Exclusive: AstroBoy Concept Art and Director Interview
by Alex Billington
November 12, 2007
The beloved Japanese manga series AstroBoy is getting a big screen adaptation courtesy of the CGI gurus at Imagi Animation, the same studio that made the CGI movie TMNT earlier this year. Although the film is quite far from completion, aiming for a 2009 release, FS.net exclusively interviewed director Colin Brady and was given the very first concept art photo which can only be seen here. Die hard AstroBoy fans and newcomers alike will definitely be excited at what ILM and Pixar animation supervisor and Toy Story 2 co-director Colin Brady has to say about helming his first feature film and what we can expect in a full featured AstroBoy CGI movie.
Back in October we ran the first look photo at the CGI version of AstroBoy but we were asked to remove it as it wasn't a final version. Although Colin and everyone at Imagi is still working hard on the final look of a CGI Astro, we have an exclusive concept art photo of the new and improved AstroBoy which you can check out below. Our interview with director Colin Brady follows below the photo.
AstroBoy (via Wikipedia), which debuted back in 1952 originally as a cult Japanese manga and eventually as a TV anime series, tells the story of a powerful robot boy created by a brilliant scientist in the image of the son he lost. Our hero journeys to find acceptance in the human world and ultimately discovers true friendship as he uses his incredible powers to help others and save Metro City from destruction.
Colin Brady is an immensely talented animation supervisor who has worked previously at Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). Brady was also a director of the animated film Everyone's Hero and co-directed Toy Story 2. In our interview, he talks about his past career and introduction to AstroBoy, as well as a lot of what we can expect in the film from the story to what it's likely to be rated - PG. Read on to hear what Colin says about the project below.
FS.net: What drew you to the AstroBoy project? Why did you decide to direct this CGI film?
I first met with Paul Wang, Executive VP of Development at Imagi Animation Studios, about 18 months ago. He felt AstroBoy was a good fit for me. My experience at Pixar and ILM directing characters like Buzz Lightyear, the Hulk, and E.T. seemed to make AstroBoy a good fit because his character has some elements of each. I am very drawn to power of Anime's sense of mythology, whereas a lot of American animation is full of fluff. AstroBoy is an icon, packed with action and full of heart.
FS.net: What will the story focus on / what adventures will AstroBoy get involved in? Will it start with his origin and go from there?
Similar to Spider-Man or the first Superman, it makes sense to start with the origin story. Although I admit that I thought it would be fun to simply start with the sequel. AstroBoy is kind of a dark Pinocchio story, but unlike Pinocchio, Astro never can become real flesh and blood. Astro's journey of self discovery and acceptance is directly linked to the hardcore killer robot fights, and to the rejection by his creator, Dr. Tanner.
FS.net: Will this AstroBoy be aimed purely at kids or will it have a grungier, tougher aspect for older fans? (e.g. what rating are you going for?)
We're going for as hard PG as we can. Luckily robot violence is less disturbing than humans fighting each other with guns.
FS.net: What kind of voice actors will you be considering? Will they be completely from scratch or any from the series?
We're mostly looking at a mix of popular American and Japanese actors. But certainly they have to be right for the part.
FS.net: What are you bringing to AstroBoy that will hopefully allow this version to succeed whereas the relaunch of the series recently in the US "failed"?
We will present Astro's story as more of an epic Sci Fi fantasy. Although Astro is a robot, there's a deep dark human struggle that we're exploring. In bringing Astro to CG we're trying to create a texture and beauty similar to the original Star Wars films. We're extremely influenced by Hokusai, Noguchi, and Miyazaki. We're very careful to stay as true to the original design as possible but at the same time aging up his voice and the overall tone.
FS.net: Are you trying to modernize him or do anything to create a more widespread appeal beyond just the fans?
The challenge is to appeal to the non fans while not upsetting those who grew up with this character. Every step of the way we are including Tezuka Studios to ensure we're being respectful to one of Asia's most recognizable icons.
Thanks to Colin Brady and Imagi Animation! I think AstroBoy has a strong chance of ringing true with fans, just as TMNT did with all the fans of that franchise. The film sounds like it is in some incredibly capable hands and although it may be Brady's first feature film, his character animation history shows that he will bring a certain needed dynamic to the character of AstroBoy. Keep watch for more updates as the project continues production.