Ultraman, the kaiju-fighting superhero, is getting his first cg-animated feature, 55 years after first appearing on Japanese tv screens. The film is in development at Netflix.
In a new storyline, baseball star Ken Sato picks up the mantle of Ultraman, only to end up having to raise a kaiju (monster) baby. On top of the challenge of being a father, Sato also has to contend with his own estranged father and the conniving Kaiju Defense Force.
Netflix will produce the film with Tsuburaya Productions, which owns the franchise. Industrial Light & Magic will provide the animation. The director is Shannon Tindle, an Emmy-winning designer, story artist, and filmmaker who created Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings, and is writing and executive-producing Netflix’s upcoming Lost Ollie. The Ultraman film will be his feature directorial debut.
Tindle is co-writing the film with Marc Haimes (Kubo and the Two Strings). John Aoshima (Gravity Falls) is co-directing. Tom Knott is producing, with Lisa Poole as co-producer.
“Making this film is a dream come true,” said Tindle in a statement. “What began as an original story inspired by my love for Eiji Tsuburaya’s Ultraman somehow became an actual Ultraman film thanks to the incredible trust of the team at Tsuburaya Productions, and the support of the folks at Netflix Animation. We’ve assembled an all-star team and I can’t wait to share our unique take on Ultraman with the rest of the world.”
Ultraman first appeared in the eponymous 1966 live-action series, which was created by Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects legend who also helped create Godzilla. The character has since appeared in many series, films, manga, and novels; a high-profile feature, Shin Ultraman, is due to come out in Japan soon. Netflix has released a cg-animated spin-off, Ultraman, which is getting a second season.
The superhero is a fixture of pop culture in Japan and his influence reaches beyond the country: he inspired Ant-Man’s costume in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for instance. But the character has yet to enter the mainstream in North America. Tsuburaya Productions describes this film as the company’s “first full-scale endeavor to reach the global market.”