What are the longest-lasting, most prolific, most enduring entertainment franchises? When it comes to movies, there are two big ones which usually get mentioned above all others: Godzilla, and James Bond. If you include the combination of movies and TV, Star Trek is hard to beat. But these are only the well-known internationally popular ones. If you look at more obscure serieses that aren’t well known outside of their countries of origin, there are many which, for sheer quantity, utterly blow away those big names.
Here are some examples:
|The Durango Kid||USA||1940-1952||64||western|
|The Bowery Boys||USA||1946-1958||48||comedy|
This list gets plenty longer if you start counting Japanese TV material repackaged as films, in which case Ultraman and Super Sentai are both formidable. Perry Mason and Scooby-Doo are also substantial.
Things get muddier if you look at public-domain characters who have been the subject of different serieses of films made by independent groups. Some characters who have large numbers of films of independent origin include Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Hercules. Two characters which may be a bit more unified in their origin, and more plausible as having their films constitute a single franchise, include Maciste (Italy) and Wong Fei-hung (China).
But the picture brightens up if you look at franchises which include the longest span of years. Then the mass-produced comedies and westerns centered around particular actors mostly drop away. The most enduring I can find by this measure are:
|Godzilla||Japan||monster||62 years and counting|
|Perry Mason||USA||mystery||61 years including TV movies|
|James Bond||UK||spy||54 years and counting|
|Doctor Who||UK||SF||53 years on TV, and counting|
|Ultraman||Japan||SF/kids||50 years on TV with spinoff films, and counting|
|Star Trek||USA||SF||50 years on TV, 37 on film, and counting|
|Bulldog Drummond||UK/USA||action||44 years|
|Mil Máscaras||Mexico||luchador||44 years|
|Looney Tunes||USA||comedy||41 years and counting, without including shorts|
|Super Sentai||Japan||SF/kids||41 years on TV with spinoff films, and counting|
|Apartment Wife||Japan||erotica||40 years|
|Star Wars||USA||SF||39 years and counting|
|The Cisco Kid||USA||western||36 years, then rebooted in 1994 after 44 years off|
But these all dwindle into insignificance if you count the short cartoons of characters like Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. I have no doubt that those guys will hit the century mark in due time… though the effects of their early works going into the public domain (if lobbyists ever even allow that to happen) may be difficult to estimate.