The Magic Number

In 1995, Breakthrough Entertainment and its licensees were busy grooming Dudley the Dragon to be a long-term franchise.  The character would generate sales in merchandise, which in turn would cross-promote the show.  Hypothetically, the revenue would then recycle back into making new episodes.

This was the philosophy of George Lucas.  He invested his profits from American Graffiti to jumpstart Star Wars.  He used his Star Wars profits to make The Empire Strikes Back.  He used Empire‘s profits to make Return of the Jedi and build Skywalker Ranch.  And that led to more Lucasfilm productions.  Star Wars has been an active franchise for over 34 years, with no end in sight.

CBC TV reporter Howard Green acknowledged, “The strategy is to make Dudley an evergreen character, like Big Bird of Sesame Street, on the air for more than 25 years. The producers say the key is to protect Dudley’s soul. Dudley’s last name could be Do-right. He’s politically correct.”

“It’s the social value of a TV show like Dudley that will make it a long-lasting thing,” said Dudley‘s executive producer Peter Williamson.  “Whether the licensing goes on with it is another thing.”

According to John McCay of the Canadian Press, sales of Dudley merchandise would reach U.S. $500 million in 1996.

In February 1996, the Toronto Star had announced a Dudley feature film was being written.  In June, John McCay reported that funding for the film had already been arranged.  Playback announced the earliest possible release could be Christmas 1996.

The project fizzled, for reasons unreported.

In June and July of 1997, production commenced on the fifth season of Dudley the Dragon.

It would be the last season.

Why?

Executive producer Ira Levy explained, “We’ve hit the magic number.  After this run, we’ll be up to 65 episodes, which qualifies the show for syndication.”

And so, The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon, which appealed to kids of all ages, ended with 65 episodes.

Barney and Friends, which appealed to kids 0 to 2, has reached 261 episodes plus a feature film.

Something’s wrong with the math, isn’t there?

Sources:  Greg Quill, Toronto Star, June 1, 1997, “Dudley the Dragon fires up cast and crew Shooting final season of this hit children’s TV series is both an art and a business,” pg. B8; Mary Ellen Armstrong, Playback, June 16, 1997, “Ontario Scene: Klein Spins Mystery for Stornoway, Quirky Comedy for Endeavor” ; Sid Adilman, Toronto Star, February 11, 1996, “Canadian Shows Winners With Kids; Popular TV characters Spark Merchandising Spinoff Frenzy,” p. E7; John McKay, The Vancouver Sun, June 29, 1996, Dudley Does Right in U.S. Market,” p. C12; Howard Green, Venture – CBC Television, Toronto, October 15, 1995; Mary Maddever, Playback, January 15, 1996, “Special Report: NATPE ’96: Our Kids’ Series Big Game in the U.S.”; imdb.com.