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With butt-guns at the ready, Capone chats with ASTRO BOY director David Bowers!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here, with the first of two pieces on the upcoming 3-D animated adventure ASTRO BOY, based on the insanely popular Japanese comic and animated series from creator Osamu Tezuka about a robot boy developed by his scientist father to take the place of his dead son. If this plot sounds vaguely familiar, imagine how millions of ASTRO BOY fans felt when Spielberg's A.I. was announced. Granted, ASTRO BOY is a take on Pinocchio, but the Spielberg script (from a story by Stanley Kubrick) sure does lift a bit from the comic books of the early 1950s and the TV cartoon that originated in the mid-1960s. Tezuka has long been referred to as the God of Manga, with the "Astro Boy" cartoon considered the first Japanese TV series to feature the anime style. Although less familiar in the states, Astro Boy has an almost-unparalleled following around the world. In an effort to splash the character's name and universe across American screens, the feature film debut of ASTRO BOYS lands on our shores October 23--in 3-D no less. Comic-Con 2009 was the first time the world really got to see loads of footage from the film, and I was there to see that clearly the filmmakers are going after a unapologetic action film. Sure, there are loads of great actors lending their voices to the film (including Nicolas Cage, Samuel L. Jackson, Kristen Bell, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland, Eugene Levy, Charlize Theron, Nathan Lane, and Freddie Highmore as Astro Boy), but the emphasis is eye-popping (and screen-popping) action. The film is also an origin story, and the film's producers have no qualms about wanting to turn ASTRO BOY into a movie franchise. Director David Bowers has worked as an artist on several high-profile animated films, including WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, THE ROAD TO ELDORADO, FERNGULLY, BALTO, THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, SHARK TALE, CHICKEN RUN, and WALLACE & GROMMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT. Obviously, these last two films were done for Aardman Animations, where Bowers got his first directing gig, as the co-helmer (with Sam Fell) of Aardman's first CG feature, FLUSHED AWAY. Shortly, I'll also have a joint interview with lead actors Highmore and Bell, but in the mean time, enjoy ASTRO BOY director David Bowers…
Capone: I was at the panel today, and I realized that you can get away with endangering children a lot easier than you can in live action. David Bowers: Well, he’s a robot, so he’s robust. He can take a few licks. Capone: It just struck me how many child-endangerment laws were being broken in those scenes. [Laughs] Why do you think it has taken this long to get a movie featuring this character made? He’s obviously such a huge icon in the world. DB: Honestly, I don’t know. To me it’s just the simplest thing in the world to look at the wonderful work that has been done before and take the classic Tezuka origin story and use that as a basis for the movie and build on that. There have already been so many great stories and great adventures for Astro. I think in Hollywood there is often a tendency to re-imagine completely and through out the baby with the bathwater, and certainly we re-imagined Astro Boy for this movie, but at the same time hopefully we just built on what was there, rather than throwing it all out and starting again. Capone: Speaking of that, in what ways did you sort of modernize him and in what ways were you insistent on leaving things exactly how they have always been in terms of the look and the plot? DB: It was a challenge to update it to 3-D, to be quite honest, because the original manga is so graphic, but I think our characters look good and we have done a pretty terrific job with it. I think the characters all have integrity and they all are very similar to the originals. They are in the same universe, definitely. I think people look at the Tezuka stuff now and it’s really sort of retro and retro-cool and it’s really fun in that way, but at the same time it’s worth remembering how in the 1950’s, when that stuff was published, it was absolutely science fiction and cutting edge and really really modern and that’s what I wanted for this movie. I wanted it to feel as fresh for audiences today as Astro Boy felt in the 1950’s for audiences then and into the '60s. I wanted to make it feel contemporary. Did that answer your question? [laughs] Capone: Yeah, you started to. In which ways did you actually make him contemporary? What did you say, “We need to update this!” DB: We updated the look of the city and the technology of course, because things have come a long way since the 1950s. I think the thing we wanted to be really sure of keeping was the look of Astro Boy and the powers that he has. When I started the movie, I was working with a lot of crew and people say “Well, Astro Boy has X-ray vision and special hearing and this and that, and he’s got a butt machine gun, but of course, we won’t be doing those.” And I said, “You can absolutely bet your life we will be doing that. That’s the best thing ever. Are you kidding?” Capone: That was in the original? DB: That was in the original. And it just wouldn’t be Astro Boy without it, so we were just keen to keep that sort of thing, but at the same time it’s very much a big-screen movie you know and I wanted to do it in cinemascope to have that big canvas to paint on; I wanted it to be spectacular, I came at it from the story’s point of view, which is the story of Astro and his father, so that’s the key thing in the movie. You know the basic a story is that a scientist loses his son and creates a robot to replace his son, and then he finds out that having this robot son around makes his grief worse, so he casts the boy out. And it’s about Astro and his relationship with his father, and Astro finding out who he is and what his destiny in the world is going to be and ultimately reconciling with his father and from that, because that all sounds very bleak. It’s a big action adventure with lots of comedy and lots of funny characters, and we have a group in the movie called “The Robot Revolutionary Front,” who Astro runs into when he’s thrown out of Metro City. They're voice by Matt Lucas as the leader called “Sparx” and Bill Nighy is a character called Dr. Elefun. Capone: I love Bill Nighy. DB: Me too. I would work with him on anything at any time. These two robots, they are really keen to get Astro on their side, because what they want more than anything is to do something really horrible and terrifying to force humans to free all robots, but unfortunately they are subject to the laws of robotics, so all they can do is write angry letters to newspaper editors or tickle people, but at the same time they are really militant about it. They are kind of crazy and silly, so there’s a lot of fun new stuff. Capone: You were talking in the panel about how there are these level sof living, one group in the sky and the other on the surface. It sounds like you do get a little bit of a political undertone to some of what is going on. Having the villain being a President also adds that dimension. DB: I know. I can’t for whatever reason, I can’t help but be a little bit political in my films. There’s a little bit of that in FLUSHED AWAY. Capone: Yeah, in FLUSHED AWAY there was a little bit of an upper and lower rat society. DB: I just think it makes it a bit more interesting, because they are a bit more sophisticated as well as something to think about. There is a lot in the original manga about robots being second-class citizens, and a lot of this movie is about saving the environment. I hope it’s quite timely. It’s not done cynically in the hope of drawing things in. I think it’s just things that are around at the moment that people are concerned about and things that can be put into the movie through the writing. Capone: Well, I think the best science fiction has those kinds of messages in it anyway. DB: I think so. I also think what appealed to me most about Astro is I love science fiction and always have. Astro is a great science-fiction story. A wrinkle in ours that is different from the original is that Dr. Tenma gives Astro [his son] Toby’s memories, so when Astro is created, he thinks he is a real boy, so when he finds out the truth that not only is he a robot with a dead boy’s memories, but also the father, the man he loves, doesn’t want him anymore. It’s quite devastating. Capone: It’s interesting. When I hear that synopsis, A.I. might have borrowed a little from that story as well… DB: Yeah, I wonder.[laughs] Capone: Two things, have you always intended to tell it as an origin story, and then had you always wanted to tell it 3-D? DB: That was already a part of it. Imagi [Animation Studios] is a 3-D company, so it was always going to be a 3D CGI movie. I love superhero origin stories, and I love Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN. I think it’s just the most wonderful superhero film. This is the film we are hoping would introduce Astro Boy to particularly American audiences, and I think for an introduction along with the story is great. I love origin stories. Capone: Now, when you talk about introducing a character in origin stories, you immediately think “That sounds like they have many installments of this series planned.” Are you already thinking about doing another one? DB: It’s impossible not to think about what could come later with this story, especially since I've been more idle lately with all of the story work and the editorial… for a month or so, but if this movie does well, fingers crossed, and anybody wants to make another ASTRO BOY movie, there is certainly lots of material out there, it wouldn’t be hard. It’s certainly open for a sequel. Capone: Probably the greatest pressure on you is going to come from the Japanese fans. What have you done to make sure that you have kept their national hero relatively intact? DB: Well, we worked with the creator’s son, Macoto Tezuka, and he’s been keeping us on the straight and narrow, but at the same time, the Tezuka estate in Japan encouraged us to expand on the world and expand on the characters and expand the Astro Boy lore and we have, and they are very happy with it. Was there anything else you wanted to ask? Capone: No, I believe that was it. I think that should have covered it. DB: Well thank you very much. You know, I love Ain’t It Cool News. I have for what seems like a decade. How long have you guys been around? Capone: About 12 years now, yeah. DB: I read it every day. I think you guys are great. Thanks for stopping by. Capone: Thanks. Best of luck with this.
-- Capone capone@aintitcoolmail.com Follow Me On Twitter



Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 7, 2009, 4:32 p.m. CST

    I've been firing my butt-guns all day thanks to Fiber One!!!

    by JuanSanchez

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 4:34 p.m. CST

    Butt-gunsssssss...

    by cheyne_stoking_DMS

    C'mon, meng, you guys know you royally fuck up with headlines like that. Remember Jodie Foster's beaver? Who could forget.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 4:35 p.m. CST

    Seriously, don't eat Fiber One.

    by JuanSanchez

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 4:37 p.m. CST

    Damn. That has to hurt.

    by BurnedNotice_Dude

    Good luck JuanSanchez.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 4:49 p.m. CST

    Thanks, BurnedNotice_Dude.

    by JuanSanchez

    My ass is on fire.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 4:50 p.m. CST

    No problem. Take care.

    by BurnedNotice_Dude

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 4:52 p.m. CST

    Capone, nothing like Pinnochio

    by Player 1

    Astro Boy is NOTHING like Pinnochio. In no way does Astro aspire to be a human. He is a mediating and unifying force between robot kind and human kind. He is proud of his heritage, and would never want to become a human. Not sure if you're that familiar with any of the source material.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 4:53 p.m. CST

    Scruffy tramp says...

    by The_Skook

    Hi Dave... still animating on singles? ;)

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 4:56 p.m. CST

    Bit worried about this:

    by Player 1

    "A wrinkle in ours that is different from the original is that Dr. Tenma gives Astro [his son] Toby’s memories, so when Astro is created, he thinks he is a real boy, so when he finds out the truth that not only is he a robot with a dead boy’s memories, but also the father, the man he loves, doesn’t want him anymore. It’s quite devastating." - not loving that arc at all! Hope they don't fuck it up. Why do yanks always want family issues involved in a movie. It's like hollywood scriptwriters go, 'Oh, I know, let's have some family ISSUES to pad out the story.' For fuck's sake, there's so MANY cool storylines for Astro Boy and they bring this shite into it?

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 4:57 p.m. CST

    Astro Boy looks pretty queer...

    by cheyne_stoking_DMS

    but then again so does Vin Diesel and he seems to make out pretty well. God speed, Astro Boy.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 4:58 p.m. CST

    Writers love to complicate things

    by JuanSanchez

    Remember all the extra crap added to Tim Burton's Sleepy Hallow? How about all the extra crap in The Grinch?

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 5:01 p.m. CST

    I just had some beans BUTT GUNS!!

    by lockesbrokenleg

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 5:02 p.m. CST

    Sleepy Hollow and Grinch

    by Bouncy X

    well one's a short story and the other is a 23 minute cartoon. so of course they had to add and pad the movies to make em 90mins or longer. as for Astroboy, i loved the cartoon in the 80s and he looks pretty much identical so that's cool. doubt i'll see this in theaters but i'll definately see it on tv.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 5:10 p.m. CST

    Magnus vs Astroboy.

    by EvilWizardGlick

    Settle this shit once and for all!

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 5:12 p.m. CST

    I'll be there opening weekend...

    by PennsyDeux

    It's just another plot by Kristen Bell to separate me from my money. :)

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 5:13 p.m. CST

    Sometimes turning something short into a movie isn't worth...

    by JuanSanchez

    the padding. Some stories are made to be short and when you pad them you change the character of the story.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 5:27 p.m. CST

    What's an Astro boy?

    by tradeskilz

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 5:47 p.m. CST

    Hilarious!

    by MajorFrontbum

    GAstro Boy live action,huh? What's next? Marine Boy Live Action? The Jetsons Live Action? Battle of the Planets Live Action?How about a Flintstones reboot - C'mon Hollywood, gotta chase that almighty fucking dollar, you greedy pieces of shit!

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 5:51 p.m. CST

    He did work on Ferngully?

    by MacReady452

    Thats the prequal to Avatar..Right?

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 5:55 p.m. CST

    Rodriguez is supposed to be doing The Jetsons.

    by JuanSanchez

    Haven't heard an update in a while, though.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 6:01 p.m. CST

    How's Gatchaman coming???

    by Johnno

    You could've asked him about that Capone.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 6:09 p.m. CST

    I like the trailer. Lots of cool stuff, but . . .

    by James_Camera_On

    Butt guns? I can relate to that. Robot designs that riff on famous movie/anime robots? Yes. Robot Liberation Front? Sounds promising. But then we have: family issues? Maybe. Evil military? Been there. Many times. Save the environment? Done that. Oh God soooo many times. Am I worried? Yes, more than a little. I was already worried enough about Avatar. And Ferngully to me is a resume stain, sorry.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 6:13 p.m. CST

    Well, the third trailer looked good, so I'm hopeful

    by FeralAngel

    I don't think the new wrinkle will hurt things much, and I'm a huge Tezuka fan. And you guys who gripe about the apparent emotional aspect injected in the film, come on, read some Tezuka - he was big on that. If the movie were all about Astro blasting around with butt-cheeks a-blazin', it'd appeal only to little boys (and maybe those who LIKE little boys - ehhrr, sorry). ANYWAY, this flick and the one about the cloudy meatballs are on my definite-must-see list. We all need some high-quality escapism during these difficult times.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 6:50 p.m. CST

    It looks awesome

    by MacReady452

    I'm sure the original is more bad ass than our "please won't someone think of the children" parents will allow. Hopefully this will stand side by side with the Incredibles.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 7:35 p.m. CST

    Hope this is good!

    by ThePorkChopExpress

    I hope they create a universe that can be expanded on well - the whole Atlas story line would be great and could get very adult, which is kind of what I was hoping for this one to do. From the trailers it looks squeaky clean and they don't seem to show much action, which I hope turns out to be a good thing. Astro rules

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 7:47 p.m. CST

    AICN's Biggest ASTRO BOY Fan Here, So Disappointed

    by ThusSpakeSpymunk

    Despite what this interview says, you can tell from the trailers that MANY of the claims aren't true. With this new PCified ASTRO BOY, he's not going to have butt-guns. If they do show him "equipped" with them, it'll be for a sight-gag, because this ASTRO BOY is clearly NOT going to ever fire a single gun in the entire movie. They'll "jam" because he ate a burrito at a TACO BELL (PRODUCT PLACEMENT HERE) or he'll lose them somehow or he'll be in a place where someone will say "Don't fire your weapons in there, Astro Boy!" No way will they have a kid firing a gun.<p><p>I mean, this is a movie where they're so clearly eager to get away from the iconic imagery of ASTRO BOY and cater to the PC crowd that the first thing they've done is make him wear regular everyday clothes as we see in the trailer, totally dispensing with his uniform of biker shorts and nothing else. So, which is it? Is it true to the original or not? You can't have it both ways, dudes. Gawd, why do I even bother any more?

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 7:49 p.m. CST

    ummm.....we already see him use his butt guns in one of the trai

    by Bouncy X

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 7:50 p.m. CST

    lers

    by Bouncy X

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 8:01 p.m. CST

    Bouncy X

    by ThusSpakeSpymunk

    I just found out there was a trailer I missed. What I viewed as 'trailer 3' was actually 'trailer 2' which I had not seen, thus making me think 'trailer 3' was 'trailer 2.'<p><p>I hereby recant my statement about the butt-guns, because we get to see Astro clearly firing them at the EYE of a giant robot. That's OK with me, though I'm still pissed that the PC crowd scared them into giving him everyday-people clothes for most of the movie. Part of the wonderfully-ridiculous nature of Astro Boy was that he did all the adventuring he did in nothing but bike shorts. I always found that so deeply absurd as to be hilarious.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 8:06 p.m. CST

    Laying Down the AICN Astro Knowlege...

    by ScottGreen

    <p>If you know Astro Boy's history, I'm guessing the movie's story arc is spelled out in the Japanese trailer. http://tinyurl.com/mzjd9m </p> <p> As an Astro Boy fan, I'm certainly gratified that it does seem to get evoke some of the darkness in the relationship between Astro and his father/creator Tenma. </p> <p>You can see how the movie's been updated/shifted to its intended audience. For example, than being sold to Ham Egg's Circus, Astro is sold to Ham Egg's gladiatorial robot fights. Fair enough. I think the full movie needs to be seen before the effect of these changes can be measured. </p> <p>From Mr Bowers comments and the IDW comics, it seems like Richard Donner's Superman is a big part of the equation in this incarnation of Astro Boy. Again, fair enough. With the primary colors of his red boots, green belt, and new, blue shirt, he's always beeen something of the soaring super hero. </p> <p>And, if you're interested in an adult, melancholy updated to Astro Boy, check out Naoki Urasawa's Pluto http://tinyurl.com/bupfc7 </ap>

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 8:31 p.m. CST

    FLUSHED AWAY was hilarious.

    by Darkman

    Maybe not on quite the same level as WALLACE & GROMIT, but still greatly entertaining. <br><br> Anyone else agree?

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 9:30 p.m. CST

    sounds like a butchering

    by frank cotton

    make that another butchering of source material. my boycott list grows every day

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 9:50 p.m. CST

    This will tank harder than Speed Racer

    by Nasty In The Pasty

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 9:54 p.m. CST

    I liked Flushed Away

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    There were a few too many "hit-in-the-crotch" and scatological jokes, but it had that endearing Aardman charm to it, and great voice work by Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet (the rare example of ***BIG NAME CELEBRITY*** voice casting where the BNCs in question didn't just use their normal speaking voices and did some honest-to-God voice ACTING). It's no Wallace & Gromit or Chicken Run (or Ratatoullie), but I found it entertaining.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 10:26 p.m. CST

    Great actors like Kristen Bell?

    by bbbbeeeennnn

    hmmm

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 10:56 p.m. CST

    HURRY!

    by Mr. Lahey

    Geronimo is waiting for your report!

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 11:22 p.m. CST

    We have to put a shirt on him

    by MacReady452

    My son might go gay after he watches this.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 11:26 p.m. CST

    americans just suck at designing robots

    by cloudrider`

    the cartoon has way cooler robots. the robots here just look plain and boring. and the robo baddie looks like one of them bayformers - messy with no aesthetic value. <p> the same with the design of the city. just look plain and boring. and yeah, a cute dog for sidekick and a girl with purple hair strain for a girlfriend. very american. i'll stick with the original.

  • Sept. 7, 2009, 11:37 p.m. CST

    WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO ASTROBOY?

    by DrMorbius

  • Sept. 8, 2009, 2:52 a.m. CST

    MacReady

    by ThusSpakeSpymunk

    You're exactly the problem, you stupid cunt. PC morons like you are the reason most everything in movies is terrible. Pat yourself on the back.

  • Sept. 8, 2009, 3:11 a.m. CST

    ThusSpakeSpymunk

    by The_Goddamn_Batman

    MacReady's clearly kidding. Lighten up. Astroboy's got guns coming out of his arse and he wears tight little shorts and red booties in the trailer. Everything's going to be o-kay.

  • Sept. 8, 2009, 5:06 a.m. CST

    Pass

    by Stalkeye

    Thanks but no thanks.

  • Sept. 8, 2009, 8:43 p.m. CST

    The_Goddamn_Batman

    by ThusSpakeSpymunk

    Thanks. You really know how to put it in perspective for a man. :)

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 3:04 a.m. CST

    vwJtWgM

    by TmvEqK

    LvHLht <a href="http://xwalhz.com/ ">vwJtWgM</a>

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 3:04 a.m. CST

    vJpUsFfl

    by TmvEqK

    uFwmpP <a href="http://vbglzg.com/ ">vJpUsFfl</a>