Syndication is the red hot TV cartoon trend of the 1980s says George W. Woolery. He tells us how big dollars are being made by the right packages.
Brandishing his sword and uttering the incantation “By the power of Grayskull, I have the power!” He-Man does!
Capturing the attention of more little boys via syndication than any other U.S. TV show, by January 1985 He-Man puissance had sold $500 million of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe toy line and another $500 million in He-Man toothbrushes, underwear and sundry merchandise licensed by the firm, according to ‘Time’ magazine.
Since Filmation/Group W’s 65-episode series debuted in Fall 1983, it has been seen every weekday afternoon on 166 TV stations, gaining 9 million viewers, most of them boys ages four to seven. Its continued runaway ratings success has created a bull market for first-run cartoon shows, which are making strong inroads in non-network children’s television.
A respected voice of the toy industry, ‘Playthings Magazine’ has acknowledged that Mattel’s He-Man is the best developed and promoted of the recent cartoon lines, beating out Hasbro Toys’ G.I. Joe, a MarvelClaster TV series, which also debuted in Fall 1983, but as a five-part mini-series with another added in Fall 1984. To more effectively battle their rival, 55 new episodes of G.I. Joe were released with the ten old shows last fall. Meantime, one jump ahead, Mattel has followed its He-Man success with Filmation/Group W’s new 65-episode hit, She-Ra: Princess of Power, the long lost twin sister of He-Man, to bring more young girls into their burgeoning market.
Syndication – off-network and especially new programming leased to local TV stations – is the hottest trend in the U.S. animation market in the ‘80’s.
For the last four years, at the annual convention of the National Association of Television Production Executives (NATPE), where U.S. distributors of TV shows peddle their wares, game shows and new animated series for daytime children’s programming were big sellers. New kiddie cartoon shows have sprouted faster than Jack’s magical beanstalk.
Other new 65-episode series syndicated in 1985-1986 are DIC/LBS’s M.A.S.K., based on the Kenner toy line; Rankin-Bass /Telepictures’
Thundercats, although not based on toys a line has been created; Hanna-Barbera/ Worldvision’s The Jetsons with 24 off-network and 41 new episodes with the original voices and a new character Orbitty; Three B Productions/The Entertaimnent Network’s Tranzor Z, about a transformer robot; DIC/SFM Entertainment’s Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors; and 39 episodes of Primetime Entertainment’s Terrahawks. Also 24-episodes of Filmation/King Features’ off-network Flash Gordon.
Continuing in syndication last fall, although they premiered in 1984-1985, are Marvel-Sunbow/Claster TV’s Transformers with 15 old and 50 new episodes; Filmation/Group W’s 60 off-network and 30 new Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids; DIC/LBS’s 65-episode Heathcliff; Hanna-Barbera/ Television Program Enterprises’ Challenge of the GoBots with five old plus 60 new episodes for Tonka Toys; and 20 half-hours from various producers including Cosgrove.Hall’s The Talking Parcel, on LBS Children’s Theatre. As well, 65 half-hours syndicated in 1982-1983, plus 36 new episodes of DIC/LBS’s popular Inspector Gadget, are being televised.
Also contributing to the deluge are several imported cartoon shows. For instance, 26 episodes of the Netherlands’ Polyscope/LBS’s Dr. Snuggles (1981-1983), were sponsored by General Foods. But more far-reaching, perhaps, has been the introduction of several redubbed, reedited and retitled Japanese series with spin-off toys and novelties.
Toei’World Events Productions’ Voltran, Defender of the Universe, syndicated in 1984-1985, has added 21 episodes last fall to their giant-robot series. The popular show is actually two different Japanese series, seen as the 67-episode Lyon-Force Voltron and the 52-episode Multi-Vehicle Voltron, with a third series soon to be added.
Comprised of three Japanese TV series, Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeada, the 85-episode Robotech debuted in March 1985. Also a giant-robot series from Tatsunoko/Harmony Gold, the elements were retitled Robotech, Robotech Masters and Robotech: The New Generation. Youngsters can expect a flood of new shows from Tatsunoko Productions, which has a sizeable backlog of former Nippon TV shows, including 65 episodes of the renowned Japanese cult classic Captain Harlock in mid 1986.
The Japanese are not newcomers to American syndication. Beginning in 1963, Mushi Productions’ Astro Boy (Mighty Atom elsewhere) was imported by NBC Enterprises and distributed by Screen Gems. It captured youngster’s fancy and was followed by several shows in the late ‘60’s, including Musbi’s Kimba, the White Lion and The Amazing Three, and Eiken’s 8th Man and Gigantor, and the most popular of them all, Tatsunoko’s Speed Racer. In the wake of the sci-fi movie Star Wars (1977), 85 episodes of Tatsunoko-Gallerie International/Sandy Frank’s Battle of the Planets and 52 episodes of Office Academy-Sun Wagon/Claster TV’s Star Blazers, enjoyed local runs for several years. Sandy Frank recently said it cost $3 million to acquire, re-edit and distribute Battle of the Planets, and the series has made a $15 million profit thus far.
Why are U.S. stations shelling out fancy prices for new first-run animated cartoons?
Partly because of the Federal Communications Commission’s 1974 guidelines, which required a reasonable amount of children’s programming and that it be scheduled not only on weekends. At the time, the decision applied to all 1,000-plus TV stations and was monitored through each station’s annual licence-renewal report, by requiring owners to define the type of children’s programming being offered.