Archive for July, 2009


The First Anime to Be Broadcast Outside Japan

Okay, a virtual show of hands on this. How many of you think the first anime to be broadcast outside Japan is “Speed Racer”? Okay, you can put the virtual hands down now. Let’s have another virtual show  hands on the next question. How many of you think the first anime to be broadcast outside Japan is something else? Okay, you can put your virtual hands down now. The second group gets the extra credit points.

The first anime to be broadcast outside Japan is “Astro Boy.” The simplest way of defining “anime” is Japanese animation.

“Astro Boy” was a futuristic cartoon, set in a time where humans and androids co-existed. In the first episode of “Astro Boy”, we are introduced to Dr. Umataro Tenma (known as Dr. Aster Boynton II in the English version of “Astro Boy”), who is head of the Ministry of Science. Dr. Tenma/Dr. Boynton loses his son, Tobio (known as “Toby” in the English production) in an automobile accident in the first episode and, in his grief, decides to build a robot in Tobio’s/Toby’s image. Thus, Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) was “born.”

Although Dr. Tenma/Dr. Boynton was, at first, pleased with his creation, he soon realized that the android he created could not possibly be a substitute for Tobio/Toby.  Unlike a human child, Astro never got older and never grew.  This fact disappointed Dr. Tenma/Dr. Boynton and he reacted to his disappointment in a rather cruel manner, selling Astro Boy to the circus.

Eventually, Professor Ochanamizu (known as Dr. Packidermus J. Elefun in the American version of the TV series) notices Astro Boy in the circus and convinces the circus owner to turn Astro Boy over to him.  Dr. Ochananmizu/Dr. Elefun becomes Astro Boy’s guardian and makes note of Astro’s powers and skills.

Given that “Astro Boy” was going to be shown in the United States, someone had to dub it into English.  The job of doing that fell to Fred Laderman,  known in animation circles as  “Fred Ladd.” Mr.  Laderman had become an expert in dubbing European cartoons as a result of his work in repackaging old nature clips into a documentary for a Europena firm.  The work Mr. Laderman did for the European firm was in the postwar years when some European countries could not export cash, so the firm for which Mr. Laderman packaged the documentary “paid” him for his services in cartoons, which he then worked on dubbing into English.  NBC Enterprises hired Mr. Laderman to dub a foreign cartoon that had previously been a success in Japan into English.  At this point, the animation industry did not hold Japanese animation in high regard.  The show NBC Enterprises hired Mr. Laderman to dub became “Astro Boy.”

Of the 193 episodes of the original Japanese series, Mr. Laderman adapted 104 into the English production.  There was discussion of the name “Mighty Atom” as the title of the English version because the title character was thought of as being an atomic-powered robot.  However, that name was considered too generic and not “catchy enough” for American TV, so the final name of the series’ American version became “Astro Boy.”

Professor Ochanamizu/Dr. Elefun created a mother and father for Astro Boy and Astro Boy also had a sister, Astro Girl (Uran) and a brother, Cobalt (Jetto).  In the English version, Billie Lou Wyatt was the voice of Astro Boy, Astro Girl and their mother.  Ray Owens provided the voices of Dr. Elefun and Dr. Boynton and Gilbert Mack was the voice of Astro Boy’s father and Shunsuke Ban/Percival Pompous, Astro’s teacher.

My main sources of information for the above were some excellent web sites, among them the “Astro Boy” page on the “Absolute Astronomy” web site, the “Astro Boy World” blog and “The Fred Ladd Biography Page.”   The attachment is a black-and-white clip from YouTube of the opening of the original Japanese cartoon–which, of course, is in Japanese.


The Jackson5 Cartoon

This is not as timely as I would have preferred, but I felt that, with the passing of Michael Jackson late last month, I should say something about the cartoon based on the Jackson family.

“The Jackson5” aired–appropriately, some might say, given the title of one of the Jackson5’s hits–on ABC. There were 23 episodes of the series, originally airing from September 11, 1971-September 1, 1973. ABC rebroadcast the show during the 1984-1985 season due to the popularity Michael Jackson was enjoying during the time as a solo act and “The Jackson5” also saw airtime on MTV and VH-1 in the 1990’s. The show was a joint production of Rankin-Bass and Motown Productions, with the British animation studio Halas-Batcherlor doing most of the animation. Estudio Moro, an animation studio in Barcelona, Spain, also handled some of the animation.

Donald Fullilove, Edmunds Sylvers, Joel Cooper, Mike Martinez and Craig Grandy provided the voices of the Jackson brothers. Perhaps the best known of these is Sylvers, who was the lead singer of the 1970’s family singing group, the Sylvers. The most well-known vocal artist on the show was Paul Frees, who provided the voice of Berry Gordy.

As was the case with the real-life Michael Jackson, his animated counterpart owned pets. The animated Michael had a couple of pet mice named Ray and Charles–a reference to musician Ray Charles– and a pet snake named Rosie (strangely enough, Ray and Charles survived the show without Rosie attempting to eat them.)

I have included a YouTube video that features the opening of the show. Much of the source material comes from and

July 2009
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