC To Launch Transformers CCG'), classic Transformers comic collections from Titan Publishing (see 'Titan Takes Transformers Trades'), as well as the hot new Transformers comic series from Dreamwave.


Big O 2

The Big O series found quite a bit of favor with U.S. audiences thanks to its anime meets film noir plotlines and its character and design elements that recall Batman Beyond as well as Fritz Lang's seminal science fiction film, Metropolis (see 'Two Toons Debut With Merchandising Potential').  The problem with the Big O was that there were only 13 episodes in the original series.  The arrival of Big O 2 should keep a wide range of Big O merchandise viable.  Viz is publishing an excellent Big O manga series (see 'Viz to Publish Big O Manga'), while Bandai America has included cool Big O figures in its Anime Collector Sets (see 'Bandai Expands Anime Collector Sets'), and Bandai Entertainment has released the first 13 Big O episodes on DVD (see 'Bandai To Release Big O DVD in June'). 


He-Man: Masters of the Universe

With Mattel set to revive its He-Man toy line (see 'Mattel Plays It Close To the Vest'), the return of this retro property to the airwaves should make it easier for retailers to sell the revised He-Man toys, which have a distinctly anime-like air about them (see 'He-Man Returns Anime Style').  It should be interesting to see if the new He-Man cartoon series is similarly influenced by Japanese animation.



While the tournament-based G-Gundam series is hardly typical of the long-running Gundam series (see 'Is G-Gundam Next For U.S?'), the 49-episode anime series should continue to help sell one of the largest arrays of tie-in merchandise in the history of anime, which is led by a wide range of model kits and figures (see 'Bandai America Unveils New Line'), but which also includes tons of video product (both DVD and VHS), graphic novels (see 'Viz to Publish Two Gundam Trades in March'), and a role-playing game (see 'R. Talsorian To Publish Gundam RPG').