"Me and Johnathan used a secret weapon to build our company: Persistence." -Daniel Johnson, 1876Johnson Industries (often simply known as Johnson) is an American conglomerate operating in the mass media, transportation, financing, restaurant, and aerospace industries. The company was founded in 1862 as Johnson Bros. Holdings to fund the construction of the Central Valley Railroad between San Francisco and Fresno via Pacheco Pass, a railroad that opened in 1870. The railroad has grown to be the largest Class I railroad in North America, under the name Continental Rail (a name adopted in 1880 when the railroad's scope broadened). Shortly after the initial segment of the Central Valley Railroad was completed, a steamship company known as Continental Shipping Lines was formed in 1875, gaining an early headstart on the Pacific and soon expanding to the Atlantic in 1886, operating scheduled transatlantic services between New York and Southampton.
The 20th century was an era of immense growth for the company, and saw the formation of Johnson Records (1900), Johnson Publishing (1908), Johnson Studios (1912), Johnson Radio (1926; parent station KJON), Johnson Clothing (1930), Johnson Toys (1945), Johnson Financing (1949), Johnson Television (1950), Johnson Comics (1957-1991; revived in 2010), Continental Airlines (1960-1965), Continental Hotels (1966), Johnson Foods (1967), Western Broadcasting Company (1968; parent station KSJ), Johnson Games (1982), and Johnson Aerospace (1987).
The period between 1981-1991 was marked by a dark age when the company was bought out by Stacker and Associates. Infamous CEO Phil Stacker brought the company to near-ruin until his resignation on October 10, 1991.
Following Stacker's resignation, Johnson climbed back to the top, capturing the public's imagination with its never-retired steam locomotives and ocean liners, releasing new movies (most notably the 1997 blockbuster EarthBound) and television shows (most notably Detective Jenny and the famed and beloved Monster World), and launching its own spacecraft to service the International Space Station (under NASA, ESA, JAXA and RSA contracts), as well as providing a reliable fleet of launch vehicles for any customer's needs.
The 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s have been marked by multiple high-profile acquisitions. In 2009, the company acquired the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), and set to work making a turnaround (mainly involving the development of new cars to replace the unpopular Car of Tomorrow, bringing old favorites such as Rockingham and North Wilkesboro back to the schedule, and by 2014, ousting Brian France and Mike Helton). The 2010s saw the acquisition of Cartoon Network from Time Warner (adding multiple channels and web platforms), but by far, the most shocking and high-profile acquisition was of the Walt Disney Company in 2013, which added a plethora of television networks (both broadcast, cable. and satellite), production studios (Johnson was mainly eying Lucasfilm), theme parks, cruise ships, and websites under the Johnson banner. These acquisitions have only bolstered the company's profits, and Johnson Industries remains one of the most profitable companies in the world. Johnson also acquired the British rail network, Amtrak, and CEC Entertainment, along with Nintendo, WWE, and 21st Century Fox. 2018 saw the formation of Johnson Internet.
2012 also saw Johnson introduce the Johnson Aligned Universe (also known as "The Japanese Love Affair", since 75% of the output is Japanese anime and properties). This consisted of high-profile movies, TV series, and video games, all of which have been massive successes.
"It takes GUTS to be successful."- Daniel Johnson, 1869
Johnson Industries began life as Johnson Bros. Holdings on February 1, 1862, when the eponymous brothers, Daniel James (August 7, 1808-August 12, 1878) and Johnathan Richard (July 10, 1812-July 14, 1915), founded the company to fund the construction of the Central Valley Railroad (now Continental Rail) between San Francisco and Fresno, California, via Pacheco Pass. The growing port in San Francisco was rife with opportunity, and the growing agriculture industry in the Central Valley was a prime target for moving exports to Asia. Due to the Civil War, the railroad wasn't completed until 1870, when the first train departed San Francisco, made a stop in the railroad's hometown of San Jose, and arrived at Fresno five hours later, on time, where the train was greeted by schoolchildren.Five years later, Johnson Bros. Holdings was reorganized as Johnson Industries, now eying rapidly-expanding markets in the Pacific and Asia. Continental Shipping Lines was established in 1875. With few Pacific-based steamship companies in existence at the time, CSL had a virtual monopoly on the Pacific and Asian markets. CSL then began steamboat operations on the Sacramento River, which saw the growth of inland seaports in Sacramento and Stockton. Starting mainly with freighters and riverboats, the influx of immigrants from China saw the addition of transpacific ocean liners. CSL expanded to the Atlantic in 1886, entering into direct competition with Cunard and White Star.
The Central Valley Railroad was renamed the Central Valley and Lake Tahoe Railroad in 1875 following the completion of the Sierra Line from Sacramento to Carson City via the Lake Tahoe Basin, and again to Continental Rail in 1880 as its scope expanded. The railroad had already expanded to Sacramento via Oakland to connect with the First Transcontinental Railroad, as well another line from Fresno to Sacramento, creating the "California Circle Route", plus the aforementioned Sierra Line. The first major expansion project was from Gilroy to Los Angeles, the Coastal Route, as well as a northern route from Sacramento to Portland, Oregon. In 1887, the West Coast route was further expanded to Seattle. A northern route between Seattle and Chicago was briefly considered, but James J. Hill's Great Northern Railway put pay to those thoughts. Continental Rail also began feeling pressure from the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific, both of whom built parallel lines in an attempt to sap the railroad's business. Southern Pacific was granted trackage rights on the Coast Line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, via its own line built west of Continental Rail's trackage between San Bruno and San Francisco (Continental Rail's route was the more direct, and was referred to as the Bayshore Cutoff by SP). Several smaller California railroads were folded into Continental Rail and were established as branchlines, all of which are still in operation today.
Era of Expansion (1900-1914)
"You know, no one should be in for the green. Only the blue." -Jeffrey P. Johnson, 1910
Johnson Industries began rapid expansion in the early 1900s, obtaining trackage rights via the Central Pacific from Sacramento-North Platte, Union Pacific from North Platte-Chicago, and New York Central via the Water Level Route to Grand Central Terminal. Shortly afterwards, Continental Rail's flagship passenger train, the Transcontinental Zephyr, was created. Considered one of the most elegant passenger trains in the United States, it still runs today. Continental Rail also expanded its Pacific Northwest services, establishing regular services between Los Angeles and Seattle, later expanding to San Diego via ATSF trackage rights. These ventures proved fruitful, and soon, Continental Rail bought controlling interest of the New York Central in 1904, a move that was not revealed until 2014.
CSL expanded its Pacific and Atlantic services. By now, they had left the freight business to focus on the ocean liner industry, mainly competing with Cunard and White Star in the Atlantic and Canadian Pacific in the Pacific (this was a two-front war, being fought both at sea and on the rails). CSL ran a smear campaign in 1912 following the sinking of the Titanic, blaming the disaster on the incompetent helmsman who decided it would be a good idea to reverse speed while going hard to starboard, when simply maintaining speed, as investigations using their own ships had revealed. They also ran a smear campaign against Leyland Lines over the non-response of the SS Californian, who had believed that Titanic's emergency flares were fireworks, when in fact, no passenger ships were, at the time, certified to launch any fireworks of any form.
The early 1900s also saw the formation of a third subsidiary, Johnson Records, and a fourth subsidiary, Johnson Publishing. The publishing arm was the first company to publish Victor Hugo's novels in translated and unabridged format.
The fourth subsidiary, Johnson Studios, was formed in 1912 to chronicle operations of Continental Rail and CSL.
World War I, 1914-1918
"Ladies and gentlemen, we need to help the Americans!" - The beginning of Vincent Johnson's rallying cry for ending the war, 1918
Johnson Industries was hit hard by World War I, with CSL losing roughly 45% of its fleet to submarine warfare. When the United States entered the war, Continental Rail was affected. Operating in all three divisions of the USRA, the railroad was provided with the new standardized locomotive and freight car designs, also taking the opportunity to replace their aging passenger equipment with new Pullman cars.
CSL was a key player in ending the war. One liner, the USMS Canaveral (USMS standing for United States Mail Ship, in vein of Royal Mail Service, or RMS), had a record of sinking five U-Boats, the most of any liner.
Following the end of World War I, Continental Rail retained its USRA equipment, and gave the Canaveral a well-earned retirement, eventually being converted into a hotel/museum in 1974 and moored in Stockton.
The First Golden Age (1918-1941)
The Roaring Twenties (1918-1929)
"We are only going to get better." Vincent Johnson, 1926Johnson Industries entered into its first Golden Age in the 1920s, expanding rail operations into Canada and Mexico. The operations in Mexico proved especially fruitful following the Mexican Revolution, as the railroad contributed to reconstruction efforts in hard-hit areas. The railroad also began electrifying the coastal line from San Diego to Seattle, later extending to Vancouver and Tijuana, forming the "Northwest Corridor". Using electric locomotive designs made for the Milwaukee Road and New York Central, the first electric-powered train ran on July 4, 1925. CSL expanded its operations in the Atlantic and Pacific, establishing new routes, most notably the Vancouver-Vladivostok, Hamburg-New York, and Valencia-Boston routes. CSL also entered into an agreement with Cunard, by which any ocean liners they retired would be sold to CSL instead of the scrappers or any other line. This was in the interest of preservation, rather than competition. CSL also established a dedicated fleet of tugboats, initially operating in their homeport of San Francisco, before expanding to harbors and ports worldwide. The tugboat division is still operational.
Johnson Studios began producing its own movies, while a new subsidiary, Johnson Radio, was established in 1926. The first station, KJON, serves the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Great Depression (1929-1941)
"Don't worry, we'll survive the harsh economic times." Vincent Johnson rightfully predicting the company's successes during the Great Depression, 1929
When the Stock Market crashed in 1929, Johnson Industries surprisingly weathered the Great Depression quite well. In addition to acquiring multiple failed shortline railroads, Cunard-White Star upheld its agreement to sell ships and tenders to CSL. The initial set of ships were:
- RMS Olympic (later used in the 1953 film Titanic, the 1958 film A Night to Remember, the 1979 TV movie SOS Titanic, and the famous 1997 film Titanic, which Johnson co-produced with Paramount)
- RMS Mauretania
- RMS Adriatic
- SS Ceramic
- RMS Homeric
- SS Doric
All ships of the original class remain in service, except the Ceramic, which was lost during World War II as one of only two ships lost by CSL during the war.
Johnson Studios co-produced King Kong with Universal Studios in 1933, and in 1938, Johnson Radio broadcasted messages stating that there was no Martian invasion in progress.
Johnson Studios' main output in the 1930s were the Little Orphan Annie shorts, starring Shirley Temple as Annie and Lon Chaney Jr. as Daddy Warbucks. The shorts were produced from 1934-1940, when Temple became too old for the role and Chaney Jr. was moving on to horror films such as The Wolf Man.
Continental Rail had a fling with diesels in 1938, acquiring five NW1 switcher locomotives. These locomotives, while cheaper to maintain and easier to operate, were not seen as a replacement for steam traction, as Johnson Industries had a policy stating "if it isn't broke, don't replace it", a philosophy that has seen steam locomotives and steam-powered ocean liners survive into the present day.In 1935, Continental Rail entered into an agreement with Southern Pacific. SP, unsatisfied with the Market Street Depot in San Jose, CA that it had shared with CR for some time, built a brand-new depot at Cahill Street. Continental Rail was allowed to move its long-distance trains to the new station in exchange for CR taking full control of the Market Street Depot and the entire 4th Street Line. Shortly after the deal was completed, CR was given permission to electrify SP's new bypass to allow its electric locomotives to run into Cahill Street as needed. Today, Cahill Street Depot (now Diridon Station) is the primary terminus for the Transcontinental Zephyr, as well as the mid-way point for the Western Star and Pacific Bullet. Most regional trains stop at Market Street Station to avoid crowding the finite track space at Diridon Station, though roughly 25% of them stop at Diridon.
In 1937, Johnson Studios introduced its first cartoon character, Chocodile. The cartoon shorts revolve around Chocodile spreading joy to the children of the world, while dodging his rival Larry, who thinks he should be eating humans, not fraternizing with them, and Solomon, an Australian hunter who wants his skin because its pigmentation is one-of-a-kind. During World War II, however, Chocodile became a propaganda tool, and by the 50s and 60s, he was an anti-communist symbol, and was also used to essentially advertise Continental Rail's passenger and freight services, before becoming more of an everyman by the 70s, evolving into a deadpan snarker with a chip in his shoulder in the 80s; he currently has his 70s depiction as an everyman. As his name suggests, Chocodile is a huge fan of chocolate, but he remains thin and surprisingly athletic. Chocodile was originally voiced by Mel Blanc from 1937 until his death in 1989, (except from 1941 to 1960 when he had an exclusive contract with Warner Bros.; during that period, Stan Freberg assumed the role) then by Gregg Berger from 1989-1995, and currently by Dana Snyder from 1995-present.
World War II (1941-1945)
"Long live the Allies! Down with the Axis and everything they stand for!" - Part of Vincent Johnson's speech in 1942.
At the outbreak of World War II, Johnson Industries shifted into war mode. Johnson Radio created pre-recorded attack warnings, specifically against Japanese invasions on the West Coast. Johnson Studios created their signature miniatures effects to create propaganda films, utilizing vehicles with individual motors that had to be turned on and off by hand (there was talk of using radio-control, but the technology was rudimentary at best at the time), boats pulled on strings, aircraft held aloft on wires and then inserted into scenes using the then-new chroma key technique, or sent down a wire, and live pyrotechnics. Over the years, the techniques have been refined and improved, and are still used today, a far cry from the CGI-filled films of the modern era.
Continental Rail and CSL were instrumental in the American war effort. GIs were moved by both companies to both the Pacific and European theatres, and also affixed anti-air guns and depth charge launchers to their liners. Large, rail-based artillery guns were also constructed to defend against foreign invasion, but ultimately, were never used.
RMS Majestic SinkingOn June 14, 1941, U-438 launched two torpedoes at what the crew believed was the RMS Queen Mary. They would later learn that the ship was actually the RMS Majestic, another three-funnel liner that, in a cruel twist of irony, was itself a German-built liner (SS Bismarck) handed over to White Star as war reparation following World War I. The Majestic suffered a chain reaction of explosions of the fuel and ammunition it was carrying, as well as the boilers. During the sinking, the #2 funnel exploded when boilers below decks detonated, while the #3 funnel toppled over and crashed through the superstructure; the #1 funnel remained standing during the entire sinking, but was noted by a survivor to be rather scorched.
An SOS signal was sent twice before the radio room was engulfed in flame; the bridge was also engulfed in flame, killing all staff on the bridge including the captain; it was because of the captain's death that no abandon ship order was ever given. Despite no order being given, passengers and crew still scrambled for the lifeboats, but many were unable to evacuate because they were either below decks and trapped by fires, killed in the explosions, or were unable to find a lifeboat (CSL did not have the "women and children first" policy), as explosions had hurled half of the lifeboats into the Atlantic waters.
U-438 managed to get a closer look, but were disappointed to find the ship was not the Queen Mary. One of the crew members of the U-Boat, though, later testified to being horrified when he realized the liner was the former SS Bismarck.
Another CSL ship, the Mauretania (which, like the Majestic, is an ex-Cunarder), was nearby going in the opposite direction, and responded to the SOS signal. Survivors clinging to driftwood and metal chunks from the #2 funnel and superstructure were plucked from the water using Mauretania's own lifeboats, while the Majestic's lifeboats were reeled up one-by-one. News cameras were aboard the Mauretania, and caught the final minutes of the Majestic.
Ten minutes after the initial torpedo hit, the Majestic suffered a massive explosion when its fuel oil reserves detonated, as did fuel and ammunition that were placed nearby (a move that later brought the surviving crew under investigation). The explosion buckled the hull, and tore it apart, causing the ship to break its back and splash back down, crushing a lifeboat that had blundered under it. The remaining passengers and crew aboard the liner perished when the last of the fuel and ammunition aboard the ship exploded and destroyed the stern, debris flying at the Mauretania (fortunately, none hit the ship). Seconds after the last of the flaming hulk that was the stern sank below the water, several explosions came from underwater, indicating ammunition that hadn't exploded during the initial chain reaction on the bow.U-438 was caught by the news cameras, and retreated. The U-Boat was later found by British destroyers and forced to surrender.
Survivors plucked by the Mauretania were brought back to New York, and salvage ships were sent to collect debris and bodies. The search revealed that the sinking had happened 30 miles southeast of Halifax, and was resting in unusually shallow waters, aiding salvage teams. The bow had severe scorching, and the bridge was blasted out. Several barrels of fuel that remained undetonated were recovered and delivered to Britain, having not suffered any leakage. The stern was in even worse shape. 95% of the superstructure and 60% of the hull had been destroyed, and was scattered around the debris field. Very few bodies were recovered from the area around the stern, as most of the fatalities of the stern explosion were most likely vaporized or blasted apart (eyewitnesses did report seeing a few flying body parts after the explosion, and a blasted-apart ribcage landed on the Mauretania). There was talk of possibly raising the bow so it could be sold for scrap, but this was considered cost-prohibitive, especially due to the threat of further U-Boat attacks.
The sinking marked the largest loss of civilian life at sea in World War II, and remains a major footnote in maritime history. Following the sinking, it was decided that carrying fuel and ammunition aboard a liner with civilian passengers was too dangerous, as a majority of the fatalities were passengers. Thus, ocean liners stopped carrying war materiale, and stuck to being exclusively passenger liners and troop transports.
Post-War Era (1945-1960)
"Everyone should find their confidence with our ships." - Robert Johnson on the CSL fleet, 1958Following the war, the surviving CSL ships re-entered service on their normal routes, while the fleet grew as Cunard retired ships. Continental Rail benefitted from new electric locomotive designs for the Northwest Corridor, while Johnson Studios began refining the use of scale models in their productions. Continental Rail also began funding the preservation movement in the United Kingdom, as well as buying up steam locomotives from scrapyards and British Railways itself, and storing them at various secluded sites around the United States and Canada.
The 1950s were an era of prosperity for the compay. Continental Rail began reaping the fruits of suburbanization, mainly through commuter rail traffic. All the same, though, even with diesels becoming prevelant on other Class I railroads, Continental Rail resisted full-dieselization and continued operating steam locomotives in large numbers, even buying steam locomotives from other railroads, due to their "if it ain't broke, don't replace it" philosophy. Indeed, Continental Rail had perfected the art of steam locomotive maintenance to the point where maintenance and labor costs were the lowest they had ever been, and easily outweighed by profits. The travelling public could not comprehend why Continental Rail was still using such "outdated machines", but children and railfans were enamoured. By 1959, Continental Rail proved that steam, diesel, and electric locomotives could co-exist in harmony and be profitable, a combination that survives to this day.
Continental Rail had a brief fling with bus feeders, but the experiment was considered a failure due to the amount of traffic in suburban areas. Instead, the railroad added passenger trains to previously freight-only branchlines. And to areas with no branchlines, Continental Rail constructed interurban lines using cars from recently-defunct streetcar systems in other systems. Continental Rail was also heavily involved in the General Motors streetcar conspiracy, actively opposing National City Lines at every step of the way and saving many streetcar lines from demolition; National City Lines eventually sued Continental Rail under the frivolous charge of "conspiracy to commit corporate
espionage", a case that was quickly dismissed and caused the case against General Motors dismissed in 1949 to reopen, eventually uncovering a conspiracy to demolish America's streetcar networks and replace them with buses to create a monopoly, eventually resulting in the Supreme Court finding General Motors guilty of attempting to monopolize mass transit with what was described as "inferior bus substitutes". Continental Rail proceeded to purchase National City Lines and reconstruct all streetcar systems that had fallen victim to the conspiracy, rescuing any remaining streetcars from the scrapyards, ordering new ones from PCC, and using any means necessary to get the systems rebuilt, even getting court orders to have businesses built atop street car ROWs relocated.
The Second Golden Age (1960-1981)
"Our airline will be excellent." - Robert Johnson introducing Continental Airlines, 1960
The period between 1960 and 1981 is often considered to be the company's second golden age. It was a time of growth and success, as well as of experimentation. Between February 1, 1960 and June 15, 1965, Johnson operated a small airline, Continental Airlines, using DC-3 aircraft, but shut it down after five years due to flagging ridership numbers, often attributed to Continental Rail's superior legroom and CSL's amenities. Nevertheless, the company spun off into an independent company under the same name, and became a successful airline until merging with United Airlines on March 3, 2012. Johnson never tried another airline again, with Johnson stating in their FAQ on their website, "Airlines aren't in our interests".
Throughout the 1960s, Continental Rail passenger services, both long-distance, regional, and commuter, remained profitable mainly due to an advertising campaign promoting advantages over cars, buses, and planes; CR also managed to rescue many passenger trains that other Class I railroads were discontinuing. The same type of advertising campaign kept Continental Shipping Lines in the ocean liner industry, and remained as such even after Cunard began focusing on cruises. The last of the old Cunard ocean liners, the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth, both came under CSL ownership. The QM was not put into service by CSL due to its historical significance, and instead became a hotel/museum ship in Long Beach, CA, where it remains to this day. There was a provision in the bill of sale, though, that the ship could and would be rebuilt back into an ocean liner at any point, something that often put employees on edge, knowing that CSL could requisition the ship any day. It was confirmed on June 16, 2018 that CSL would requisition the QM in July 2018 and rebuild it back into an ocean liner. The conversion was started on June 21, and ended on July 10, putting the QM back into service. The QE, meanwhile, was put into service and remains on the Southampton-New York route to this day. 1966 saw Johnson buy the first of many companies they would buy over the years: Holiday Inn. With the acquisition, Johnson formed Continental Hotels.1967 saw Johnson buy out McDonald's on December 12, the 19th anniversary of the chain. Ronald McDonald was removed, and Speedee was brought back as mascot. The chain went back to basics on its menu, bringing it back to the way it was in 1955, but with the Filet-O-Fish and Big Mac. The next day, Johnson acquired Howard Johnson's (the lodging and restaurant chains, and the frozen food line). With the acquisition, Johnson formed Johnson Foods, for the purpose of controlling the restaurants. One of the first things McDonald's did under Johnson was buy back the first location in San Bernardino, CA and reopen it as a McDonald's.
1968 was a banner year for Johnson Industries, marking the launch of the Western Broadcasting Company (WBC) on October 11, 1968, as a viable fourth network alongside ABC, NBC, and CBS. Johnson Radio personality Don George anchored the network's news broadcasts from its inception until his death in 1995, at which point Tom Stephenson, the "Roving Reporter", took over and remains in the post to this day. WBC's first broadcast was of the launch of Apollo 7. Throughout the Apollo program, WBC provided its own brand of coverage, using models to illustrate the missions.1968 also marked the release of Hot Cuba, a film exploring a scenario of what could have happened had the Cuban Missile Crisis gone hot. The film starred Kirk Douglas, Charlton Hesston, and future US president Ronald Reagan, and was a critical and commercial success. Among the film's merits were its pioneering special effects (which would later be perfected in the original Star Wars film in 1977), powerful imagery, and realistic depiction of nuclear war.
1969 brought a film along the same lines as Hot Cuba called 1957: Civil War. Using the Little Rock stand-off as a jumping-off point, the film's alternate universe is created when the governor of Alabama orders the Little Rock National Guard to kill the Little Rock Nine, leading the reformation of the Confederate States and the start of a second civil war. 1969 also had WBC broadcasting a NASCAR race from Darlington flag-to-flag (though it is often overshadowed by CBS' broadcast of the 1979 Daytona 500). On December 29, 1970, Johnson was listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the name JON. They also acquired Kentucky Fried Chicken at that time, hiring Colonel Sanders himself to run the chain, just like in Canada, until his death on December 16, 1980.
Another major blockbuster, known as Invasion of the Empire, depicts the Japanese invading San Francisco in 1942 during the Second World War, the subsequent American pushback, and the Battle of Los Angeles being an actual battle, culminating in Japan being defeated in early 1943, and as a result, the atomic bomb being dropped on Berlin instead, killing Adolf Hitler and causing the Soviet Union to back off, which in turn sees Germany remain unified under a democratic government (and a NATO member); other than that, the epilogue states that the Cold War has gone pretty much the same as our timeline (as the film was released in 1970).
When Amtrak was formed in 1971, Continental Rail was one of seven railroads who opted not to join. This led to Amtrak and Continental Rail often butting heads throughout the 1970s, as Amtrak eyed Continental Rail's vast passenger network as a potential money-maker. But Continental Rail said no, mainly because Amtrak was underfunded and could be shuttered at any time. Despite Amtrak's survival, Continental Rail held firm and refused to hand over its passenger rail operations, knowing that many of their trains would be discontinued and others rerouted and/or reduced in frequency (as most of Continental Rail's long-distance trains have eight departures daily, four in each direction). Plus, Continental Rail still had a large amount of steam-powered passenger trains with heavyweight coaches, which they knew Amtrak would sell off to make a massive amount of money. Eventually, though, by 1977, Amtrak was content with Continental Rail's existence, as most of the routes it discontinued were picked up by the latter, and remain in service to this day. On December 29, 1980, Johnson acquired the pre-1980 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, and pre-1970 Warner Bros. film libraries, though MGM and Warner were allowed home video rights to those films. The partnerships with MGM and Warner continue to this day. The next day, Johnson acquired Time magazine, Dairy Queen and Arby's. For Dairy Queen, the brazier concept was spun off as an independent company. The already-existing brazier locations were spun off too, only licensing the Dairy Queen name, logo and menu long-term. The Dairy Queen buyout was controversial, due to Johnson already owning Howard Johnson's, which also sells ice cream. However, Johnson clarified that Dairy Queen had soft serve.
The Dark Times (1981-1991)
"You know, my drones are doing great. Wait--damn! This isn't live, is it? It is?! Oh, god..." Phil Stacker accidentally calling his employees "drones" and immediately regretting it in a 1984 radio interview.
On June 1, 1981, the unthinkable happened. A financial company known as Stacker and Associates bought out Johnson Industries (later revealed to have been bought without permission from the Johnson Family). S&A CEO Phillip James Stacker, henceforth, became CEO of Johnson Industries, with his wife Helga Stacker as President and COO, deposing Sheldon Johnson and the entire Johnson Family, who were then replaced by the Stacker Family. Immediately, sweeping revisions were made. Stacker was clearly interested more in money than catering to the masses, and this showed during his tenure. Under Stacker, Johnson only made two acquisitions: Subway and Dunkin' Donuts in 1982.
Surprisingly, Continental Rail and Continental Shipping Lines were allowed to remain autonomous, as Stacker had a fondness for trains and ocean liners. Besides, they were the company's main moneymakers, aside from the restaurants, and any drastic alterations could cause them to go under. As a result, both companies suffered the least during the Dark Times, and with the advent of the Staggers Act in 1980 that deregulated the railroads, Continental Rail shifted into maximum overdrive, actively competing with roads in both the West and the East, snapping up rail lines abandoned by other railroads and successfully opposing the SPSF merger (as it would have booted CR from many of the joint railways established between 1892 and 1912). Continental Shipping Lines, meanwhile, entered the cruising industry with the launch of two cruise ships (the MS Mauna Loa and MS Kilauea) on itineraries out of San Francisco to Hawaii. Also created was Johnson Games in 1982, which developed games based on Johnson's animated films for the Atari 2600 and later the NES. However, the Video Game Crash of '83 led to low sales until the company's first NES game was released in 1985.
WBC began to suffer under Phil Stacker's regime, making many changes, and not for the better (see the WBC page for more). The network itself was renamed Johnson TV (JTV) on December 31, 1982, as Stacker didn't want to be associated with the other WBC (the Westboro Baptist Church), and because he wanted to build a brand new, "younger and hipper" identity.
Johnson Studios suffered greatly, with new blood brought in. The resulting movies were a string of flops, the nadir being Chocodile's Cool Movie, with the only bright spot being some animated films that provided serious competition for Disney (films such as The Wizards of Elderitch, American Eagles, Dinosaur Rising, and the Toei co-production Future War 198X) and were mature in content, tone, and production values, as well as the ongoing alternate history movies. In addition, while several movies experimented with CGI, often with mixed results, practical effects such as models, pyrotechnics, chroma key, stop motion, and the new go motion techniques developed by Lucasfilm remained the rule, and if anything, improved during this era, and the effects were often the best part of even the worst of the movies.
Johnson Radio didn't do much better, due to transitioning to a news/talk format, completely abandoning scripted programming, a move that was rather unpopular.All these changes, as well as Phil Stacker publicly calling his employees "drones" by accident in a radio interview, along with a best-selling novel released in 1984 called Stacker's Johnson: How One Man's Taking a Company and Ruining It, written by a then-young Sheldon Johnson, Jr. and his wife Tammy Jo Johnson, in a similar fashion to the later book Disney: The Mouse Betrayed, caused Johnson Industries to decline. JTV viewership, box office returns, and even advertising revenues declined. Continental Rail, Continental Shipping Lines, Continental Hotels, and Johnson Foods were the divisions keeping the company afloat, with the former two's passenger and freight revenues, mainly due to retaining their high service values stemming from Stacker's hands-off approach towards the railroad and line, the hotels being improved, and the restaurants' continuing stream of revenue.
Meanwhile, the Johnson Family was disgruntled at having the company they had built over a hundred years ripped away from them by a man whose poor decisions had killed several companies such as Frey's Hamburgers, Golden Pacific Airlines and REO Motor Car Company. An antitrust case from March 1, 1982 to March 20, 1983 ruled in Stacker's favor. Left with no choice, the Johnson Family began buying up stock in large lots, owning 35% by November 1983.
On January 16, 1987, during a progress report meeting, Phil Stacker was informed of the decline of the company. Rather than brushing off these concerns, Phil was reported to have buried his face in his hands, muttering various obscenities and saying "oh god" over and over again. He soon began seeking ways to reverse the trend, and started by making a public apology for calling his employees "drones". He also began restructuring JTV, and most notably, had production of The Transformers moved from Sunbow to JTV, along with moving production of The Chipmunks from DiC to JTV in 1990, and, for the former, began making a full fourth season, as well as eight more seasons from 1988-1989, and then 1993-1999 (1990-1992 were marked by three primetime specials: Zone, The Decepticons Strike Back, and Operation Combination; seasons seven through nine carried the subtitle Generation 2, while the remaining seasons carried the subtitle Machine Wars, the series remains one of the longest-running American cartoons in history), and for the latter, a full ninth season was created, along with 28 additional seasons since 1990. He also reportedly became physically sick when he saw the primitive CGI being used in a sci-fi movie in production at the time and ordered it to be completely remade using more practical effects (the film in question, Star Pirates, ended up being the company's first non-animated blockbuster hit since 1980), and even created Johnson Aerospace, a division promising to create its own spacecraft and launch vehicles. The division was created after JTV planned to start a satellite service (scrapped with Johnson's 1992 PrimeStar buyout), and initially planned to use the Space Shuttle. This changed after Challenger.Things seemed to be improving, but on February 12, 1991, things began going sour again. During a news broadcast during Desert Storm, Tom Stephenson (filling in for Don George, who was ill) let America know exactly what he thought of Stacker and purposefully referred to the network by its legal name WBC instead of JTV out of spite for him. This led to Stephenson being fired and all of his retirement benefits being refused (Stephenson has stated that he doesn't "regret it one bit"). However, Stacker was becoming paranoid that he was losing his grip on the company, as the Johnson Family kept buying up large amounts of its undervalued stock, eventually owning 85% by September.
It all came to a head when, on October 7, Stacker sold the comics division to Marvel. Done without Johnson's permission, and with Marvel refusing to sell it back, the board of directors voted to oust Stacker on October 9. During this meeting, they discovered that the 1983 antitrust lawsuit had ruled in Stacker's favor because Stacker had bribed the jury, giving each member $5 million in exchange for ruling in his favor, as he didn't want to forfeit the profits Continental Rail, Continental Shipping Lines, Continental Hotels, and Johnson Foods were providing him. He saw it coming, though, and was already packing his desk when the board was meeting. The next day, he announced his resignation, stating he "screwed up" and should have never bought out a company that was doing fine on its own. As a gesture of goodwill, though, the Johnson Family named a brand-new GP60 after him, but regardless, he was arrested for jury tampering and served a two-year prison sentence, during which his wife Helga ran Stacker and Associates. During the Stacker-Johnson transition, JTV was dead-air, only showing a vintage 1968-era test card, as well as episodes of The Transformers from the first and second seasons, and episodes of The Chipmunks from the first season.
The Third Golden Age (1991-present)
Picking up the Pieces and Return to Prominence (1991-2009)
"Persistence is the key to success. Phil tried, but failed." - Sheldon Johnson, Jr. in a 1991 interview.Full control of the company by the Johnson Family was restored on October 11, 1991, JTV's 23rd anniversary, starting an era dubbed the Third Golden Age. Sheldon Johnson, Jr. was announced as the new CEO, Johnson Radio reintroduced scripted programming, JTV was rebranded back to WBC on December 31, with a new logo designed by Tammy Jo Johnson, the Johnson Philharmonic Orchestra was fully restored after operating on a skeletal basis throughout the 80s, The Radicals were removed from WBC (it was explained that the band was fired for being terrible, in keeping with the company's infamous reputation for being brutally honest; a mockumentary released in 2012, called Behind the Radicals, showed that after their firing, The Radicals tried and failed several times to reinvent themselves, eventually breaking up and being remembered solely for their involvement with the Stacker Era), the shows canceled by Stacker were revived, all shows produced under the Stacker regime were canceled (The Transformers was allowed to finish out, and The Chipmunks was allowed to continue, and both franchises have remained a part of Johnson up until the present day), and all synth music was excised from network bumpers. In fact, in a live event shortly after the network had signed on for the day, Chocodile brutally and unceremoniously killed Vanillagator and Caracaimin by shooting them in a P-51 Mustang privately owned by Don George (it was no secret that Chocodile utterly hated them and was always leading them into deadly situations that they got out of thanks to sheer luck and/or stupidity, and the Johnson family regaining control, according to him, compelled him to finally get rid of them), much to the relief of longtime viewers, with critics stating that it was assurance that Johnson "was back to its roots". The first three acquisitions Johnson made during this period were Orion Pictures, which became Johnson Studios' budget label, Rare, which was renamed Johnson Games UK, and Taco Bell, on October 29, 1991. The next day, Johnson announced their acquisition of the Richie Rich series from Harvey Comics. Richie Rich was adapted into a TV series in 1993, running to the present day. They also acquired HBO, The Nashville Network (TNN), Comedy Central, The Family Channel, and Hanna-Barbera Productions on December 10. On January 1, 1992, Johnson announced that they bought the satellite TV service PrimeStar, which Johnson improved over the years. Today, PrimeStar is considered the best satellite TV service, with the highest customer satisfaction. The next day, Johnson announced their acquisitions of Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley. The two companies were merged to create Parker-Bradley Games, however their separate logos were kept on their game boxes alongside the Parker-Bradley logo. On February 12, Johnson also announced that they acquired Hasbro, which was merged into Johnson Toys, and Blockbuster Video. On May 10, Johnson acquired Dog n Suds and Mark Goodson Productions, bringing shows like The Price is Right, Family Feud, Card Sharks, which got a 2002 revival with Wink Martindale, and many more into the fold. On May 26, 1995, Johnson acquired Game Show Network, which branched out into original programming in 2002. On February 10, 1997, Johnson acquired America Online, as a way of bringing the company to the internet age. At that time, Johnson announced their acquisition of the rising online retailer eBay, along with Maxis and Westwood Studios, both of which were merged into Johnson Games, the latter two being bought after an intense bidding war with Electronic Arts. Throughout the 90s, Johnson productions experienced a massive increase in production values, writing, acting quality, and popularity. But it all came to a head in 1997, when a movie adaptation of the SNES game EarthBound was released. The film shattered box office records and, at the time, was the second highest-grossing film of all time, and was followed up by sequels in 2002, 2006, and 2011, as well as a TV series that ran from 1997 to 2015, all of which have been hits; an anime reboot is set for release in November 2018. The following year, WBC premiered Monster World, a TV series combining Japanese anime and suitmation. The series, a crossover between the infamous anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, the works of HP Lovecraft (mainly the Cthulhu Mythos), and the long-running Godzilla franchise, and combining hand-drawn animation with practical effects such as model sets, suits, pyrotechnics, stop motion, go motion, and compositing animated characters onto physical setpieces, was a massive hit, introducing Evangelion to a wide audience and putting Godzilla into the American mainstream, running until 2004, yet still having movies and television specials. The television series was revived in Autumn 2015 to much fanfare, and continues to this day, with no end in sight and with movies coming out annually, starting with the revival movie in June 2015, and followed by Shin Godzilla in 2016, The Ultra Kaiju in 2017, and Godzilla: Civil War set for July 2018.
On October 4, 1999, Johnson bought the seafood chain Long John Silver's, along with Sprint, Kodak, PaineWebber, Ameriquest, Nationwide, and Pumper Nic, which was expanded to the US in 2001 and to the world by 2011. The next day, Johnson acquired Toys R Us.2000 was another banner year for the company, as it launched its first manned spacecraft, Antares, a six-man spacecraft loosely derived from Apollo that primarily serves the International Space Station, but has also carried out long-term orbital missions with a crew module, and several lunar flights. Johnson Aerospace also developed three launch vehicle, these being Neptune-1 (a rocket using a solid-fueled first stage that later inspired the cancelled Ares-I rocket) Jarvis (a heavy-lift family available in a wide range of configurations to fit any mission profile), and Quasar (a super-heavy rocket available in several configurations), a resupply craft called Verrezzano, and two space shutles named Eridanus and Esperia (these shuttles are a third of the size of the NASA Space Shuttle, and have less payload capacity, but they are much safer due to using a more conventional launch escape system and being launched on the Quasar 220, which lacks any external foam or solid rocket boosters; in addition, both shuttles have a more clearly-defined role of space station resupply and crew rotation), with plans for a lunar lander called Arcturus and a space station called Gaia (Gaia was later cancelled and replaced by Starlab). The first overall launch for Johnson Aerospace was a Quasar 220 carrying PrimeStar-1, the first Johnson-made satellite for the service after Tempo 1 and Tempo 2 were deactivated and retrieved by Esperia to be preserved at the Tech Museum of Innovation.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, WBC immediately cancelled all programming indefinitely shortly after the first plane hit, as Tom Stephenson believed the crash to be an act of terrorism, a belief that was proven correct. WBC did not resume normal programming for four days, as all operations had been moved to the War Room, an armored underground bunker used by WBC News during major emergencies, featuring numerous features that allow Stephenson to effectively demonstrate to the audience what is happening. Afterwards, major revisions to its shows and movies were made, such as an ad-hoc change to Monster World (which was in the midst of its famous German Civil War arc) to bring the action back to the outskirts of Tokyo, as well as an episode depicting German rebels hijacking a fully-loaded American KC-135 and crashing it into TV Tower followed by Shinji and Asuka brutally massacring a village in rebel territory being cancelled (the episode itself, though, was complete, and would later be released on home video in 2005, airing on television in 2007). Other changes included the cancellation of multiple Jarvis launches contracted by the Department of Defense (these payloads were later launched by the Delta IV) over security concerns, the Transcontinental Zephyr was briefly truncated to Syracuse due to the closure of Grand Central Terminal, as the train runs nearly non-stop between Chicago and New York (the Miami-bound Orange Star was outright suspended) and large, pneumatic barriers capable of stopping large trucks carrying explosives being erected at all road entrances to Johnson HQ, essentially turning it into a fortress.On February 19, 2003, Johnson announced their acquisitions of Cendant's hotels, Sprint, Prolific Publishing, and Circuit City. The Prolific acquisition further raised the profile of SereneScreen creator Jim Sachs, who made four more screensavers: Freshwater Aquarium in September, Avary and Terrarium in May 2004, and Butterfly Garden in June 2005. The FlagPride and Lifeglobe lines were improved too.
On January 10, 2004, Johnson acquired the rising DVD-by-mail service Netflix for $1.9 billion. Immediately, Netflix was renamed PrimeBuster, an amalagation of PrimeStar and Blockbuster. PrimeBuster switched to streaming in 2005, and is so affordable that it became popular by 2010. All PrimeStar receivers now come with free PrimeBuster subscriptions. Johnson also acquired the Yahoo! web service and MySpace around that time, in addition to the rights to the Hollywood Squares and Pyramid game show franchises, with a the latter getting a revival in 2009 as The $1,000,000 Pyramid, and the former being paired with Match Game in 2005 for a revival of The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour, this time keeping the classic formats for both. The next day, Johnson announced their acquisition of the Press Your Luck franchise. On January 16, Johnson acquired the rights to Supermarket Sweep and revived it in 2005. With the acquisitions of those other game shows, Mark Goodson Productions was merged into Johnson Television, remaining an in-name only unit.
In April 2005, Continental Rail announced Project: Zoom, a five-year project to upgrade the Northwest Corridor to handle 150 MPH high-speed trains. This included strengthening all trackage, expanding San Jose Diridon station with new platforms, increasing speeds on local trains (the max speed for local trains is currently 110 MPH), and adding equipment for in-cab signalling; the quad track sections dating back to the Northwest Corridor's construction play a key role in operations. The project was completed in 2010 with the inauguration of the Pacific Bullet service, using TGV-derived trains The project aimed to create a blended system, not eliminating any grade crossings (almost all crossings along the Northwest Corridor now have lineside electronic horns that activate for the Pacific Bullet; they are not present at crossings where the train is going slow enough for the horn to be heard well enough). Project: Zoom actually dates back to 1979, directly inspired by the British InterCity 125. The project was slated to begin in 1981, with a projected completion date of 1986, but Phil Stacker cancelled it days before construction was to start, reasoning that it was "too expensive" (in a 2013 interview, though, he admitted that the real reason was to protect his interests in the airline industry; had he known how successful it was going to be, he said, he'd have let it go forward). The original project called for diesel-powered high speed trains, mainly Rohr Turboliners (CR still uses Turboliners and LRCs in express service on non-electrified routes). On August 12, Johnson bought Nextel Communications, which was absorbed into Sprint, along with Columbia Records, the RCA trademark and record label and most of General Electric, except for GE's stake in NBCUniversal, GE Capital, and GE Transportation, which were spun off. RCA started manufacturing new products for the first time since 1986. In addition, Johnson also acquired Rockstar Games, and the publishing rights for the Saints Row series; Johnson Games shared the game development rights with Volition, Inc. for Saints Row 2 and onwards.
On November 13, 2006, Johnson finalized a deal to buy the rising video-sharing website YouTube for $2.6 billion, beating out Google. At the time, it was considered one of the biggest buyouts in Internet history. They also acquired USA Today.On March 30, 2007, Johnson announced their acquisition of 2waytraffic, bringing properties such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, whose American version moved to WBC with Regis Philbin hosting the revived primetime show, with the money tree of Super Millionaire, $10 million being the top prize (Meredith Viera still hosts the syndicated version, which still has the classic money tree), among other shows, into the fold. On June 21 of the following year, Johnson announced their acquisition of Sprout; they had been a partner in a joint venture with Sesame Workshop, HiT Entertainment, Comcast, and NBCUniversal, that owned it. Sesame Workshop shows were allowed to remain on the network.
Johnson Industries added another string to its bow with the acquisition of NASCAR on January 1, 2009. Initially, the company was allowed to operate autonomously, but poor decision-making by Brian France and Mike Helton saw Johnson slowly take control, first in 2010 by developing a new car, before taking complete control in 2014 when France and Helton were fired (France defended his decisions and called Tim a "dictator" in a Q&A, but has since apologized). NASCAR, under Johnson, has experienced a major turnaround. One of the major changes was the replacement of the unpopular Car of Tomorrow (or Gen-5 car) with a brand-new car known as the Strictly Stock Car (also known as the SSC or Gen-7 car; a transitionary car simply known as the Gen-6 car was used in the 2013 season).
The Gen-7 car combines the best elements of the previous six generations of cars, such as the safety features of the fifth and sixth generation, the speed of the fourth generation, and the brand identity of the first three generations. In reality, the SSC isn't much of a new car, rather that all models (the Chevrolet Camaro and Impala, Ford Mustang and Fusion, Dodge Charger, Challenger, and Dart, Toyota Camry, and Honda Accord and Civic) are just race-modified versions of showroom models, with modifications to the engine, chassis, body, and interior, but with no alterations to the overall appearance of the vehicle or its aerodynamics (the SSC sounds identical to the Gen-4 car). This resulted in the proliferation of small, single-car teams under NASCAR's Lend-Lease program, who would often show up at a race with nothing more than a car straight from the showroom and equipment leased from NASCAR, who
expanded the maximum Sprint Cup field to 46 cars in response; some part-time teams, including Beard Motorsports, RAB Racing, and Swan Racing, continued using the transitional sixth-generation car to cut costs, and in the 2018 season, StarCom Racing, which fields a full-time team, still uses 2013-era Gen-6 cars, and Chris Buescher won a rain-shortened race at Pocono in a Gen-6 car in 2016, though it has been noted that the Gen-6 cars are aerodynamically inferior to the Gen-7 car, and often run at the back of the pack on non-restrictor-plate tracks. BMW and Nissan began fielding M3 and Sentra in 2016, alongside Buick, which last appeared in 1991, fielding the Regal, with 2017 seeing the entry of Cadillac with the CTS-V, and 2018 seeing Lincoln enter the Continental, replacing the Ford Fusion after it only managed to get one win (coming in 2016, being the aforementioned Chris Buescher win in the 2013-vintage Gen-6 car) compared to the success being enjoyed by the Mustang. 2019 will also see Chrysler enter the Maserati GranTurismo, according to an official Chrysler press release. Other manufacturers who have stated they will enter NASCAR competition in 2019 include Jaguar (with the XE), Hyundai (with the Aslan), Kia (with the Optima), Aston Martin (with the Vanquish Volante), and Porsche (with the Boxster)
The SSC was introduced during Winter Testing at Daytona, but was just one of many changes for the 2014. Other changes included completely eliminating the Chase format in favor of returning to the 1972-2003 points system, and a major schedule realignment that reintroduced Rockingham and North Wilkesboro to the schedule (with Rockingham replacing the Spring Texas race and North Wilkesboro replacing the Spring Kansas race), added a race at Road America in January (reminiscent of the days when the first race of the season was at Riverside in January), and introduced a new aero package allowing pack racing at the 1.25 mile tracks such as Charlotte, Atlanta, and Texas (the biggest change being the banning of coil-binding). The result was close, exciting, edge-of-your-seat action that the sport had come be known for in the 1990s, and fans who had turned their backs on NASCAR came back in droves, with Johnson making it very clear they cared more about the fans than the money, due to the Johnson Family being longtime NASCAR fans themselves. In 2016, major realignment took place, eliminating the June races for Michigan and Pocono and replacing them with Tokyo Speedweek at the newly-built Tokyo Superspeedway in Tokyo, Japan, which includes the Tokyo Late Model Classic (a 60-lap event featuring the Gen-4 car and many retired drivers), the Indy Tokyo 300 (the first-ever race at a plate track in the IndyCar series, which IndyCar solved by limiting the cars to four gears rather than six, which succeeded in slowing the cars down greatly; despite fears that a massive multi-car wreck would break out at high speeds and kill multiple drivers and spectators, the largest wreck of the day, while still the worst wreck since the 2011 crash at Las Vegas that claimed Dan Wheldon's life, resulted in no injuries due to the enhanced safety of the DW12 chassis, especially in the wake of Justin Wilson's death), as well as races for ARCA, the Camping World Truck Series, the PrimeStar Series, ending with the main Sprint Cup Series event, which was broadcast on WBC as the "first broadcast run by Johnson characters" (in reality, the characters' voice actors stood off-camera and broadcast the race in-character; Johnson characters had actually first "run" a race at the 2014 Coke Zero 400, though only the booth and one pit reporter position were manned by them, everything else manned by the normal broadcast team). New Hampshire and Martinsville also had their fall dates replaced by Walt Disney World Speedway and Iowa Speedway, respectively (in the former's case, a new track was built near US 192; the new facility is much bigger, holds more fans, has a dedicated parking lot, and is a 2 mile restrictor plate track inspired by the Coca-Cola Superspeedway in the game NASCAR Racing: 2002 Season, just with the drivers racing in right turns, similar to the fantasy track Tiburon Raceway from the NASCAR Thunder series). Tokyo also replaced the Fall Phoenix date, once again "run" by Johnson characters, and under the lights. For 2017, the Tokyo Late Model Classic was eliminated and replaced by a points-paying race at Twin Ring Motegi, with the Daytona Late Model Classic being introduced on the Thursday before the Coke Zero 400. 2019 will see further schedule changes, with the second Bristol race being replaced with a race at Lucas Oil Raceway, the addition of races at Brands Hatch Raceway and Nazareth Speedway, the second Dover race being replaced by a race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Complex, and the second Richmond race being replaced by a race at the Milwaukee Mile. 2020 will see the additions of Delaware Speedway, Pikes Peak Raceway, Gateway Motorsports Park, South Boston Speedway, and Eldora Raceway. In addition, the Whelen Modified Tour will bring back Metrolina Speedway.
To accomplish NASCAR's return to Rockingham and North Wilkesboro, Johnson bought, restored, and modernized both tracks, with the seating capacity increased, and, in the case of the latter, extended around the track a la Bristol. The Nationwide/PrimeStar and Camping World Truck Series were also affected, with Cup drivers being outright banned from competition in the lower-series, bringing an end to the Buschwhackers/Tailgaters, to the fanbase's collective relief (though the change was only implemented in 2017; Johnson clarified that it was due to sponsorship, however Cup drivers are still limited to five races per year). The Nationwide/PrimeStar Series CoT was replaced by the SSC in 2015, while the Camping World Trucks received the Strictly Stock Truck (SST) in 2016, which, like the SSC, are slightly modified showroom models with the truck beds covered to improve aerodynamics. The models for the SST are the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra, Nissan Titan, and GMC Sierra. The SSC started being run in the K&N Pro Series in 2016, and eventually found its way to ARCA in 2017, supplanting the steel-bodied (Gen-4) and composite-bodied (Gen-6) cars. The NASCAR Subway Canada Series started the SSC full-time in 2018 (utilizing the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Mustang, and Dodge Challenger), as did the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (utilizing all-European models, including the BMW M3, Porsche 991, Volkswagen Passat, Renault Latitude, Jaguar XE, Skoda Superb, and MG 6), and is set to debut in NASCAR Toyota Mexico Series in 2019, being the last series still using a car with a Gen-6 bodystyle and Gen-5 chassis. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series introduced a new category for the SSC known as "Strictly Stock" (and added several of the larger tracks to the series such as Daytona, Atlanta, Rockingham, and Martinsville), and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, due to using unique cars, has remained unchanged, though two races were added at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which necessitated the use of restrictor-plates (essentially turning Charlotte into a miniature Daytona for the modified cars). The SSC template has also been adopted by many local and regional stock car leagues for its affordability. 2016 also saw NASCAR bring back the Convertible Division (sponsored by Arby's), the Elite Division (sponsored by AutoZone), and the Dash Series (sponsored by Goody's), in addition to starting the Howard Johnson's SUV Series. 2019 will see NASCAR introduce the Summer Clash, composed of 20 qualifying races and the main event, with as many as 70 entries, a fan idea submitted by Griffdawg in 2017. The first Summer Clash will be raced at Pikes Peak Raceway.
In addition to the many changes to the racing, the television broadcasts were also affected. WBC itself began broadcasting select races with its own broadcast team, consisting of Tom Stephenson hosting from WBC Race Control (the WBC version of FOX's Hollywood Hotel), Ralph Sheheen, Marty Snyder, Jamie Little, and Bill Weber on pit road, and Ken Squier, Ned Jarrett, and Buddy Baker in the broadcast booth (Baker was replaced by Wally Dallenbach Jr. after his death in July 2015). At the 2014 Coke Zero 400, to promote the release of Sgt. Frog: The Great Rescue, as mentioned above, the normal broadcasters were relieved of their duties by Tim Johnson, Chloe Johnson, and Belle Armstrong, in-character as their Sgt. Frog characters (Fuyuki Hinata, Natsumi Hinata, and Momoka Nishizawa, respectively), with Jenny Smith serving in the pits in-character as Koyuki Azumiya (Sheheen, Snyder, and Weber remained in their positions); this team was used again in the Tokyo races, but with an all-Johnson cast (Sheheen was replaced by Wendee Lee as Konata Izumi, Snyder by David Matranga as Tomoya Okazaki, and Weber by Dan Castellaneta as Tamama), leaving Stephenson as the only non-cartoon member of the team. The Johnson twins and Armstrong also broadcast the PrimeStar and Truck Series Tokyo races as themselves. WBC's retinue for 2014 consisted of all restrictor-plate races (except the Daytona 500, which stayed on FOX), both Charlotte, Michigan, all road course races, and the Brickyard 400. In 2015, both Kansas races and the Southern 500 were added to WBCs schedule, and in 2016, added the two Tokyo Superspeedway races, as well as select PrimeStar Series and Camping World Truck Series races; for these races, Ken Squier and Eli Gold alternate PrimeStar Series races, while Paul Page and Bob Jenkins alternate Truck Series races. The network's coverage has received critical acclaim, with WBC's broadcasting team being nicknamed the "Dream Team" of NASCAR broadcasting.
Johnson's ownership of NASCAR has not been without incident. With three laps to go in the 2014 Coke Zero 400, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were battling for the lead in a rematch of that year's Daytona 500 (which Stewart had won in his fifteenth attempt, a win that is often credited with jumpstarting NASCAR's resurgence in popularity, coupled with Danica Patrick winning three races at Las Vegas, Rockingham, and Sonoma), when Kyle Busch, running mid-pack, got loose, starting a massive crash that saw Kasey Kahne fly into the catchfence rear-end first. Bizarrely, the fuel cell ruptured, causing an explosion that could be heard up to four miles away, and sending flaming debris into the grandstands and tearing Kahne's #5 Chevrolet Camaro to shreds. Kahne himself was miraculously unharmed, considering he was thrown from his car when his seat detached from the chassis, but 8 fans were killed by flaming debris and 72 injured. The season continued despite this tragedy (with Tony Stewart winning his fourth championship), and Kyle Busch was immediately absolved of any wrongdoing, though Chevrolet came under scrutiny for the fuel cell design used on the Camaro (the Impala did not have this issue). As a result, any team using Camaros had to temporarily use Impalas until the fuel cell could be redesigned, with Camaros returning to competition in the Bank of America 500 that October. A similar incident at the 2015 Coke Zero 400 saw Austin Dillon also fly into the catchfence, though in this instance, only a few fans were injured and Dillon's Impala was less damaged, though still totaled. On April 2, 2009, upon hearing of the cancelation of the soap opera Guiding Light, Johnson bought the rights to the series, and moved it to WBC on September 18, where it still airs to this day. They also acquired the SS Nyanza and SS Usoga and restored the two tenders. On January 5, 2010, Johnson bought out Redbox Automated Retail LLC, making the company another subsidiary of Johnson. Redbox kiosks still feature the company's logo (Johnson didn't want to change the logo) and signature red color and are located at convenience stores, fast food restaurants, grocery stores, mass retailers, and pharmacies. Redbox machines are leased by almost every major retailer in North America.
The Tim Johnson Era and Johnson Renaissance (2009-present)
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Johnson Renaissance." - Tim Johnson shortly after the launch of the Johnson Aligned Universe in 2012.
Current Johnson CEO, Timothy Daniel "Tim" Jonhson, took the helm of the company at the age of 14 on December 30, 2009, at his father Sheldon Jr.'s request, as the youngest corporate CEO in history. Immediately, change started coming to the entire company, in an era also known as the Johnson Renaissance after 2012, extending the Third Golden Age.
Tim can be described as a 21st century Walt Disney, mainly due to his creativity, shrewdness, and perfectionism. If something isn't to his liking, he makes it known. Tim mainly focuses on the creative and operational side of the company, leaving Johnson Financing to handle the financial side so his plans can go forward. Tim is also the youngest corporate CEO in human history, which sparked widespread criticism that he was too young to run the company. These naysayers, however, ended up eating their words.
In 2012, a massive addition was made the company. During a live stream on New Year's Day, Johnson introduced the Johnson Aligned Universe, a new, unified body-of-work mainly featuring anime series (two elements of the JAU, which are the Johnson remake of the Godzilla franchise unifying all three eras into one coherent timeline, and an anime series called Sodor High School, which is, in a nutshell, a humanized version of Thomas & Friends, were pre-existing and incorporated into the JAU). Among the series were a Vocaloid anime, as well as Johnson-ized versions of Sgt. Frog, Lucky Star, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Azumanga Daioh (subbed), all of which intertwine with each other to create one big universe. Later additions included Attack on Titan, Nichijou, K-On!, and CLANNAD. The Johnson-ized anime were either remade from the ground up (as was the case with Sgt. Frog, which was even renamed WBC's Sgt. Frog to distance it from the original anime), redubbed (Lucky Star was completely redubbed to eliminate all Japanese honorifics as well as fix the "issue" of Patricia Martin's voice, and episodes were lengthened by removing the "Lucky Channel" segment, as well as producing over 60 brand-new episodes), or given minor edits (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya received minor edits to tie it in with the rest of the JAU, but was mainly left intact).
Azumanga Daioh was aired with subtitles and the original audio, due to the amount of disdain for the ADV dub. This was in addition to Kiyohiko Azuma writing new stories, which when put together, create 80 additional episodes beyond the original 26. This was at the behest of Tim Johnson, who even managed to get the original Japanese voice cast back together for the new episodes.
The first piece of JAU material was a theatrical movie, Vocaloid & Godzilla, released in June 2012. The movie stars the current "Johnson Golden Four" themselves: Tim Johnson himself as Len, as well as his twin sister, Chloe Johnson, as Rin, his girlfriend (later wife) Belle Armstrong as Meiko, and Chloe's best friend (later wife) Jenny Smith as Luka. Other actors include Kristin Schaal as Miku, Seth Green as Kaito, Olivia Olson as Neru, Kelly Hu as Teto, Tara Strong as Haku, and Tim Curry as main antagonist Dr. Shinji Mustafa. As the title suggests, the movie brings together the Vocaloid and Godzilla franchises. Though Miku appears in the movie, and was the one who brought the Vocaloids to prominence, she is a secondary character, with the Kagamine twins taking center stage, along with Godzilla himself. Many, many Vocaloid characters make cameo appearances as high schoolers, and there are also references to the many Vocaloid songs. On the Godzilla front, the movie can be considered a Destroy All Monsters-type feature, as in addition to Godzilla, the movie also features many of his allies and enemies, including Anguirus, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Gigan, Megalon, Mothra, Battra, MOGUERA, Kiryu, MechaGodzilla, Mecha-King Ghidorah, Zilla, and Krystalak, as well as two new monsters who are, respectively, a clone of Godzilla, and an "evil" Godzilla controlled by Dr. Mustafa. The film was a massive hit, ushering in a new era for Johnson Industries.
A sequel to the film, Vocaloid & Godzilla 2: Mustafa Strikes Back, was released the same year in November. The film was considered better than the first, and featured the death of Luka, as well as the beginning of a romantic relationship between Len and Meiko. Between the two films, a TV series had premiered on Labor Day.
The third Vocaloid & Godzilla film, titled The Last Stand, was released in June 2013, and was also a big hit. Earlier in April 2013, several of the other SAU series had premiered on WBC (these were WBC's Sgt. Frog, Lucky Star, Haruhi Suzumiya, and Azumanga Daioh). This came at the same time as WBC's continuity announcer was replaced. Previously, Corey Burton had done announcing duties since 1992, but he left for the El Rey Nework. In his place, Frank Welker took over as network announcer, a post he holds to this day.
During a live stream on July 1, 2013, Johnson Industries made an announcement that took the world by surprise. At 12:00 noon PDT, the company formally announced its acquisition of the Walt Disney Company. Everyone, from the internet to the general public and even world leaders, from Barack Obama to Raul Castro, were shocked, and needless to say, the world remained shellshocked for several days. The company became a subsidiary of Johnson Industries, bringing with it ESPN, Pixar, Marvel (which meant Johnson Comics characters came back under the Johnson fold), Lucasfilm, Touchstone Pictures, The Muppet Studios, and of course, Walt Disney Pictures and and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. All parts of Disney were allowed to retain their autonomy, and release media under the Disney banner.
The sole exception was the theme parks and cruise ships, which Tim Johnson took personal control of. Immediately, he set out making sweeping changes to the parks, mainly focusing on Disneyland. Having a large amount of respect for Walt Disney and harboring contempt for Michael Eisner and Paul Pressler, he rolled back many Eisner-era business practices, such as focus on merchandise. The focus went back to attractions over all else, with a mission statement to "bring back the magic" and "restore Walt's legacy".
The biggest changes came to Disneyland Park, which included reopening the PeopleMover, Skyway, Mike Finke Keel Boats, Carousel of Progress, and the Motor Boat Cruise. The Autopia was split back up into Tomorrowland and Fantasyland tracks, and Tomorrowland as a whole received a massive overhaul. The new theming sets Tomorrowland as a futuristic city called "Progress City", and is presented as a working prototype of a future community, very much like the original vision for EPCOT. This ideology extends to the land's features, which include hydroponics, solar power, mass transit, ride-sharing, and environmentalism. Guests can even view demonstrations of future technologies on the second floor of the Starcade (the first floor once again became a dedicated arcade, having had all retail space removed). The Submarine Voyage was stripped of its Finding Nemo theming, and rethemed as the research facility of the Tomorrowland Marine Biology Institute, featuring actual fish and a new, underwater aquarium in the main lagoon.
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters was removed and replaced by an expanded attraction also using the Omnimover system, but now going underground under Fantasyland, themed around the Mega Man series (to tie-in with the Mega Man anime that had premiered on WBC in July 2013).
Mickey's Toontown was almost competely demolished and replaced by a brand-new land called Tokyo Plaza. This included a Sgt. Frog simulator, replacing Roger Rabbit's Car-Toon Spin with a new, Test Track-type attraction that is much larger in scale and entirely underground, except for the queue, a Western version of Taiyo Ro serving Japanese food as well as the standard fare, and various meet-and-greet and walkthrough attractions, including the SOS Brigade Recruitment Offices (replacing Mickey's House), the anti-kaiju Howitzer manned by the main cast Lucky Star, a NERV watchtower (replacing Chip n' Dale's Treehouse), the Hinata household (replacing Minnie's house), and Tokyo Civil Defense offices (replacing Donald's Boat). Gadget's Go-Coaster was completely demolished and replaced by a Japanese garden with koi and cherry blossoms. Toontown station was rethemed as a typical Japanese rural railway station, and the Jolly Trolley was brought back into operation, though rethemed as a streetcar line with live overhead wires, expanded to serve the entire land, and featuring a pair of actual Osaka streetcars acquired from the San Francisco Municipal Railway.
Other changes around the park included Adventureland, where the Jungle Cruise was refurbished with new animatronics and a new script reflecting the 1938 setting of the attraction, Frontierland, where the Mike Finke Keel Boats were brought back into operation and the Pirate's Lair overlay was removed from Tom Sawyer Island, restoring the island to its original appearance, Sailing Ship Columbia was retired and replaced by a sidewheeler called the Joe Fowler, and Big Thunder Ranch and the surrounding backstage area were razed and replaced by Discovery Bay (a concept created by Tony Baxter in the 1970s), New Orleans Square, where all of the movie tie-ins were removed from Pirates of the Carribean, and the Hatbox Ghost returned to the Haunted Mansion, Critter Country, where The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was removed and sat dormant for several years until reopening as the Critter Country Pizzeria restaurant in 2016, Fantasyland, where all of the dark rides were enhanced, the Skyway and Motor Boat Cruise reopened, and the Matterhorn given a major overhaul, and Main Street USA, where Residential Street was finally opened, easing traffic congestion on Main Street, and featuring a streetcar branchline, a model railroad club and shop, and a restaurant. The Disneyland Railroad received three brand-new steam locomotives built by Continental Rail (a 2-6-2, a 2-8-2, and a 4-6-0, respectively named Mary Blair, Marc Davis,and Les Clark), as well as a pair of diesel switchers to serve as both switchers and back-up locomotives and a new station at Discovery Bay, permitting five-train operation, while the Disneyland Monorail underwent a major extension with new lines serving GardenWalk, the Harbor Blvd hotels and Anaheim Convention Center, John Wayne Airport, LAX, and Downtown Los Angeles. All construction for the monorail was done by Continental Rail.
Disney California Adventure also received some revisions, such as a log flume ride in Paradise Pier, grizzly bear animatronics in the Grizzly Peak area, retheming Condor Flats to Grizzly Peak Airfield, and expanding the Red Car to serve the entirety of the park, as well as the Anaheim Convention Center and Disneyland Pacific Hotel. All other parks around the world similarly received major changes.
On August 22, 2013, Johnson Studios announced that they had struck a partnership with infamous filmmaker Tommy Wiseau to re-release the cult film The Room in 3D, and that additional scenes would be added. The film was re-released on September 29, 2014, and resulted in an animated series adaptation of the same name, which was released on Johnson's PrimeBuster on September 29, 2015, and had Wiseau and Greg Sestero reprising their roles as Johnny and Mark, respectively. Johnson also co-produced another PrimeBuster series, The Neighbors, with Wiseau's production company, Wiseau-Films, which was released on June 29, 2014.
On March 1, 2015, Johnson Industries acquired Cartoon Network from Turner after Tim got into a heated argument with then-president Christina Miller (see the Cartoon Network page), who was then fired. Immediately, Teen Titans Go! was cancelled (and all knowledge of the show's existence disavowed due to its connection with a major crime ring) and replaced with reruns of fan-favorites Ed Edd n Eddy, revived in 2016 with most of the original crew and creator Danny Antonucci (Tim even managed to lure Tony Sampson out of retirement to reprise his role as Eddy), as a continuation of the original series, The Powerpuff Girls, also revived in 2016, with Craig McCracken, again, as a continuation, and a revival of Young Justice, among others. Tim, a longtime fan of Adventure Time, took personal control of the show. The resulting sixth season is often considered the best, due to fixing many of the issues of previous seasons (Tim was mainly out to reverse the widely-reviled break-up of Finn and Flame Princess), as well as better utilizing the cast of characters it had built over five seasons, vast improvements in the comedy and action (not to mention an uptick in the violence), and introducing several new main characters; the seventh season made international headlines when a lesbian couple (Princess Bubblegum and Marceline) was depicted in full; this resulted in the show being banned in Russia and various WBC shows making overt anti-Russian messages. On November 30, 2016, CN bought the rights to the Nickelodeon series Harvey Beaks and renewed it. The next day, CN bought the rights to the Hey Arnold! franchise, with The Jungle Movie being the last HA! work to be produced by Nick, with the first episode of the revival coming the day after TJM's release, and on August 24, 2017, CN bought the rights to Welcome to the Wayne, in addition to Ren & Stimpy, a franchise Paramount refused to let Nick ever do anything with, the latter getting a revival in 2019, called The Ren & Stimpy Show just like the original, with creator John Kricfalusi heading the revival as director and the voice of Ren and Mr. Horse (Billy West will also reprise his role as Stimpy), and several crew members returning, including Bob Jaques, Kelly Armstrong, Chris Reccardi, Bob Camp, Lynne Naylor, and Richard Pursel, as animators, animation directors and storyboard artists, Vincent Waller as a writer, etc. The buyouts of Harvey Beaks, Hey Arnold!, Welcome to the Wayne, and Ren & Stimpy, forever branded all three franchises as the famous "Rogue Foursome" (later just the "Rogue Shows" after Johnson bought the entire pre-December 31, 2017 Nickelodeon library, including anything produced during that time, along with the franchises, on January 1, 2018). On June 21, 2015, Johnson acquired Tumblr and GoAnimate (renamed Vyond, as the GoAnimate name was "tarnished"), with their goal being to "clean them up of obnoxious users", and when hearing that users drove a Steven Universe fanartist to a suicide attempt, Johnson and the fanartist, Paige Paz, got together, sued the now-blocked users, and won the very public lawsuit that lasted two years.
Other changes made to CN included giving Adult Swim its own channel, bringing back the weekday Toonami block, and filling Adult Swim's timeslot with vintage cartoons from the Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros., and MGM libraries (as a result, Boomerang was shut down).
2013 also saw Continental Rail take full control of the British rail network, resurrecting the British Railways name. Overnight, DMUs, EMUs, and some high-speed trains were taken out of service. When the British public awoke on June 1, 2013 (some overnight trains departed late at night on May 31, such as fast goods and sleeper trains), they were greeted with trains looking very much like 1960s passenger trains, complete with steam locomotives, thousands of which were thought to be scrapped. All of the retired DMUs and EMUs were converted into the Mark 5 coaching stock (which, cosmetically, are identical to the Mark 1 stock), or were dressed up to resemble 50s-60s DMUs and EMUs. British goods trains also "went back in time", with the
return of wagonload freight primarily in 2-axle wagons. Some feared that railway progress was "regressing",but the new system proved to be very, very successful, thanks in no small part to the fact that steam locomotives power 60% of all passenger trains, reducing environmental impact and capturing the public's imagination; those who had grown up with steam could now share it with their children and grandchildren in an environment other than a heritage railway or the odd railtour. The wagonload freight system also proved successful, now that the benefits of trains vs trucks were known, allowing BR to run door-to-door pick-up goods services along the majority of its network; it also helped that the 2-axle wagons are cheaper to maintain than the larger stock thanks to their size. Using lessons learned from the North American system, steam locomotive maintenance is now quick, painless, and cheap. Older diesel classes were also brought back into service. Though much of the 1970s-2000s-era multiple unit stock was retired and converted into unpowered coaching stock, the InterCity 125 trains remained in service, repainted in their original 1976 paint schemes and with reproductions of their original Paxman Valenta engines. Also retained were the Driving Van Trailers for use on express commuter trains.
All passenger trains are now color-coded: long-distance and crack express services are maroon, regional and local services are crimson and cream, commuter trains are Rail Blue, and express commuter trains are in the InterCity "Swallow" livery.In addition to passenger services being widely restored, most of the lines closed under the Beeching Axe were reopened (by any means necessary, it should be said, as the new BR had to resort to underhanded tactics to have developments on the closed lines relocated), most notably the Great Central Mainline, Oxford-Cambridge route, numerous joint railways (such as the Somerset & Dorset), and many branchlines. Not all British railway lines were affected, though. Although the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways came under BR control (mainly as a passenger carrier and with more frequent services), all other heritage railways were allowed to remain independent (though many were reconnected to the national network, and regular goods services are run on them). The Sudrian rail network also retained its independence, as Tim Johnson "had been raised on the Thomas the Tank Engine brand" (incidentally, WBC had acquired the Thomas franchise (along with HiT Entertainment, which was renamed back to Henson International Television) in 2003, and set about making two distinct series in 2013 to go with the existing 1984 Thomas & Friends series: Thomas the Tank Engine, aimed at a general audience and styled around the earlier seasons, and The Railway Series, aimed at older fans and railway enthusiasts and featuring much more dark and mature content, including regular mentions of people being killed in the on-screen crashes and liberal use of pyrotechnics; both series reverted to using models).
Continental Rail has also taken to acquring tourist lines in the United States starting in 2012. Thus far, the railroad has acquired the Valley Railroad in Connecticut (renaming it the Connecticut Valley Railroad and sending the Becky Thatcher riverboat to Walt Disney World), California Western Railroad (AKA Skunk Train), Virginia and Truckee Railroad, Roaring Camp Railroads (Continental Rail had rebuilt the South Pacific Coast line from Felton to Los Gatos between 2002-2008), and the Sandy River and Rangely Lakes Railroad (rebuilding the entire network). The railroad also rebuilt the former Milwaukee Road St. Paul's Pass rail line from Avery to Drexel, Idaho, complete with electrification to operate the railroad's EP-4 Little Joe.
Another major Continental Rail-related event took place in 2015, when Barack Obama announced that, effective immediately, Amtrak would be folded into Continental Rail. The latter ended up inheriting a myriad of routes and aging equipment. Almost all of the Genesis locomotives were transferred to Mexican passenger services, retired AEM-7 and HHP-8 locomotives were transferred to the Northwest Corridor, NPCUs were re-engined and put back into service as F40PHs with Continental Rail colors and numbers, any other F40s still on Amtrak property were reactivated and put back into service, Superliners were retained for intermediate and boat train services, Amfleets and Horizons became staples for Mexican services, and Heritage Fleet cars still on Amtrak property were repainted into either Continental Rail colors, or historic colors. As Amtrak routes tended to duplicate Continental Rail routes, many Amtrak routes were either re-routed (the California Zephyr returned to its historical routing over Altamont Pass and through the Feather River Canyon to avoid duplicating the Transcontinental Zephyr), eliminated (the Pacific Surfliner, and Cascades were eliminated as Continental Rail's Northwest Regional running from Tijuana to Vancouver rendered them redundant; the Capitol Corridor was on the chopping block, before it was decided to instead extend the train to Reno and have it serve as a local feeder for the Transcontinental Zephyr, which only stops at Sacramento and Oakland between Reno and San Jose), reassigned (the Coast Starlight was turned into the Coast Daylight, now running from Los Angeles to San Francisco; the Coast Starlight completely duplicated the route of the Western Star with lower service levels and frequencies and terminating at Los Angeles instead of San Diego), restored (the Desert Wind, Pioneer, and North Coast Hiawatha were among the notable names to return), or renamed (the Southwest Chief was renamed back to the Super Chief). Trains such as the California Zephyr, Super Chief, and City of New Orleans were fully re-equipped with equipment in historic lettering/paint; as an added touch, locomotives swaps for the CZ take place at Salt Lake City and Denver, pulled by Western Pacific-painted F-units from Oakland to Salt Lake City, D&RGW-painted F-units from Salt Lake City to Denver, and CB&Q E-units the rest of the way to Chicago.
The next year, the State of California delegated passenger services on the San Francisco Pensinsula to Continental Rail, bringing an end to Caltrain and restoring the Peninsula Commute name. All Caltrain equipment was inherited by Continental Rail, who repainted all equipment (some cars still bear Caltrain colors, though), and upgraded all of the P2 horns to P3s (cab cars) and P5s (locomotives). To help alleviate crowding on trains, starting in June 2016, Continental Rail began running rush-hour trains in sections, usually with the normal five-car bilevel set as the first section, and an up to four-car set made up of ex-Amtrak Horizon cars (some of the Horizon cars in this pool still bear Amtrak's Phase IVb colors). Electrification will still be carried out, and Caltrain's F40s will be reassigned to other parts of the CR network, but the EMU orders were cancelled, and trains on the Peninsula will instead be loco-hauled using AEM-7 and ACS-64 locomotives, and refurbished Nippon Sharyo gallery cars, though steam and diesels will still be prevalent on the Peninsula. This is not the first major commuter railroad Continental Rail has acquired, having gained control of Metro-North in 2012 and Metra in 2014.2016 also saw the acquisition of CEC Entertainment Inc., the owners of Chuck E. Cheese's. Sweeping revisions came to the company, including the return of ShowBiz Pizza Place and the Rock-Afire Explosion, a broadened age appeal, and severe changes to company business practices, including better pizza and reorganization of Department 18. ShowBiz locations were also opened in Japan, utilizing the main cast of K-On! on center stage (with the side stages unchanged). Finally, CEC was renamed back to ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc.
In May 2017, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, Johnson and Fox released the Star Wars 40th Anniversary box set, which contained all seven films, the Holiday Special, and Rogue One. The Original Trilogy had two discs for each film: the original, using a 35mm print, and the 1997 Special Edition. A New Hope also used seamless branching to let you use the 1977 or 1981 crawls, in addition to the original opening crawls in other languages like the other films, and came with the so-called "Lost Cut". The Prequel Trilogy and Holiday Special also had two discs each: the original, and the 2017 Special Edition: a heavily edited version of the film, with Adywan, Harmy, HAL 9000, TM2YC et al involved in the project, removing everything that the fans hated, including midichlorians and Anakin building C-3PO. Jar Jar Binks' character was minimized too, only being "a prince who helps the heroes, instead of being a useless traitor clown", according to Tim in a press release. The Holiday Special was drastically changed too, being altered into "an experience without all the things that make it terrible, including singing Leia, Wookiee porn, blackface drag queen cooking, avant-garde alien dance, drunk aliens, Jefferson Starship, and more". Almost all CGI was also removed in favor of practical effects (IE a stop-motion Grievous, models for the space battles, and various other non-CG effects). The box set was critically acclaimed by fans, and was rereleased on June 11, 2018 with The Last Jedi.On October 1, 2017, Tim Johnson made his directional debut with a highly-ambitious project. A 120-episode sci-fi epic (each episode being 45 minutes each) known as Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Space War, the series serves as a direct sequel to the 2015 Hyperdimension Neptunia anime. The series is a rather blatant rip-off of Star Wars, using the logo, opening crawl, ships, weapons, and the Death Star; however, this is the entire joke: that the Star Wars movies are repeating themselves with different characters, in a different universe, just in different ways. Starting in Episode 33, the cast of RWBY was added, with the Imperials intervening in the Battle of Beacon and starting a three-episode arc known as the "Remnant Civil War" arc. The series utilizes a rather novel approach of putting animated characters on scale model sets, with various objects being manipulated either by pushing them over with a blast of air, hydraulics, or stop motion (if a character has to pick up or manipulate a live-action object, a close-up of a live-action hand is shown doing so; occassionally, an animated character is shown holding up an object using a live hand; these hands belong to Johnson employees, though Tim, Chloe, and Belle's hands have all been seen at various points). In fact, everything is either animated or a practical effect, such as stop motion, go motion, suitmation, puppetry, live pyrotechnics, remote-controlled vehicles, and matte paintings; even the missiles are real, usually being small white smoke flares; the only CG effects are lasers. The series airs on Cartoon Network on Saturdays at 11:00 PM during Toonami's Midnight Run block.
On November 10, 2017, Redbox offered a new service called Redbox On Demand. Like Redbox Instant, it is a streaming service, but based on a different model. It does not require any membership, and the list will contain new releases as well as several titles that it is claimed will never be available on services like PrimeBuster.
On December 1, Johnson announced a surprise acquisition of Walmart. Control of Walmart was given to Jenny Smith, who immediately set out to improve it. At that time, Johnson also acquired most of 21st Century Fox after a long, very public, tense bidding war with Comcast and Verizon, including the Fox movie and television studios, FX Networks, stakes in National Geographics Partners, Fox Networks Group, Indian satellite TV group Star India, UK-based satellite TV group Sky plc, and other key assets. The remaining assets were spun off into a company owned by Rupert Murdoch's family, simply called Fox. The buyout further cemented Tim Johnson's status as the "Business King", despite criticism over antitrust concerns.
On May 13, 2018, Johnson announced that they had acquired Nintendo and WWE. For WWE, Tim fired Vince McMahon and took personal control, with the intention of "erasing Vince's mistakes", starting with rehiring Hulk Hogan and declaring the "Second Attitude Era", while Nintendo was allowed to remain autonomous. They also announced their acquisition of ARCA, which will remain autonomous due to using the SSC.
On June 14, 2018, Johnson Studios announced it would restore and complete The Thief and the Cobbler. Richard Williams will oversee the project and have complete control, with no deadlines or budgets. Johnson also stated that, once the movie is completed, it would receive a theatrical release. More good news for animation buffs came on August 6, 2018, when Tim Johnson announced he and Chloe had found the location of the stolen hard drives for Foodfight! and physically fought the thieves (who were ex-Pixar animators trying to snuff out competition) for them. The thieves were taken into custody, and Johnson announced it will use the files with more relevant celebrities in an all-star cast, with foreign dubs all having their local mascots and celebrities from their countries, to create a special edition of Foodfight!, this time as an R-rated film, that is being touted as the "Anti-Star Wars".For the future, Tim has set his sights on improving the company even further. With the JAU being a major player in the company's fortunes, there's no turning back.