Tezuka Talks ‘Astro Boy’ TV Series

Japanese anime studio presents ‘Guskou Budori' at Annecy

ANNECY — Japanese anime studio Tezuka is in early conversations to create local versions around the world of its most famous property, and indeed one of the foundations of Japan’s distinctive anime style: toon TV seriesAstro Boy.”

The best-known creation of Tezuka founder Osamu Tezuka, and first seen from 1952 as a manga graphic novel, “Astro Boy” is set in a futuristic world where robots live alongside humans. It turns on a young robot that fights crime and injustice, including other robots, which he often gives a good hammering.

Adapted as a TV skein in 1960, “Astro Boy” became Japan’s first smash-hit animated TV show. It saw a remake in 1980 and again in 2003, in a retread whose rights are owned by Sony.

Summit Distribution released a 2009 animated feature film, with Charlize Theron, Nicolas Cage and Freddie Highmore as “Astro Boy,” which was produced by Imagi Animation Studios, Imagi Cristal and Tezuka Productions. It underwhelmed at the U.S. box office, however, grossing $19.5 million.

Tezuka is now in talks to re-version the original TV show with Channel TV, a network created by eight Nigerian nationwide TV channels. Other conversations are believed to be taking place.

Tezuka would bring to the table the property and could co-produce, providing animation services and technical know-how.

Tezuka is also in talks to sell content to Content TV, tapping into its rich TV library of anime classics, Yoshihiro Shimizu, Tezuka Productions general manager, said at France’s Annecy Animation Film Festival, where Tezuka presents out of competition a rare venture into feature film production, the 2D “The Life of Guskou Budori.”

Helmed by Gisaburo Sugii, “Guskou Budori” loosely adapts Kenji Miyazawa’s classic tale about a young man — here transformed into a young cat — forced by droughts and natural disasters to leave his life with his family in the Tohoku forests of northeastern Japan. Story takes on special relevance after Japan’s 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disaster, recalled at the beginning of “Guskou Budori.”

The “Astro Boy” re-version rollout forms part of a Tezuka strategy under Makoto Tezuka, the studio founder’s son, to focus on mass entertainment.

Tezuka’s drive into international could receive subsidy support from the “Cool Japan” culture export drive, pushed by Japan’s government, Shimizu told Variety.

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