‘Gigantor,’ the Japanese cartoon from the 1960s, could be coming to the big screen in the future. Tired of not getting hired for feature films, Bryan Barber, director of ‘Idlewild,’ decided to be proactive and invest in his career. As reported by Deadline, Barber tracked down Fred Ladd and convinced the voiceover performer for cartoons and used his own money to by the rights to ‘Gigantor.’ Ladd, 86, was given the old Japanese cartoon, and he recut ‘Gigantor’ and added English dialogue for American audiences. Ladd sold Barber the rights after Barber courted him for a long time; a storyboard presentation finally convinced Ladd to sell to Barber. ‘Gigantor’ follows the adventures of Jimmy and the tall, strong robot and is known for its catchy theme song. Twelve-year-old Jimmy Sparks controls Gigantor and uses the robot to fight terrorists and other enemies in the year 2000.
By controlling the rights, Barber can develop the project as he wishes and attach himself as director. Barber’s approach to getting work has happened before. Frank Darabont owned the rights to ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and Tate Taylor, director of ‘The Help,’ bought the rights to the novel so he could direct the film. If studios are slow to bite, Barber can create other products to build revenue and interest. Barber has all the rights to ‘Gigantor,’ so he can develop video games, toys and comic books. His goal is to get at least $60 million for a live-action film, but Barber has options. If he makes wise decisions, then his days of directing commercials and music videos could be over. Barber can build his own ‘Gigantor’ empire.
Barber is marketing his vision of ‘Gigantor’ as a combination between the ‘Transformers’ meets ‘The Goonies.’ With the success of ‘Transformers’ and ‘Real Steel,’ audiences are willing to pay to see live actors interact with computer-generated robots. I am curious about Barber’s take on the project. Barber will probably not change the basic premise of ‘Gigantor,’ a child controlling a robot to save the world. However, will Barber take a risk with the casting? Will he keep Jimmy a boy? ‘Real Steel’ centered on the relationship between a boy and his robot, which was similar to ‘The Iron Giant.’ If written and directed well, a film about a girl and her world-saving robot could be successful.
Also, what other characters will Barber keep? I can understand if Inspector Blooper gets cut or completely reworked. If Inspector Blooper acts the same way on the big screen as he does in the original cartoon, modern audiences might not react well unless Barber can find the right actor to bring the character to life. Will Dick Strong return? Will the villain be Dr. Cat’s Meow? Barber has free reign and complete control of the rights. What we end up seeing on the screen will be his vision; Barber will not have a studio to blame. Because he has this freedom, I’m optimistic Barber can bring a unique and compelling story to audiences. Currently, Barber is making a six-minute reel, like Zack Synder did for ‘300,’ to present to studios.
If you are curious about the original ‘Gigantor’ cartoon, you can watch episodes on Hulu.com. Here’s a snippet of the opening theme to the original series.