4Kids Entertainment, the TV-show packager responsible for the U.S. versions of both Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, has designated Bandai America Inc. as the master toy licensee for the U.S. for the animated series Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy. The Kinnikuman anime series is a staple of the Fox Box, Saturday morning kids block that 4Kids programs on the Fox Network (see '4Kids Gets Fox Box'). The designation of Bandai America makes perfect sense since B.A.'s parent company created most of the classic Kinnikuman toys in Japan. 4Kids, which recently set up its own video division (see '4Kids To Do Home Videos'), will handle the video releases.
Since the Kinnikuman anime series debuted on the Fox Box just this fall, retailers can't expect much merchandise right away, although a series of Kinnikuman 1.5' Micro Wrestlers Action Figures should be out by the end of this year -- and trading cards or, more likely, a trading card game shouldn't be far behind. Still 2003 should be the year in which the Kinnikuman toy line really expands -- especially if the series continues to capture new viewers in its Saturday morning timeslot. Don't underestimate the ability of anime series to move toys and card games -- witness the current success of Yu-Gi-Oh, Beyblades, Transformers and Zoids, all of which benefit from major TV exposure.