Friday, March 28, 2008

This is WEIRD

As part of their 85th anniversary, Weird Tales Magazine has released a list of the 85 weirdest storytellers of the past 85 years, comprising of authors, musicians, painters, film directors, and more. Notable members of the bunch include Dr. Seuss, Steven King, Bjork, Tim Burton, Hunter S. Thompson, and Andy Warhol, to name a few.

Of all the luminary eclectics listed, however, there is only one Japanese name, and that is Osamu Tezuka. Somehow I think he'd get a kick out of that! To have released sheer volume of manga in the variety of genres that he did, he must have had to come up with some really weird stuff in his day! So the distinction is well fitting, in my estimation.

You can read about each of the 85 weirdest storytellers in the March/April 2008 issue of Weird Tales, and on their website, where each entry will be discussed once a day for the next 85 days.

Continue reading "This is WEIRD"...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hollywood erupts in J-pop 'feeding frenzy'

Here's an interesting English-Language article from the Daily Yomiuri Online about the entry point of Japanese pop-culture in the US. The upcoming AstroBoy movie is given a mention with a little bit of a clearer idea of the direction Imagi is taking the film.

"Astro Boy is well on its way for a CGI release by Imagi Studios next year; folks in their Los Angeles office told me that they are now focusing on highlighting the original character's innocence and coming-of-age, as they are courting a global audience, not just newbie American fans."
See the entire article on its original page or read it here by clicking below.

SOFT POWER, HARD TRUTHS / Hollywood erupts in J-pop 'feeding frenzy'

Roland Kelts / Special to The Daily Yomiuri

Two weeks ago the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) hosted "J-Wave USA," a three-day conference devoted to exploring and exposing the degree to which Southern California--in particular, Los Angeles--is a gateway for Japanese popular culture, food and fashion entering the United States. The event featured a photography exhibition and presentations by scholars, authors, bloggers and entrepreneurs from Japan and the United States, plus representatives from L.A.-based producers and publishers such as Imagi Studios and Tokyopop, with more than a few astute graduate and undergraduate students from related fields mixed into the crowd.

I was introduced by the consul general of Japan, whose Japan External Trade Organization colleagues were also in attendance.

For reasons historical and au courant, it has become difficult to single out any American city as the primary entry point for Japan's contemporary culture. In Seattle, where I am now ensconced to give talks, readings and signings at this weekend's Sakura Con anime festival, the Elliott Bay bookstore and the Japan-America Society of the State of Washington, Japanese culture is well represented via the city's longstanding nisei and sansei residents, and by its younger, Starbucks-sipping Japanese visitors. In neighboring Oregon, the Portland Japanese Garden could rival many gardens in Kyoto. And San Francisco, as I recently noted in this column, is widely regarded as the symbol of American entry for all Asian immigrants, who envision the Golden Gate Bridge in place of New York's Statue of Liberty as their icon of arrival.

But while the West Coast has long had a geographical lock on Japanese and Asian matters, New York and other cities along the country's eastern seaboard are fast sprouting larger and more frequent anime fests, cosplay conventions, yakitori counters and shochu bars.

Last weekend saw Anime Boston, the American northeast's largest anime convention, surpass its previous year's attendance records. And the opening of Takashi Murakami's mammoth exhibition early next month at New York's Brooklyn Museum, accompanied by a Kanye West performance and Marc Jacobs' unveiling of a new Luis Vuitton tie-up with the Japanese artist, will further cement contemporary Japan's presence on the Atlantic seaside, and in the eyes of Europeans both in New York and "across the pond."

Still, Los Angeles is home to Hollywood, and the American movie industry's lust for Japanese anime and manga titles and related styles, fashions, music and images--a kind of J-pop gestalt--remains relatively fresh, and sometimes frenetic.

"It's become a veritable feeding frenzy," one young and enterprising American producer said of Hollywood's anime and manga craze over a dinner of German sausages in Silver Lake, a hipster enclave in Los Angeles. "In fact, we're now looking to other Asian countries like South Korea, China, even Singapore. There are just too many people focused on Japan."

Last summer's Transformers movie--whose toys and anime series originated in Japan--was one of the biggest box office draws in an otherwise mixed or dreary 2007 for big-budget Hollywood productions. Appleseed: Ex Machina, about which I've written in this column, smashed all previous anime DVD sales records upon its release earlier this month, selling 100,000 units in only its first week.

High hopes ride on the forthcoming Speed Racer adaptation by the Wachowski brothers, out in May, and on Hollywood versions of Dragonball Z, Robotech and Akira, with Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio attached to the last two. Astro Boy is well on its way for a CGI release by Imagi Studios next year; folks in their Los Angeles office told me that they are now focusing on highlighting the original character's innocence and coming-of-age, as they are courting a global audience, not just newbie American fans.

Hollywood may be starstruck with Japan, but the guests on the panel I moderated at UCLA were pragmatic and down-to-earth--and decidedly hopeful. The founder of Anime Expo, now America's largest anime convention, based in Anaheim, bemoaned the collapse of the anime DVD industry even as he announced plans to broaden relations between the two countries via technology. A J-pop culture store owner revealed her latest goods--T-shirts, toys, trinkets and accessories--and showed photographs of her youthful and very discriminating customers, whose tastes are as exacting as their passions are deep.

Gestalt is the word. In Los Angeles and elsewhere in the United States, the anime and manga trends are expanding in scope. Japanese and American entrepreneurs are looking to fashion, information technology, food and design. By next year, Gosu-rori (Gothic Lolita) may be as big in the United States as Gundam.

Kelts is a Tokyo University lecturer who divides his time between Tokyo and New York. He is the author of "Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S." (, now available in an updated paperback edition. His column appears twice a month.
(Mar. 28, 2008)

Continue reading "Hollywood erupts in J-pop 'feeding frenzy'"...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

TMNT: One Year Later

March 23rd, 2007 was a big day for Ninja Turtles fans and animation enthusiasts, as TMNT was released to theaters in North America and elsewhere around the world. It was the very first feature-length film from Imagi Animation Studios, who are, of course, set to bring AstroBoy to cinemas in 2009. I am a HUGE fan of the Turtles, and have been since I first became aware of their existence, so I was definitely looking forward to this movie when it was announced. Not only did I enjoy the film immensely for what it was when I saw it on its release date, I also saw it as an important step towards the future of animated film making, which is where our boy Astro comes in.

Not only does TMNT look spectacular, with its use of colors, textures, and lighting, but if one takes into account how the budget of this film is a meager fraction of a comparable animated movie from a company like Pixar, then Imagi's achievements with this movie are even more incredible. The aspect of the film that I thought was best realized was the attention paid to the backgrounds. The scenery itself had a very lived-in feeling and truly captured what I would expect the TMNT universe to look like. Obviously there are some talented artists and animators working at Imagi, and they clearly know how to construct a world that contains unbelievable characters and situations in a believable and visually appealing setting.

I understand that there are people who didn't like the film, and I can understand that. Perhaps the script could have perhaps benefited from another round of polishing. But some fans were just disappointed that it did not live up to what they perceive the Turtles should be like, and the mainstream movie reviews criticized the film for all sorts of contradicting reasons that made little sense to me. The movie had to appeal to long time fans, along with those who simply have fond memories of the 80's cartoon, plus the current generation of children as well as their parents. This must have been a difficult balance to reach and I doubt there would be any way to win over everyone. Clearly the movie isn't perfect and there are flaws no matter what your position is, but when it's all said and done, I say that you just have to sit back and ask yourself if you were entertained or not. I know I was!

But beyond just being entertained or having my personal fandom satisfied, I saw this movie as being more than just a new movie staring the Ninja Turtles. I see animation as a medium with unlimited potential to tell all sorts of different kinds of stories for multiple audiences. And yet over the past few years, audiences have been fed an overabundance of generic CG animated films, most of which feature the same generic plots and annoying character archetypes. TMNT does not fit into that mold. It is, essentially, an action movie that just so happens to be animated. To me, TMNT represents the first step towards a more widely accepted variety of animated films released to the mainstream. The world needs more creative animated movies that take chances and go against the popular perception of what animation should be. It's going to take awhile longer before we get there, but I can think of no better characters than the Ninja Turtles, who have a built-in fanbase that spans multiple age groups, to lead the way. A movie like AstroBoy, itself based on a beloved franchise, is a logical extension of this ideal.

As a fan of animated films and classic anime characters, it makes me happy to know that the AstroBoy movie is being handled by Imagi, who did an amazing job in capturing the spirit of the Ninja Turtles. AstroBoy is a story that is not only historically important, but also has a unique spirit of its own to be captured as well. Time will tell if the AstroBoy movie will live up to the legacy of the title character, but judging from TMNT, I am more than willing to give Imagi the benefit of the doubt.

And while I'm looking forward to AstroBoy, I'll also be hoping for another Turtles movie!


Continue reading "TMNT: One Year Later"...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Phoenix Vol. 12: Available Now

Set for release today is the English translation of the 12 and final volume of Osamu Tezuka's manga epic, Phoenix. Published by Viz, this volume features a collection of early works and short stories that can act as a supplement to the rest of the series and gives readers the unique opportunity to see how Tezuka's work developed.

You should be able to find it at your local comic or book store. You can also purchase it, plus other Tezuka manga and anime, through the AstroBoy World Store.

A multi generational tale of immortality that takes place through many different eras, Phoenix is the story that Osamu Tezuka considered to be his life's work. Though he was responsible for creating and defining so much of what we know today as anime and manga, Phoenix is may very well be the absolute best example of what he was really all about. Every manga fan should at least read a little bit of Phoenix. Plus, Tezuka fans who are familiar with many of his other works will see many familiar faces as characters from other Tezuka manga make appearances. You can read more about Phoenix here on Wikipedia.

Continue reading "Phoenix Vol. 12: Available Now"...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Artist iGoogle

Now available to Japanese iGoogle users is Artist iGoogle, where one can customize the iGoogle homepage with a background image from a Japanese artist. One of those artists is Osamu Tezuka, with artwork featuring Astro and Dr. Tenma.

Read more about it here on Imprint TALK.

Continue reading "Artist iGoogle"...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

12th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize Nominees

Anime News Network brings word of the manga up for recognition in the form of the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize this year. This is a prestigious award given to exceptional and creative works in the field of Japanese comics, and is, of course, named after the God of Manga and AstroBoy creator Osamu Tezuka.

Check out the full list of nominees here. Some of these, like Yotsuba&! (pictured), are available to English-speaking fans, and others may be available in the future, so if you are a fan of the Tezuka approach to manga, or just like reading great comics, keep your eye on these titles.

Continue reading "12th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize Nominees"...

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Made from 80 grams of gold, and featuring a natural diamond, this incredible limited edition figure is the ultimate way to prove your devotion to AstroBoy. Or to prove that you've got way too much money! Produced by Japan's Imperial Enterprise mail-order company in celebration of what would be Osamu Tezuka's 80th birthday, one of the 80 being produced can be yours for...

***Dramatic Pause***

About 9,900 $US! That's right, OVER 9000!

Read on for a closer look at what you're paying for.

I tip my hat to anybody who buys one of these. But as far as this evil genius is concerned, at that price it had better shoot freakin' laser beams!

Source: Anime News Network.

Continue reading "Astro BLING"...

Virtual Bookstore offering Tezuka Manga

If you live in Japan, and have the ability to read and, uh, buy in Japanese, then a huge library of Tezuka manga is about to be made available for you to legally download. A company called "Papyless" will be adding more than 400 of Tezuka's stories to their cataloge of digital reading material available for sale and rent.

Read on for all the info!

Manga legend Tezuka's work to go online

TOKYO (AFP) — A Japanese virtual bookstore said Wednesday it would put online the works of "Astroboy" creator Osamu Tezuka, the father of manga comics.

Papyless, which sells digital versions of books, said it was teaming up with copyright holder Tezuka Production to upload at least 448 stories from the prolific late cartoonist.

Tezuka, sometimes called Japan's Walt Disney, pioneered the country's now massive manga industry, drawing stories whose characters were often fantastical with exaggerated physical features. He died in 1989.

Papyless will offer Tezuka comics including "Astroboy," Japan's best-known comic series relating the adventures of a robot-boy in a futuristic universe.

Others works to go online will include "Black Jack," the tales of a doctor, and "New Treasure Island."

Papyless, whose website is, said in a statement it would put the works online from March 18. It will cost 105 yen, or about one dollar, to read a volume over 48 hours.

Buying the work online will cost 315 yen per volume.

Digital books have become a growing market in Japan, with several online companies teaming up with publishers to upload works of various genres. Papyless has some 80,000 titles online.

Another growing market in Japan is for novels written specifically for mobile telephones.

Half of Japan's top-selling novels last year were originally cellphone novels, which employ short phrases and "emoticon" symbols to adapt to the small screens.
Article Source: AFP

Not sure if this service will be available outside Japan. I highly doubt it, but if you're brave enough to try, post a comment and let me know how it goes!

Continue reading "Virtual Bookstore offering Tezuka Manga"...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Old Colin Brady Interview

Old concept artAwhile back, when Colin Brady was still attached to direct the upcoming animated AstroBoy movie, Imagi Animation Studios' website had a very interesting and informative interview with him where he talked about his vision of the film. Included with the interview where a few pieces of concept artwork made for the film. After David Bowers replaced Colin Brady as director, the interview went offline, and thus so did the artwork.

However, with thanks to Hikari Tail from the AstroBoy Online Forums, I can now bring you segments of the interview and the artwork that was presented alongside it. These images are now available for posterity in the Animated Movie Image Gallery, and you can also see them by clicking the link below.

Click the thumnails to view the full size images.

Colin Brady Interview
Colin Brady Interview
Colin Brady Interview

Please understand that both this interview and these images may no longer represent what the film will end up being like. I've only posted them here for posterity's sake.

Here is another interesting interview with Colin from earlier this year, though AstroBoy is not mentioned.

Continue reading "Old Colin Brady Interview"...

Monday, March 10, 2008

One Bad Storm

An unofficial Flash-based game featuring AstroBoy has been floating around the Internet.

Click below to read about it and play it for yourself.

You control AstroBoy using your arrow keys and punch asteroids using the space bar. Have fun. Eventually you get up to a large asteroid that glows hot periodically and harms you if you touch it. Just keep punching it when it cools off and you'll win. Have fun!

VMN Games - Free Games

There seems to be a way to use Astro's finger laser too. Can anyone figure it out?

This game was made by, so thanks to them.

Continue reading "One Bad Storm"...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

60's English Intro

Just to round things out...

And here are the lyrics. Sing along! Or not.

There you go Astro Boy.
On your flight into space.
Rocket high, through the sky
What adventures soon you will make.

Astro Boy bombs away
On your mission today
Here's the countdown, and a blast off
Everything is GO Astro boy.

Astro Boy as you fly,
Strange new worlds you will find
Atom sound jet propelled,
Fighting monsters high in the sky.

Astro Boy there you go
Will you fight friend or foe?
Cosmic ranger, life of danger,
Everything is GO Astro Boy.

Friends will cheer you
You're our hero
As you go go GO Astro Boy.

Thanks to Lyrics on Demand

This is much different than the Japanese one I posted last time. I wonder if there was more than one into sequence for Japan.

Interesting how the English lyrics in the 60's version are different than the 80's version, even though both versions have the same lyrics in Japanese.

Continue reading "60's English Intro"...

Friday, March 7, 2008

60's Tetsuwan Atomu Anime

Here's the Japanese intro sequence to the 60's Tetsuwan Atomu anime. This is what it's all about, folks!

You've got to admit that, considering its age, there's some pretty decent and interesting animation going on here. When the camera moves upward and the background animates accordingly is particularly impressive. These days they'd just use a computer to do that effect.

Is the 60's AstroBoy the first ever anime? I guess that depends on who you ask. It was technically not the first ever Japanese animation broadcast on TV. It was predated by an animation called Three Tales in 1960, which was 30 minuets long, and series called Otogi Manga Calendar, which had episodes that were 3-5 minuets long and aired from 1961 to 1964. But a case can still be made for AstroBoy. It was the first TV anime series to feature an actual story line with reoccurring characters, the first to have the visual aesthetic that is now identifiable as anime, and it was definitely the first to be sold and adapted internationally. It had a far greater effect on establishing the Japanese animation industry than any other series at that time.

Wikipedeia has a great entry on the history of anime here.

A few interesting facts about the 60's AstroBoy

- 193 Japanese episodes were produced. Of those, 104 were adapted into English, double the amount expected. Several episodes could not be adapted due to violence and other issues in the Japanese original that were not seen as appropriate for children's programing in America. One episode in particular was not adapted due to a character who had several posters of naked women on his walls, which would have been impossible to edit around.

- In 1975, an attempt was made to return the original prints and negatives to Mushi Productions in Japan, but the studio had gone into bankruptcy and could not afford to pay for the shipping. As a result, these materials were unfortunately destroyed. All of that history would have been gone forever, but, miraculously, some episodes wound up in the hands of collectors, and enough material survived to restore and preserve the series starting in 1989.

- in 2002, AstroBoy aired again in Japan, only this time it was the English version with Japanese subtitles!

- Fred Ladd, who handled the English adaptation of AstroBoy, came up with the idea of adding lyrics to the theme music. The Japanese producers liked this so much that lyrics were eventually added to the Japanese version, effectively creating the concept of "anime music".

As of this writing, the original AstroBoy can be seen in the United States on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim at 5:30 am on Weekdays. The entire English-dubbed series is available now on DVD from The Right Stuff.

Continue reading "60's Tetsuwan Atomu Anime"...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Stan The Man

Big news out of Japan is that a brand new manga anthology magazine will feature a collaboration between "Shaman King" creator Hiroyuki Takei and American comic book legend Stan Lee. This is, of course, very cool news, but not entirely unprecedented. Japanese pop culture and American comics have been tied together many times, from the Live Action Spider-man TV series in the 70's, Kia Asamiya's work on X-Men and his Batman manga, the upcoming Batman Gotham Knight direct to video release, and the recent Witchblade anime, to name a few instances.

In that spirit, here's a great picture of Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan meeting Osamu Tezuka! Talk about a meeting of the minds! Pretty amazing to know that they actually met.

And for good measure, here's another one of Stan and Gene meeting the awesome Go Nagai, creator of Devilman, Cutie Honey, and Mazinger Z!

These pictures come from a 1978 issue of "Foom!", apparently an in-house fan magazine from Marvel Comics. I found them on Dave Merril's blog. Hope he doesn't mind me using them here.

Continue reading "Stan The Man"...

Princess Knight Returns

Anime News Network reports that a brand new manga remake/adaptation of Tezuka's Princess Knight is on the way this spring in Japan.

Read all about all the details here

Interesting to see a new version of this story, a pioneering entry in the Shojo genre. At one point such a thing would be unheard of, as Tezuka's work was so respected that it was thought to be untouchable. But over the past few years there have been a few other manga remakes and reimaginings of classic Tezuka stories which I eventually hope to discuss here in time.

Continue reading "Princess Knight Returns"...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Freddie Highmore IS Astro

The Voice of AstroBoy has been unveild!

Freddie Highmore, the 16 year old British actor known for roles in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Finding Neverland", has been cast as AstroBoy in the upcoming 2009 CGI animated movie. He can currently be seen in "The Spiderwick Chronicles". No stranger to vocal performance, he's also lent his voice to "Arthur and the Invisibles" and "The Golden Compass".

Read the press release here.

This big news was released only a day or two before AstroBoy World was ready, but I figured since this was a major recent announcement it deserved its own post. I think Freddie is a great choice to play Astro. He's a talented young actor and I'm sure he'll bring both the childlike innocence and tough super hero qualitiy to the character. Feel free to post your own thoughts and cast speculation!

Continue reading "Freddie Highmore IS Astro"...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Birth of AstroBoy World

Well, somebody had to do it!

With an animated movie on the way, I think there needed to be a frequently updated blog-style website to keep track of all the news that will come out over the next several months. And since such a thing did not exist, I made it myself!

By why stop there? This blog is going to offer content based on and around other related topics, including the rest of Osamu Tezuka's pantheon of characters, classic anime, and more. There will be articles, pictures, looks at rare stuff, humor, and plenty of info. I like to think that this site will be entertaining and insightful to longtime fans, people who are not familiar with AstroBoy, and everyone in between.

I invite everyone to participate! If you'd like to contribute something, like a picture, article, idea, or whatever, please contact me. Don't be afraid to comment on posts too. They will be read (and quite possibly by important people too).

Not sure exactly how I'm going to find the time to do all of this, but I decided that it had to be done. It's AstroBoy, and in my mind anything done on behalf of that character will be worth it. Big time thanks to Felix Ip from Imagi for the inspiration while I was only just toying with this idea.

I'm mostly caught up with all the news that happened before AstroBoy World was set up, so let's just see what the future holds. Fingers crossed that it'll be good!


Continue reading "The Birth of AstroBoy World"...

Animated Movie Image Gallery

This post will collect as many images related to the CGI Animated AstroBoy movie as possible. It will be updated with new images as they appear, leading up to the time of the film's release.

Understand that at this point, these images may not be what the final film ends up looking like. This is just to conveniently gather all the pictures out there together in one place. As time goes on we'll be able to see how the film visually evolves.

Please do not hotlink these images on any other websites. You're free to download them and host them on your own server, but don't just copy the URL. You'll just get an anti-hotlink image from my own personal website, and thus embarrass us both. Link to this page if you want to share these images. Don't just link to the image files themselves. It won't work.

Click the thumbnails to view the full size images.

From Imagi's website.

1st full image.

Early Poster

Concept art.
Concept art

These images are segments of an interview with Colin Brady that was available to read on Imagi's website at one point. There are some images of concept art here. Colin Brady has since been replaced as director by David Bowers, and this interview is no longer accessible from Imagi's site. I'm posting these images for the sake of posterity.

Colin Brady Interview
Colin Brady Interview
Colin Brady Interview

For Imagi's job fair in Hong Kong.
Job Fair ad

This next one is, in my opinion, the greatest picture of all time.
Job Fair ad with TMNT

An early 3D model on the cover of Pipeline Magazine, Imagi's internal newsletter.


This next batch of images most likely come from Imagi's booths at US anime conventions in the summer of 2008, but I do not have any actual details. I am simply presenting them as is without speculating over what they are or if they represent the final look of the film.

Full 1

Full 2






Continue reading "Animated Movie Image Gallery"...

AstroBoy Animated Movie - What we Know

This post will contain as much information about the 2009 AstroBoy movie by Imagi as is made publicly available, and will be updated as new info comes in.

The Facts:

Production Companies:
Imagi Animation Studios
Tezuka Production Company Ltd.

Summit Entertainment

David Bowers

Timothy Harris

Maryann Garger

Executive Producers:
Francis Kao
Yoshihiro Shimizu

Animation Director:
Jakob Hjort Jensen

Astro - Freddie Highmore
Dr. Tenma - Nicolas Cage
Dr. Elefun - Bill Nighy
HamEgg - Nathan Lane
General Stone - Donald Sutherland

Eugene Levy
Scarlett Johansson
Ryan Stiles
David Alan Grier.
Kristen Bell

Release Date:
Fall 2009

The Story thus far:

September 14 2006: Shortly after their announcement of a computer animated film adaptation of the classic anime Gatchaman, Imagi Animation Studios announces yet another CG movie based on an anime, AstroBoy. Both films are scheduled for 2009.
ANN Article
Suit101 Article

March 19, 2007: Maryann Garger, formally from Dreamworks and Ardman, joins Imagi and is named producer on AstroBoy.
Suit101 Article

March 23, 2007: Imagi released heir first animated feature TMNT which would go on to obtain first place at the box office on its opening weekend.

Summer of 2007: Former ILM animator Colin Brady is named as director of AstroBoy. The earliest record I can find of his involvement is in this article.

There was, at one point, an interview with Colin Brady on Imagi's website, but it is no longer there. I have segments of this interview with some concept artwork that was presented alongside it available to view in the Animated Movie Image Gallery.

August 14, 2007: Imagi partners with Wowee Ltd., creators of "Robosapien", to distribute toys based on their Gatchaman and AstroBoy movies.

"All too often, film-licensed toys fail to live up to kids' expectations, because they fall so far short of what the kids see on the movie screen ... But in the case of Gatchaman and Astro Boy, the filmmakers are working closely with the toy designers to make toys that are as innovative and feature-rich as the films themselves."

- Imagi co-CEO and chief production officer Douglas Glen.

It seemed to be at this time that Michael Lachance, who wrote Shark Tale and Kung Fu Panda, is named as the writer of AstroBoy.

Animation Magazine Article
Press Release via Anime News Network

August 21, 2007: Pilar Flynn is named Associate Producer for AstroBoy
"Astro Boy has everything one could wish for in a superhero movie for audiences of all ages - a timeless and heartwarming story, amazing visuals and spectacular action... I am honored to become a member of the Astro Boy team."
Press Release via Anime News Network

September 27th, 2007: Imagi Animation Studios enters into global distribution agreement with Warner Bros. Pictures and The Weinstein Company for Gatchaman and AstroBoy. Poster artwork is also revealed at this time. These three companies also had an arrangement like this with TMNT.
"TMNT had the kind of beautifully choreographed action sequences you'd expect from Hong Kong animators"..."The next two films will confirm IMAGI's reputation as the world's leading action hero animation studio."

-Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Company

Press Release via Anime News Network

October 5th, 2007: Animation Director Jakob Jensen, formerly from DreamWorks, gives a great interview discussing his work on AstroBoy.
"I want to apply my DreamWorks experience and implement philosophies I learned at that company into the work flow and the pipeline of the studio in Hong Kong to make Astro Boy as empathic in the U.S. as he is in Japan"
Read it all here: Hollywood Reporter

October 8th, 2007: The first full image of Imagi's CGI AstroBoy appears online.

Source: Sandbox World
As I understand it, this was done for an internal teaser and is not 100% representative of the final look of the film.

October 23, 2007: Imagi Announces Distribution Agreement with Hot Toys for high-end collector-based Gatchaman and Astro Boy Toys.
"We are delighted by the new collaborative relationships we have formed with IMAGI, which extends our collectibles product line to CG-animated film-related characters. Many of the Hot Toys staff are long-time fans of Gatchaman and Astro Boy, including myself. With our experience in producing classic Astro Boy collectibles and other finely crafted products, the Gatchaman and Astro Boy collectibles will closely replicate the look and story line of the films"

-Howard Chan, President of Hot Toys

Press Release via Anime News Network

November 12, 2007: In an interview with First, Colin Brady discusses his thoughts on the film and gives us a glimps of some concept art.
"The challenge is to appeal to the non fans while not upsetting those who grew up with this character. Every step of the way we are including Tezuka Studios to ensure we're being respectful to one of Asia's most recognizable icons."
Source: Exclusive: AstroBoy Concept Art and Director Interview

January 24, 2008: In a surprising move, Colin Brady is replaced as AstroBoy director by David Bowers, director of "Flushed Away"

No official reason is given for the switch, but this website seems to indicate that Colin Brady left the AstroBoy project to direct a CG animated movie based on The Smurfs.

Febuary 15, 2008: Timothy Harris, veteran screen witter for movies including Twins and Kindergarten Cop, is announced to be witting AstroBoy, presumably replacing Michael Lachance.
"Astro Boy is a dream animation project. It’s a classic, as timeless as Oliver Twist, set in the most incredible futuristic world. It’s one of those stories that moves you emotionally while being funny and entertaining at the same time."
Source: Active Anime

Febuary 18, 2008: CG images of AstroBoy appear on Imagi's Job Fair Posters. Again, these images may not necessarily be what Astro will end up looking like in the final film.

Anime News Network Post
Felix Ip's Blog post

Febuary 28, 2008: AstroBoy now has a voice! 16 year old British actor Freddie Highmore, seen in films like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles", will be performing Astro's voice in the movie.
"It's terrific that Freddie has agreed to play Astro. He's a remarkably skilled young actor, whose freshness and vitality make him perfect for the role. AstroBoy is a beloved superhero and has captured hearts around the globe for more than 50 years. I can't wait to see where Freddie takes him."

- Director David Bowers

Anime News Network Link Link

June 16, 2008: Via press release, several more actors have been announced as joining the cast. They are Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy and Eugene Levy. No word at this point as to who these actors will be playing.

Interestingly enough, this press release comes from Summit Entertainment, and in addition to announcing these actors, it says that Summit will be distributing the film worldwide, except in Japan, Hong Kong and China. No mention is made of the previously announced collaboration with Warner Bros. or The Weinstein Company
"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."

-Douglas Glen, CEO of IMAGI Studios

Source: Press release at Anime News Network

June 18, 2008: I have personally been able to confirm that the announcement regarding Summit Entertainment distributing the Astro Boy movie does in fact mean that neither Warner Bros. or The Weinstein Company are involved in the film any longer. This comes from Imagi Creative Director Felix Ip who said:
This is not a new deal separated from the Warners/Weinsteins deal, this is a replacement.
Source: Felix Ip's Blog

June 25, 2008: While there hasn't been a big, formal announcement, all signs point to Scarlett Johansson joining the cast.
Source: Collider

July 3-6, 2008: Imagi and Summit Entertainment had a booth set up at Anime Expo in Los Angeles. Director David Bowers and Producer Maryann Garger gave interviews, and plenty of new information on the film was revealed. Check out the Anime Expo 2008 Wrap-up for all the details.

August 25, 2008: Heroes and Veronica Mars actress Kristen Bell is announced to have joined the cast.

Source: Variety

More as it develops.

Continue reading "AstroBoy Animated Movie - What we Know"...


This page will be as comprehensive a collection as possible of websites related to AstroBoy, Osamu Tezuka, and other related topics. Keep in mind that some of these sites may be old and no longer updated, and thus may have out-of-date or incorrect information. This post will be updated as new sites come and go, so please contact me or leave a comment if you know of any other links that should be up here.

Official Sites
Osamu Tezuka World - A must-visit for all fans!
Official AstroBoy site - In Japanese
Imagi - Studio behind new CGI AstroBoy movie.
Right Stuff - AstroBoy - 60's series DVD site.
Manga Entertainment - AstroBoy - 80's series DVD listing with video.
Sony Pictures - Official 2003 DVD site
Manga - AstroBoy Subsite - From 2002 VHS release.
Madman - AstroBoy - Australian DVD site
BBC - AstroBoy - Downloads, games, and more fun stuff from 2003 series.

Reference Sites AstroBoy 2003 site
Absolute Anime AstroBoy site - Osamu Tezuka - AstroBoy

Fan Sites
Tezuka in English - AWESOME, must visit site!
Tezuka site - Excellent info here.
AstroBoy Online - Premiere Astro fan site with focus on 80's series. - 60's Episode Guide
Toby Project - 80's fan site.

Anime, Comic Book, and Movie News Sites
IMDB - Movie - 60's - 80's - 2003 - Tezuka
Toon Zone
Anime News Network
Super Hero Hype
Coming Soon
Ain't it Cool
Animation World Network
Comic Book Movie
First Showing

Anime and Japan Blogs
Felix Ip's Blog
Let's Anime
An Eternal Thought in the Mind of Godzilla
Anime Hell
Japan Sugoi
Destroy Tokyo
Robot Japan

Continue reading "Links"...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

What's so Great about AstroBoy?

So, why is it that, after 50 years, people still talk about this little atomic robot kid?

There is an easy answer to that, and it has a lot to do with history. Anime is many things, but one thing it is not is new. It has an incredibly rich, deep, and in my opinion, fascinating history. The international popularity of anime has certainly grown exponentially in recent years, but it didn't happen overnight. Depending on what your definition of the word "anime" is, you could say that the Japanese "Tetsuwan Atomu" (Mighty Atom) was the first anime series ever. It was definitely the first anime to be translated and marketed outside of Japan, which definitely played a significant part in the development of anime as both an art form and a business venture. So, whether we're talking about pioneering anime in its home country, or being the first anime to be enjoyed all over the world, AstroBoy ushered in the era of Japanese animation on both sides of the ocean. He absolutely belongs on the first page of the first chapter in the book of anime history.

But is this history enough of a reason to keep AstroBoy around?

No, it's not just that he's the first that makes AstroBoy great. It's that he's great that makes him so great!

So now, the question is what's so great about AstroBoy?

On the surface, AstroBoy looks like an innocent diversionary tale for children about a doe-eyed robot boy who fights against bad guys. Go deeper and you'll find that it's anything but just a simple kids' story. AstroBoy deals with big, important issues. Civil rights, racism, man vs. technology, science vs morality, war, and death are all topics that are dealt with. That's some pretty heavy stuff! Yet these things are all brought to light in ways that are accessible to everyone without sacrificing any of the action or excitement. What's most amazing is that these complex and often dark subjects never compromise the positive and uplifting nature of the main character.

AstroBoy is a good guy, through and through. What makes him interesting is that he represents all that is good about humanity, and yet he is not human. He's loaded with weapons, but only fights for peace. Even in incredibly complicated situations, he is so moral and pure, often to a naive degree, and he always does the right thing despite not always understanding why. He's such a a truly heroic character that even the most jaded of individual can't help but to cheer for the little guy.

There are story elements in AstroBoy that are just as socially and culturally relevant today then they were when they were first written. That's a big reason why AstroBoy will never really go away. The level of depth to the story of this Mighty Atom has certainly been influential on other creators who gone on to create stories of their own. This is often what sets Japanese animation and comics apart from the rest of the world and makes them special, and AstroBoy helped to set that standard for quality of storytelling. It helped to make what we know as modern day manga and anime what they are. Even as technology continues to catch up with imagination, and even as new characters and new franchises are introduced to new fans, there will always be something to learn from that kid robot who started his adventures half a century ago.

So, as important as it is to acknowledge AstroBoy as the forerunner to the anime phenomenon, it isn't fair to him to stick him in the front just because he was the first. He deserves to be there! He's not just some cute character who happened to star in an old show and comic. He's an amazing character who is part of a complex and imaginative story with far reaching implications to our own lives. He's been on a wide array of exciting and imaginative adventures. He's raised questions about the the role of technology and what it means to be human. He's a symbol for everything that anime stands for as a valid form of expression and entertainment. And, above all, he's a fun character who makes people happy worldwide. That, my friends, is why AstroBoy is so great.

Plus, he shoots lasers out of his fingers. How cool is that?


Continue reading "What's so Great about AstroBoy?"...

About Osamu Tezuka.

You might not realize this, but if you enjoy anime and manga, and would go so far as to label yourself a fan, then there is one man who you would have to thank for that. Osamu Tezuka is The God of Manga, and so much of the Japanese landscape encompassing animation, comic books, and all of popular culture, was built upon his legacy.

Born in 1928, Tezuka took to drawing manga at a very young age. His first published works caused a sensation in post World War II Japanese society. Taking influence from European films that he enjoyed and American cartoons including Felix the Cat, Tezuka's works revolutionized the way manga should look. Not only does much of what people consider to be a manga-style looking artwork originate from his drawings, but also the dynamic and cinematic nature of manga storytelling. He didn't talk down to his audience and endowed his manga with richly developed characters in complex situations.

Over the course of his career, Tezuka drew comics from every conceivable genre. From science fiction, historical drama, mysteries, romance, stories for kids, stories for adults, and stories for everyone. Besides AstroBoy, some of his most popular and well known works include the renegade surgeon Black Jack, the female super hero Princess Knight, Kimba the White Lion, and the epic Phoenix, to name but a few. His work was so prolific and expansive that every manga artist that has come since has been influenced by Tezuka in some way. All told, his life's work is comprised of over 700 manga and 150,000 pages. Plus, even with all of that on his plate, he also worked extensively on anime, did public speaking, and made experimental short animated films.

Yet, even taking into account the quality, creativity, influence, diversity, and sheer volume of his work, if you ask me, the most amazing thing about Osamu Tezuka is that he was a fully licensed doctor! He went to medical school and graduated, but by that time he was already succsessful as a manga artist, so he never actually practiced medicine. Instead he made the choice to concentrate on his career in manga. To make such a decision at that time was unheard of. As an artist myself, this means the world to me, because it shows how drawing comic books can be just as valid of a profession as any other. Tezuka loved the Earth, and used the art of manga as a way of understanding humanity and expressing how he felt people should live. With that in mind, it doesn't take a very large stretch of the imagination to see how he touched the lives of far more people in a positive way as an artist than he ever would have had he worked full time as a doctor.

Osamu Tezuka passed away in 1989, but his work will live forever. There will always be new adaptations of his classic stories, new artists continuing his tradition, and new fans discovering Tezuka for the first time. As manga, anime, and other aspects of Japan's pop culture continue to gain awareness and popularity around the globe, let's not forget about the man who started it all, because without him, it just wouldn't be the same.

Besides, even after all these years, his stuff is still awesome! Luckily, it's much easier for English speakers to get a hold of his work nowadays, and AstroBoy World is going to be a big part of that. So give it a try, you won't be sorry!

Here are some links to more info about Tezuka.

- Wikipedia Entry
- Entry
- Anime Encyclopedia Entry
- Japan Zone Entry
- Anime News Network Entry
- Osamu Tezuka World
- Tezuka in English


Continue reading "About Osamu Tezuka."...

Who is Ninjatron?

Hey everyone. I'm running the show around here. My name's Dylan. G., and around the Internet I go by Ninjatron. I'm from Toronto Ontario Canada. This is just going to be a little post for those who are interested to show who I am and why I do what I do.

I love anime, manga, comic books, cartoons, video games, monster movies, toys, and pretty much anything else cool like that.

I'm an artist looking for my big break. I like working in anime style and digitally coloring in Photoshop, but I also consider myself pretty versatile. I hoping to get into the comic book business soon, but eventually my goal is to tell my own stories with my own characters and someday see them realized in animation.

You can check out my personal website for more about me. I've got artwork, articles, music, my blog, and a whole lot more crazy stuff.
For more artwork, you can look at my deviantART account.

I do often accept commissions and if you're interested in getting some custom artwork made, please check out my commission page.

Ninjatron's Commissions
I'm a big Transformers fan. Shortly before the release of the 2007 Transformers movie, I was interviewed by the Associated Press for an article about Transformers fans. In 2006 and 2007 I drew an 8 page comic that was included with the convention program at TransformersCon, the Canadian Transformers convention in Toronto.

For many years I worked as a teacher, giving lessons about how to draw anime and manga to students of all ages on weekends and after school. As part of my lessons I would make sure that everyone learned a little bit about the history of anime, and how important it is for artists to learn about Osamu Tezuka and other important creators. It was at these points where I would often be pleasantly surprised at how many students, some of them being really young kids, already knew and loved AstroBoy. Unfortunately, there wasn't always a lot of easily obtainable information out there, especially for youngsters, and so many of them only knew of the character through reputation. I took it as an honor to be able to show them some of what the history and culture of anime and how it relates to what they like now.

In 2002 I had the fortune of briefly meeting Mr. Takayuki Matsutani, President of Tezuka Productions, while he was in Toronto as an invited guest at the Anime North convention. He participated in a ceremony honoring Osamu Tezuka for his contributions to anime, and exhibited a number of rare animations, and answered questions from the audience. I made sure I took the opportunity to talk with him about how important it was to me to share Tezuka's work with my students. He was very friendly and gracious, so I was surprised to find out much later that he's considered to be a very ruthless businessman! He even gave me his business card, which I somehow stupidly lost.

Mr Matsutani and Ninjatron
As an anime fan and artist, I think it's imperative to learn about the works of Osamu Tezuka. I grew up with the 80's AstroBoy series, and it was probably the first anime I ever saw. But as I got older and delved further and further into the vast scope of anime for the sake of my own artwork, I understood and appreciated AstroBoy so much more. Now I use this character as a personal source of inspiration. That said, Astro isn't my most favorite of Tezuka's characters. No, that distinction goes to Black Jack. What can I say? I just relate better to the quiet bad ass characters!

I like to think that I know my stuff, but I'm not really in any position of authority. I'm just another regular fan who's happy to spend some time and share some knowledge and enthusiasm about AstroBoy and other related topics. Please feel free to talk to me by leaving a comment here on AstroBoy World, or by sending me an email via the contact heading on the right side of this blog.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the site and please let me know what you think!


Continue reading "Who is Ninjatron?"...