Astro Boy Flies Again
Re-imagining the iconic anime hit, Astro Boy (opening today from Summit Ent.) was a daunting challenge for everyone. But apparently it was a satisfying one, despite all of the obstacles -- creative, technical and financial. It certainly raised the CG animation bar for Imagi Studios (a collaboration between studios in Hong Kong and L.A.), and provided a lot of work for animators formerly with DreamWorks, Disney and Sony. And, as director David Bowers (Flushed Away) points out, the timing couldn't be better.
"He finds out that he's not a real boy: he's a robot and his father doesn't want him anymore. I think it's mind blowing to kids to put themselves in his position. And it seemed like a good place to start and somehow carry on. I think for Astro, he just doesn't know where he fits in… and at the end of the movie, he knows where his place is as a hero."
And what was the experience like at Imagi compared to DreamWorks and Aardman?
"Well, it was great: I think when you're making a movie, you draw on a lot of experiences and I learned a lot from those two studios. Imagi is an independent studio -- it's a smaller film -- and there were no real ground rules in place, so we sort of made things up as we went. And producer Maryann Garger and Imagi were very supportive of the movie I wanted to make.
"And since Turtles, Imagi has learned a lot. There's a lot of incredibly talented people both in Los Angeles and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, the animation was supervised by Tim Cheung, formerly with PDI and the Shrek movies, and visual effects was supervised by Yan Chen, who's the most amazing innovator, and no matter what I threw at him he'd manage to do more crowds and more explosions and a lot more atmosphere. But a lot of key positions at Imagi in Hong Kong have quite a bit of experience on major animated pictures in the United States. And my story team were all DreamWorks, Sony and Disney people. It's such a small industry.
Bower suggests that the biggest creative challenge was striking a balance between tragedy and comedy: wanting to take dark subject matter about a scientist who loses his son and replaces him with a robot, which turns out disastrously for him.
"There's something terrible about the loss of a child, and it was really taking that tragedy and making something positive come out of it and making it being an upbeat, fun and exciting movie for families. I didn't want it to be a downer and I didn't want it to be pessimistic. I think Astro Boy was born out of optimism and is much lighter in tone than, say, Batman. He's more in the line of Superman."