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San Diego Comic-Con 2009: IMAGI Convention Breakfast

After waiting in line for hours for the chance to get into an early convention only screening of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, Toon Zone headed over to the Ivy Hotel for food and discussion with the executives and filmmakers at IMAGI for a special Con breakfast.  In October, Summit will be releasing the new IMAGI animated feature, Astro Boy, in theatres.  Astro Boy was created by the legendary “God of manga,” Osamu Tezuka, in the 1960′s and has endured through numerous incarnations since then.  Astro Boy pioneered the cultural art form now known as anime. 

Astro Boy’s status as a cultural icon even extended into the US where the character has also become a mainstay throughout the years.  The most recent attempt at reviving Astro Boy several years ago in a large Japanese/US co-production was unfortunately not very successful, but this did not dissuade IMAGI from trying with this new interpretation. 

The Hong Kong based, animation production company, IMAGI, produced the most recent TMNT movie in 2007 released by Warner Bros. which was a moderate success, grossing $54 million in the US and $95 million at the worldwide box office.  IMAGI announced at the 2009 Anime Expo that they are moving forward with their long in-development Gatchaman CG animated feature which now has a planned release for the first quarter of 2011.  Gatchaman’s original director, TMNT’s Kevin Munroe, left the project some time ago along with the original screenwriters:  Robert Mark Kamen and Paul Dini.  After the project has gone into turnaround twice, it looks to be back on track and IMAGI Studios U.S. President, Erin Corbett, informed Toon Zone a pending announcement will be made very soon on the project’s new producer as well as the new director.  Gatchaman does not currently have a theatrical distributor in place despite the original announcement of a distribution deal for Warner Bros. and The Weinstein Company to release both Gatchaman and Astro Boy in 2007. 

In attendance for the IMAGI breakfast were Astro Boy director David Bowers (Flushed Away), producer Maryann Garger, and production manager Tony Matthews who we were able to speak to about the production.   Despite some of the recent reports from Variety about IMAGI’s funding issues and the temporary shutdown in production for Astro Boy, Tony Matthews says that the production process for Astro Boy was incredibly linear once David Bowers was on the project and more than any other project he has worked on, “The good thing about IMAGI is that I’ve never seen a place where a director’s vision was so directly onscreen.”  Matthews also said that he did many of the voice actor actor recording sessions in playing the temp voice as other characters against the lead voice actors.  Matthews
said the movie is nearly finished besides some lighting and other minor things.  Matthews’ voice can also be heard in the movie as the role of Cora’s (Kristen Bell) father.  Matthews anticipates he could become IMAGI’s counterpart to John Ratzenberger.  Director David Bowers revealed that one of the temp voices he recorded for the film made it into the final cut, and Bowers will portray a REFRIGERATOR in the new Astro Boy movie.

Bowers said he’s been working closely with Osamu Tezuka’s son with the movie “to make sure we’re keeping on the straight and narrow,” and also said Tezuka’s son has seen the film and loves the movie and “is very happy” with how the film turned out.  Bowers loves the origin story for the Astro Boy character and that’s what he wanted to take on the most. 

Astro Boy is being released in theaters on October 23 starring Freddie Highmore as Astro Boy, Nicholas Cage as Dr. Cora, Kristen Bell as Cora, and Nathan Lane as Ham Egg. 

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