Thursday, December 31, 2009

Astro Notebooks

Nervous about the new year? Do you know what you need to make 2010 the best it can be?

Clearly, you need Astro Boy Notebooks and binder covers!

This will obviously solve all of your problems!

See more at Japanistic.

Astro says not to forget any appointment no matter what happens. I suggest you listen to him!

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Japanese Astro Boy Movie Premium DVD

Set for release in Japan on April 2, 2010 (just in time for Astro's birthday), this limited edition on the Atom movie on DVD includes an amazing amount of extra content that is likely to make international fans quite jealous! It's got a poster, artbook, CD-Rom, memory card, and more! Take a look.

CDJapan lists the special features and included bonus items here.

Premium Box set includes bonus disc with character design & art, virtual tour "Welcome to Metro City" with Freddie Highmore, voice cast interview, unreleased scene, "Let's be ATOM!," image gallery, and anecdote about remaking characters plus microSD features the film, motion manga "Atomu Tanjo" originally written by Osamu Tezuka, over 80-page setting guide, ATOM design drawing, bookmark, CD-ROM with storyboard, and silk screen postcard.
There is only one word that truly describes my feelings towards this release: WANT!

This Japanese DVD contains both the English and Japanese language audio tracks, but does not contain subtitles. Of course, this is a Region 2 DVD, so it does not play on North American DVD players, although there are ways around that. It's a limited edition and it's not likely to be around for long, so order now if you're interested! Information on the Japanese Standard DVD and Blu-Ray is also available.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

2009 Trailer Mashup

Happy Holidays everyone!

To look back and celebrate the passing of this very eventfully year, I'm posting this excellent video I found made from bits of the years' movie trailers. Astro Boy is featured quite prominently!


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The Iron Giant Project

The animated film "The Iron Giant" is one of my most favorite movies of all time. It's a must see for, well, pretty much everybody. If you have not seen it I would strongly suggest you fix that right away!

When I caught word of an art show called The Iron Giant Project, dedicated to artwork inspired by the movie, I knew I had to submit a piece. Since I always felt that the Giant should be considered among the greats of pop culture robots, I figured that would be my concept. There was no better way for me to get that point across than to have him interacting with another famous robot. I didn't have as much time to finish as I would have liked, so it's a bit rushed, but this is what I came up with.

Astro Boy and The Iron Giant by ~ninjatron on deviantART

They would be good friends, don't you think?

Apparently this was on display at The Labyrinth here in Toronto through the month of November, but I never made my way over there to check it out.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who is the Anti-Astro?

Ok, here's an interesting question for everyone.

In the entire scope of anime, excluding Tezuka's own properties, who is the one evil character that you would like to see fight Astro Boy? What character would match up well against Astro and act as a counter-point or rival to him? Who is the Anti-Astro?

It could be an evil robot, an evil kid, an evil kid robot, a monster, or pretty much anything else, as long as it's from the world of anime and might make a good opponent for Astro. Classic anime is preferred but not necessary (no Pokemon, Digimon, or video game characters please). True villains only, no anti-heroes.

If you've been following what I've been up to, then you know why I'm asking this question. I'm in a bit of a bind and could use some help. Make your suggestions in the comments below!

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Tezuka Chess

Saw this interesting piece of Tezuka Merchandise today on Helen McCarthy's Blog. It's a Tezuka Themed Chess Set!

Osamu Tezuka's famous characters take the place of the different chess pieces. Clearly some thought went into the character selection here.

I did a little digging and discovered that not only is this set available internationally, it's quite reasonably priced at under $40 US. See for yourself at Gifts Bazaar. This would certainly make a great holiday present for the chess playing anime fan in your life!

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Lay Offs at Imagi

Very unfortunate news out of Imagi Studios in Hong Kong.

100 out of the 400 member staff have been laid off, most of which were animators. Anime News Network has the story, and Imagi's own Felix Ip mentions it in a recent blog post.

What Imagi has been trying to do, as evident by TMNT and the Astro Boy movie, is very ambitious. They are going against the grain and making action-packed animated features with superhero themes. It will take awhile for the tide of public opinion from the general movie-going audience to turn and start embracing these kinds of films as much as they seem to like the latest Shrek-derived animated comedies that become so popular. But I believe that it is important to find a way to make it work.

My thoughts are with the employees effected. They are a talented bunch at Imagi and I am sure those who are now gone from the company will land on their feet. To those who remain, I implore you all to not lose your momentum and keep fighting the good fight!

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Toon Boom Goes Global

Variety has a new article about animated films released this year, with a focus on the films produced outside the US, including Imagi's Astro Boy. It has some of its facts wrong (Imagi has an office in Japan, but isn't based there), and I don't agree with everything it says, but it is an interesting read, especially regarding the challenges foreign animated movies have faced in getting North American audiences to watch. However, in spite of recent box office disappointments, more animation will be finding its way to the big screen for quite some time.

You can read Toon Boom Goes Global on or by clicking the link below for an archived version.

Toon boom goes global
Animation a sensation at '09 box office

When it comes to the box office, animated films couldn't be a bigger draw.

This year alone, toon fans helped five pics earn more than $100 million in the U.S., with Disney's "Up" floating close to the $300 million mark and DreamWorks Animation's "Monsters vs. Aliens" and Fox's "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" scaring up nearly $200 million each.

That kind of coin has encouraged producers to as many animated projects as they can afford into production. Many of those films aren't being made in the U.S., but overseas, in territories where much of the physical work on Hollywood's animated films already takes place.

A toon boom is underway in Europe and Asia, with studios there ponying up big bucks to produce animated family fare that's carefully crafted for American audiences -- boasting appealing characters, high-end computer-generated visuals and packed with pop culture references.

Yet despite recent disappointments like "Astro Boy" and "Planet 51," and "Igor" and "Valiant" before that, foreign toon shops are continuing their attempts to break into the U.S. market.

In the past, toons produced in those territories were expected to play only for local audiences, and were made for around $20 million to $40 million, with budgets financed with state funding.

But a greater focus on making animated films that can attract attention from U.S. distributors is upping pricetags considerably, and luring outside financing.

"Planet 51," a CG-animated toon made in Spain and released by Sony on an impressive 3,500 screens, was produced for $70 million, while "Astro Boy," from Japanese toon shop Imagi Studios, and distribbed by Summit Entertainment, was backed by more than $60 million in financing.

"Normally in Europe, we make a movie which succeeds there, and then jumps to the U.S.," says "Planet 51" producer Ignacio Perez Dolset.

Yet on "Planet 51," producers always had the U.S. in mind, with Handmade Films, which handles international sales, locking down distribution in the U.S. before its home territory, Spain, sold.

Funding for that film came from deep-pocketed Zed, a Madrid-based developer of entertainment for mobile phone operators around the world. "Planet 51"-helmer Jorge Blanco and Dolset had cut their teeth on creating videogames at Pyro Studios before moving over to Ilion Studios to make their alien tale.

The distribution rights for films like "Planet 51" aren't considered too risky for studios.

If the films find an audience, that's a boost to the bottomline of a distributor looking to fill their slates with B.O.-friendly family fare. If they don't, the production entity takes most of the hit.

"Hollywood financing and production levels are hurting," Perez Dolset says. "Cost consciousness means Hollywood will be far readier in the future to look around the world looking for films which offer larger value for money."

Looking for that kind of return, Universal Music Group struck a partnership with StudioCanal at the Cannes Film Festival to pick up the U.S. theatrical, DVD, TV and non-theatrical rights to the $25 million pic "Around the World in 50 Years," the second 3-D feature from Belgium's Ben Stassen ("Fly Me to the Moon").

But what's also gotten Hollywood increasingly interested in foreign-made and financed toons is the fact that more studio titles are already being drawn by animators in other countries, with Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" produced from Paris and lensed at East London's Three Mills Studios, where Tim Burton made "The Corpse Bride."

Elsewhere, Paris-based Mac Guff is currently working on Chris Meledandri's "Despicable Me," his first animated feature for Universal Pictures, meanwhile Relativity Media's "The Tale of Despereaux" was created at Framestore's London premises.

The more high-profile toons made abroad also boast talent studios already work with:

n While Perez Dolset and Blanco came up with the idea for "Planet 51," they drafted "Shrek" co-scribe Joe Stillman to develop the film and give it an American pop culture sensibility.

n Antonio Banderas is producing "Goleor, the Scale and the Sword," a $33 million-fantasy epic, in pre-production at Granada's Kandor Moon in Spain.

n Italy's Rainbow Studios is behind the $30 million gladiator spoof "Versus Roma," for which it has recruited "Shark Tale" and "Ice Age" scribe Michael J. Wilson. The 3-D toon is touted as Italy's first full-fledged attempt to craft a global hit toon.

n In France, John Boorman is directing the $25 million-budgeted "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," produced by Laurent Rodon and Claude Gorsky of Films Action, and Boorman's longtime associate Kieran Corrigan. Pic is co-financed by SND.

n And France's EuropaCorp, owned by Luc Besson, has also ponied up $42 million for "A Monster in Paris," skedded for a 2011 release, that "Shark Tale" co-director Bibo Bergeron is helming.

EuropaCorp, like the U.K.'s Aardman, is investing more than $40 million per pic after recent B.O. successes.

After earning $108 million worldwide from "Arthur and the Invisibles," in 2006, EuropaCorp committed to release at least one toon per year around the world. The company has the second part of its "Arthur" trilogy, helmed by Besson, out this month, backed by a sizeable $95 million budget. The $102 million "Arthur and the Two World Wars" opens next year.

Whether those will appeal to U.S. auds is still up in the air. The first "Arthur" earned just $15 million in the U.S.

Producers are still trying to figure out what gets lost in translation when foreign toons unspool Stateside.

Despite their big budgets, "Planet 51," has earned $30 million since Nov. 20, while "Astro Boy" has earned just $19 million domestically since its release Oct. 23.

That's despite a built-in nostalgia factor for "Astro Boy," with the TV show from the 1960s, Happy Meal toys at McDonald's and heavy promotion at Comic-Con over the last two years.

Both pics are now starting to roll out overseas, which could help them recoup some, if not all of their production costs, but the fact that they failed to strike it big at the box office is vexing to distributors, who thought that the combination of ambitious production values and American tastes would boost their prospects.

Not all Stateside firms produce animated blockbusters either. Independent animated films can be challenging, like "Delgo," distributed by Freestyle Releasing last year, which earned just $695,000. Focus Features' "9" has fared better, with nearly $32 million.

However, "Delgo," was maligned by critics, and "9" was darker than most other family toons, and marketed more to an adult audience who wanted to see an edgier take on traditional toons produced by Tim Burton.

But in the case of "Planet 51" and "Astro Boy," the films were marketed to younger kids. They were sold as big-budget studio films boasting well-known voice talent like Dwayne (formerly The Rock) Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Jessica Biel and Kristen Bell.

More importantly for moviegoers, they featured impressive visuals, with the rubbery looking aliens in "Planet 51" looking like they'd fit easily within DreamWorks' "Monsters vs. Aliens" and "Astro Boy's" stunning visuals coming as close to a Pixar production as you can get.

While both of their campaigns were clear to keep the films' foreign origins to themselves -- "Planet 51" even got the backing of NASA in order to help hide that fact -- something obviously got lost in translation.

Previous films like "Valiant" or "Igor" didn't attract audiences because they were considered too "European" or "fell short in production values," says "Planet 51" producer Perez Dolset. Others attribute their disappointing performances to the size of their marketing efforts in the U.S.

In the case of "Planet 51," the look of the character and the film overall may have been creatively crafted to reference other pics that have worked before like "Star Wars," "E.T.," "Alien," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," and "2001," making it difficult for it to stand out on its own. It was hard for reviewers not to mention the resemblances to those films.

As for "Astro Boy," the disinterest in the kid robot can be chalked up to the same reason "Speed Racer" didn't take off with moviegoers: Just because a property was popular in the '60s doesn't mean it's still cool with consumers today. Nostalgia doesn't always mint money in the U.S., especially when the aging property was originally born overseas.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Astro Netbook Spotted on Video

Hey, remember that limited edition Astro Boy themed netbook computer from Taiwan? Here's a video of it, along with a good look at the included accessories from a recent computing expo.

The price is set at a rather high the equivalent of $900 US. Ouch! For that much money it had better be powered with real working blue core! Still, the unit and all the stuff that goes with it sure is cool, especially the tin case!

Source: Netbook News

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Stan Sakai meets Astro

Found this great picture recently on the blog of Stan Sakai, creator of that world famous samurai rabbit, Usagi Yojimbo. Here's Stan with Astro and Uran at the Tezuka Museum in Takarazuka about 11 years ago.

You can see the original post here.

Of course, Usagi is an awesome character and The Art of Usagi Yojimbo is one of my most favorite books about comics I've got in my collection.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Astro and the Annie Awards

The Annie Awards, the awards dedicated to the best in the field of animation, have announced the nominees for next year's ceremony. The Astro Boy movie by Imagi has been nominated for 2 awards! The categories and individuals nominated are:

Writing in a Feature Film Production: Timothy Hyde Harris and David Bowers – “Astro Boy” – Imagi Studios

Storyboarding for a feature film production: Sharon Bridgeman “Astro Boy” – Imagi Studios
Congratulations to the nominees for these much deserved accolades! You can read the entire list of nominees in all categories here.

The 2010 Annie Awards take place on Feburary 6 at the UCLA Royce Hall in Los Angeles. We'll all be pulling for our boy Astro! Thanks to Lou C. for the info!

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Weekly Astro Boy Magazine now in Canada!

Rejoice, Canadian iPhone and iPod Touch users. Now, the free preview of Weekly Astro Boy Magazine, along with the complete first and second volumes, are now officially available to both users in the US and Canada.

If you own a compatible device, please try it out and let everyone know how you like it by posting a comment below.

European fans, don't despair too much. Word has it that Weekly Astro Boy Magazine should be available in Europe some time in 2010.

You can keep up to date with all the happening regarding this innovative way of sharing the manga of Osamu Tezuka by following Astro Boy Magazine on Twitter.

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