U.S. Anime Before ‘63? There Was No Such Thing.By Fred Ladd, Original U.S. Director of Astro Boy, 2006
Anime, as we know it in the U.S., really began on New Year's Day in 1963. That's when the series Tetsuwan Atom (in English, "Iron-Fisted Atom") began running on Japan's Fuji Television Network. The star of the show was a little boy robot, a kind of futuristic Pinocchio, created by Tokyo artist Osamu Tezuka. The artist had originally created that character in his manga in 1951, and the character immediately clicked with Japanese readers. In 1962, the Fuji Network signed Tezuka to produce, in his newly-formed Mushi Production studio, the animated series Tetsuwan Atom. It premiered on January 1, ‘63, was an instant hit, and ran for an incredible 193 episodes - a record that stood for many long years.
In New York, NBC Enterprises, a cousin of NBC Television Network, got wind of the show and checked out a few early episodes. They liked it well enough to call in an independent writer-director-producer known for dubbing foreign-made kids' pictures, and for making his own animated feature Pinocchio In Outer Space; that person was yours truly, Fred Ladd. I liked the show, which was soon re-christened Astro Boy, and made a pair of pilot episodes: #1) "The Birth of Astro Boy", and # 3) "Expedition To Mars". It quickly became apparent that Astro Boy was not another Pinocchio, but was winsome in his own way. Unlike Pinocchio, who didn't know the difference between right and wrong, Astro Boy always knew the difference - and, from the start, he was a fighter for what he saw was right.
SEE THE ORIGINAL SERIES THAT LAUNCHED THE ANIME PHENOMENON WORLDWIDE!
• A Collector's Booklet featuring "The History of Astro Boy"; an Osamu Tezuka biography, and much more!
• Set 1 features Part 1 of an interview with original series producer Fred Ladd.
• Contains original Japanese Episode 1 (with English subtitles)
• Original Character Art and Merchandise Galleries
• This 11 Disc DVD Box Set spans 1200 minutes and is housed in a beautiful high-quality telescopic artbox!
Astro Boy became the ward of Doctor Pachydermus J. Elefun, head of The Institute of Science. Because Astro Boy's robotic senses were so much sharper than those of any human being (he could hear sounds that not even trained police dogs could hear), he would pick up clues and solve crimes that stymied even Police Chief McLaw and Detective Inspector Gumshoe! Small wonder that the police held the little robot in contempt; what human captain would want to take orders from a robot... or admit that the little boy robot was smarter than him?
Looking at the completed pilot episodes, all of us in NBC's corner knew that we had a winner on our hands. The series premiered in the fall of 1963 on WNEW-TV Channel 5 in New York. It did so well that Astro Boy was quickly snapped up by dozens of other TV stations across the United States. The original plan was to acquire and adapt 52 of the half-hour programs from Japan; instead, NBC acquired double that amount - 104 episodes of the total 193 produced by Tezuka.
For years, Astro Boy - an animated kids' show filmed in black-and-white - delighted millions of children in America and abroad. Then, in 1965, color television arrived on the scene. Black-and-white cartoons faded from sight, as they were replaced by series made in color.
In 1975, NBC attempted to return the black-and-white series to Mushi Production. But, by then, that studio had gone into bankruptcy; Mushi was in no position to accept thousands of prints and negatives being returned at Mushi's expense. So, incredibly, the materials were destroyed - reduced to ashes! Fortunately (some would say "miraculously"), a number of prints escaped destruction, and were acquired by collectors. Beginning in 1989, The Right Stuf International began to gather together the surviving materials, restore them, and digitally enhance them. In some cases, the original negatives in Tokyo were accessed, duplicated, and meticulously integrated into the existing rolls in America and Australia.
In 2006, through the magic of modern technology and time-honored blood, sweat, and patience, The Right Stuf International has proudly released ASTRO BOY: The Original 1963 Television Series - Lost, Found, and Restored.