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Hollywood adaptations of ‘Astro Boy’ and ‘Robotech’ are in the works

We may be getting live-action adaptations of these two classic anime series. But do we really need them?


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on Feb 5, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 2:56 pm CDT

Robotech and Astroboy, two of the first anime series to find an audience in the U.S., may be getting their own live-action Hollywood adaptations. 

Various production companies have tried to get Robotech off the ground over the years, and Deadline reports that Warner Bros. is giving it another try with writer Michael Gordon (300, G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra) working on the script. Meanwhile over at Animal Logic, a company best known for its special effects work, Astro Boy is in the early stages of  development.

The original Robotech anime series was a sci-fi epic spanning three generations, although it’s easy to imagine a Hollywood version that winds up being dangerously similar to Transformers. Astroboy was a more child-friendly series that can be simply explained as a kind of superpowered robot Pinocchio story. Hollywood’s last attempt to revive the character was an unsuccessful animated film in 2009, and the new reboot seems to be going in a rather different direction: a “four-quadrant” superhero action franchise that producer Zareh Nalbandian is ambitiously comparing to Iron Man

Hollywood does not have a great track record when it comes to live-action anime adaptations. The Wachowskis’ high-octane Speed Racer flopped at the box office, and the 2009 Dragonball Z movie got terrible reviews and then vanished without trace. On the whole, anime-inspired films like The Matrix and Pacific Rim seem to do a lot better with U.S. audiences than direct adaptations.

There are several other live-action anime remakes in the works, the most notable being Akira and Ghost in the Shell. Both of those have already seen a lot of pushback from their target audience, either because fans find it racist to film an American version with a predominantly white cast—or, in the case of Akira, because the original is so highly regarded that no Hollywood adaptation could possibly be as good.

It’s still early days for the Astro Boy and Robotech movies, so there’s no guarantee either of them will pan out. Both have been tested and subsequently dropped by previous producers, although it sounds like Robotech has a slightly more realistic chance of success. This type of Astro Boy franchise would be competing against untold numbers of other superhero movies, whereas Robotech does at least have a chance of being a more mature, complex alternative to Transformers. Although really, would it kill blockbuster filmmakers to make an original movie instead of dredging up yet another cartoon from the 1980s?

Photo via photozou (CC BY-SA)

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*First Published: Feb 5, 2015, 12:07 pm CST