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Why Power Rangers owes it's very existence to Muppet Babies....well sort of

Discussion in 'Muppet Babies' started by VP Weirdo, Apr 8, 2014.

  1. VP Weirdo

    VP Weirdo Active Member

    In 1978 Marvel Comics was only beginning a long and tangled history of licensing. They were expanding there interests not just in terms of adapting hit material from other mediums in comic books (like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and the first Star Trek movie), but licensing there own character to television following the smash hit of The Incredible Hulk series. While there initial follow-ups didn't do so well, they established partnerships which would have major remafications for children's television to come.

    One of which was animation studio DePatie-Freleng who started working with Marvel that year on a saturday morning cartoon adaptation of The Fantastic Four. Like most kid shows at the time it only lasted one season and is somewhat infamous for having The Human Torch replaced with a robot called Robbie. (Contrary to urban legend this was due the character being tied up in a possible movie project at the time, not concerns about kids playing with fire).

    David DePatie and Fritz Freleng were two of the star animators behind Looney Tones before creating the Pink Panther and it's various spin off under there own production name. Than after another failed series with Spider-Woman in 1979, Fritz decided to go back to Warner Bros. Seeing a perfect opportunity to bypass selling rights by producing the cartoons themselves, Marvel snapped up David PePatie to become president of the newly dubbed Marvel Productions in 1980 with Stan Lee as vice president. Success came almost immediately with Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends becoming a top-rated series on the NBC saturday morning lineup, which was soon followed by a cartoon version of The Incredible Hulk. Marvel Production did so well in fact, that it ironically found itself working mostly with other company and adaptation of their characters. Many of the most successful of which were syndicated shows adapted from toy lines like Transformers and G.I. Joe, but it's longest hit run was with the Emmy Award winning Jim Henson's Muppet Babies for CBS.

    Going all the way back to SMAHAF Marvel had used the Japanese anime studio Toei Animation for most of there overseas work. However, the relationship with Toei's parent company and Marvel also had it's beginning in 1978.
    Too be Continued....:concern:
  2. VP Weirdo

    VP Weirdo Active Member

    Since 1971 Toei Company had pioneered a new kind of Tokusatsu (or Japanese special effects) with Kamen Raider, the first of many super-hero action shows to specialize in "Transforming" or (Henshin) super heroes who change there appearance while forming a martial arts pose and due battle with a daily monster.

    The first Kamen Raider series in what was to become a long running franchise, was the creation of Manga artist Shotaro Ishinomari. Shotaro was also behind the first two of a Toei series to feature a team of Transforming heroes called Sentai. But it wasn't until Marvel got involved with Toei that crucial element of the franchise was implemented.

    The same year The Fantastic Four series with the robot replacement came and went, Marvel co-produced with Toei a Japanese Tokosatsu Spider-Man series. It bore little resemblance to the iconic Marvel hero beyond appearance, but it was the first time a Henshin character piloted a gigantic robot or (Mecha). The cross-pacific studios originally planned a similar series based on Captain America the following year, but what came out instead was a new Sentai called Battle Fever J. It was the first to feature the heroes riding Mecha's and the first to have the word Super in it's name.

    Over the next five years Toei would continue to put out new Super Sentai series each year (each season constitutes a different team and storyline). While Marvel only had a slight connection to the next two (due to use of a villain modeled after a minor character in Marvel's Mighty Thor series) they would continued to work with Toei animation on the there Marvel Production adapted series throughout the 80s. In the mean time some episodes of Super Sentai made there way to American Japanese language stations on the west coast, but I've been unable to determine than if Marvel had anything to due with the distribution.

    Enter Margaret Loesch: She was CEO of Marvel Animation in 1984 the same year Muppet Babies debuted with her on board as executive producer. She would later go to be President of the Fox Kids network and now works as CEO of family entertainment channel The Hub.

    The rest of story I think I'll leave to Margaret Loesch herself as reveled in this fascinating article from 1996 on the expanding business of children's television in the 1980s and 90s. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1996/10/28/203922/index.htm It's about two pages and 16 paragraphs in, but the rest of it is well worth reading too, especially to see how much had changed by that time and how much has changed since.

    Bottom line is Margaret believed an American version of Super Sentai could work when almost no else did and she took the sentiment all the way to Fox. Yet it wouldn't have happened without here connection to Muppet Babies and by default Marvel-through Toei-by way of DePatie Freleng.

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