|"IN THE YEAR 2000..." Thus began many episodes of ASTROBOY, the first Japanese animated TV series to reach the american market. Astroboy was created in Japan by Osamu Tezuka, one of Japan's great pioneers in "Manga" (Japanese comic books). Beginning in the 1950s the character was known in Japan as "Tetsuwan Atomu" or "Mighty Atom". Atom was popular enough to be made into a live action series in the late 50s. When Tezuka started his production company, "Mushi" studios, Tetsuwan Atomu was seen as an ideal vehicle for their first animated special. The overwhelming success of this program was enough to inspire several more special episodes and the series went into production soon thereafter.
Astroboy had a lot going for it... action, quirky visual humor, thanks to the original Japanese creators and quirky verbal humor, thanks to the frequent puns provided by the American producer Fred Laderman better known as Fred Ladd. There were also an abundance of weird electronic sound effects, and of course the bizarre storylines which would sometimes change focus several times in the course of a thirty minute episode.
It's worth noting that for several years during the mid 60s, it was THE higest rated show in syndication. This is no small feat considering that it was competing with shows like "The Dick Van Dyke Show", "I Love Lucy" and "Bewitched", which had all recently come into the syndication market.
Okay, so now you may be wondering what happened to this hugely popular show which had children glued to TV screens around the world. Well, one significant drawback to the show (in terms of its longevity in the syndication market) was that all episodes were filmed in black & white. Toward the end of the 60s more and more TV stations were demanding exclusively color shows for children's programming. by the early 1970s only the most budget challenged broadcasters were still airing black and white cartoons (this even led to the color refilming of many classic black & white Warner Brothers and Max Fleischer cartoons with poorly redrawn and recolored animation edited to the original soundtracks)
Another factor contributing to the show's demise were rising concerns from parents across the United States at the violence exhibited by many of the super hero cartoons. The bulk of the superhero output by animation houses such as Hanna Barbera and DePatie/Freleng were withdrawn from the networks' Saturday morning schedules and from syndication. They were soon replaced by shows featuring flowery puppetry and live action (such as Syd & Marty Krofft's "HR Puf'nstuf"), or humorous "Teenage" adventure cartoons (such as "Scooby Doo" or "Josey and the Pussycats"). The few surviving action cartoons had to focus on approved non-violent themes such as protecting the environment or fighting racial prejudice. I can't help but see irony here since many episodes of Astroboy had strong messages regarding ecological issues and racial harmony.
Special thanks for episode numbers and titles goes to Glen Johnson and his friends Kelly Lannan, Mark Cannon & Jeff Haynes.
|The Astroboy March
Music by Tatsuo Takei; Lyrics by Don Rockwell
There you go, Astroboy, on your flight into space.
Rocket hi----gh, through the sk----y
For adventures soon you will face.
Astroboy bombs away,
On your mission today,
Here's the count----down,
And the blast----off,
Everything is go, Astroboy!
Astroboy, as you fly,
Strange new worlds you will spy,
Atom ce----lled, jet pro----pel----led
Fighting monsters high in the sky,
Astroboy, there you go, will you find friend or for,
Cosmic ran----ger, laugh at dan----ger, everything is go, Astroboy!
Crowds will cheer you, you're a he----ro, as you go, go, go, Astroboy!