Dragon Ball Z
July 1, 2002

Dragon Ball Z

Distributor: Fort Worth, Texas-based FUNimation (817-788-0627)

Producer: Japan-based Toei Animation

Format: 26 x half hour

Style: 2-D animation

Some current broadcasters: Cartoon Network (U.S.), YTV (Canada), Network Ten (Australia) and SABC (South Africa)

Funimation stacks its Dragon Ball z cards

Good versus nasty, gnarly evil has always been the lifeblood of the boys action genre. And few shows have managed to wring more drama or longevity from this element than anime mainstay Dragon Ball Z. The follow-up to original series Dragon Ball, DBZ debuted on Japanese TV in ’89, spawning more than 291 episodes that tracked, in Byzantine detail, the attempts of warrior Goku and his posse to defend earth against aliens and other ne’er-do-wells. A conventional premise, perhaps, but it’s DBZ’s treatment of the source material (characters coming back from the dead to battle once more, and main protagonist Goku discovering that he actually hails from alien stock) that has elevated it from the status of a mere cartoon.

‘It’s like an epic soap opera,’ says Cindy Fukunaga, VP of Fort Worth, Texas-based FUNimation Studios. Fukunaga has witnessed first-hand the religious devotion the show inspires in its fans. ‘Kids can tell you the original names of characters and who married who, going back to the Dragon Ball days,’ she says. ‘It’s just an extremely rich story.’ FUNimation has been able to leverage that loyal following into boffo TV ratings. From January to May 2002, DBZ was the number-one program on cable and broadcast in the 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. time slot with boys ages nine to 14.

DBZ is no less of a force in the merchandising world, where it’s yielded top-selling video game, collectible card game and toy lines. Last year, Irwin Toy’s five-inch DBZ assortment was the 29th best-selling SKU in the action figure category, according to NPDFunworld. And since ’96, FUNimation has sold more than 12 million DBZ videos–with roughly five million of them selling through in the last year alone.

Up next, FUNimation will bow with The Return of Cooler (the first of eight Dragon Ball features that were originally released theatrically in Japan) on home video and DVD this August. In the fall, Cartoon Network will begin airing the last 50 eps of DBZ, but that doesn’t spell the end of the franchise. Currently, FUNimation is shopping a third stanza in the anime saga, Dragonball GT, with hopes of having it on air by 2003 or 2004.

Though existing DBZ licensees will have a leg up for the third go-round, FUNimation’s director of licensing Bob Brennan says the company will be reviewing all categories, including toys, video games and apparel.

‘Because it’s a new property and we derive our rights from a third party (Toei Animation), we have an obligation to find the best partners that we can for the launch,’ says Brennan, who plans to have some DBGT merch at retail for fall 2003.


The Mummy

Distributor: London-based Universal Studios Television Distribution


Producer: Universal City-based Universal Cartoon Studios

Format: 26 x half hour

Style: 2-D animation

Broadcasters: BBC (U.K.), Kids’ WB! (U.S.) and M6 and Canal J in France

Brats of the Lost Nebula

Distributor: L.A.-based Jim Henson Television (323-802-1500)

Producer: Henson and Toronto, Canada-based Decode Entertainment

Format: 13 x half hour

Style: Live action/puppetry

Broadcasters: Televisa (Mexico), Asia TV (Hong Kong) and Polsat (Poland)

Cosmic Cowboys

Distributor: Paris-based Alphanim (33-1-49-96-4401)

Producer: Alphanim

Format: 52 x 13 minutes

Style: 2-D animation

Broadcasters: France 3 and RAI (Italy)

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