More Astro Boy Updates, Comic-Con Details

The Astro Boy website has been updated with six new images and an interactive timeline from the upcoming CG-animated feature film, due out Oct. 23.

The timeline covers the history of the character from his near-60 years of history.

The film, which was spotlighted in a panel last week at Comic-Con in San Diego, reflects the global appeal of the iconic Japanese character, being produced by Imagi Studios with bases in both Hong-Kong and the United States, featuring mostly British and American actors, such as Freddie Highmore as Astro, and being directed by Englishman David Bowers (Flushed Away).

Bowers said during a post-panel interview at the Con that he’s not worried that the film will lose any of the original charm or impact of the Japanese original in the translation. ‘I was worried about that, but to make sure we didn’t, I’ve been working very closely with Macoto Tezka, who’s Tezuka’s son, and he really looks after his father’s estate,’ says Bowers, who formerly worked at Aardman and directed the feature film Flushed Away. ‘He’s a filmmaker himself and a really creative guy ‘ and he’s had quite a few notes to give along the way in terms of design, in terms of the cultural differences. But he’s very happy with the movie. I’m not worried.’

Astro Boy is the kind of iconic character that can stand up to different interpretations, much like another favorite of his, Batman. ‘When I was a kid growing up I was watching the Adam West Batman on TV, and I loved it, and I love The Dark Knight last year and they’re both still Batman,’ he says. ‘Classic characters can stand a little reinterpretation and we haven’t done that much reinterpretation in this movie.’

‘When I first went to Japan, I passed Astro Boy stores and Astro Boy memorabilia everywhere and the excitement they have in Japan, I just really want to be able to bring that to the world,’ Highmore says.

Highmore, who starred in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, says the character has universal appeal. ‘I think that we can all relate to him. We can all see how he could become Astro Boy. Definitely, it’s there in their film and the manga that he comes from a boy and Dr. Tenma want s to recreate his son,’ he says. ‘I think kids are instantly attracted to that idea.’

Actress Kristen Bell, who’s best known for her roles as Veronica Mars and on Heroes, says her character, Cora, is a new addition to the Astro Boy canon that she describes as a combination of Wendy and Peter Pan.

‘She has a very tough exterior. She’s taken on the maternal role for this group of kids that lives on the surface of the Earth,’ she says. ‘And she cares a lot about these kids and tries to be as protective and tough as possible. But inside she’s really a kid and I thought that was really interesting ‘ that she’s got a lot of layers and shows them in the movie.’

Being a new addition to a beloved franchise brings a certain amount of pressure, Bell admits. ‘I would imagine that Freddie feels a lot of pressure playing Astro to please people that ‘know Astro Boy,’ she says. ‘I have a minor amount of pressure in hoping that people like Cora and how she interacts with him and that she fits into his world and his storyline. But I think it was just well written from the beginning, and you’re able to understand exactly where she’s coming from and why she’s there to make the story better. So I just hope people like it.’

Producer Maryann Garger said it was invigorating for the producers to see an audience react to the clips. ‘There’s jokes that we stopped laughing at a year ago that we forgot were funny,’ she say. ‘And to see it with 2,000 people and to see them laugh, it just reminds me of all those little moments. It gave me a whole different experience.’