Friday, June 27, 2008

Anime Expo 2008

On July 3-6, Imagi Studios and Summit Entertainment will be in Los Angeles for Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in North America, and will be introducing the Astro Boy movie. This could be our first major look at the film! They will also have a special Astro Boy T-Shirt! has all the details.

If anyone reading this is going to AX and can scope the scene out, get some information, and take some pictures, please do so for me and you can win upwards of 15 Internets! Well, OK, I can't really offer much aside from credit for your work, but any help would be appreciated.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scarlett Johansson joins Astro Boy -UPDATE: Not!

Is it true? Awaiting confirmation, but for now, it looks that way!

Colider is reporting that Scarlett Johansson, one of the most beautiful actresses in the entire world, has joined the Astro Boy animated movie cast. Not only does she bring some excellent prestige to the film, but Scarlett also has a great connection to Astro's home country of Japan, as she starred in the multi-award winning "Lost in Translation". This is also not her first vocal role for an animated movie either. She was also in the SpongeBob Squarepants movie. But we won't talk about that one.

Personally, I'm thrilled not only that Scarlett Johansson is going to be a part of this movie, but also that I get to include a picture of her with this post.

*** UPDATE - 1/27/2009 ***

Nope, she's not!

Months later, MTV News brings the scoop.

I had kind of sort of met on it and stuff, but I don’t know where that came from,” Johansson told MTV. “I had never been committed to it. I don’t know what happened to it.”
So, she's not in it. She could have been, so the rumor had some merrit at the time, but ultimately she isn't and Kristen Bell is. Oh well. At least I got to post a picture of Scarlett Johansson on this blog!

Continue reading "Scarlett Johansson joins Astro Boy -UPDATE: Not!"...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More LardAss-tro Boy

A few months ago I first reported on the article about the new incarnation of Astro Boy conceived by Lily Frank, which has been "affectionately" called "LardAss-tro Boy" by fans.

Now the marketing surrounding this strange character is in full swing with new cell phones barring his likeness.

The Star Online has a new article about this bizarre interpretation of The Mighty Atom, as well as other examples of how Tezuka's classic characters are becoming more "open source" then ever before. You can read it on their website or click the link below to read it right here.

Sunday June 22, 2008
Astro Boy’s new look

ATOM-KUN, SoftBank’s new cell phone, may prove a bit of a shock for long-time fans of Astro Boy as the character on it looks nothing like the original artist’s Mighty Atom.

Osamu Tezuka’s character has been reenvisioned by popular illustrator Lily Franky with a big belly, thick lips and tiny eyes. While Astro Boy is known for having “Juman-bariki” (100,000 horsepower), Atom-kun looks run-down and laid-back.

But Atom-kun has been authorised by Tezuka Production Co. In fact, it was the company that asked Franky to make the new version of Astro Boy. “We are aware Lily is paying his respects to Mr Tezuka. We asked him to create Astro Boy in his own style,” says Yoshihiro Shimizu, the head of the copyright and operation division.
The quirky Astro Boy featured on SoftBank’s mobile phones looks decidedly different from the original creator’s version (below, right).

Yawaraka Sensha (Fragile Tank) creator Rareko has released to the Web Yawaraka Atom, a merging of the web animator’s series with the anime classic. The anime, which can be seen by clicking on atom/, is another example of the characters being restyled in completely new ways. “Sure, we get complaints from old Tezuka fans,” Shimizu says.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of Tezuka’s death. A decade ago, Shimizu began introducing new products based on Tezuka’s creation under what he has dubbed the “avocali system” – an amalgamation of avocado and California Roll.

“For Edo-style sushi to take off internationally, chefs had to incorporate local foods (such as avocado),” Shimizu says. “In the same sense, we felt the best way to disseminate Osamu Tezuka’s DNA was to have artists from around the world ‘cook’ his characters – even if it meant changing their look.”

The theory behind this is that it is better for the life of the character to allow popular young designers to make “secondary creations”.

Pluto, a manga by Naoki Urasawa based on Tezuka’s Astro Boy, is one such outlet.

In a more daring project, Tezuka Production allowed the public to create animations, manga and other fan fiction works, such as those found at Comic Market, by using all of Tezuka’s characters at Open Post. On the site, launched by groups including the Association of Japanese Animations, under the direction of Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, works were posted and discussed interactively by creators, users and others. The project ran for five months, ending in March.

Shimizu says his firm is ready to work with any particularly talented artists it might find.

Not to be outdone, the global film industry is having its own go at the character, which has a healthy following overseas. Hong Kong’s Imagi Animation Studios has a CGI version of Astro Boy slated to hit theatres in 2009, with Freddie Highmore voicing the main character, according to

Thanks to this strategy, which can be compared to the open source system used in the software world, there has been a rise in revenue from Astro Boy licensing in recent years. The large-mindedness of the production company, in which model changes and parodies are welcomed, may open new possibilities in the character business, distinguishing it from the example set by the Walt Disney Co, for example.

But doesn’t that lead to the loss of the original Astro Boy’s identity? “Shakespeare’s Hamlet is ultimately the same no matter how it is presented, isn’t it?” Shimizu rebuts. – The Daily Yomiuri / Asia News Network

Continue reading "More LardAss-tro Boy"...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wow, updates!

Hey folks. Sorry about the recent downtime here. I do have a good excuse, which I will get to later.

To try and catch up, I have just put up a big bunch of updates today, likely with more to come very soon. Make sure you scroll down and take a good look at all of them!

In addition to that, I have updated the AstroBoy Animated Movie - What we Know post to reflect the latest news and changes. I have been able to confirm that Summit Entertainment will now be distributing the film and neither Warner Bros. or The Weinstein Company are involved any longer.

What kept me away from the site for the past 2-3 weeks? Well, in concert with being an anime fan, I'm also a Transformers fan, and I have been attending TFCon, the Canadian Transformers convention. For the past few years, I have been contributing to TFCon by way of illustrating a comic that serves as a prelude to a live script reading with a Transformers voice actor. This year, the comic is available for viewing online instead of being printed, and so I had the opportunity to do it in color. However, I only had 3 weeks to complete the 6 pages, and I pushed myself to the limit to finish on time. But it's done now and you can see the results of my work right here. Hope to see other Canadian Transformers fans at the show!

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Tickets Please!

Now this is cool!

This mural of Astro, Dr. Ochanomizu, Uran, and Ban Shunsaku, currently on display at the Shinjuku Takashimaya Department Store, is impressive enough on it's own. What makes it even more impressive is that this 10 foot by 7 foot piece of art is actually made up of 138,000 recycled train tickets!

Lots more information and plenty of pictures can be found at Pink Tentacle. Take a look at the detail!

Continue reading "Tickets Please!"...

Dororo Movie on R1 DVD

The recent live-action movie adaptation of Tezuka's Dororo is making it's way to official Region 1 DVD thanks to Universal Studios Home Video.

Read the details at DVD Times and Anime News Network.

More information about this movie and the DVD release will be available here on AstroBoy World in the future. Until then, be careful when looking at buying Asian films, either online or in person, because what you might be looking at could be a bootleg.

Continue reading "Dororo Movie on R1 DVD"...

One Thousand Years of Manga

The Daily Yomiuri Online has published an article about a fascinating book called "One Thousand Years of Manga", which traces the cultural roots of Japanese comics dating all the way back to the 11th century. This is very unique as most English-language books about manga only cover the past few decades. Looks like an interesting read, and this article goes on to explain how rich the world of manga really is.

The book itself is available right now on Amazon. You can read the article about it on the Daily Yomiuri website or click the link below to read it here.

From emakimono to Osamu Tezuka: Book goes through 1,000 years of a 'uniquely Japanese' manga history

Kumi Matsumaru / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Art historian Brigitte Koyama-Richard points to various art forms that have sprung from or been influenced by the interplay of cultures. For instance, the Art Nouveau movement in France took inspiration from Japanese ukiyo-e prints, while the works of today's Japanese mangaka are seen to be affected by the style of Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha.

Still, Koyama-Richard said manga is an art form that developed in its own particular way in Japan, and she wants to introduce the history of the deeply Japanese art through her book One Thousand Years of Manga.

Going back as far as the seventh century, the 247-page coffee-table book One Thousand Years of Manga explores the history of manga, showing how it led to the works of modern manga masters such as Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989) and Shigeru Mizuki (born 1922). With about 400 images, the book focuses on emakimono illuminated scrolls made in the late 11th century at one point and on manga about heroes drawn during the postwar reconstruction period at another, showing how manga have been created to reflect changes in society and people's moods and interests.

Covering such a long span of years was possible because Koyama-Richard, a professor of art history and comparative literature at Musashi University in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, is a researcher of ukiyo-e and Japonisme as well as manga.

This distinguishes the book from those written by most Western researchers about Japanese manga as they usually cover only the several most recent decades, from the time mangaka such as Astroboy and Black Jack creator Tezuka were active up to the present day.

According to Koyama-Richard, nishiki-e prints made in the Edo period (1603-1867) were often satirical and rich with a sense of fun, features that are also found in today's manga. "I think they share a similar esprit, satisfying the purpose of entertaining people."

Thanks to her comprehensive approach, One Thousand Years of Manga has already been in translated into English, Italian and German after its initial release in French in September last year.

In addition, Spanish and Polish editions are planned for this autumn. The linguistic multiplicity strongly suggests the book has distinctive content.

Koyama-Richard, a 30-year resident of Japan who is also well versed in Russian language and literature, said she wanted the book to change people's negative mind-set about manga, in France in particular.

"In France, there are as many people who hate manga as who like it. They automatically link manga with violence and sex, without reading it," Koyama-Richard said. "While studying ukiyo-e, I learned how much [Gegege no Kitaro creator] Mizuki-sensei, for example, loved Edo culture. It is very clear as he drew The 53 Stations on the Yokaido as a way to celebrate The 53 Stations of the Tokaido, the series of woodblock prints by Ando Hiroshige [1798-1858]. With such episodes, I wanted to show where manga came from and make people turn their eyes toward the culture of the old days."

The Tokaido was the main road between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo), and Mizuki's "Yokaido" was a pun using the word "yokai," a general term for the folkloric Japanese spirit creatures that inspired many of his characters.

"For manga fans, I want them to know more about old Japanese culture, too, and that manga came from the wonderful culture," she said.

In April, Koyama-Richard was invited to give a lecture on the book at the Guimet Museum in Paris just before the start of an exhibition on ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) there. According to Koyama-Richard, because of the nature of the museum, which specializes in traditional Asian art, only two out of her 100-member audience said they had liked or read manga before. "But after the lecture, they told me that, although they knew nothing about manga or had believed manga were not worth reading, they now realized manga offers an interesting world.

"Such people must have thought ukiyo-e and manga were completely unrelated. They didn't know there is manga drawn for educational purposes, either."

Koyama-Richard said that, as a specialist of Japanese visual culture, writing the book was not difficult for her. "Moreover, I made a lot of discoveries while writing it. I really enjoyed it."

Still, Koyama-Richard confided that it took her two years to finish the first French edition as a great deal of time was needed to obtain permission to use images owned by various organizations. "As far as emakimono or things in the Edo or Meiji (1868-1912) period are concerned, Kumon Institute of Education [which contributed 31 images to the book] and museums were very cooperative in lending me images. But in terms of today's manga works, it was very difficult to obtain the copyright owners' permission," she said.

"One time, after I explained everything about my planned book, a copyright holder asked me, 'Then what do you want to do?' I could not understand the question, so I said, 'What do you mean?' Then I was asked if I was going to make a doll using the image I wanted to borrow! I replied, 'Well, I have never made any doll...'" she said with a laugh. For this reason, Koyama-Richard said it will be difficult to publish the book in a Japanese version.

Although there are many people outside Japan studying or drawing manga, Koyama-Richard believes that manga is still not part of their culture.

"Manga--I mean what is described as manga in Japan--is part of Japanese culture, and works created in other cultures as manga are not manga in a real sense," she said. "Manga is something you cannot create without the mind of a Japanese. It is a matter of esprit."

"But even if you are a non-Japanese, it may be possible to draw a manga after living here for a long time," the author said.
(Jun. 13, 2008)

Continue reading "One Thousand Years of Manga"...

Astro Boy and Anime Come to the Americas

Fred Ladd, the legendary figure responsible for adapting Astro Boy and Gigantor into English, has teamed up with animation historian Harvey Deneroff to bring us "Astro Boy and Anime Come to the Americas: An Insider’s View of the Birth of a Pop Culture Phenomenon", which looks to be an incredibly interesting book about the early days of Japanese animated imports. Here's a description:

"The first generation of American television programmers had few choices when selecting Saturday morning children’s programs for local stations. That changed dramatically in 1963 when a Japanese animated television series called Tetsuan Atom was acquired for distribution by a division of NBC. Fred Ladd adapted the show for American television—rechristened Astro Boy, it was an overnight sensation. Astro Boy’s popularity sparked a new industry in importing animated television to America from Japan. Ladd went on to adapt numerous Japanese animated imports for American release, and here provides an insider’s view of the creation of what has blossomed into an ongoing cultural and media phenomenon."
It's set for release on November 30th 2008, and will be published by McFarland. You can pre-order a copy right now on Amazon, and doing so will help to support AstroBoy World.

You can read all about it straight from Harvey Deneroff's blog, and Cartoon Brew has a post about it as well.

Continue reading "Astro Boy and Anime Come to the Americas"...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cage Confirmed + More Cast Announcements!

Wow, big time CGI Movie update today!

Not only is the Nicholas Cage rumor true, but several other notable actors have been confirmed via official press release as lending their voices to the upcoming Astro Boy movie.

Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy and Eugene Levy are on board. No word yet on what characters they are playing, but feel free to speculate. Of course, they join Freddie Highmore, who was previously announced as the voice of Astro.

Also of note: This announcment makes reference to Summit Entertainment distributing the film internationally, with no mention of Warner Bros. or The Weinstein Company, who were previously announced as distributing the film. Did something happen?

See the press release at Anime News Network or by clicking the link below to read it right here.

Nicolas Cage and Donald Sutherland to join Freddie Highmore, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy and Eugene Levy to Voice Roles in the CGI Animated Picture

LOS ANGELES and HONG KONG, June 16 -- Summit Entertainment and IMAGI Studios have entered into a global alliance whereby Summit will distribute IMAGI's upcoming CG-animated motion picture Astro Boy worldwide except for IMAGI's reserved territories of Japan, Hong Kong and China. The announcement was made jointly by Rob Friedman, Co-Chairman and CEO of Summit Entertainment and Douglas Glen, CEO of IMAGI Studios.

"We are pleased to join with IMAGI Studios in bringing the exceptional world of Astro Boy to both existing and a new generation of fans alike," said Friedman. "The team at IMAGI Studios is capturing the spirit of this popular post-modern franchise by doing great things with the story, characters and animation. Astro Boy promises to be an excellent addition to our existing slate of family films."

Glen said, "Astro Boy has been one of the world's best-known and most loved superheroes for more than fifty years. We are pleased to partner with Summit to deliver Astro Boy's first CGI feature film to worldwide audiences on a grand scale. IMAGI and Summit are a great fit, with high energy, entrepreneurial cultures and a vision of building movie-driven global brands."

Slated for worldwide theatrical release in 2009, Astro Boy will feature the voices of Academy Award(R)-winning actor Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy and Eugene Levy with Freddie Highmore in the title role. David Bowers is directing Astro Boy from a screenplay written by Timothy Harris, with Maryann Garger producing.

Astro Boy was created by the "god of manga", Japan's Osamu Tezuka, in the early 1950s. The iconic character has since found wide popularity around the world as the hero of three acclaimed animated television series spanning the past four decades, besides being one of the top licensed properties for merchandising.

Set in futuristic Metro City, IMAGI Studios' Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist to replace the son he has lost. Unable to fulfill the grieving father's expectations, our hero embarks on a journey in search of acceptance, experiencing betrayal and a netherworld of robot gladiators, before he returns to save Metro City and reconcile with the man who had rejected him.

As Summit continues to build its slate of animated films, Astro Boy will follow the highly anticipated August 8, 2008 release of the company's 3D animation, FLY ME TO THE MOON.

Astro Boy is the second CG-animated feature film from IMAGI Studios, following on the success of its 2007 box office hit TMNT.

Summit's Senior Vice President of Production, Geoff Shaevitz, will oversee the project for the studio. The rights to the film were negotiated on behalf of Summit by the studio's Executive Vice President of Business Affairs, Andrew Matosich as well as Alan Grodin on behalf of IMAGI Studios.

Cage and Lane are represented by CAA. Sutherland is represented by CAA and Special Artists Agency. Highmore is represented by A.R.G in London. Nighy is represented by Markham & Froggatt. Levy is represented by 3 Arts. Bowers is represented by ICM. Harris is represented by UTA.


Imagi International Holdings Limited ("IMAGI") is a listed company [Stock Code 585] on the main board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. IMAGI's principal business is the development and production of computer graphics ("CG") animated theatrical feature films. IMAGI's first theatrical movie TMNT was released in March 2007, opening #1 in U.S. box office revenue, only the third time in history that an Asian-made film has achieved that honor. IMAGI has development operations in Los Angeles, California, and CG production studios at its Chai Wan (Hong Kong) headquarters.


Summit Entertainment is a worldwide theatrical motion picture development, financing, production and distribution studio. The studio handles all aspects of marketing and distribution for both its own internally developed motion pictures as well as acquired pictures. Summit Entertainment, LLC also represents international sales for both its own slate and third party product. Summit Entertainment, LLC plans to release 10 to 12 films annually.

Continue reading "Cage Confirmed + More Cast Announcements!"...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Toon producers Outsource to China

Show business news outlet Variety has published a fairly short but interesting article about animated films being made in China, with a heavy focus on Imagi and their deal with Warner Bros for distribution of their upcoming films Gatchaman and Astro Boy. The article says how, since production costs are lower than a typical Hollywood animated film, they don't have to make as much money to turn a profit and be successful. Plus, the animators there come from a background that has embraced Japanese anime and martial arts movies, and so those qualities rub off on their productions.

You can read the full article on the Variety website or click the link below to read it here.

Toon producers outsource to China
Warner Bros, Weinsteins partner with Imagi

BEIJING -- It's no secret China's cost advantages make manufacturing toys, clothes and fake designer watches a useful option, but now toon producers are waking up to the fact that cheap production costs combined with a love of anime make it a great country for making animated movies as well.

In business terms, it's only natural that foreign toon firms should subcontract to China -- it costs roughly half what it does in Hollywood, making it the logical place to send labor-intensive work. China's large workforce and cheap costs make it a great place for people to locate production in many industries.

On the animation front, Hong Kong's Imagi announced a partnership with Warner Bros. and the Weinstein Co., who together put up $27 million of the $32.5 million production costs on "TMNT" and have now agreed to distribute two new Imagi projects next year: the sci-fi ninja "Gatchaman" and the robot "Astro Boy."

Both Imagi pics are adaptations of well-known Japanese anime. Indeed, Japan remains the big regional player, to the extent that competition from Japanese toons and "SpongeBob SquarePants" prompted a clampdown on foreign cartoons a few years ago.

For Imagi, the decision to work out of Hong Kong comes despite the fact the city is hardly a hotbed of animation. Hong Kong offers plenty of customers but is better known for world-class chopsocky than great animation classics, plus it is more expensive to produce there than in other parts of China.

Where Imagi has scored high is by recruiting former inkers from top studios, including some DreamWorks veterans, to take on top positions and train the emerging talent. Earning a total of $95 million worldwide, "TMNT" didn't set any records, but research from Goldman Sachs suggests Imagi makes movies a lot cheaper than its international competition, which could translate into major profits even when their films don't earn big-studio-size returns. And to do that, the company is recruiting guys like Ken Tsumura, formerly senior VP at Mainframe Entertainment, a Vancouver CGI firm.

Centro Digital Pictures, another Hong Kong company, also has been very busy of late. The studio started off doing some of the CGI for Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" but really came into its own when it co-produced Walt Disney's first major foray into the Chinese-language toon business, "The Secret of the Magic Gourd." A tale of a vegetable with special powers, the film fared well in Asia and has been described by some as the shape of things to come.

Continue reading "Toon producers Outsource to China"...

MW the Movie

First published in 1976, MW is a dark manga about how the survivor of a poisonous gas incident is driven to become a killer. A highly acclaimed English translation of this manga was released in 2007 by Vertical.

Now, a Live Action Movie based on MW is in production, set for release in Japan next year. Hiroshi Tamaki and Takayuki Yamada will star as the main characters. Anime News Network and TokyoGraph news have the current information on the cast and crew, and has images.

Continue reading "MW the Movie"...