Astro Boy‘s Abysmal Opening, and Imagi’s Sinking Ship

Astro Boy

Imagi, an animation studio that thought it could compete with the big boys, has suffered a major blow after the abysmal opening of Astro Boy which debuted in 6th place with barely over $7 million. UPDATE: The actual opening weekend box office gross for Astro Boy was $6.7 million.

Hong Kong-based Imagi entered the animation industry with grand ideas, but little production know-how and the uninspiring idea of applying TV production models to CG animated features by preparing the pre-production in the US and animating the films in Asia where labor is cheap (well, cheaper, since Astro Boy still cost a ridiculous $65 million). The company’s first film, TMNT, debuted modestly with $54 million in 2007. Astro Boy will have difficulty matching even half of that figure.

Even more embarrassing, Astro Boy is a big flop in its home country of Japan, where it barely made it into the top ten on its opening weekend, and dropped out of the top 10 in its second week. Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that when you attempt to Westernize a distinctly foreign product, you end up alienating everybody. The more important lesson is that just because you’re basing a film around an existing property doesn’t guarantee a hit. The other part of the equation is that you also have to make a good film that people actually want to see. Then again, it also helps if the property you’re remaking isn’t an obscure mid-century relic that no normal human being under the age of 35 (and definitely no teenager) has heard of.

As readers may recall, Imagi was experiencing major financial difficulties late last year, which resulted in the loss of many of their top talents in the LA studio. They were given a temporary reprieve after Chinese investors stepped in at the last minute. The tradeoff, according to The Hollywood Reporter, was that the company had to revamp its production slate (Tusker was dropped), and begin searching for a “hero concept of Chinese origin” to produce as an upcoming feature. (Their next feature, Gatchaman, was already well into production, and is still slated to follow Astro Boy.) The Chinese are keeping Imagi on financial life support for the time being, but it’s becoming obvious that they lack the vision and passion for animation that results in films that audiences will pay to watch.


  • http://www.youtube.com/user/MovieRatIan Movie Rat Ian

    Hey I’m a teen who loves Astro Boy and all things Tezuka…though I’m one of the only ones, and yeah I didn’t enjoy the movie or what it did. XP

  • Trevor

    It’s pretty scary when studios make this jump. They can grow and grow and grow and be successful all the way up, but it doesn’t mean anything when you try to jump into features. It’s all or nothing at that point.

  • Viv

    I don’t know, I thought advertising was the movie’s biggest downfall, financially. Heck, I usually consider myself on top of these things (though I admit I’ve dropped the ball lately) and I didn’t even know when Astro Boy was going to be released until after a friend told me she got back from seeing it.

  • Ben

    Ouch. Another young Tezuka fan here. It’s a shame. That’s all I can say.

  • matt

    how can you say they lack passion for animation? just because Astroboy flopped?? if you do a bit more research on the history of how Imagi came about, you’ll see very clearly that the founder of Imagi most obviously does not lack passion. lacking business acumen? sure.. lacking good artistic judgment? perhaps… but lacking passion? that i can’t agree with.

  • J. Encea

    “$65 million”
    Holy cow…I have to admit, I did not care much for the film, but it wasn’t THAT bad (anybody see Space Chimps or Shrek?). But it most CERTAINLY did not look like it cost $65 million. $30 million, tops.

    And as far as passion, I guess the leap from making plastic christmas trees to feature animation explains his passion.

  • http://leosantos.com Leo Santos

    Aaaand…the “Grumpiest blogger of all time” prize goes to…Amid Amidi!
    Seriously, Amid, it’s like you’re blaming them for just trying. “How dare they challenge the almighty Big Animation Studios!?!” ;-)

    I haven’t seen the film and, while I don’t expect it to be great, I can’t believe it will be THAT bad. Besides, box office success is not a good measure of quality, is it? The Iron Giant is pretty much the best animated movie ever, and made even less money than this one will probably make.

  • http://www.cinephobia.com Stephen Rowley

    Too harsh on the property, which is a good concept and reasonably well known (at least here in Australia). Sure, it’s a cult thing, but not that obscure, and plenty of films have launched on the back of cult recognition.

    The film doesn’t really deserve such condemnation either. It’s just okay, neither great nor terrible.

  • Bob

    That’s pretty harsh, Amid. Imagi lacks “the vision and passion for animation that results in films that audiences will pay to watch”? Honestly, I think the problem is marketing and subject matter. Few animated action movies do well in theaters. In my opinion, Imagi’s next film should be a comedy with dramatic elements – not an action flick like Gatchaman.

  • Ridgecity

    I been waiting for the new Astroboy film for at least a decade, and as the release date got closer, I felt this was getting less and less attention until is almost disappeared completely. Sadly (or happily) Pixar has set the bar too high for other companies to reach and any bad work they do will be the target of scrutiny from everyone, and they totally deserve it for this isn’t an industry that takes a couple days of work, it will take at least a couple years.

    Astroboy story has been copied to death by everyone, even Kubrick based A.I. on Astroboy’s origins (he even asked Tezuka to work with him as production designer on 2001, but he refused) so it had to be reworked and updated for this generation of kids, there’s actually a manga series in Japan that updates Astroboy to a modern setting (actually modern storytelling) and it’s a whole different thing. Maybe that would have worked a lot better than the semi-americanized version shown here.

    Gatchaman will probably do ever worse for the anime had barely any story it was pure non stop action and look what happened to Speed Racer.

    And this movie will make the money back from tv and dvds. remember THIS IS ASTROBOY. This is a character that deserves to be handled by big heads like Spielberg or Brad Bird, not just any guy with money.

  • Ridgecity

    The manga is called “Pluto” and here’s some character RE-designs.

    http://www.du9.org/IMG/jpg/Pluto-Comparaison.jpg

  • ArthurF

    Like “Speed Racer” before it, there seems to be some misplaced nostalgia-marketing around those 1970s American-viewed Japanese imports. As part of the generation who watched back then, and never considered it as more than a laughingly twee import style of cartoon (rather than, say, the parallel UPA style, or Jay Ward style, HB and so on) I never would have imagined today to produce those for the American marketplace – at such a budget at least.

    I guess the “Chinese hero” commission explains what is implied by investment from Chinese sources, a bit like the 80s when Hollywood studios started being bought up by Corporates like Sony, there were more and more “synergy” oriented projects…

  • Chris Sokalofsky

    Personally, I agree with some of Amid’s comments, although I think that if they’re misread could definitely sound a little harsh. As Amid said, Imagi simply doesn’t have the experience necessary to put out a good quality feature film. What they created with Astroboy was a film lacking in quality, story, and writing. The dialogue was atrocious, voice acting disjointed and out of character, and as mentioned, TV quality visuals and animation.

    ..I DO think that Amid was wrong when he said they lacked the passion for animation. That’s overkill, because anyone/any group of people who put in the sweat to release a feature has to have passion for the medium. But in this case, they didn’t have the talent in place to back it up.

  • AaronSch

    There’s no doubt that Brad Bird’s “The Iron Giant” was grossly underappreciated when it was originally released, yet today many sing its praises. To equate box office success with quality is rather silly. Shrek the Third went on to earn over 300 million domestically and that film was a certified stinker. The recent film “9″ made a pawltry 30 million and I felt it deserved better than that. Personally, I think the release date was woefully mishandled. Perhaps the holiday release schedules are crowded, but Astroboy and Where the Wild Things Are (another under-performer) would have been better served if released during Thanksgiving, Christmas or even next summer.

  • Spike

    Amid, I don’t think Astro Boy flopped because it’s bad, even if it is.
    Last time I checked, lack of critical success or quality never stopped films like Transformers 2 or Couples Retreat from achieving commercial success.
    You put too much faith in audiences to go and see films based on quality and critical response rather than the quality of their advertising.

    In short, this is wrong:
    Quality of film= Box Office success

    and this is right:
    Quality of marketing = Box Office success

  • Em

    I think the main problem with this wasn’t the film itself- I actually thought it would do reasonably well because it’s ASTROBOY! You can’t exactly call him obscure.

    But when an icon like Astroboy fails in its own country of Japan, I think it was really the marketing. This film barely got promoted- I think I saw like three trailers before it came out, compared to, say, a film from Dreamworks which usually gets pimped to kingdom come.

    Well, that and no one goes to see non-Pixar flicks :P People are scared of the unknown, as we all know.

    Personally I didn’t see it because I thought it was just a pale imitation/American adaptation of Astroboy complete with token “edgy” girl sidekick. She wears short sleeve shirts under long sleeve shirts! Hardcore. Also the unnecessary shoehorning in of famous names for the voices. Nick Cage as Dr. Tenma!? Whatever. And they deleted his eyelashes, too.

  • amid

    Jim Kammerud: Comments must be kept focused on the content of a post or comment. Feel free to disagree in a respectful manner, but personally attacking another commenter or Brewmaster will not be tolerated on this site.

  • Marc Baker

    Not only that, but ‘Gatchaman’ went through many different versions in the U.S. from ‘Battle Of The Planets’ to ‘Eagle Riders’. So people who see a trailer for this will automatically remember ‘Battle Of The Planets’ from their youth, but the under 30 crowd might not know them, or which version was available to them since they’ve never gained the kind of popularity that ‘Speed Racer’ has enjoyed.

  • http://lovehatecartoons.blogspot.com Ted

    “Then again, it also helps if the property you’re remaking isn’t an obscure mid-century relic that no normal human being under the age of 35 (and definitely no teenager) has heard of.”

    You underestimate the power of the Tetsuwan Atom as a franchise in Japan (tho not of this particular movie).

    “Gatchaman will probably do ever worse for the anime had barely any story it was pure non stop action and look what happened to Speed Racer.”

    Gatchaman was actually quite story arc-ed within each of its series (Red X and Ken’s family hisotry, Joe’s family history and terminal illness are important arcs in the original series), and episodes were each usually strongly story oriented. Sure, there was a new giant mech every week in the first series and the action was usually pretty repetitive from episode to episode, but the stories were strong and not repetitive.

  • Jason

    Really, aside from a truly lame-ass political analogy stupidly injected into the film at one point, Astro Boy is a damn good film. I saw it on Saturday and I enjoyed it very much. It has great action, good visuals, a solid storyline, and a very likable main character. I thought it was a heck of a lot better than Cloudy With A Chance Of Blah Blah, frankly; certainly it was more involving. But I wonder if CGI is seriously starting to wear on people. I know my initial reaction was “not ANOTHER one” when I first saw the ads for Astro. (I wonder: if the film had been sold in its ads as more of a comedy than an adventure, would it have opened better?) Certain film clips changed my mind about this movie, and I’m glad I decided to see it. I’ll definitely be buying it when it comes out on DVD (although I’d recommend that the producers of the film excise as much of the aforementioned lame-ass political analogy as they can before they transfer the film onto disc. I think it’ll sell better). But Astro’s failure is kind of a heart-breaker; and a warning to all that CGI isn’t a guarantee of success.

    **The more important lesson is that just because you’re basing a film around an existing property doesn’t guarantee a hit.**

    Something Disney might keep in mind with their likely ill-fated Muppet revival. Anyone see the ads for that volunteer promotion they’re doing? Awkward as hell. A fully animated Mickey or Donald in those ads would go over much much MUCH better. At least they’re DISNEY-generated characters. Sheesh.

  • http://yazzdream.deviantart.com YazzyDream

    Well, I’m twenty and most people I know know Astro Boy. He’s iconic of course, but then again most people I know are majoring in animation. Either way I think this statement made by my 64 year old Japanese mother sums up our feelings best, “They should have kept him the old way, he was so much cuter.”

  • ask

    The film was awful. If anyone should be taking the blame for how this film performed, it should be the developers in the US, who wrote the story! It had no direction to go, the emotion was placed in the wrong places, too many conflicts introduced themselves that either didn’t get resolved, or got fixed hastily, and the incorporation of Japanese elements just seemed more like a jab rather than an homage.

  • Boris

    Nobody knows Astroboy! Kinda wrong timing imo.. they should have released the movie in the Spring or early summer when kids are more relaxed! Late in the year is usually the time of the big boys and serious movies.. You need to have a super kickass movie in order to compete!!

  • Inkan1969

    When I saw the commercials I assumed that this was a U.S. production made by a U.S. studio. But Imagi is based in Hong Kong instead? How is it that a Hong Kong Studio is making Westernized versions of East Asian properties, rather that versions that maintain their East Asian sensibilities?

  • http://www.theguysperspective.typepad.com THE GUYS

    We haven’t seen this film yet, but we’re getting pressure from the under 10 crowd to see it.

    But you’re right when you say: “Then again, it also helps if the property you’re remaking isn’t an obscure mid-century relic that no normal human being under the age of 35 (and definitely no teenager) has heard of.”

    We’ll admit it. We do remember!

  • http://tangoland.com Cynthia

    Just be sure not to assume it’s the artists that lack vision and passion. Many of us are out there pouring our hearts and minds into various productions which fail in the end..rarely due to lack of talent and effort.

  • Klyph

    Jebus Amid why don’t you get a shovel. I swear Amid fears non Disney animated movies like Frankenstein fears fire.

  • timmyelliot

    When a film flops, I always hear people arguing that it wasn’t good enough. But we all know how many critically panned films turn out to be financially successful.

    The argument of westernizing a distinctly foreign product is unconvincing as well. Off the top of my head, remaking Asian horror films seems to do well.

    I agree that you have to make a film that people want to see. I’m sure Imagi knew that too. I just don’t think anyone really knows what a box office hit is.

  • http://www.inkandpixelclub.com Sara

    I’m not really sure how the fact that Astro Boy is not a household name in the U.S. could have been that much of a problem for the film beyond the cost of the license. If you have a film that’s a completely original concept, no one will have heard of it either, so how is a somewhat obscure license any different? By your own admission, the movie also underperformed in Japan, where most people do know who Tetsuwan Atom is. So while it may have been a factor, I don’t know that the lack of brand recognition for Astro Boy was the movie’s biggest problem.

    Honestly, Amid, I can’t tell from what you’ve written whether you’ve actually seen the movie and didn’t like it or if you’re concluding that the movie isn’t good based on it’s box office performance, the trailers, other people’s reactions to it, or something else. I wish you would be a little more clear about that point. If you don’t want to write a review, that’s fine, but I think your readers would like to know why it is that you think the films is not good.

  • Aaron

    I like how the anti-Muppet guy up there managed to somehow drag both Disney and the Muppets into an article related to neither!

    Regarding Astro Boy, I saw very little marketing for the film. What I did see looked like a weird manga/USA hybrid. Haven’t had a chance to see it but I hope it doesn’t discourage future CG action/adventure films (as if Delgo didn’t already do that). I think the CG method holds great potential for really cool action films featuring comic or cartoon characters.

    Nobody else I know had ever heard of Astro Boy, aside from my dad (“wasn’t that some comic book in the 80s?”). The marketing didn’t exactly heighten their awareness. God Bless Imagi for trying, though… they just need better marketing minds. (And story minds by the sounds of it.)

  • The Insider

    Our tale starts with Dre@mw0rks. Once upon a time the mighty Dream cast out their trolls and unskilled peasants in order to grow stronger. And a rising sun from the East was foolish enough to entrust these castaways with their future crowning them as Kings and Queens…

    Cecil Kramer, Maryann Garger, David Bowers, Paul Wang, Ken Tsumura, Pilar Flynn, Tim Cheung, Greg Emerson, Pepe Valenica… This is your reward – the stillbirth of Astro Boy. And it is just.

  • http://thedreamerskingdom.org TK

    I think the failure here is how people failed to recognize Imagi after TMNT. TMNT was enjoyable (and I left the theater with good impression of the studio) but after people saw the film most of them recognized the film as being “made” by WB rather than Imagi. It’s like how people see The Wild as Disney film rather than a film made in studios in Canada and distributed by Disney. So, when WB passed on distributing AB, it’s now up to people who recognize Imagi to fill up the theater and unfortunately there weren’t many of them.

    At least I’m glad AB ended up to be highly watchable unlike other visual abominations like Hoodwinked or Open Season or *sigh* Delgo. I hope to see more from Imagi and I hope they don’t give up too soon!

  • Super Don Quix-ote

    For what it’s worth, Tezuka scholar Frederik L. Schodt has some positive things to say about the movie:

    http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/movies/23astro.html

    (Scroll down to the comments)

    “There is another enjoyable aspect of this film, and that is the international nature of its production. Almost from the beginning, the plan to produce it faced great obstacles, not the least of which was the pressure to satisfy long-time fans of the character in both Japan and the United States, as well as the interests of the original rights-holders in Japan, for Astro Boy is the equivalent of a national icon there. Testifying to this difficulty, nearly ten years ago Sony Pictures and Columbia attempted to create an Astro Boy feature film for the U.S. market, but after years of work and anticipation by Astro Boy fans around the world the project collapsed. This time, the production is by a Chinese company (Imagi) based in both Hong Kong and Hollywood, the director (David M Bowers) is British, and there has been considerable input from the son (Macoto) of Astro Boy’s creator, the late Osamu Tezuka. In China, where foreign films (and especially Japanese films) often face tough sledding, there also appears to have been enough national pride involved to grant this title co-production status with other Chinese films, allowing it equal access in the special month of October to the huge domestic market where Astro Boy–as one of the first Japanese manga ever published there–already has a considerable following. Osamu Tezuka created Astro Boy to be an emissary of peace, and in this new film he continues to function as one.”

  • http://robcatview.blogspot.com robcat2075

    A disappointing outcome. “No one knows nothing” is the only certain rule in show business so I don’t think it was obvious ahead of time that Astroboy would fail because of its production or development model.

    As several above commenters have noted you could point to any recent movie success (or failure) and point to a precedent that would PROVE it should have been a failure (or succes).

    At least they were decent enough not to leave their staff unpaid when things got rocky.

  • onnett

    To be fair, Astro doesn’t have the success and notoriety that had in Japan fourty years ago. Putting it bluntly, the franchise can compete with the modern anime industry who knows were is headed and knows what type of products can be sure hits. Even the 2003 TV series of Astroboy (which, by anime standards, was pretty good) didn’t have the ratings Mushi Productions expected. Then again, I may be wrong, since the Ghibli movies (not your anime standards in any ways) are still to this day the most succesful box office hits in the history of Japan.

    BTW Amid, “isn’t an obscure mid-century relic that no normal human being under the age of 35 (and definitely no teenager) has heard of” That comment was just evil xDD
    I’m 21 and I know who Astroboy is… OH! Wait, I’m not normal… yeah I get your point <_<

  • Chris Sobieniak

    It’s nice to see that Frederik L. Schodt had something encouraging to say about it, and it was due to the Chinese involvement the mainland got to watch this film the same time as the rest of the country given the significance of this month. In some way, most of us outta be thankful we got this film at all, much like those that had waited a long time for a Speed Racer film and so-on. These things just happen or they don’t.

    > Well, I’m twenty and most people I know know Astro Boy. He’s iconic of course, but then again most people I know are majoring in animation. Either way I think this statement made by my 64 year old Japanese mother sums up our feelings best, “They should have kept him the old way, he was so much cuter.”

    I felt the same way about it as well. Often it was more a case of there not being that big a push for Astro Boy as there should’ve been for years. The 1980′s series would’ve been great if it had aired on Nickelodeon I often say to my friends. There were many opportunities for Astro to have made an impact, but the way America was “Johnny-come-lately” on Japanese cartoons/comics in general didn’t help matters any.

    > Nobody knows Astroboy! Kinda wrong timing imo.. they should have released the movie in the Spring or early summer when kids are more relaxed!

    Kids are never relaxed actually, I should know, they never shut up!

  • Daniel Zelter

    Um, AB is already inspired from Western culture, so they didn’t “dumb it down” one bit. Hell, they even consulted with Tezuka’s son on the final product. The scatter-shot marketing and unfriendly release date were what killed AB. If you want Westernized anime adaptations, try DB: E.

  • http://www.kohrtoons.com Robert K

    “Pluto” is really good, just thought I would chime in there. Infact I think it may have made a better film than sticking with the original. At least then Imagi would be offering something new rather than just more animation of the original (which has been animated before). Some of my coworkers were really stoked to see this, I really wasn’t the trailer felt cliche. In the end though if Imagi pulled $7 million in the US its not a complete disaster. It did open around the world, they may at least make back most of the cost.

  • http://dailygrail.com/blog/8389 red pill junkie

    I agree with the commenters who think a huge success at the box office during the first weekend is more the merit of the marketing campaign, than a reflection of the film’s quality itself. I remember that in 1998 the American version of Godzilla had a huge first weekend, and we all know how terrible that film was.

    So, I’m still tempted to see this Astro Boy film when it gets released in Mexico.

  • http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=052C631F61EE2838 Iain

    I was kind of expecting “Astro Boy” to do poorly. Outside of the fact that the movie treats the original sources like cheap low-quality dirt, how many kids in recent times have known about Astro or the other Osamu Tezuka works? All they really know about Japanese animation is Hayao Miyazaki’s works and 4Kids’ re-dubs. I know “Gatchaman” will fare even worse, probably many kids who will see the trailer will be like “Mummy, daddy, what’s ‘Gatchaman’ supposed to be?”

    Also, geez, $65 million dollars it cost to do this? They really spent too much money on very little, compared to “TMNT”‘s technically-well-done $35 million animation.

  • Insider 2

    ken tsemura is an executive producer on this film. One of the worst, non-creative bean counters working in the business today. He was a lousy production manager at DW, burned a ton of artists and continued to do so when he left the studio.

    Yes in Hollywood you fall up the ladder.

  • Chris Webb

    It’s great that so many producers and investors have wanted to emulate Pixar’s success.

    But it seems that they haven’t done even basic homework into how Pixar got to be Pixar.

    If you are a producer and want to emulate Pixar’s success, you’ll need three things at the beginning:

    1. A billionaire investor like Steve Jobs who keeps his hands off the films. (Amazing that Jobs does, considering his management approach to Apple)

    2. A brilliant film maker like John Lasseter that an established studio and distributor like Disney wants to work with. (Disney was courting JL for years before Toy Story)

    3. Headquarters AWAY from Hollywood.

    Add a commitment to ORIGINAL stories, and some of the world’s most artistic and talented people. THEN you may have a shot at creating something like a Pixar, Dreamworks, or Blue Sky film.
    You can’t do it on the cheap. That’s just the reality.

  • Captain Falcon

    The Iron Giant flopped big time. Guess they lacked the passion for animation too.

    Oh wait.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    > I was kind of expecting “Astro Boy” to do poorly. Outside of the fact that the movie treats the original sources like cheap low-quality dirt, how many kids in recent times have known about Astro or the other Osamu Tezuka works? All they really know about Japanese animation is Hayao Miyazaki’s works and 4Kids’ re-dubs.

    You’d think those kids would also want to know more about it if they do some research into it like I had back in the 90′s when all you had was a few books on the subject. These kids have the net, they do not have to go through the college library system I had to in acquiring about anything.

  • Mike Fontanelli

    There’s a lesson in here somewhere; I hope someone is taking notes. For starters: Don’t take something classic, stylized and specific – and render it generic, bland and homogenized. I’m a huge Tezuka fan, but after taking one look at the trailer, decided to give this a miss. Obviously, some creative executive (oxymoron alert) “improved” the original character design by ordering his features to be far less caricatured and cartoony, and then over-rendered it to a fine fare-thee-well. Even his fingernails have detail in the poster! (He’s a robot, for chrissakes!!) It has “suits-making-creative-decisions” written all over it. They’ll never learn; what a shame.

  • Jason

    **I like how the anti-Muppet guy up there managed to somehow drag both Disney and the Muppets into an article related to neither!**

    Well, it was a warning Disney should heed. As for the Muppets…did you know that at one time the Muppet crew was thinking about making an Astro Boy movie? True story. Just thought I’d toss that in there.

  • Jim Karl

    Amid, your comment is quite harsh for a small studio trying to bring anime to the big screen. I personally enjoyed the movie, and I thought the production quality is solid, although still a long distance from Pixar or Dreamworks. On the other hand, I do agree with you that the proprerty has quite a lot of problems, especially it doesn’t really click with the kids, teenagers or even adults in the US. Imagi’s next movie, Gatchaman (G-Force) may do better in the box office though, at least people here in the US have heard about the series.

    Imagi did spend too much money on producing this movie, $65 million is a lot comparing to its previous movie, TMNT. They basically doubled the production budget, it is simply a huge financial risk. Also, they might have spent too much money on the Hollywood stars’ voices. Hopefully, Astro Boy will do better in the other countries, although it flopped here and Japan.

  • akira

    come on dude, the problem is not the subject matter! for one thing it’s great subject matter, if it’s done right it will be semi-contraversial and thought provoking… not like this watered down crap they’re spitting out with a slew of big name hollywood voice actors… the design is unappealing and the story is unappealing, end of story… .but don’t put down astro boy because it’s not well know by kids in USA, or whatever you said… also TMNT didn’t have a disappointing box office from my point of view, and the production pipeline is not at fault either.. .tons of stuff is boarded in USA and animated overseas and turns out great (batman beyond return of the joker for example)… and one last thing, why rag on a movie just because it doesn’t rake in the money? it’s like your happy to be putting the nails in the coffin of an animation studio… it’s unfortunate if they go down before establishing themselves to the point where they can take more risks.

  • https://twitter.com/danny_shea Danny Shea

    I think it was a bad omen from the beginning when The Weinstein Company pulled out as the original distributors for the film.

  • Rob

    I’m not normal (and definitely don’t exist)!

  • Brianimator

    Way to be supportive of all the animation artists (yes, artists with passion) who worked their asses off over a span of years to bring this movie to life.

    I hope you didn’t have break a sweat on your way to being so dismissive.

  • http://twitter.com/jennytablina Rebecca Gunn

    I find it offensive personally that you think so little of younger audiences Amid

    Maybe the regular movie-goer hasn’t heard of Astro so much but I know a number of people who love the franchise and Osamu Tezuka’s work. You’ll be surprised at the number of teens who know who Astro Boy is and his significance even after so long

    I myself am 21 and discovered Astro in about 2001 but got better aquainted with the character through the 2003 series which you seem to have forgotten aired on American TV, sure it flopped but I hear Time Warner really messed the series about in the US, we had most of the series run in the UK

    Most fans of the series I’ve heard from have had more good things to say about the film than bad. Maybe some of that is fanboy reactions but often the fanbase of the series is the most critical. If the fans like it then Imagi have succeeded in staying close enough to the original

    The problem I think was marketing, Astro Boy’s coverage has been mostly through cons and teaser trailers and not many of those hit theatres, I only saw the final proper trailer last week and I’ve been anticipating this film! Mind we have to wait till January over here

    Really I find this and the Christmas Carol bashing rather disappointing as both films look like they deserve a chance far more than, say, Alvin and the Chipmunks 2. I normally enjoy Cartoon Brew but this week has been dissapointing (and all in the same week John K made his blog private too…)

  • http://audobonbridge.tripod.com/toontown Robotkat

    Hey! I’m 16, and recently took an 11 year old and 8 year old to the movie. There’s clusters of students my age who are anticipating going to the Astro Boy movie. The reason it hasn’t done well is because of so many other movies (on the better side, Where the Wild Things Are and Paranormal Activity) debuting at the same time.

    How wonderful it is to see you so dismissive and ignorant! Astro Boy wasn’t bad, but it certainly was enjoyable. Maybe you should actually watch the movie and one or more samples of the movie’s source material before you begin stigmatizing the demographic. Great job at using a concept picture that came out in 2007.

  • https://twitter.com/danny_shea Danny Shea

    I should add to my previous comment that I still look forward to seeing the film myself. Bad business for an animated film is bad business for animation altogether; we want these films to succeed so that studios will make more movies and then hopefully take more interesting risks with interesting material. The last thing we need is for financiers and investor types to believe that only Dreamworks, Blue Sky and Pixar are able to compete in this market.

  • http://agoynamedjew.blogspot.com Anson J

    I’m of the mind that marketing gives a film it’s opening take and the quality of the film gives it, it’s staying power after that. I think the mistake here is that they went into this with the idea that the Astroboy name would save them some money in marketing costs and sell the property for them. As evidenced with films like TMNT and Clone Wars, that doesn’t work. Maybe that would bring in a small core of hardcore geeks. But especially with an older property, you need to spend the time to reintroduce the property to the public before the film comes out. Perhaps in this case, getting the original series back in circulation on TV, DVD and on the internet. Or getting the Manga out there or some more toys.

  • http://tezukainenglish.com/?q=node/249 Jeffbert

    I wrote reviews for the 1st season of the B&W Astroboy series, and, although I was a bit disappointed by this film, it was mainly because rather than use an existing plot, it made one of its own that, while ok, was not what I had been expecting. I had heard that this would be true to the earlier versions and so forth. However, other than the death of Toby and the creation and rejection of Atom (Astro), the only recognizable plot element was the sun with the tentacles, but while this was in the trailer, it did not appear in the film until the very end, as Atom flew off to a new adventure.

    I hope that if there are any further films of Astroboy, they will be more in line with the corpus of his stories. The manga Pluto does draw not only from “Greatest Robot” but also takes plot elements from all over the Astroboy corpus. It integrates them seamlessly into its overall plot.

    Yes, there were a few other things that I disliked, but overall, this was an enjoyable film. I think the trouble came from trying to make it please both the older ones, who as I, remember the B&W series, and also make it appeal to the younger generation. I still remember the 1st Star Trek film; I was very disappointed because the element of human conflict was missing. But the subsequent films were mostly very much what I had expected as a continuation of the series.

    However, I realize it is an unfair comparison between a film that picked up where a series ended and one that tries to remake the original story.

  • http://jgchan.blogspot.com Jerry Chan

    Wow, I know I live under a rock (being a college student and all) but I had no idea that this movie was released.

    If I had known it was coming out last Friday, I might have gone to see it opening day

  • Sam Filstrup

    Kick em’ while their down huh?

  • Dave Chua

    After watching it, I think they did a fair job of it. The CG wasn’t awful, but a lot of the humour fell flat. The story also needed a lot of tightening in a whole lot of places, particularly in regards to the main villain. The Red/Blue force thing also seemed rather lazy.

    Once again, I think celebrity voices do little to help an animated film sell. But this doesn’t the box office death that it suffered.

  • http://www.spiteyourface.com Tony Mines

    I agree with many here that the post may have been to harsh and too slavish to the value of box office figures. I haven’t seen the film, and based on the trailer I shan’t bother either (least not in the cinema) but I do think the production design (lead aside) is more appealing and thought out than most other recent efforts.

    I’ll amend though, that the problem is NOT no one under 35 knowing Astro Boy/Tetsuwan Atom, but rather no one under 5. This project is clearly something that a lot of nostalgic young-adult professionals thought had a market, forgetting that the VAST MAJORITY of animation box office comes from preschool kids or their parents, looking for an easy saturday morning sitter. An audience that works art or animation NOT ONE LITTLE BIT into their decision process, but that IS going to be dissuaded from seeing a franchise film that their child isn’t already familiar with.

    Don’t credit our own artistic sensibilities with having effected the box office, cos I don’t think there’s a real correlation.

    (gosh I wish these comments had italics)

  • Tarako

    Well aren’t you a grouchy little cynic, Mr. Amid. I’m 14 and loved this movie. A movie doesn’t have to be from Pixar in order to do well.

    Wow…I hope every single English-speaking Astro Boy fan, especially the young ones, come here and tell you off. You’re just being rude.

  • JM

    Wow. So this is what the animation community has come to? Amid, you should be ashamed of yourself for kicking a studio when it’s down. It isn’t clear whether you’ve actually seen the movie that you’re railing against (I’m guessing you haven’t, your complaints are so vague) but then that is the danger of blogs isn’t it? Anyone can start one and think of himself as a journalist. Why Jerry Beck has allied himself with you is a mystery to me.

    I work at one of the major studios and unlike most of the negative posters I ACTUALLY SAW the movie this weekend with my 10 yr old son. We both loved it. It is a well told, handsome, exciting and funny film that brought a tear to my eye during the father/son scenes. It was well made – but horribly marketed, and that isn’t the fault of the artists.

    I wish the animation community would stop gleefully looking to attack. We’re all in this together and when studios do well we all do well. If the artists who worked at Imagi can’t expect support from their peers when their work doesn’t connect with an audience then that is pretty sad.

  • amid

    JM wrote, I wish the animation community would stop gleefully looking to attack. We’re all in this together and when studios do well we all do well. If the artists who worked at Imagi can’t expect support from their peers when their work doesn’t connect with an audience then that is pretty sad.

    JM: I think you’ve confused the concept of the animation business with how preschool works. The animation business is not a benevolent organization that gives everybody a cookie when a particular studio’s film does well, and to operate under that assumption is a wildly naive and irresponsible understanding of the business. Cartoon Brew is not a cheerleader for the business (that’s why Animation Magazine exists), and we have no obligation to blindly cheer for every piece of animation to do well. The best will rise to the top and many will fail along the way. Kind of like how, you know, capitalism is supposed to function.

    While admittedly, I love the art side of things more than the business, I am also intrigued by seeing companies drive themselves into the ground through mismanagement and a lack of vision. I didn’t make Imagi’s failure happen. The studio, like so many others, entered the business looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but had no clear plan for how to get it. The only useful thing to do at this point is to learn from their incompetence.

  • Mesterius

    …but Amid, did you actually see the “Astro Boy” film? What is your opinion about the film itself?

  • skeptical

    Oh man, someone mentioned Ken Katsamura…. ….that was enough for me.

    How do these type of people stay in our industry?????

  • http://www.mattmurrayanimation.com Matt

    I will pay them to NOT make a Gatchaman movie, have they ever SEEN that show!? it’s retarded! Do they not realize that the STORY is what makes the movie? 9 was a movie that had great animation and potential but it just wasn’t good. I’m sure the animators had a great time working on the film and are proud of what they did, I would be, but you can’t deny that if the story doesn’t pull you in, you don’t care what it looks like.

  • Kevin B.

    I actually enjoyed Astro Boy. True, it wasn’t nearly to the quality that it could’ve been. I saw so much potential in it to be truly epic but it was enjoyable. I like the simpler, brightly colored pastels look of it too. Still, 65 million is a rather large budget for this film.

  • http://tezukainenglish.com/?q=node/249 Jeffbert

    Oops, I should add the robot circus as a recognizable plot element.

    Matt, I watched the entire Gatchaman series, and although it was childish, in the pattern of the Saturday afternoon serials that were before my time, it was about the team, their relationships; conflicts, including interpersonal and inner conflicts; their joys; their tragedies; and each one’s stories. The battle against Galactor was only the vehicle used to tie these things together. It would have been rather boring without the common enemy; and Galactor gave these kids a reason to come together.

    I do not hope for its success in the USA, though it was one of the series that was important to the introduction of anime to the USA. Who knows? It was imported in 2 watered-down versions before it received a proper Japanese language with subtitles version, so it does merit consideration as a feature-length film. Yet, at this time, how many who watched it as kids would be interested in seeing such a film?

  • Dragonrider1227

    Hey! This movie was great! If there’s any reason this movie didn’t do so well it’s because of competition. (They were up against “Where the Wild things are” for crying out loud!) That and perhaps a lack of advertising. And for the record, I’m only 26 and a big, big fan of Astro Boy.

  • Mathew

    “Then again, it also helps if the property you’re remaking isn’t an obscure mid-century relic that no normal human being under the age of 35 (and definitely no teenager) has heard of.”

    Umm, this is a pretty ignorant statement and I am actually quite surprised that Amid made it at all. Tezuka may not be considered a ‘mid-century relic’ in the USA but that is not the case in the rest of the world. There is in fact a world outside America you know! A couple of years ago there was a Tezuka exhibition here in Australia that was huge and the DVD box sets really sell well down under.

  • David Breneman

    It looks like Japan has had its “Mr. Bug Goes to Town” moment.

  • Rocktave

    This makes another post where I have to question Amid’s journalistic integrity. It seems as though he looks at the industry solely from the business perspective. He talks like a suit, who only thinks in terms of monetary figures, and if something goes wrong, it was obviously due to the lack of vision and talent. I think Mike Fontanelli hit the nail on the head, and JM drove it home.

    I’ll agree with him on one point, though. “just because you’re basing a film around an existing property doesn’t guarantee a hit.” I just wish you wouldn’t blame the talent, Amid. Like Mike F said, this has “suits-making-creative-decisions” written all over it, as does 99.9% of everything else out there that sucks.

  • D

    “Then again, it also helps if the property you’re remaking isn’t an obscure mid-century relic that no normal human being under the age of 35 (and definitely no teenager) has heard of.”

    Are you kidding? Did you somehow miss the remake series from five or six years ago? My 7 year old cousin thinks Astro is great.

    I’d say poor advertising is the main contributor to this film not doing as well as it could have. Of course, we’re only talking about the US here (including your box office figures). It’s breaking records in China, and Imagi are already talking about a sequel. Not to mention it has yet to open in many countries.

  • Jason

    D, if Astro does get a sequel, Imagi can count on my patronage. But let’s hope that they will pllllleeeeeaaasse leave out the lame-ass political crap next time.

  • Karma

    This movie is horrible. In every way. Horrible.

    I knew it would be horrible as soon as I saw bathroom humor shamelessly and embarrassingly interjected into the final moments of the trailer.

    And seeing the film itself was even more embarrassing.

    But I am left with one weird feeling about one thing, where this film is concerned. The Japanese audience.

    This film deserved to be panned in Japan the way it was. No doubt about that.

    So, why then, do the Japanese think to make this awful film a flop…. but make the even worse-in-every-possible-way-film Dragonball Evolution a hit in Japan?

    Just another thing that i’ll never understand about those wacky Japanese. They pan this awful film, but make a smash hit out of an even worse film.

    Go figure.

  • Jason

    There is no bathroom humor whatsoever in the film, Karma. None. Nada. Zilch. And I never saw any in any of the trailers either. You SURE you saw what you think you saw…? Or do you have an axe to grind about Dragonball?

  • JM

    Jason is right. There is absolutely NO bathroom humor in Astro Boy. I think KARMA maybe didn’t see the movie.

  • Amber

    I’m sure you’ve likely had a million comments to this affect already – but teenagers and especially “normal” people in their 20s DEFINITELY know Astro Boy. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, though.

  • Barbie Bellana

    Rocktave: “This makes another post where I have to question Amid’s journalistic integrity. It seems as though he looks at the industry solely from the business perspective.”

    In the end, money talks. It is not called an “industry” for nothing.

    People may personally like a movie, but the financial performance is ultimately what decides a success in the *industry*.