Universal Reportedly Developing a Pluto Movie Based on Astro Boy

A live-action/CGI ‘Pluto’ movie based on the namesake manga series is reportedly in development at Universal. The source material, written by Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki and illustrated by Urasawa, is based on Osamu Tezuka’s ‘Astro Boy,’ particularly ‘The Greatest Robot on Earth’ story arc and derives its name from the primary antagonist of the series. Originally serialized in Shogakukan’s seinen manga magazine Big Comic Original from 2003 to 2009, the ‘Pluto’ manga is a re-imagination of the narrative as a murder mystery in which Gesicht, a human-looking robot working for the Europol, investigates a series of human and robot deaths all over the world.

In 2010, it was reported that Universal and Illumination, an American computer animation studio, had acquired the rights for ‘Pluto’ to develop a live-action/CGI film. If the recent reports are accurate, this is the first significant news about the project since the original announcement. Chris Meledandri, CEO of Illumination, said at the time, “Naoki Urasawa has defined an imaginative world full of inventive action and adventure but it was his characters and heartfelt story that compelled me towards acquiring these rights.”

The ‘Pluto’ manga series is a darker rendition of the world depicted in Tezuka’s Shounen manga series and is widely acclaimed in its own right. As of early 2023, ‘Pluto’ manga has sold 8.5 million volumes and garnered several awards, including the ninth Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize and an Excellence Prize at the seventh Japan Media Arts Festival in 2005. In 2010, it won the 41st Seiun Award for Best Comic and Best Series at Italy’s Lucca Comics Awards. In January 2015, a stage play based on ‘Pluto’ premiered at Tokyo’s Bunkamura Theatre Cocoon. Directed and choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, the production prominently used 3D imagery via projection mapping to tell the story. At the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June 2017, it was announced that Studio M2 would be developing an anime adaptation of ‘Pluto’ The 60-minute eight-episode series is slated to release exclusively on Netflix on October 26, 2023.

‘Astro Boy,’ known in Japan as ‘Mighty Atom,’ was originally serialized in Kobunsha’s Shounen from 1952 to 1968. The series revolves around the eponymous character, a powerful android living in a world where humans and robots co-exist. The manga has sold about 100 million volumes and is widely regarded as one of the greatest manga of all time. Multiple anime adaptations have been released over the years, with the 1963 version considered one of the best anime ever.

Established in 1912, Universal Pictures has released hit films such ‘Fast X’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ this year. Illumination is known for the ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ franchises. The two studios (along with Nintendo) produced the mega-hit ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie,’ which made over $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office against its $100 million budget.

Before the actors’ and writers’ strikes in America, the studios were reportedly looking for a writer and a director for the project. We can expect more updates on that, along with the other impacts that the strikes might have on the project, in the coming months. We can also expect news on the casting and production.

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