Sunday, March 2, 2008

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.


Ninjatron said...

Far be it for me to use this blog to editorialize, but...

Come on Colin, the SMURFS? Don't tell me he'd rather work on Smurfs than AstroBoy? UGH!


Anonymous said...

Well, the guy was probably let go for some reason, it's just not mentioned cause that's bad press. He managed to get another job, good for him and we shouldn't just assume he left under his own decision.

Ninjatron said...

True enough. The link to the article I posted made it sound as if Brady had left Astro for Smurfs, but we have no idea if that was the case exactly. There are any number of reasons why he's no longer attached to the project. We'll likely never know exactly why and it's probably none of our business anyway. This sort of thing happens on movies all the time. In fact it just happened again on Gatchaman, with the director Kevin Munroe now set to be directing a live action movie starring Brandon Routh instead.

But still, if it was a case of him leaving Astro in favor of Smurfs... well then that's pretty lame. I hope that's not the case but if it is then I'm glad because someone who would rather work on Smurfs shouldn't be making a movie about Astro Boy in the first place.

Guy said...

Prior to last month I had not heard the news of the 2009 release of the Astro Boy film. That is, not until I met George Takei (Sulu from Star Trek TOS) at a Trek convention in Baltimore. (I had, however, been aware of the project's many problems getting off the ground since it was originally announced nearly 10 years ago.) The day I met Mr. Takei I was wearing an Astro Boy shirt and I wondered if he would comment on it. When I stepped up he saw my shirt and enthusiastically exclaimed "Astro Boy! You know, they're doing an Astro Boy movie?" I answered "Yes, I've heard this for years. I'm afraid it will never happen." Mr. Takei replied "Well, it's going to happen soon because I just did a voice part for it!" BOY, was I thrilled! Not only was I meeting George Takei but he was telling me that my childhood hero was indeed coming soon to a theater near me! Thank you, Mr. Sulu! (I've not yet seen his name on the IMDB or in any of the Astro Boy movie articles. I hope they don't cut his part. I wish I'd have thought to ask him which character he voiced.)

Ninjatron said...

Wow, thanks Guy for that awesome piece of news! That is quite a scoop!


Anonymous said...

In the current Anime Insider magazine (#60 Sept) there is a nice article on the Astro Boy film. No new news in the article but several pictures. Guy