After decades of laying dormant in American pop culture, the first big screen production Astro Boy will come to theaters in the United States on Oct. 23, 2009. Astro Boy has been to Japanese culture what Mickey Mouse is to America's -- except even more influential. Since it's debut as a manga comic book created by cartoonist and animator Osamu Tezuka in 1951, Astro Boy has sparked deep interest in the man-machine relationship and done much to inspire Japan's unique expertise in the field of robotics.
Set some time in the future, Astro Boy tells the story of a humanoid robot with child-like features and rocket-powered legs. Originally built by a grieving scientist named Tenma (played in the movie by Nicolas Cage) whose son was killed in a car crash, the robotic boy was intended to fill the void left by the dead son. Eventually, however, Tenma decides that the machine is a poor substitute, and Astro Boy is sold into slavery.
Astro Boy's life is defined by his search for human acceptance -- first in Japanese manga (1952), then on Japanese TV anime cartoons (1963, 1980, and 2004), and now, in a movie. The character, who remains hugely popular in Japan, first came to the US in the mid-1960s.
Astro Boy may just a little kid yearning for acceptance, but that doesn't mean he can't have a little fun being a robot. Teasers on the movie's website show the robotic kid zooming through clouds propelled by his built-in rockets, plowing through the Earth, and exploding out of a volcano. The movie will feature computer-generated animation, a very different look for the manga-influenced character.