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August 22, 2014

Original anime TV series Astro Boy evolves into movie, game

by John Scott Lewinski, posted Oct 14th 2009 8:04AM
Astro Boy posterBefore Speed Racer offered an anime slant to Saturday morning cartoons in the 1970s, and before G-Force or Voltron made kids rush home from school in the 1980s, there was Astro Boy.

Widely considered the original manga comic, Astro Boy was conceived and written by the recognized pioneer of the genre, Osamu Tezuka in 1952.

From the franchise's diminutive launch pad, the endless chain TV anime franchises took flight. Without Tezuka's creation, there's no Lupin III, no Golgo 13, no Ghost in the Machine, no Cowboy Bebop, etc. The strange thing is, some of those TV shows from different eras pack more U.S. pop culture recognition than the franchise that set the table.

Now, Astro Boy is getting his shot at the big time with a new animated feature arriving October 23 from Summit Pictures and Imagi. Featuring a heavyweight voice case including Charlize Theron, Nicholas Cage, Kristen Bell, Eugene Levy, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy and Donald Sutherland, the movie hopes to jump from cult fanboy status to general audience hit.

Of course, in the grand age of cross-genre synchronicity, a DVD release and video game title lead the march of other product tie-ins. Cameron Rains, a producer with High Voltage Software headed up the game project and brings an educated perspective to the importance of TV's oldest Japan-i-mation show.

"From a historical perspective, other franchises like Speed Racer don't even come close," Rains said. "Not when you consider it came from the master -- Tezuka."

"There is a level of accessibility and charm to Astro Boy that really resonates with fans from the west. Besides the cutesy art style of the manga/anime, the tirelessly selfless heroics of Astro have proven an ideal and a pillar for the character which fans can really gravitate to."

"In Astro Boy, good always wins. That's how we like it."

The film tells the story of the heroic tike, Astro -- an android boy created to replace a son lost long before his time (sort of a Japanese take on Pinocchio). In the film version, the boy discovers his robot powers and fights evil -- because that's what little boy super robots do.

"From beginning to end, working with this character and this film property has been amazing. Astro makes for one of the best protagonists ever. He is super powerful and has amazingly fun abilities to perform and perfect."

Of course, Speed Racer didn't fare well in its attempt to transition to the mainstream, but Rains and his cohorts at Imagi and High Voltage are hoping Astro Boy's youthful charms play better to an American audience -- and especially kids.

"There are a lot of reasons for Astro Boy to take root and really accelerate here in the US," he said. "My hope is to be here in a few years talking to you about a return to TV, the next movie and the next game."

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