Saturday, November 29, 2008


How can this not excite you?

How are you not filled with the awe and excitement of your youth? How can you not be overwhelmed with nostalgia?

When I was a kid, probably around 6 or 7, I got up at 6:00 every day to watch first THE MIGHTY HERCULES, but that what I was really up to see was ASTRO BOY. And, as the impressionable young boy that I was, what I took from that show was that I wish, hoped, and dreamed... that I was a robot. For real, no exaggeration. I wanted to be a robot. A robot with a heart and soul. The protector of humanity and robot-kind alike; the World's hero.

I remember so many great stories from ASTRO BOY... the robot liar, the Snow Leopard, the Robot God, Uran's Twin, Robio and Jullie-8, and of course, the greatest of them all; The World's Strongest Robot. Stories filled with adventure, romance, imagination, and likable, memorable, characters.

But why is it ASTRO BOY resonates so much with a young boy, like I was? I think it might be that I projected myself into Astro... though a robot, he had a family, friends, and went to school. And while he eventually gained friends, at first he was picked on and ostrecised for being different... hell, looking at his origin, he was even horribly abused by first his father, and then the robot circus he was sold into; but he persevered. He questioned the descisions of adults and had a childhood niavitte that I could identify with; he just wanted to save everyone. Astro didn't judge the villian, but rather looked for a compromise. That didn't mean he was stupid though. Astro was incredibly smart, and after some deliberation, his positronic brain could come up with the optimum solution to any problem. Astro represents childrens empowerment fantasy at it's finest, because it emphasises the best qualities of a hero: Honor, respect for all life, seek compromise before conflict, but take decisive action, and most importantly, use your strength to help others. Thus it was through that projection, that fantasy, that I shaped my moral compass.

So as to this trailer... am I excited? You bet your ass! What I don't get is why other people aren't? While looking for the trailer, all I came across was petty bitching and moaning; people that didn't like the look of it, that questioned the need for a revitalization of a childhood classic, that didn't think Tezuka would approve of the use of computer animation... Fuck that.

How does it look? EXCELLENT. IMAGI is a great studio that's been slowly but surely tempering their craft, and TMNT, while not a perfect movie, was nevertheless well directed and had some pretty astounding animation, and more importantly, art direction. I think that Tezuka's art actually lends itself quite well to computer animation because designed with animation in mind; every single character in Astro Boy is simply constructed with solid, geometric, volumes and very little unnessessary detail, which lends itself greatly to computer animation (as a student of animation myself, I have to say, the simpler the structure, the easier to animation). My only real critical point is that I wish the eyes on Astro were bigger than they are. But look at what they show us; the tunnelling through the ground, arms flailing wildly, flashlight eyes, and exploding through Mount Fuji, are both lifted directly from the 1960's opening of the show. This shows me that they're being true to the character. I'll even wager they put the machine guns in his ass.

As to the need to bring Astro back... have you ever watched kids movies, or saturday morning cartoons these days? Have you seen what we're teaching our kids? I'm not saying it's all garbage, but... what do kids learn from fucking BRATZ, WINX CLUB, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, or FAIRY GODPARENTS? It's all vacuous, commercial, and mean spirited. Have you ever just HUNG OUT with kids these days? O_O Do we need to revitalize a hero that once served faithfully as a positive rolemodel for everything that one should aspire to be? You're damn right! And all the better that it's something from everyones childhood; parents should be able to identify with their children, and there's nothing kids love more than to have their interests validated by adults, rather than being met with a condesending, "That's nice dear." Children's eyes sparkle when you show interest in what they are interested in. How many parents can tell their children stories of a character they loved that the children haven't heard of? "You think that's something? Why I remember the time Astro had to save the world's Seven Strongest Robots from Pluto, the Strongest Robot of them all!"

As for whether or not Tezuka would want to see Astro in all his 3D animated glory? Are you fucking kidding me, here? The man practically invented animation the Japanese! To his dying days he was on the forfront of artistic innovation. If he had a chance to actually build a robot boy with a 10,000 horsepower heart, he would have. As much nostalgia I have for classical animation, especially pretaining to this character, Astro Boy isn't about the past; he's about the bright and shining future. The promise of a better tomorrow. PROGRESS! INNOVATION! HOPE! Astro Boy has already conquered every aspect of the two-dimensional medium; time for the next.

So get on board with me people. Leave behind your pessimism and anger! Leave behind your paranoia and selfishness! Leave behind your anxieties and fears! By embracing a nostalgic hero of the past, may we find hope for a brighter tomorrow!


Nadia Oxford said...

I have to admit the animation doesn't excite me at all, even though I'm realistic about why it's not in 2D. I am excited about the story, though!

Nadia Oxford said...

I'm also a bit curious why you consider Spongebob Squarepants "mean-spirited." Heck, Spongebob is as happy as they come! All he wants to do is do right by folks. You'll be hard-pressed to find someone out there who takes such pride in a burger-flipping job.

(Yeah I was unemployed for a long time in 2004 and it's a great opportunity to philosophise about kids' cartoons.)

EEK said...

Man...I can't believe Astro Boy has always had the butt lasers. How did I never notice that until just a little while ago?

Halliday said...

Nadia>I'd say that SPOONGEBOB is more vacuous than mean-spirited... that was directed more that FAIRY GODPARENTS, whose humor is mostly rooted in casual abuse of power. I may be generalizing, but I don't really see anything on TV or in the theaters that really has anything to offer kids these days. But I'm also probably looking at my own childhood through rose colored glasses.

Eric>I think they might have been cut out of the North American version and the newest animated series, due to prudism.

Helu0302 said...

Tezuka's style is perfect for CG... but I didn't get that from this at all. Based on the 2 scientist this seems to have been dumbed down to very generic cg style.

Halliday said...

Helu>I disagree. Remember... this isn't anime. This is being produced by North Americans for North Americans, so there are different sensibilities at work. Though only a short trailer, I see all the most important elements of the designs have been retained, though I'd personally make the eyes bigger on Astro, on Doctor Elefun, they'd be competing for attention with his giant nose, which is the key element of his design.

Quite frankly, I see mostly positive things in this teaser... good art direction, detailed "sets", good effects animation (effects animation is always what has set us apart from the Japanese... they are infinitely better at it than any North American has ever been), and solid character designs very true to the original source material.

Do I wish that this was EXACTLY the ASTRO BOY I remember? Absolutely. But we're not going to get that. The people putting the money behind this need something that's going to appeal to a modern, Western, audience... which the Japanese remake of the series in the early 2000's failed to do... and that shit was LEGIT (and excellent, in my opinion). So if this is as close as we can get to my childhood, I say, "Not to shabby." I see a modernization deeply rooted in what came before.

Also, I'm totally excited about the prospect of PLUTO being in the movie, as he is my favorite character aside from Astro himself.

I am fully onboard with this movie until the moment they show me something that truly offends my nostalgia. So far, everything I've seen is positive.