1996: Disney and McDonald’s announce their now historic ten-year, $1 billion QSR promo partnership. * Competition for kids attention from video games and computers made itself known as TV viewing dropped to 20 from 25 hours per week among the pint-sized crowd. * The FCC adopts new rules requiring U.S. broadcasters to air three hours of educon programming a week.
1997: Toy Story’s US$350-million gross spurs Disney to sign a 10-year, five-picture deal with the CGI film’s creator Pixar, kickstarting the CGI animation revolution. * The bidding for merch rights to George Lucas’s three new Star Wars prequels reaches a fevered pitch – Mattel reportedly offered Lucasfilm a jawdropping US$1 billion advance and 20%-plus royalty rate for the master toy license.
1998: PBS Kids!, Disney and Fox Family Channel get ready to launch dedicated cablenets in the U.S. and the bulk of advertising begins to shift to cablesats, forcing smaller terrestrial networks to reconsider the financial benefits of running kids blocks.
1999: Macromedia launches Flash and the program eventually changes the animation landscape, lowering the production budgets for many toons. * Wild Brain makes an early foray into internet broadcasting, starting up a dedicated kids TV channel on Yahoo! * Anime-mania sweeps through the North American kids programming market.
2000: Media convergence dominated the headlines and several giants got hitched including Carlton and United News and Media (a US$11.3-billion deal), Vivendi and Universal, and AOL and Time Warner. * The dotcom boom went bust, notably on the kids entertainment side the much hyped hub pop.com folded before it had a chance to go live.
2001: HIT Entertainment embarks on a two-year long shopping spree, picking up Lyrick and his Purpleness, Barney, in its first acquisition. * Itsy Bitsy goes bye-bye as Viselman and Handleman reach an impasse over Tibeco. * International co-pros for ‘high end TV shows’ become the norm.