Astro Boy, Released in Japan as Mighty Atom USA (鉄腕アトム USA Tetsuwan Atomu USA) is a 1988 Animated Science-fiction film directed by Carl Andy, Based on the Manga of the same name by Osamu Tezuka, the film is an updated retelling with an All-star cast, consisting of Ralph Macchio, Dan Akroyd, Michael Douglas, Ernest Borgnine and others with animation by Toei Animation (ironically not Tezuka Productions)
the film was released by Columbia Pictures, where it received Mixed reviews and bombed at the Box office but eventually gained a Cult following, especially from Astro Boy and Tezuka fans.
In the year 2040, Toby "Astor" Boynton (Ralph Macchio) is a rebellious 13 year old with a rowdy attitude, he acts this way due to his widowed father, Dr. Bill Boynton (Dan Ackroyd), neglecting him most of the times, he rides in his hover-bike along with his friends until one day he gets into a crash, killing him, Bill sees his dead son at the scene and is upset he never got to spend more time with him.
after the funeral, Bill becomes a depressed man, trying to cheer himself up, however none of It works, until he reads Pinocchio, he gets the idea to build a robot in the likeness of his late son, after months in development, the robot Astor is completed, later, Bill's boss Skunk Quasserman (Michael Douglas), the head of the Atas Corporation, a robot manufacturing company, wants the blueprints to make a brand of robot children for the consumer market, however Bill rejects the offer and says "you can't exploit the memory of my son" and walks away.
one night at a party, Skunk orders some hired soldiers to hunt down and steal the blueprints and destroy the robot, Bill overhears this and runs for his home quickly, he burns the blueprints and tells Astor to fly away, he flies away just as Skunk and his soldiers arrive, thus taking Bill prisoner.
the robot soon finds asylum in the mansion of Bill's old mentor, Packadermus J. Elefun (Ernest Borgnine) and keeps him for the night, Elefun, being a more kind and grandfatherly figure to the robot soon gives the naïve android understanding of life and the universe, for which the robot becomes less rowdy and more worldly than his human predecessor, meanwhile, Bill, while being interrogated, refuses to give details on where the robot and the blueprints are at, he jokingly thinks he would have gone to his former robotics mentor Elefun, which Skunk takes seriously and demands a search on the house much to Bill's anger.
the soldiers soon attack Elefun's mansion, thus also taking Elefun as prisoner and Astor makes his escape while fighting off the soldiers, Astor flies as fast as he can until eventually runs out of fuel, eventually falling down to the uncovered surface land, he wakes up and meets Circus ringmaster Peter Cacciatore (Marshall Efron in the original recording, Dustin Hoffman in the final version), who goes by the nickname "Hamegg" and his two adopted children, Carrie Deborah (Molly Ringwald) and Mike (Lloyd Bridges), they become friends and soon Astor becomes familiar with the surroundings, Hamegg hires Astor as his new Circus performer, but feels his name isn't catchy enough, he then he messes around with the letters and writes "ASTRO" thus calling the robot "Astro Boy".
meanwhile, Skunk has made an army of soldiers and now controls Metro City's Army with an iron fist, holding Nuremberg styled speeches, they all march out of the city to look for Astro and destroy him once and for all, back in the surface world, Astro tries out various costumes to wear, eventually going for his iconic Underwear and Boots which Hamegg thinks gives off a Circus Strongman vibe, Astro later meets Mike whom Astro later finds out is a robot like him and has a backstory similar to Astro's, Mike kept it a secret from Hamegg, telling the truth about the ringmaster's true intent is to have robots battle to the death for the entertainment of humans, Hamegg however catches them and puts them on rest mode.
later, Astro and Mike wake up and Hamegg whips them into the stadium, there they must fight waves of more primitive robots as a tag team, waves later, Astro and Mike are now forced to fight in a duel where one robot will die, Astro and Mike fight with a variety of moves on each other, later Astro gains the upper hand and punches Mike multiple times before Mike falls down to the ground and out of fuel, Mike's last words are "Someday, this will be outlawed" before dying on the ground, the crowd cheers but Astro yells out and goes on a rant against Hamegg's treatment of robots, Hamegg tells the crowd to not believe in Astro but the audience boos and throw various items at him, Hamegg tries to make a run for it but is stopped by Skunk and his soldiers, who have found posters featuring Astro in various places, Skunk slaps Hamegg out of the way, they see Astro and shoot at him but Astro is immune to bullets, but that doesn't stop Astro from getting away as they capture him.
Astro is in a prison cell, awaiting being dismantled until Carrie meets him through the bars and give him some upgrades for Astro to escape, Astro gains power for his finger laser guns among other things as well as advice that the bars are easy to bend open, Astro opens the bars, knocks out a few solders and escapes, later interrogating one of his captors telling him where Skunk is, he gives him the location and flies away to the Atlas building all the way to Skunk's office, Elefun and Bill are both tied to chairs, Astro faces Skunk as he unleashes his super soldier bots, whom Astro destroy in a quick amount of time, Skunk then reveals he posses supernatural powers, grabbing a book of Latin phrases to unlock the Underworld, the portal opens with a devil, played by an animatronic puppet, before Astro finds an hourglass, breaks it and throws the sand into Skunk's face, blinding him, thus letting the devil grab him, we see a shot of Skunk falling down into the Underworld portal screaming as he turns into a skeleton, Astro burns the book, thus closing the portal, the Solders soon are out of their control and Astro is declared the city's hero and in a later scene, is declared an American citizen along with Robots giving the same rights as humans, we see Hamegg watching the declaration on TV and cries in failure, the film ends with Astro seeing a vision of Mike in the clouds, remembering him for his friendship and courage.
- Ralph Macchio as Astro/Toby "Astor" Boyton
- Dan Aykroyd as Dr. Bill Boynton
- Michael Douglas as Skunk Quaserman
- Ernest Borgnine as Dr. Packadermus J. Elefun
- Molly Ringwald as Carrie Deborah, a teenage punk girl who lives in the surface land
- Todd Bridges as Mike, an African-American Boy who is later revealed to be a robot like Astro
- Billy Crystal as George Mustachio, Tenma's Balding butler
- Dustin Hoffman as Peter "Hamegg" Cacciatore, a Cruel Circus owner who forces Astro and Mike to fight other robots in the circus and eventually each other, Marshal Efron was originally cast as the voice of Hamegg during its original production, but when Andy asked for re-recording, Efron was not available so Hoffman was cast in his place
- Howard Cosell as Circus Fighting announcer (Cameo)
- Garret Fredrickson as Soldier (Cameo)
An idea for an Astro Boy movie began at then Warner distributed Orion Pictures in 1979, the film was to be written by Harold Ramis and directed by John Landis coming off the success of Animal House, the film was meant to be a comedy spoofing the series, however Tezuka read about the production and halted it before it was to be filmed, fearing it may weaken US-Japan relations, Orion relented and cancelled the film.
another project later surfaced at Tri-Star Pictures and Producers Sales Organization, the film would have also been a comedy, but unlike the Manga and Anime adaptations, it was set in Present day 1980s and Astro would have been a weapon of the military who finds his humanity after being struck by lightning, Tezuka once again criticized the idea for straying too far from the Manga, director John Badham considered changing the robot to an original character, the result was 1986's Short Circuit, from there, the Astro Boy rights transferred to Tri-Star's sister studio Columbia.
Columbia soon hired Joe Bacal and Tom Griffith in late 1984 to produce the film coming off their work producing shows based on Hasbro's properties, they recruited Toei Animation (ironically not Tezuka Productions) to do the animation, when suggesting a director, one Columbia exec brought up live action director John Carpenter, whom prior for Columbia directed Christine and the soon to be released Starman, Carpenter, having barely known Astro Boy when the 1963 Anime aired in Syndication, decided to watch various episodes of both the 1963 and the then recent 1980 Anime for research, knowing this would've been first Animated movie, he wrote a spec script and included ideas of his own, Tezuka meanwhile having seen Halloween, Escape from New York and Christine was confused by the decision but was fairly open when Starman was brought up, just as Character designs were starting, Carpenter decided to leave production due concerns of the long animation schedule, so a new director was hired, Jules Barnaby, prior to this he had done Commercials for TV and was a Rankin/Bass employee, he directed the 1983 adult-animated comedy Frankenstein: In Stitches which had a similar animation style as the 1963 Astro Boy anime and was in Black and White, so he was considered right for the job and the film went into official production.
with the voices cast, lines recorded and animation cells done, the film was ready for release on July 22, 1988, however late in 1987, Barnaby was arrested on charges of carrying Child pornography and sexual abuse charges dating back to the 70s plus affiliation with NAMBLA, he was fired and they were now needing a new director to finish the project, Carl Andy soon stepped in after hearing the news, on loan from a deal with Warner Bros., Andy (whom had a history with the Astro Boy character dating back to 1963) was now faced the task of replacing Barnaby's credit to distance it away from the controversy, Andy first had to see the original rough cut, Andy was said to have hated the cut, criticizing the unnecessary use of profanity and the darker and somber tone, Andy said "This isn't Astro Boy, this is a Frank Miller comic", so Andy decided to re-edit the dialogue, cast returning for the new dialogue, animation scenes redone and a more emphasis on Electronic music, Andy finally gained his director credit.
the film originally ran 105 minutes and originally had minor swears, similar to The Transformers: The Movie another Bacal/Griffith production, after Andy stepped in, lines were rerecorded to soften the language to get a PG rating, despite this, the original cut somehow got released to theatres by Toho-Towa in Japan in English with Japanese subtitles despite being an animated film, however when RCA Columbia Pictures International Home Video released the film on VHS, it was the Andy recut dubbed in Japanese, in 2016, a print of the 105 cut was found in a former Toho employee's private collection and was finally officially released in 2018 as part of the Scream Factory Blu-ray.
A Score album was released in 2018 by Intrada
a Soundtrack was released before the movie
- The Miracle - Queen
- Black and Blue - Van Halen
- Missionary Man - Eurythmics
- Hypnotize Me - Wang Chung
- All Fired Up - Pat Benatar
- Time Stand Still - Rush
- I Found Someone - Cher
- This Side of Paradise - Ric Ocasek
- What Kind of Man Would I Be? - Chicago
- I Want You So Bad - Heart
- Love is a House - Force MDs
- On a Mission (For Peace) - Phil Collins
Astro Boy was released on July 22, 1988, the film marked Columbia's first Animated release since 1986's Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation and would be the last until 2001's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
In the United States, Astro Boy failed at the box office grossing only $1.7 million compared to its $10 million budget, especially coming out after the successful Die Hard, The film's failure prompted Columbia Pictures to stop working with Carl Andy, until the 2003 release of Calamity.
- This is Andy's only fully animated film, the dub of Space Firebird had Live Action segments.
- Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka reportedly liked the film for respecting the source material even if it took some liberties
- 1989 RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video VHS/Betamax/Laserdisc
- 1996 Columbia TriStar Family Collection VHS
- 2003 Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment DVD
- 2018 Scream Factory Blu-ray (Under license from Sony Pictures)