The Flying Cats is a 1996 Canadian-British-French-Japanese animated TV series created by Joe Brian and Jean Chalopin. The series was produced by Gaumont Télévision, Cosgrove Hall, Magic World, TMS Entertainment, Saban and Nelvana. The show was also distributed outside of North America by Saban International. The show's music was composed by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy, also recycling previous cues from earlier productions.
Joe Brian, who was living in the UK at the time, monitored the first season production at Cosgrove Hall Films.
The show ran on Fox Kids in the United States from October 18, 1996 to June 28, 2002 for four seasons and 130 episodes and on YTV and CBC in Canada.
The show revolves around a kingdom of anthropomorphic cats with wings, that are capable of flight (hence the title), whose forest has been taken over by Azure, an evil cat wizard who can produce weapons and summon armies with his brewing cauldron. A group of four winged cats, including the main protagonist, has plans to restore normalcy to the forest.
Unlike many cartoon shows at the time, ample time was spent on plot and character development, setting the show apart from many other cartoons.
- Season 1 (1996-1997) - 52 episodes
- Season 2 (1998-1999) - 26 episodes
- Season 3 (2000-2001) - 26 episodes
- Season 4 (2001-2002) - 26 episodes
- Hunter - The main protagonist of the series. He is a winged cat aptly named for his agility, speed and good eyesight. He can be sort of an egotistical hothead at times, but he can also be a hero or good sport when necessary.
- Sophie - Hunter's little sister. She is herself skilled, especially in archery and faster, stronger and smarter than Hunter, much to his annoyance. Due to her numerous skills, she has never been a damsel-in-distress.
- Merlin - Hunter's best friend. He is a winged cat who, although he is actually quite good with magic for someone as young as him, is learning magic from his mentor, the forest elder, Pocus. He is quite smart and logical, usually the brains of the group, particularly when they have to find a way out of a crisis. He is kind and wise, but when angered, he will cast a spell that causes unpleasant things to happen to the victim.
- Tara - Hunter's love interest and girlfriend. She is very able-bodied and capable of archery, sword-fights, jousting and other battle methods. She is very kind, sweet and caring, but, like Merlin, she can do unpleasant things to whoever makes her angry.
- Pocus - The forest elder. He is an old wizard and the tutor of Merlin. He also gives advice to those who seek it, but only if they really need it.
- Azure - The main antagonist of the series. He is a dark wing-cat wizard, sporting an eye-patch and a peg-leg (due to past injuries). In order to cast a spell or summon an army of whatever monsters he wants, he casts a spell with his enormous cauldron.
- USA: Fox Kids (1996-2002), Jetix (2005-2009), Kawaii Box
- Canada: YTV (1996-2002), CBC (1996-2002), Family Channel (2005-present - re-runs)
- UK: Fox Kids (1997-2005), CBBC (1997-2002, 2007-2012 - re-runs), Jetix (2005-2009)
- Ireland: Fox Kids (1997-2002), RTÉ Two (1997-2008)
- Australia: ABC Kids (1997-2002, 2005-present - reruns), Fox Kids (1998-2004), Nickelodeon (2005-2008), Boomerang (2011-present)
- Germany: RTL II (1998-2004, 2012-present - re-runs), Fox Kids (2000-2005), Jetix (2005-2009), Nickelodeon (2011-present)
- France: M6 (1996-2002), Fox Kids (1997-2002), Jetix (2005-2009), Gulli (2011-present)
- Netherlands: Fox Kids (1998-2004), Jetix (2005-2009), Kindernet (2011-present)
- Italy: Italia 1 (1997-2002), Fox Kids (2000-2005), Italia Teen Television (2003-2006), Jetix (2005-2009), Hiro (2008-2011), Boomerang (2012-present)
- Spain: Fox Kids (1998-2004), Jetix (2005-2009), Boing (2010-present)
- Portugal: Canal Panda (1998-2004, 2008-present)
- Hungary: M2 (1996-2002), Fox Kids (1999-2005), Jetix (2005-2009), Boomerang and Minimax (2011-present)
- Czech Republic: ČT1 (1998-2004), Fox Kids (2001-2004), Jetix Play (2005-2010), Minimax (2011-present)
- Poland: TVP1 (1997-2004), Fox Kids (1998-2005), Jetix (2005-2009), MiniMini+ (2012-present)
- Russia: Channel One (1997-2004), Fox Kids (1999-2004), Jetix (2005-2009), Karusel (2011-present)
- Romania: Fox Kids (1999-2005), Jetix Play (2005-2011), Boomerang and Minimax (2011-present)
- Serbia: Fox Kids (2000-2002), Fox Kids Play (2003-2005)/Jetix Play (2005-2010)
- Israel: Channel 1 (1996-2002), Fox Kids (2001-2005), Jetix (2005-2009), Arutz HaYeladim (2007-present), ZOOM (2012-present)
- Mexico: Fox Kids (1997-2004), ZAZ (1998-2003), Jetix (2004-2009), Boomerang (2007-present)
- Argentina: Magic Kids (1997-2005), Jetix (2005-2009), Boomerang (2007-present)
- Colombia: Caracol Televisión and Fox Kids (1998-2004), Jetix (2005-2009), Boomerang (2007-present)
- Brazil: Rede Globo (1998-2005), Cartoon Network (1998-2004), Fox Kids (2002-2004), Jetix (2005-2009), Boomerang (2008-present)
- Chile: Chilevisión and Fox Kids (1997-2004), Etc...TV (1999-2005), Jetix (2004-2009), Boomerang (2007-present)
- India: Cartoon Network (1997-2004, 2011-present), Jetix (2005-2009), Hungama TV (2005-2009)
- Bangladesh: Bangladesh Television (1998-2004), Cartoon Network (2005-present)
- Malaysia: NTV7 (1999-2005), Astro Ceria (2007-2010), ntv7 and Nickelodeon (2011-present)
- Philippines: GMA Network (1997-2002), QTV Channel 11 (GMA) (2005-2008), Hero (2008-2011), Cartoon Network (2005-present)
- Japan: TV Tokyo (1997-2003), Kids Station (2005-present), Cartoon Network (2011-present)
- Middle East: MBC 1 (1997-2004), MBC 3 and Spacetoon (2005-2008), Cartoon Network Arabic (2011-present)
- South Korea: Seoul Broadcasting System (1998-2004, 2005-2009 - re-runs), Cartoon Network (2010-present)
- Pakistan: Cartoon Network (2004-2008, 2012-present)
- China: CCTV-14 (2003-present), Nickelodeon (2008-present)
- Turkey: Fox Kids (2000-2006), Minika (2012-present)
In 1997, the series was released in four VHS volumes by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment under the short-lived Fox Kids Video label, which included videos of Marvel cartoons, Where's Waldo?, Dr. Seuss specials, Garfield and Friends and Big Bad Beetleborgs.
Since 1998, 20th Century Fox continued to sell tapes of the series until 2001, when Saban was bought by Disney. In October 2003, two VHS tapes were released by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, due to the aforementioned purchase of Saban.
Because Saban Brands managed to regain the rights to the franchise in 2011, the series was re-released on DVD by Marvista Entertainment in season box-sets starting 2012 with the Season 1 & 2 box-sets. The rest of the series will be distributed on DVD sometime in 2013.
Numerous video games based on the series, mostly platformer games, have been produced, many from different publishers.
The first game was given the same name as the show, and released for the SNES, Game Boy and Sega Genesis on December 10, 1996 in North America and on January 7, 1997 in Europe by Konami. Although the game's plot is simple, the gameplay, music and level designs were praised by fans of the series. However, because it was released late in the SNES and Sega Genesis' lifespan (in America and Europe), most of the cartridges sold (out of the usual large amount printed for release in stores) were in most stores or through the Flying Cats Fan Club, because the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation were taking off at the time. Fortunately, the Game Boy version sold better and got equally positive reviews, although the game is very different from the console versions.
On November 11, 1997, a Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 game was released by Fox Interactive. The game was titled The Flying Cats: Azure's Spellbook.
The show was popular enough to warrant numerous types of merchandise, including a set of kids' meal toys at Subway in the fall of 1997 and a Dairy Queen kids' meal promotion in the fall/winter of 2000, among other promotions.
Tiger Electronics released a series of LCD handheld games and an animated coin bank, Bandai released a series of playsets and action figures and Lego distributed playsets as well as Duplo playsets for preschool-aged children.