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A Closer Look: Pokemania, Who's Next?

Three new Scandinavian markets surrendered their airwaves to Pokemania.

Worldwide sensation Pokemon was recently sold to TV4 in Sweden, TV2 in

Denmark and TV2 in Norway. The show will hit the new territories in January

and February 2000. The international distributor, Lacey Entertainment, also

announced the sale of the Pikachu-vehicle to ATV in Turkey and Noga

Communications' Children's Channel in Israel.

The Pokemon phenomenon began in America in 1998 with the release of the

original Blue and Red Nintendo Game Boy games and the debut of the

television series. U.S. distributor 4Kids Entertainment adapted the series

for U.S. viewers by incorporating new music, voices and scripting. The show

started in U.S. syndication in September 1998, and was signed to appear on

Italy's MediaSet network, Australia's Channel 10, Mexico's Televisa,

Canada's YTV and Brazil's Globo TV. Kids WB! started airing the hit

Japanese animated series in February 1999. Then, in fall, Pokémon joined

the Kids WB! line-up exclusively with 52 all-new episodes airing Monday

through Saturday, becoming the #1 rated syndicated kids' program in the

U.S. In Europe, Pokemon began broadcasting in September 1999 on Germany's

RTL2, The Netherlands' Fox Kids, Belgium's VT4 and RTL, Portugal's SIC and

France's Fox Kids. The feature film "Pokemon: The First Movie" opened in

November 1999, accompanied with the largest licensing effort ever for the

US-headquartered fast food chain, Burger King.

A common attitude is to see Anime as a weird kitsch import, a combination

of impenetrable plots and herky-jerky animation. The fact that Pokemon was

based on a computer game could be seen as all the more insidious. Plus,

Pokemon is a vast franchise, with a whole family of Pokemon video games,

along with a mass of spin-off merchandise. The "Gotta catch 'em all!" tag

suggests commercialism at its worst. But this bad image did not act as a

deterrent to Pokemon's dazzling ascension, nor did the incident which

caused a stir in 1997 when hundreds of young Japanese viewers

simultaneously suffered seizures while watching an episode that featured a

high-contrast flash sequence, an effect known as "photosensitive epilepsy."

This should be reassuring for majors such as Disney who keep a close watch

on their brand image control.

Read more about Pokemon and Anime in Animation World Magazine:

- Pokemononoke:

Anime For The Millennium While many will say that anime is not storming the U.S. mainstream, Andrew

Osmond points out a number of ways this art form is entering and

influencing the animation we see every day.

- Gotta Buy 'Em All! Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman looks at the marketing and licensing scheme that

has turned 150 viscous monsters into the "Pokémon" every kid in America

must have.