Steamboy Chugs Toward U.S. Release

Katsuhiro Otomo’s new anime feature, Steamboy, has landed a U.S. release date. Sony Pictures will give the retro sci-fi epic a theatrical run beginning March 18, 2005. The critically acclaimed pic is Otomo’s first feature-length effort since directing Akira, widely considered the best anime movie ever made.

Steamboy tells the story of a 19th-Century London-based inventor named Rei, who receives a mysterious invention from his grandfather in America on the eve of the first World Expo. A metal ball containing a new form of energy capable of powering an entire nation promises to change the age of steam, but it can also help Rei fight evil, redeem his family and save London from destruction.

Otomo and crew blended traditional animation with digital technology, building the film with more than 180,000 drawings and approximately 400 CG cuts. Budgeted at $20 million, Steamboy is one of the most expensive anime features ever made. Financial problems plagued the production, which has been nearly 10 years in the making. It was released in Japan on July 17.

Steamboy has recently been making the festival rounds, screening as a special presentation at the Toronto Int’l Film Festival and closing the 61st Venice Int’l Film Festival, both in September.