1961 - 1967

Tezuka Osamu the Dawn of TV animation

Tezuka Osamu

With the arrival of Astro Boy flying beyond the sky, the time shifted from cartoon theatrical films to TV animation.


Here we introduce you an aspect of Tezuka Osamu as an animator, who revolutionized the history of Japanese Manga and created a lot of great masterpieces through his life.

In 1958, Tezuka Osamu, an established manga artist serializing several manga works including ’Jungle Emperor’, ‘Astro Boy’, and ‘Princess Knight’ in comic magazines for kids stepped into the realm of animation. He accepted an offer from Toei Doga and join the production of animated version of Magic Monkey. Through this experience, Tezuka became to feel the time to realize his dream -to get closer to Walt Disney, his iconic figure- was approaching.

In 1961

Mushi Production established.

Inside of the studio of Mushi Production 

“In 1961, I established an animation studio. I thought I had to release something epoch-making, otherwise, I would end up with an empty slogan. So I decided to make a feature-length limited animation film without spending much money. A year later I released a 40 min. Cinema Scope film titled “Tales of the Street Corner”. 

(by Tezuka Osamu)

Tales of the Street Corner (1961)

“Tales of the Street Corner” was like a poetic cinema. Actually it’s an awful animation film since most of the characters were motionless objects, such as posters, roadside trees, street lights, and a bear toy. But the work won National Arts Festival Encouragement Award and the Blue Ribbon Educational and Cultural Film Award. 

Originally the term “animation” means the movement of animate beings or living creatures, and all living creatures definitely move. Actually motionless animation does not make sense.”

(by Tezuka Osamu)

The basics of animation

“Still I enjoyed making this animation. We all knew it couldn't be a box office movie, which eventually fueled the spark of our imagination more than usual.”

(by Tezuka Osamu)

Astro Boy in Manga "Captain Atom"

Astro Boy (from 1963 to 1966)

“Along with the establishment of Mushi Production in 1961, we found it necessary to have a main project which could support the life of the staff constantly. 

Then I came up with an idea to make TV animation series consisting of 30 min. episodes broadcast once a week. 

My idea intimidated my staff. They said, ‘It’s impossible. How come we can make such a thing?.’ But I encouraged them. I said, ‘Well, we can find a way. Why don’t we reduce the number of pictures and mask the lack of movement with lines?’ 

I have been inspired by Walt Disney since my childhood. I just wanted to get close to him.”

(by Tezuka Osamu)

In 1963

The year 1963 was the time people somehow felt anxiety.  President Kennedy was assassinated in U.S., Professional wrestler Rikidozan was stubbed in Japan and a military coup was launched in Vietnam. It was also the time satellite live TV broadcasting started between Japan and U.S. as well as several TV local stations were newly opened all over Japan. Ahead of those events, the test of color broadcasting started in 1960. Thus TV penetrated into standard households on a full scale.

TV animation series "Astro Boy" started on January 1, 1963

Astro Boy (from 1963 to 1966)

“On January 1, 1963, the animated version of Astro Boy firstly appeared on TV. It was the first Japanese TV animation program produced as a series. 

TV animation series consisting of 30 min. episodes broadcast once a week are today's mainstream, and Astro boy was the first one which tried this style in the world.”

(by Tezuka Osamu)

View rate for the 1st episode was 27.4%.

The best view rate of 40.7% was recorded when the 84th episode “Dolphin Culture” was broadcast on August 29, 1964 (by Nielsen).

“Animations featuring human-type bipedal robots are still loved all over the world. Robots with an ability to walk on two feet and bring things up with two hands, or robots which serve as friends of humans were already developed in the real world. Furthermore, Japan has become one of the advanced countries in robot technologies. It may be said all of those events are originated from Astro Boy." 

(by Tezuka Osamu)

Amazing Three (W3)

“I kept drawing manga even while making 30 min. animation series broadcast once a week.” (by Tezuka Osamu)

Big X

“At that time, I just started the serialization of Big X and W3 while making TV animation broadcast once a week. I was gradually drugged into the mud of manga and animation." (by Tezuka Osamu)

Astro Boy was not only the origin of TV animation series but also the origin of today’s character merchandising such as animation theme song records and character goods.

“Shuntaro Tanikawa who breathed new life into the realm of the modern poetry was appointed as a songwriter for the theme song of “Astro Boy”.  “Astro Boy” lasted four years with 193 episodes, which became one of the historical works at the dawn of TV animation.”

(by Tezuka Osamu)

In 1964

“It was then the Beatles swept the world. In Japan, several highways were newly opened and Tokyo Olympic Games excited people. And in the same year, my dream came true. I had a rapturous experience.”

(by Tezuka Osamu)

Tezuka Osamu when he met Walt Disney

“I admire Walt Disney, I am charmed by Walt Disney, and I decided my career inspired by Walt Disney. And I met him in New York, or, I should say, I just walked past him. On the opening day of New York World’s Fair, I was lucky enough to get a chance to talk to him. I came across him leaving the stage just after delivering the speech. I got nervous but somehow introduced myself to him.   

‘I am a head of a Japanese animation studio.’

‘Nice to have you here.’

‘I am the one who made Astro Boy.’

‘Really? I know Astro Boy. I saw the work in Los Angeles. It’s a great work.”

‘Thank you very much. My staff would be honored. Well, may I have your comment about the work?’

‘It’s a very interesting Sci-Fi story. Future children are looking toward the space. So I, myself, think about making Sci Fi, too.  If you have time, visit me in Burbank.’ 

(by Tezuka Osamu)

Portrait of Walt Disney by Tezuka Osamu

Memory/Mermaid (short experimental animations, 1964)

“The great Walt Disney passed away. I think his true successor will barely appear because nobody can follow his infinite appetite to pursue dreams though we can learn his techniques or methods.

I, myself, have pursued artistic possibilities in animation which Disney showed us in his “Fantasia” and “Sill Symphony.

I am now making TV animations with limited motions under the motto of “cheap and fast”. But I actually want to pursue the excitement and allurement only the well-animated pictures can create." 

(by Tezuka Osamu)

W3 (from 1965 to 1966)

“The program made a good start, and the view rate was high. But I was alarmed on hearing Tsuburaya Production's first weekly TV program of Gozilla monsters was broadcast as a counterprogram of W3 from next January. 

Actually, once the program started, children were totally fascinated by the monsters. Our view rate dropped sharply in the following week and stayed low. ” 

(by Tezuka Osamu)

Tezuka Osamu with performers at the Takarazuka Revue

Princess Knight (1967)

“My hometown, Takarazuka is famous for the Takarazuka Revue, and I spent my childhood and youth in the colorful and romantic atmosphere created by the revue. Many of the costumes and backgrounds appearing in my works were largely inspired by their stage performance. Above all I wrote my girl’s manga works with my nostalgia for the Takarazuka Revue.”

 (by Tezuka Osamu)

“In the time it seemed like our life was approaching to the future I depicted in ”Astro Boy“, so I rather chose to make a saga of the wild life for TV animation.” 

(by Tezuka Osamu)

Jungle Emperor (1965 - 1966)

“Today's jungle is a reclaimed land where bulldozers are moving around. So I totally changed the image of an undeveloped land covered with a thick jungle. I remade this new ”Jungle Emperor“ as a completely different work from the original manga.”

“By adding some elements of musicals, I made the work more attractive and memorable for audience. ” 

(by Tezuka Osamu)

Jungle Emperor was chosen as one of the best 10 TV programs in the year.

“Still, I wish the habitat of Leo and Riya were obscure, deep into the forest, where animals are jumping around like angels without being disturbed by humans. I like such place the best. 

No matter how our science technology advances, I will not give up the wish for any reason.”

 (by Tezuka Osamu)

Credits: Story

制作 — 手塚プロダクション
Produced by — Tezuka Productions Co., LTD.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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