Presenter Dan Larson traces everything back to the popular series Ducktales, which Disney pulled from a Fox station in 1987 in order to air it on a new station of its own. Fox CEO Barry Diller was “incensed” and ordered all his affiliates to stop airing the show, while moving fast to boost Fox’s programming and turn it into a major kids’ tv competitor. Thus began “a war that would last for the next 14 years.”
The Fox Children’s Network, which would eventually become Fox Kids, was launched in 1990. Partnerships with the likes of Warner Bros. Animation followed, as the programming block broke out with hit shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Larson explains how Fox Kids was shaped by government regulation, Fox’s overall development, and the shifting fortunes of rivals. Disney remains at the heart of this story, eventually winning the “war” and acquiring Fox Family Worldwide, the company that operated Fox’s kids’ brands globally.
For Larson, Ducktales’ move to Disney’s station in 1987 remains the primal wound that formed Fox’s kids’ strategy. The block’s rise and fall reminds us, among other things, “how one decision can change everything,” he concludes. Whether or not you ascribe this much importance to that one show, Larson’s history of Fox Kids is fun and informative.