SDCC '09: Astro Boy Panel (With Kristen Bell!)

Just got done with the Astro Boy panel at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, and not surprisingly, the highlight of the show was actress Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Heroes) who was in attendance along with co-star Freddie Highmore, producer Maryann Garger and director David Bowers (Flushed Away) to promote Astro Boy.

The panel featured a few clips, a new trailer and covered everything from what kind of "Easter eggs" we can expect to see in this modern version of Astro Boy, to new talk of a Veronica Mars movie. Check it out:

Astro Boy is of course a modern re-telling of the classic manga comic created by Osamu Tezuka in the 1950s. The character has appeared in two classic tv shows in the 60s and 80s and is still an enduring icon worldwide - especially in the Far East, where he is affectionately referred to as "The Japanese Mickey Mouse."

So, the big question for Astro Boy director David Bowers was how to take on the challenge of making a "modern" film about such a revered classic character. Said Bower:

"I want people to look at this film and feel the same way people in the 1950s felt. I want them to love this character for the same reasons."

Actor Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Spiderwick Chronicles), was under a similar pressure as the voice of Astro Boy. He stated that while he did a little bit of research on the classic Tv/manga, for this modern retelling he wanted the character to be a creation of his own. Here's what Highmore had to say about his approach to the role:

"Astro Boy is a human trapped in a robot's body, and I think that's something that people can relate to, trying to fit into society - or in Astro Boy's case, fitting into a family."

But let's get to what we REALLY want to talk about: Kristen Bell. As usual, the lovely actress was witty and engaging, totally working the crowd of Comic-Con admirers. After a brief shoutout to Detroit, Bell talked a bit about her character, Cora, who is a new addition to the Astro Boy universe:

"She's kinda sassy, kinda opinionated - she's got a tough exterior and a soft interior. She's fun, she's wonderful."

Of course Kristen Bell can't make a public appearance without sparking talk about Veronica Mars, the role which helped launch her in the limelight. Fans of the show have been clamoring for a Veronica Mars feature film ever since the series ended in 2007. When asked whether the project is something she would still be interested in, said Bell:

"F-yes I'll do a Veronica Mars movie! Provided I'm not over the hill - and let's be honest it's getting close. I know I look young and all..."

She's joking there, but Bell did get serious and said that the only thing holding back the film is Warner Bros.' fear that the project is no longer viable. Veronica Mars fans better start sending bags of Mars Bars to the WB if you want to get your movie.

The Astro Boy clips shown during the panel included a chase sequence, a small snippet from the climatic robot-on-robot throwdown and the premiere of the final trailer for the film. Some of the animation sequences weren't quite finished, but all and all the movie looks like it will be good fun at the very least. Bowers also revealed that in addition to some voice work from stars like Nicholas Cage, Donald Sutherland and Nathan Lane, we can expect (voice) cameos from Bill Nighy, Charlize Theron, Matt Lucas (Little Britain USA) and (because no movie is really complete without him), Samuel L. Jackson.

And die hard fans of the original Astro Boy, never fear: there will be plenty of Easter eggs sprinkled throughout this film just for you guys, including appearances from some very familiar characters. Oh, and by the end of this film, you WILL be seeing Astro Boy in his classic (non) costume.

Astro Boy opens on October 23, 2009.

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