Sailor Saturn Trapped in America

Irwin Drops Sailor Moon Toy Line

Bandai Anyone?

(Toronto, Canada) Irwin Toy Limited will not renew the toy license for "Sailor Moon" in 2002.

Several top executives at Irwin cited the loss of the series airing on a U.S. network as the cause for a slow discernible decline of toy sales. AOL/Time Warner's Cartoon Network has the exclusive network rights to all of the episodes but has not aired them since Friday, May 4th, 2001. (The network has aired the features once and Kids' WB did air 6 episodes up until the events of September 11th.) The DiC episodes are available to local U.S. television stations via Syndication but are not being shown in large cities or enough of the nation to replace the lack of a network.

Although the series continues to air on the YTV network, a Canadian broadcast alone is no longer enough to insure profits in a slow economy coupled with the high license fee which would have to be paid to DiC Entertainment. (Fans may recall that at one time, Irwin paid for the final 17 episodes of "Sailor Moon R" to be dubbed for YTV even though there was no network run scheduled in the United States.) Recently, Irwin tried a special Co-op deal with YTV to see if they could boost Canadian sales to make-up for the loss of a U.S. network, but the campaign did not have enough of an affect.

Irwin produced prototypes of the Amazoness Quartet but discovered during test marketing that there was little interest in these characters. (Bandai Japan had the same experience.) Disappointments such as these disenchanted Irwin from continuing the line.
Image courtesy of
Irwin's last manufacturing run of Sailor Moon products was for the 2001 Christmas season after which the decision was made not to continue the line. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, initial sales of the toys looked good but never took off. Look for all of Irwin's Sailor Moon toys to be heavily discounted in the coming months and then to be off the shelves by this Summer.

Left stranded in America is the new Sailor Saturn doll--which was not yet manufactured for Canada. The only way for fans to collect an Irwin version is to arrange to have (or find) one exported from the United States. These are expected to sell out fast. Sailor Saturn dolls were also manufactured by other toy companies for other countries--including (of course) Bandai in Japan.

DiC Entertainment has been looking for another toy company to take up the Sailor Moon line. One possibility we've heard mentioned is a small action figure company. The action figures from this company are excellent and we hope that they would maintain their quality for the highly discerning Sailor Moon Otaku. But unfortunately, such companies do not help finance television series in order to boost sales. Companies whose main source of revenue are actions figures do not generate enough income to enter the "big leagues" (which Irwin itself only recently struggled to enter).

Irwin's departure will mark the second toy manufacturer to have handled Sailor Moon in the United States (and the only one to have handled the line in Canada). Bandai America was the first to have the license for the United States but dropped out after the initial Syndication run performed so poorly.

We would love to suggest that Bandai America consider taking up the toy line again as it would only have to deal with DiC on a very straight forward monetary basis. The actual business of producing & placing any new episodes would be up to Cloverway & Toei. Pioneer Entertainment could be brought in to line produce the remaining shows. (We have to use the words, "We would love to suggest," since we can't really suggest this as we would be laughed out of both DiC's & Bandai's offices but respectfully point out that there have been stranger bedfellows associated with this property in the past.)

The Save Our Sailors campaign (SOS) had been working with Irwin Toys over the last few months concerning their sales and possibly sponsoring "Sailor Stars." We had tried to encourage fans to purchase the Luna Ball but (as with our first attempt concerning "Sailor Moon S") not enough purchases resulted. Some of us here agreed with the company that while many fans may support the SOS (as evidenced by mail, email, website hits, etc. received by Irwin) this did not translate into sales--Irwin's most important objective.

Nevertheless, Irwin unofficially had actually agreed to be a target of a Sailor Stars letter writing campaign. Sometimes, just writing a letter results in a consumer's higher awareness of a company's products. In other words, Irwin wouldn't have minded being the target of a positive campaign as kids would remember them much more than other toy companies. In business they call this "Brand Recognition" & "Consumer Loyalty." Plus, Irwin's new management seemed genuinely interested in continuing a relationship with Sailor Moon via new dubbed episodes.

Many webtrawlers found these pages on Irwin's site for months. The company created these pages to introduce characters from (and raise interest in) the final season. Irwin also wanted the option to produce dolls of these characters before any dubbing took place (as they had done before) but would have preferred that the episodes aired first.

But then the Christmas season happened (or in Sailor Moon's case--didn't happen) and we were warned by Irwin that sales were becoming critical. Irwin, company-wide, did not experience the huge drop in sales that larger toy companies went through because of the U.S. economy and consumer confidence. However, the Sailor Moon line did far less business because of the aforementioned lack of a U.S. television network.

Word of Irwin's plans were leaked to some companies and retailers to gauge reaction but the actual decision probably was not made until around Christmas itself. By the New York Toy Fair (held in early February) it had become official and no amount of letters from fans could make-up for the loss of sales.

Irwin had also leaked the information because they felt that some companies hadn't lived up to their commitments. The toy company wanted to see if any of the companies would make amends. Irwin executives would not name any names (and our representative did not ask them) but we surmise that they might have felt some frustration with:

  • The Cartoon Network
    Which gladly takes Irwin's ad money but does not run shows (such as Sailor Moon) to support the company. (YTV treats Irwin so much better.)

  • DiC Entertainment
    Which might have guaranteed a certain amount of air time and/or ratings but then refuse to lower the toy license to make-up for the loss of a network run and/or assisted with some co-financing to allow others to dub "Sailor Stars."

  • Cloverway, Inc.
    Which could have also sought some co-financing to dub "Sailor Stars."

We don't know about DiC, but to the Cartoon Network's defense we're pretty sure that the takeover by WB-TV took them out of control of many of the important programming decisions. The network remains solidly behind Dragonball Z (even though AOL/Time Warner has no ownership in it) and it remains Irwin's best toy line. Cloverway is a different matter, as they have not been very creative in engineering financing for Toei's shows.

So now it is time to bid Irwin farewell...

On behalf of Sailor Moon fans everywhere, we thank the Irwin Toy Company, its former and current executives and staff members for all of their hard work and marvelous support since the debut of the series in North America. Without you the world would have been a less happy place. We cannot tell you how many of us would rush home every school day to see our favorite (and sometimes only) uplifting television program--made possible, in part, by you. Thank You!

(Fans should know that the company plans to make a major presence at this year's Comic-Con in San Diego. Make sure to stop by their booth and to thank them for paying for the final 17 episodes of "Sailor Moon R," taking part in the financing of "Sailor Moon S" & "Sailor Moon SuperS," for improving the look of the dolls and for all of their support of Sailor Moon over the years.)

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