I have found that kids today, and even some adults, assume that movies released here in the United States originated here and the characters are introduced at the time they are released at the local theater. The fact is however, that most movies are based on characters that existed long before the movie was even dreamed of. Astro Boy, released October 2009 and releasing on DVD March 16 is one such movie.
Astro Boy has its origins way back in the 1950s. A Japanese man created the story and drew it in a style that is now known as anime. As a matter of fact, Astro Boy has the distinction of being the first cartoon to be drawn in this style, which has become hugely popular both in Asian communities and, more recently, the United States. It’s hallmark is the large eyes and round faces which give the characters a child-like appearance. The evil characters, or bad guys are usually seen with their eyes mostly closed, almost squinting which gives them the look of someone who can’t be trusted.
The story is based in the near future where humans and robots live together in relative harmony. After loosing his son in a car accident, a scientist creates Astro Boy to replace him. Soon he realizes that the robot simply does not fill the hole in his heart and he rejects his creation, selling him to a cruel circus owner where he is discovered by another man who takes him and loves him as his own. After realizing the boy has special powers, the crime fighting begins. Astro Boy is seen in the series fighting robot hating humans, evil robots and aliens.
The character is an icon in Japan, much like Bugs Bunny and Superman are here in the United States. It has spawned numerous shows, both animated and live action as well as a popular series. In 1962, MBS released a 75 minute live-action movie, a compilation film made up of episodes from the 1959-60 live-action TV series that came before the 1960s animated television series and which loosely followed the story. There was also an iMAX feature length movie released in 2004 but it has only been shown in Japan.
The English version is an adaptation of the original. While retaining all of the art work, some names had to be changed because they did not translate well into the English language. However, those that could reasonably be left were. When Astro Boy was published in the United States in 2002, the editors decided not to remove any of the content, including many descriptions of African and South American cultures that, today, can be considered racial discrimination. The main reason given by the editors was that since the original creator is dead, it would violate his right as a creator. At the same time however, the story was changed slightly in that Astro Boy is never sold to the circus and is cared for by the scientist that created him.
The movie, all CGI, will be available on DVD March 16, 2010.