Set in the future, Imagi Studios' Astro Boy is a classic superhero origin story. The all-new, CG-animated feature film tells the story of a young robot with incredible powers and his adventure-filled journey in search of his destiny.
Astro Boy is directed by David Bowers (Flushed Away) and stars Freddie Highmore (The Spiderwick Chronicles, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Kristen Bell (Heroes, Veronica Mars, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Nathan Lane (The Lion King, The Birdcage), Eugene Levy (Over the Hedge, American Pie), Matt Lucas (Little Britain, Shaun of the Dead), Bill Nighy (Flushed Away, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3), Donald Sutherland (Don't Look Now, Fool's Gold, The Italian Job), Samuel L. Jackson (Lakeview Terrace, Unthinkable), Charlize Theron (The Road, Hancock) and Nicolas Cage (G-Force, National Treasure, The Ant Bully) as "Dr. Tenma". With a screenplay by Timothy Hyde Harris (Kindergarten Cop, Space Jam, Trading Places) and David Bowers, from a story by Bowers, the film is based on "Astro Boy," the manga created by Osamu Tezuka. Producer is Maryann Garger (Flushed Away). Cecil Kramer (Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit), Ken Tsumura (Curious George), Paul Wang (TMNT) and Francis Kao (TMNT) are executive producers. Music is by John Ottman (Valkyrie).
In the futuristic world of Metro City, a gleaming metropolis in the sky, the brilliant scientist Dr. Tenma creates Astro Boy to replace the son he has lost, programming his creation with the best of human characteristics and values, as well as endowing him with extraordinary super powers. Cast out when he cannot meet the grieving father's expectations, Astro Boy is dealt a cruel double blow - he is also crushed to learn he is a robot, not even a human being.
Astro Boy, who carries within himself the Blue Core, a power source made of positive "Blue" energy, is sought out by the troops of the militaristic President Stone, obsessed with obtaining the Core for the "Peacekeeper" robot, in fact invented to be used as a weapon to dominate Earth.
Fleeing from the military, Astro Boy crashes to the surface of the Earth. Lost and unsure of his identity, Astro Boy simply seeks to fit in. Denying his true nature, he tries to pass himself off as a human being with a gang of child-vagabonds. He falls naively under the sway of their leader Hamegg, in whom he sees a father figure. To Astro Boy's horror, Hamegg exposes him as a robot and tries to turn him into a robot-gladiator.
In "Hamegg's Robot Games", Astro Boy is forced to face wave upon wave of robots. Refusing to fight, but only disabling his opponent when the safety of spectators is threatened, Astro Boy's nobility wins the crowd over. Alerted by the Core's power surge, the military swoops down and captures Astro Boy, who resigns himself to his fate. As Dr. Tenma, the man who created him, removes his energy source, Astro Boy forgives him for what he is doing. This display of innate goodness finally opens Dr. Tenma's eyes to the terrible mistake he has made. Reconciled to the son he had wrongly rejected, he allows Astro Boy to escape.
The destructive Peacekeeper, which has been given the incredibly dangerous negative Red Core energy by presidential order, is out of control and causing havoc in Metro City. Astro Boy returns to help the citizens, fighting the Peacekeeper and saving Metro City from crashing to Earth. In the climactic battle, the strands of the story come together as Astro Boy accepts his mixed human-robot nature and finds his destiny as mankind's savior.
Astro Boy has been distributed worldwide by Summit Entertainment, except in Japan, Hong Kong and China.
Few animated characters have made as powerful or as lasting an impression on international popular culture as Astro Boy. The little robot first appeared in 1951 as a character in Osamu Tezuka's legendary Manga (Japanese comic book) and became an instant icon. In 1963, he starred in a black and white television series produced in Japan. With his large expressive eyes, Astro Boy became the standard for a new form of animation that has become world famous as anime.
The original series also garnered a devoted following when it debuted in the U.S. that same year. Astro Boy continued to inspire fans in a 1980 television series, and then again in a series that debuted in 2003. Airing in 40 countries, including Japan and the U.S., this third series appeared on the WB and Cartoon Network.
Tezuka has been honored as both the "God Of Manga" and "Father Of Anime", and Astro Boy and his creator became such enormous celebrities in their native Japan that they even appeared on postage stamps. In 2004, Astro Boy was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame alongside Star Wars' C-3PO and Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet.
Astro Boy's story, with its themes of displacement and the need to belong, touched director David Bowers. "Astro Boy is a timeless story in the tradition of Pinocchio or Oliver Twist," he says. "It's very Dickensian, but at the same time, it's very modern. He is a child created to replace the son that a father has lost. The father comes to realize that the boy can't truly replace his lost son. The boy, who thought he was a real kid, finds out he's a robot, and from there his life just goes crazy."
"Thinking back to films I've loved and that have really influenced me over the years, I realized that the first movie I saw in a theater was Pinocchio," says Bowers, an animation veteran who previously directed Flushed Away for DreamWorks and Aardman Features. "My father took me to see it and it had an enormous impact."
Then, when he was researching Astro Boy, Bowers learned that Osamu Tezuka was highly influenced by the work of Walt Disney. "It was easy to see where Astro Boy came from. There are all sorts of similarities with Pinocchio — plus he improved it with giant fighting robots!"
Staying faithful to the original "Astro Boy" while updating its sensibility for a 21st century audience was a central concern for everyone involved with the film, says Maryann Garger, the film's producer. "Astro Boy is a national treasure in Japan. He is their Mickey Mouse. We wanted to create that same excitement and passion for the character in Western audiences."
"I think viewers who know the character will see Astro Boy's story in a way they haven't seen it before," she adds. "On the other hand, if you're new to Astro Boy, it's an incredibly emotional story. It's sort of Pinocchio, but it's also Star Wars. And it's not just for kids. It's for grownups, too, and hopefully moviegoers around the world will discover that."
Bowers is confident that longtime fans will be happy with this updated Astro Boy. "He is still the Astro Boy we know and love, except this is the first time on the big screen, so it's a much bigger story. It has much more scope and much more scale, even in things like the emotional aspects of Astro Boy's journey."
But while Astro Boy has a poignant side, the filmmakers have not skimped on the action — or the humor, says Bowers. "We have Astro Boy flying down the streets, cars blowing up, buildings collapsing. We have flying cities crashing to the ground. It's heartwarming, but at the same time very exciting and very funny, too."
While Garger admits she did not grow up with Astro Boy, she says it was love at first sight. "It's a very enriching story, a wonderful emotional journey and Astro is a great, great character. It's easy to understand how he became a worldwide icon."
Actor Freddie Highmore, who voices the pint-sized superhero, points toward Astro Boy's innate altruism as one reason for his enduring popularity. "He's a real superhero in that he uses his powers for good," says Highmore. "There are so many people in the world who are very clever or talented in some way. They usually use their gifts for their own benefit. Astro Boy never puts himself first. He goes to save the whole world. "
"Astro Boy is the individual who sets out to change the society," the actor continues. "In our world, just like in his, there are so many rules and restrictions that make it hard for the individual to make a difference, but that's what Astro Boy always tries to do."
The opportunity to direct Astro Boy was too good an opportunity for Bowers to pass up, he says. "My job, first and foremost, is to be a storyteller. I helped harness the creative energies of all these amazing people surrounding me to get the story out there as something that people can enjoy. I hope that it's something that will be around for a while. If we can move people, if we can make people laugh and make people cry, then I think we've done our job. If we can excite them and have them at the edge of their seats, too, then we've done our job really well."
Putting together the best project possible meant assembling an all-star creative team, says the director. "We managed to get these amazing talents to work on our film. Everybody was committed to making Astro Boy the most spectacular, fantastic, exciting and funniest movie that we could possibly create."
The film is produced by Imagi Studios, a Hong Kong-based animation studio with a creative development and production facility in Los Angeles and an office in Tokyo. The company's first major CG-animated theatrical movie, TMNT, was released domestically March 23, 2007 by Warner Bros. and opened No. 1 at the box office.
"Imagi has all these great artists from around the world who are very passionate," Bowers adds. "A lot of top creative people that I worked with at other studios are there, so it really felt like we were getting the band back together. I was thrilled to be reunited with Maryann Garger, who was the co-producer of Flushed Away." Garger echoes his enthusiasm. "Imagi is especially exciting for me because we have an opportunity to help build the studio," she says. "That was something I loved doing when I was at DreamWorks. Because Imagi is a young studio, there's a lot of artistic energy which translates to the screen. We have made a film that we're very proud of that will compete in today's global marketplace."
The film's screenplay is by Bowers and Timothy Harris, a seasoned writer whose credits include such hits as Trading Places and Kindergarten Cop as well as the blockbuster animated action comedy Space Jam.
Bowers says that as a parent, he was particularly excited to be making Astro Boy.
"When kids go to the movie theater to see Astro Boy, I hope it will be an amazing experience for them," the director says. "But when they come out of the movie theater, I want that experience to expand into their everyday lives. That's how Astro Boy is in Japan, and I'd love for it to be that in the United States."
At the age of 17, Freddie Highmore has a resume that any actor would envy, but Astro Boy is his first foray into superhero status. Working on the film was an education for Highmore, who was not initially familiar with the character. "It was exciting to learn about this whole new world," he says. "Sometimes I feel like we know this huge secret, and we're about to go and tell all these people about it."
Highmore voices both Toby and Astro Boy in the movie, giving him the additional challenge of creating two similar, but distinct characters. "It was really interesting to play," he says. "They are quite different. Toby is, like most of the humans, quite dismissive of robots and, of course, Astro Boy is a robot."
"All great characters change through the course of a movie," he notes. "Astro Boy definitely learns many things about himself and about how to live in the world. He realizes that he has all these amazing powers. As he discovers his powers, the audience discovers them as well and hopefully they go through the emotions with him."
Astro Boy's longing to be accepted is central to the character, says Highmore. "That's his real quest. The film has the action theme running through it, but there's so much more. It's also incredibly funny. There's real, deep emotion. It's the sort of film kids can take their parents or parents can take their kids and everyone will have a good time."
One of the things that attracted Highmore to the project was its innovative approach to animation. "It's quite original and it's got a modern feel to it," he says. "They kept some of the traditions of Manga, but altered them slightly. Everyone has their own image of Astro Boy and so nothing is going to be exactly like the Manga or exactly like the TV show, but the original core of the characters is still there. It is definitely something new, but fans will be able to recognize the old faces and see the characters come to life in a different way."
It's definitely not necessary to be a dyed-in-wool Astro Boy fan to enjoy the movie, however, says Highmore. "It stands on its own as a film. You can go and see it without any knowledge or go and see it knowing a lot about the character. It's really entertaining either way."
Nicolas Cage, who voices Dr. Tenma, Astro Boy's father, says he grew up watching the original black and white "Astro Boy" television series. "There was a tremendous amount of emotion in those Japanese cartoons," he remembers. "I couldn't take my eyes off of it. There was this marvelous charm in seeing somebody that small be that powerful. I think that's something that a lot of children can get in step with."
Cage once hoped to make a live-action feature based on the character. "It wasn't something that ever got off the ground," he says. "But Mr. Tezuka sent me a little wooden clock with all his characters carved into it. Even though I never met the man, I feel a personal connection to him, which was part of the reason I chose to participate in this movie."
The key to Astro Boy's popularity, says Cage, is his inherent humanity. "I love Astro Boy's good-heartedness, his wanting to belong, wanting to be loved, even though he's this little robot. You can't help but adore the character, because you feel so much for him. Those things separate Astro from other anime."
Cage also has compassion for the character he plays, although Tenma initially rejects his creation. "Dr. Tenma is a tragic character. He has lost his child and he thinks he can use his knowledge of robotics to bring Toby back. Instead, it becomes painful for him to look at Astro Boy, who looks just like Toby, but will never be him. It makes for an additional layer of complexity, because it gives Tenma and Astro Boy a place to go in terms of healing the relationship."
He acknowledges a sense of obligation to make a movie that lives up to the original "Astro Boy." "I think everybody involved has a feeling of responsibility for it," he explains. "We want it to be a moving experience, because we are connected to the material. My hope is that audiences receive this movie in the way they did earlier classics like Pinocchio or The Iron Giant. Those movies are fun to watch, but they also bring so much emotion with them. Astro Boy tries to do more than to just wow you with special effects. It tries to get you to feel something on the most poetic and sublime levels."
Kristen Bell, who voices Cora, a young runaway from Metro City with a thorny exterior, says being in a movie with a cast that includes Nicolas Cage, Nathan Lane and Bill Nighy is a dream come true for her. "The film is going to be wildly entertaining and really heartwarming," she says. "The images are so beautiful. There's a lot of heart behind this movie because there's a lot of heart behind this little boy. Everything has gone wrong for him and you really root for him because you know that he's true to himself."
"When I was growing up, I secretly wanted to be in a cartoon musical," she reveals. "I didn't get to sing as Cora, but this ended up being such a wonderful experience. For me, it was all new and exciting. It was really fun to see the whole process. First, it was just the pencil sketches and then the pencil sketches started to move. Then you saw a little bit of color and bold lines, and it kept getting better. Each time I went in to record, I saw new sequences cut together and, thought, oh, wow, we're really making a great movie!"
Bell saw a number of parallels between Astro Boy's underlying themes and major issues facing society today. "What you walk away with depends on what's important to you," says the actress. "One of the things I liked in the script was the whole idea that robots are second-class citizens and they shouldn't be looked at like they have feelings or rights. People who fight for equality will recognize the robots versus human aspect. People who care about the environment will recognize the need to cherish this world and clean it up a little bit, before it's too late."
The actress says she found much of what she needed to create her character on the page, but also put a lot of herself into the role. "I loved Cora's attitude and her sarcasm and her ability to be witty," Bell says. "At the same time, she takes good care of the kids that she lives with. She's really tough, but she would never betray them or want to be betrayed by them. She gets her sense of family from those kids. She is like the group's den mother."
Bell says she understands Cora's reluctance to accept Astro Boy once she finds out he is a robot. "She's sympathetic to the robot's plight and children especially will identify with him. It's an important thing to talk about. Everybody wants to be accepted. The story is about embracing who you really are and letting the world know."
Tony Winner Nathan Lane plays Hamegg, an earth-side entrepreneur that Lane compares to Fagin in Oliver Twist. He employs all of these children to help him run his business, which is pitching gladiator-style combat between robots. Hamegg uses them to find robots and robot parts for him.
"It's a good story, a classic story and I think people will have a great time watching it," says Lane. "The artwork is very impressive and true to the original, and at the same time very high-tech and new. They have created a world that seems very real. Astro Boy is solid family entertainment."
Actor Bill Nighy admits to being very impressed by the international phenomenon surrounding Astro Boy. "He is so beloved in Japan," Nighy marvels. "There are statues of him, as well as whole stores devoted to Astro Boy. Not only is he exciting as an adventure character, but he's also terribly chic. I love the whole experience of Astro Boy."
Nighy is a prolific actor whose many memorable roles have included debauched glam rocker Billy Mack in Love Actually and Viktor, the vampire king, in the Underworld franchise. He plays two characters in Astro Boy: Dr. Elefun, a scientist and colleague of Tenma, and Robotsky, a rebel robot. He signed on knowing that David Bowers, who directed him in Flushed Away, was helming the project. "I was reassured that I was in safe hands."
About his characters, Nighy says, "Dr. Elefun is the conscience of the movie. He's the man that they should all listen to and don't. He is also Astro Boy's best friend, and the good spirit within the movie. On the audience's behalf, he counsels well and in good faith, while up against enormous odds."
"Robotsky looks a bit like a filing cabinet on legs," he continues. "He is part of the Robot Revolutionary Front (RRF), a collection of good-hearted idiots with a reasonably good excuse to make noise. They want robots to have the same rights that humans enjoy and to be set free to wander in the world. Robotsky has one role with the RRF and one role only - muscle. He's not overly bright, he is good-hearted and he is quite strong."
Playing two characters meant coming up with two distinct voices for Nighy. "The process that David Bowers and I employ is that I come in with some inappropriate and appalling ideas and then he rehabilitates me and allows me to do it properly," says Nighy, a distinguished theater actor whose other film credits include Pirates of the Caribbean's Davy Jones. "I had a series of ideas for Dr. Elefun that I thought were funny. When David recovered from that, he asked me if I could do it as myself more or less, and do it with some dignity. Robotsky had to be very different from Dr. Elefun and his voice needed to indicate that he is not perhaps the full ticket upstairs, as it were."
For Nighy, the strength of the film lies in the audience's identification with the leading character. "It's an action movie, but it's an action movie with heart and comedy," he says. "I love the idea that Astro Boy is a robot so beautifully designed that he approaches humanity. It addresses questions of finding out who you are and how to deal with the fact of yourself."
Nighy states, "It has everything an audience likes. It's funny, it's exciting, and it concerns itself with things that are in all of our lives. It's dramatized beautifully and the whole idea is very powerful, but also very witty."
As Orrin, a robot working in Dr. Tenma's household, Bowers cast Eugene Levy. "Orrin's kind of a nervous type," says Levy. "And robots in Metro City are a kind of appliance and they're treated the way you would treat a toaster or an oven."
Levy has lent his voice to animated films including Over the Hedge and Curious George. He says that he enjoys doing voice work in part because it brings him back to his professional beginnings in Toronto. "When I started acting, there was a lot of radio commercial work being done and that's how actors made a reasonably good living."
Although Levy's distinctive voice has become something of a calling card for him, he says he has never viewed it as a strength. "There have been times when I wished I had a voice like Christopher Plummer, deep and resonant. But ultimately, it is up to the brain trust that put this thing together to hear it. An actor has to give them a range of options for line readings and stay totally flexible. It's a great exercise and it can really be a challenge."
When Levy was first approached to do Astro Boy, the filmmakers sent him a meticulously assembled binder of characters and illustrations. "When I looked through this amazing book, I saw images that were spectacular and characters that looked quite endearing. It was very impressive. In the finished product, the animation is just as incredible, but it's the emotional current that runs through this very impressive-looking work that becomes very moving."
That presentation also impressed two-time Golden Globe Winner Donald Sutherland, who plays President Stone. "It was so compelling," he says. "Then I saw the realized footage. It was absolutely thrilling and everything that I imagined. In fact, it was way beyond what I imagined. The look of it, the energy of it, the joy of it, the sincerity of soul is extraordinary. It's a monumental work."
The process of voicing an animated character doesn't differ greatly from acting on camera, he says. "It is creating the character and then coming into a recording studio and voicing him. The character and his reality are there. When I come into the studio, I like to imagine I'm a singer like Peggy Lee or Anita O'Dea."
Sutherland owns up to having a statue of Astro Boy in his house. "He's perfect," says Sutherland. "He has honor and a heart of gold. He's smart and innocent and exquisitely loveable. What more could you ask for?"
British comedian Matt Lucas provided the voice of Sparx, leader of the Robot Revolutionary Front. "He's actually the self-appointed leader," says Lucas. "Sparx is a very intense and intelligent robot. He's just not quite as intelligent as he thinks he is, which makes him good fun to play. The writer gave him some truly funny lines and I was given a bit of free rein as well to improvise."
For the voice, Lucas harked back to classic British sitcom stars like Leonard Rossitter. "He is best known in the U.S. for his work on Rising Damp and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin," says Lucas. "I tried to incorporate some of his vocal tics into the performance."
The actor says it was flattering to be included in such a distinguished cast - although he has yet to meet any of them. "I'm afraid that at the premiere, I'll say, ‘Hello! How are you?, and they'll say, ‘You're being a bit over-familiar. If you stay behind the barrier, please, I'll sign an autograph for you.'"
While Lucas says Astro Boy will be a treat for longtime fans of anime, it is also a perfect entry point for people who haven't yet discovered the art form. "The visuals are brilliantly realized. David has taken the best of what exists and put a new contemporary twist on it."
Imagi Studios' mission is to produce innovative and original animated motion pictures, according to Paul Wang, the studio's executive vice president of development and executive producer of Astro Boy. "We are especially interested in superhero movies, like Astro Boy," he says. "At Imagi, we are willing to take on the challenge of making groundbreaking movies. We've gathered an eclectic group of artists. Each of them dreams about doing films that are influential and event-driven. They still want to make big feature films, but they want to make artistic films at the same time. So this is a chance for them to realize that dream."
Francis Kao, founder and chief creative officer of Imagi Studios, grew up in Hong Kong where Japanese anime was a staple. "I had the best of both worlds as a kid in Hong Kong," says Kao. "I was able to see anime series in their original Japanese formats, as well as the versions made for Western audiences. When I started Imagi Studios in 2000, I wanted to create entertainment that brings together the best of East and West - the enduring, popular characters and stories of Japanese anime and the Hollywood expertise in making movies that resonate with audiences around the world."
"From day one, we've moved forward with love and respect for Osamu Tezuka's original Manga which serves as the core for the movie," adds Kao. "We have been working very closely with Tezuka Productions and with the creator's son, Macoto Tezka, to ensure we got everything right."
Erin Corbett, president of Imagi Studios U.S., says that it has been gratifying to see how warmly fans and media alike have embraced this motion picture since it was first announced. "Making Astro Boy has been an amazing journey for Imagi Studios," according to Corbett. "He is a legendary, beloved superhero who has captured hearts around the globe for over 50 years and we're honored that we've been entrusted with taking this iconic property to a new global stage."
The film's designers aspired to create a world that would resemble nothing that audiences have ever seen before. Much of the inspiration for Astro Boy's world comes from the work of Isamu Noguchi, the famous 20th century Japanese-American artist and landscape architect.
Noguchi's work with abstraction inspired them to use simple shapes which they brought to life using the most advanced computer lighting, texturing and modeling techniques available. The results go far beyond the souped-up, fuselage-based spacecrafts or flying cars with fins already seen in a host of movies from the past.
The designers also turned to Japan for ideas for the film's backgrounds. They turned to the work of 19th century woodblock artist, Katsushika Hokusai as a jumping-off point. Hokusai's work takes a simple approach to landscapes, eliminating visual clutter in favor of distilling an image to its essence.
Actor Bill Nighy calls the look of Astro Boy "very modern, very 21st century. It has been modified from the original and yet retains the Japanese influences beautifully integrated into a kind of Western look and feel."
According to Wang, the film is representative of the kind of movies that Imagi wants to build its reputation on.
The creators of the new Astro Boy movie know they have set the bar high for themselves by taking a well-known, beloved property and presenting it to audiences in a new form. "Astro Boy is the original anime property," says producer Maryann Garger. "He was first introduced in America back in the 1960s, but we have the opportunity to reintroduce him to the world as a new icon who can hold his own with the biggest blockbusters out there."
DAVID BOWERS (Writer and Director) shared a BAFTA nomination for Flushed Away, the DreamWorks / Aardman Animation co-production on which he contributed writing and directing services.
Originally from Stockport, Cheshire in the U.K., Bowers studied animation at West Surrey College of Art and Design in Farnham but left after his first year to work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit under Oscar®-winning animator Richard Williams. Next, he worked at the famed British studio Cosgrove Hall on the cult television shows "Danger Mouse" and "Count Duckula" before moving to London to join Steven Spielberg's Amblimation, a studio set up to take advantage of European talent Amblin discovered during the making of Roger Rabbit.
Bowers next worked as an animator on An American Tail: Fievel Goes West before going freelance and working on commercials and features. He returned to Amblimation as a story artist and served as a supervising animator on Balto.
When DreamWorks was founded, Bowers relocated to Los Angeles and worked as a story artist on The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado. During this period, he met filmmakers Nick Park and Peter Lord, who needed help storyboarding their feature Chicken Run. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with Aardman Animation. A six-week contract became 14 months as Bowers helped conceive and storyboard many of the film's major set-pieces, including its climax.
After the completion of Chicken Run, Bowers moved between Los Angeles and Bristol as a key creative on various DreamWorks and Aardman projects including Shark Tale and the Oscar® winner Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
TIMOTHY HYDE HARRIS (Writer), credited with such box office hits as Space Jam, Kindergarten Cop, Twins and Trading Places, has been authoring screenplays for almost 30 years. His credits also include three noir novels featuring a Los Angeles private detective, Kyd for Hire, Goodnight and Good-Bye and Unfaithful Servant. In addition, Harris produced Falling Down, directed by Joel Schumacher, which was selected for the official competition at the 1993 Cannes International Film Festival.
MARYANN GARGER (Producer) was a co-producer of Flushed Away. She began her career in animation as production coordinator on Pocahontas. She was the 14th employee hired at DreamWorks in 1995 and served as a production supervisor on The Prince of Egypt, production manager on Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Madagascar and production executive on Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. She also produced the DreamWorks short film First Flight.
GARGER hails from New Hampshire and attended Syracuse University.
CECIL KRAMER (Executive Producer) has more than 20 years of production experience in various fields within the entertainment industry. She produced the critically acclaimed animated feature Flushed Away and recently served as an executive producer on the 2005 Academy Award-winning stop-motion comedy Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Best Animated Feature). Previously, she held the post of co-head of production for DreamWorks Animation, where she oversaw the development of such animated features as Antz, The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, Chicken Run and the Oscar®-winning smash Shrek.
Previously, Kramer produced visual effects for live-action films such as Crimson Tide and Cabin Boy. She also served as the post-production supervisor on Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. She was also a production executive at Buena Vista Pictures, Walt Disney Imagineering and Film Finances.
Kramer began her career as a feature film costumer and later worked as a production manager on TV commercials and in the field of public broadcasting.
KEN TSUMURA (Executive Producer) is executive vice president, production, Hong Kong, at Imagi Studios. Prior to joining Imagi, he was senior vice president, production & technology at Vancouver-based Mainframe Entertainment (now Rainmaker Animation).
A 22-year animation veteran, Tsumura's numerous production credits include executive producer on Universal Pictures' feature Curious George, producer on DreamWorks' CG-animated television series Father of the Pride and executive producer on Columbia Pictures' Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights. He also served as animation co-producer on the Fox Television series The Simpsons and The Critic.
PAUL WANG (Executive Producer) has been involved in filmmaking and computer graphics for the last 20 years. After running Four-D, his own boutique animation house in New York, Wang entered the computer-generated visual effects industry, where he created special visual effects for such movies as Batman Forever and The Peacemaker. He went on to PDI / DreamWorks, where he did pioneering work on animated motion pictures such as Antz, Shrek and Madagascar. He also worked on the theme park ride Shrek 4-D and DreamWorks Television's CG-animated television series Father of the Pride. Wang was a producer on Imagi Studios' hit feature TMNT and is executive vice president, development at Imagi.
FRANCIS KAO (Executive Producer) is the founder and chief creative officer of Imagi Studios. He founded Imagi in 2000, bringing to life his vision of a world-class CG animation studio in Asia. Kao sets the creative direction for Imagi Studios and is the ultimate decision-maker for its movie slate. Focusing on motion picture development and production, he is also responsible for the management of the company's intellectual properties. Presently, Kao is also supervising the development of Gatchaman, based on the hit 1970s television series.
Kao served as executive producer on Imagi Studios' first feature film, TMNT (2007), which opened number one at the U.S. box office, and on Highlander: The Search for Vengeance (2006), the critically acclaimed action-fantasy film from Japanese anime master Yoshiaki Kawajiri.
Kao graduated from California State University, Sacramento with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance Management. He then joined Boto, Imagi's predecessor company, in 1999 to embark on a number of new initiatives designed to create a brand for the manufacturing company.
PILAR FLYNN (Line Producer) began her animation career at DreamWorks, where she worked for eight years on the development and production of such films as The Road to El Dorado, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Madagascar and Flushed Away. She also co-produced DreamWorks' first CG-animated short, the multiple award-winning First Flight.
Most recently, Flynn served as associate producer of the animated feature film Mean Margaret for IDT / Starz Media.
DAVID BOWERS Starting in the world of animation with Who Framed Roger Rabbit, David Bowers worked at the famed British studio Cosgrove Hall before joining Steven Spielberg's Amblimation in London. When DreamWorks was founded, Bowers relocated to Los Angeles where he worked primarily as a story artist on The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado. It was during this period that he met Nick Park and Peter Lord, marking the beginning of Bowers' long and fruitful relationship with UK animation house Aardman. Moving between Los Angeles and Bristol (England), Bowers served in key creative capacities on various DreamWorks and Aardman projects including Chicken Run and the Academy Award®-winning Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, before directing Flushed Away, winner of five Annie Awards.
David Bowers is originally from Stockport, an industrial town near Manchester in the northwest of England. As it is famously cold and rainy, Bowers was more than happy to move to the glorious sunshine and sandy beaches of Southern California – more specifically Hollywood. "I grew up loving films," Bowers said, "so to be living in the heart of cinema history is a real thrill."
It was animation which captivated Bowers from a young age. "I'd always loved animation. Pinocchio was the first film I saw in a cinema and it made a huge impression on me. As a young artist, my work leaned towards caricature and comedy. Animation seemed a perfect fit," he explains.
Bowers continues: "When Who Framed Roger Rabbit came up, I was studying for a degree in animation at the West Surrey College of Art and Design in Farnham, Surrey. I didn't often agree with my tutors and they didn't often agree with me. Roger Rabbit was a dream job. I idolized Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, not to mention animation director Richard Williams. It was a big-budget, effects-filled movie starring almost all the classic cartoon characters and drawn by some of the greatest animators in the world. I applied for a position as an inbetweener and they accepted me, probably due to desperation as the film was way behind schedule. I think they were hiring just about anyone who could hold a pencil. I gave up my degree and moved to London."
Bowers then worked as an animator / story artist on such films as An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Balto, The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado and Chicken Run. He comments: "I think I've been lucky in that I've had an opportunity to do lots of different jobs. I was an animator for many years, I've done a little layout and was a story artist in the UK before moving to the United States."
After relocating to the U.S., Bowers moved between Los Angeles and Bristol as a key creative contributor on such Aardman / DreamWorks projects as the Oscar®-winning Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, before directing Flushed Away.
As to what attracted him to Imagi and to Astro Boy, Bowers says: "I'd been hearing about Imagi and knew that the Astro Boy project was slated for release, so I definitely had an interest. I'd worked with Maryann (Garger) before and she's a great producer, which gave me confidence that Astro Boy could be something very special. Plus I'd seen TMNT and was impressed by the technical prowess and artistry of the crew."
Bowers elaborates on his vision for Astro Boy: "I want Astro Boy to be a really special movie, a mix of action-adventure with lots of comedy and a really emotional story at its core. It's an iconic property and deserves respect, so I don't want to give it the glib, pop-referential treatment that so many animated movies have today. Instead I want it to stand as a classic superhero origin story, something befitting the icon of Astro Boy, kind of along the lines of Richard Donner's Superman. I want it to serve as an introduction to Astro Boy for western audiences whilst remaining faithful to the lore for Asian audiences. Astro Boy is a treasured icon in Japan and so I'm working closely with the Tezuka estate to ensure I get everything right."
He continues: "Astro Boy is all about finding our identities, and the relationships we have with our parents. On his journey Astro Boy encounters a lot of adversity but manages to overcome it all. It's an optimistic movie."
The director states that he is driven by his passion "to make a great picture that touches people and can be enjoyed by all ages". He adds: "Osamu Tezuka was a visionary, and Astro Boy was new and cutting edge when he created him. The technology and the design have been updated for this movie but the intent and the emotional story are timeless."
The all-star cast is headed by Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland and Nicolas Cage as Dr. Tenma. Bowers states: "I just wanted the best actors for the roles that I can possibly get and on Astro Boy I've been very lucky. Our cast balances comedy and drama very well."
Imagi Studios' Astro Boy will be released in theaters across North America on October 23, 2009. Summit Entertainment is distributing worldwide except for Imagi's reserved territories of Japan, Hong Kong and China.
What would you say is your normal state of mind when you're directing a movie?
Focused. There are so many elements to juggle it's important to keep an eye on everything.
What is your favorite movie?
What technology do you wish could be invented?
Transporter technology from Star Trek would be useful. I'm based in Los Angeles, most of the crew is in Hong Kong and I've recorded actors as far afield as London and Australia. I've got more air miles than I know what to do with.
What is your motto?
This is something my grandfather told my father, who in turn told me. "The man who never made a mistake, never made anything." It's true.
|Japan||October 10, 2009|
|Australia||October 15, 2009|
|CIS||October 22, 2009|
|Portugal||October 22, 2009|
|United States||October 23, 2009|
|Hong Kong||October 23, 2009|
|Canada||October 23, 2009|
|China||October 23, 2009|
|Indonesia||October 24, 2009|
|Taiwan||October 24, 2009|
|Thailand||October 24, 2009|
|Belgium||October 28, 2009|
|Greece||October 29, 2009|
|Hungary||October 29, 2009|
|South Korea||November 1, 2009|
|Philippines||November 5, 2009|
|Singapore||November 5, 2009|
|Turkey||November 13, 2009|
|Lebanon||November 19, 2009|
|Czech Republic||November 26, 2009|
|Malaysia||November 26, 2009|
|South Africa||December 4, 2009|
|France||December 9, 2009|
|Italy||December 18, 2009|
|Colombia||January 15, 2010|
|Bolivia||January 21, 2010|
|Chile||January 21, 2010|
|New Zealand||January 21, 2010|
|Brazil||January 22, 2010|
|Ecuador||January 22, 2010|
|Uruguay||January 22, 2010|
|Peru||January 28, 2010|
|Argentina||January 28, 2010|
|El Salvador||January 29, 2010|
|Honduras||January 29, 2010|
|Mexico||January 29, 2010|
|Nicaragua||January 29, 2010|
|Venezuela||January 29, 2010|
|Dominican Republic||February 1, 2010|
|Spain||February 1, 2010|
|West Indies||February 1, 2010|
|Iceland||February 5, 2010|
|Poland||February 5, 2010|
|Costa Rica||February 5, 2010|
|Guatemala||February 5, 2010|
|Panama||February 5, 2010|
|United Kingdom||February 5, 2010|
|The Netherlands||February 17, 2010|
|Israel||February 25, 2010|
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