Friday, October 2, 2009

Step into the boots of a superhero, as the very first anime character - Astro Boy launches at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong


‘Blue’ energy abound at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong, as the attraction launched its very first anime superhero wax figure – Astro Boy – one of the world’s most-loved anime characters. Dubbing artists Aaron Kwok and Ian Gouw, who voiced characters for the local release of Astro Boy were also in full flight at the launch, officially unveiling Astro Boy’s figure.

Having left Metro City to make a new home in the World Premiere section of Madame Tussauds Hong Kong, Astro Boy delighted guests as he posed for photos in his exciting interactive display, set in front of a giant image of the Metro City skyline: designed to appear as though the young robot and guests are flying high in the sky.

A large, hollow pair of Astro Boy’s rocket boots and a wig of his iconic hair are also a part of the interactive experience, allowing guests to look like they are wearing his costume as they snap their ‘photo moment’.

Celebrating the cinematic rebirth of the character that has created a cult following locally and internationally since it first appeared in manga in the 1950s and on television in the 1960s, the launch of Astro Boy at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong is the result of a successful collaboration between the attraction; Imagi Studios, the movie’s producers; and Tezuka Productions, the licensor of Astro Boy.

“We are proud to be able to offer Astro Boy fans in Hong Kong the opportunity to interact with their hero,” said Bret Pidgeon, General Manager of Madame Tussauds Hong Kong and Shanghai. “This has been such an exciting project for us. Not just because of our love of Astro Boy, but because there have been so many ‘firsts’, making it that much more interesting as it all comes together. For that we would like to thank our partners at Imagi Studios and Tezuka Productions, who not only worked hard to bring Astro Boy here, but made the whole process fun.”

Creating the lovable figure took a production team of about 20 skilled staff more than six weeks to complete the sculpting process, using research based on the information provided by Imagi Studios. It also involved much co-ordination between Madame Tussauds Hong Kong and the other partners – all done across various time zones.

The senior sculptor at Merlin Studios, John Cormican, said: “From the outset I was saying to anyone who asked ’I'm the happiest person in the building’ (the Studio’s building, housing 120 people, working as the creative heart of Merlin Entertainments), and when asked why, I would say ’I'm doing Astro Boy's portrait!’”

“At first I felt this way because he was a anime and a Manga one at that, and a year ago I was holidaying in Japan and photographed a statue of him outside Kyoto Station, just because it caught my eye. When I learnt he was a robot boy with a heart of gold, who wants to bring peace to the world it made me even happier. Now that I've had a peek at the incredible world of the god of manga and father of anime, Osamu Tezuka, that initial feeling has done nothing but grow.”

Imagi Studios pulled in resources from the United States and Hong Kong to work on the production of the Astro Boy movie, with creative consultancy from the Tezuka estate in Japan. With Director David Bowers (Flushed Away) and Producer Maryann Garger at the helm of the motion picture, the U.S. team contributed such creative elements as story, screenplay, visual development, as well as post-production, while animation was done in Hong Kong.

Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Imagi Studios, Francis Kao said, “Bringing everybody’s favourite robot boy back to Hong Kong has been in the works for us for some time now. We are so excited that he will finally be here in cinemas on October 23, and we can share with others the joy he has brought us. Thanks to Madame Tussauds, fans in Hong Kong will be able to get even closer to their hero. I know they are going to love him as much as we do.”

Golden Horse Award winner for Best Actor and voice for Dr. Tenma, Aaron Kwok said, “I’m really happy that Madame Tussauds Hong Kong has added a new member to its family.

Creating the Astro Boy movie took about 400 feature animation specialists to join together and bring this Japanese classic comic to life. This is a great partnership between China and Japan and is something Hong Kongers can be proud of.”

The voice for Astro Boy, Ian Gouw added, “This is my first time dubbing on a motion picture and I hope that everyone likes my version of Astro Boy. If you are a fan of Astro Boy like I am, you can come to Madame Tussauds Hong Kong after watching the movie and take photos with him.”

The film Astro Boy will be released on October 23, 2009 in Hong Kong. The story is set in futuristic Metro City where a young robot – Astro Boy – with incredible powers is created by a brilliant scientist Dr. Tenma, in the image of the son he had lost. The young robot is powered with ‘blue’ energy and programmed with the best of human characteristics and values; yet he is unable to find acceptance from his father. Astro Boy’s search for his identity takes him on an adventurous journey, in which he builds the courage to control his own destiny, as well as learns about human emotions. In the end, Astro Boy accepts his human-robot nature, returns to save Metro City, and reconciles with his father.

Bret Pidgeon, General Manager of
Madame Tussauds Hong Kong and
Shanghai, Aaron Kwok, Ian Gouw and
Francis Kao, Founder and Chief Creative
Officer of Imagi Studios took to the stage
for Astro Boy’s big reveal today.
Astro Boy’s figure joined the “world
famous home of the famous” on
September 29, 2009 in the World
Premiere section of the attraction.
Bret Pidgeon, General Manager of
Madame Tussauds Hong Kong and
Shanghai, presented miniature figurine of
Astro Boy and Dr. Tenma to Aaron Kwok,
Ian Gouw and Francis Kao, Founder and
Chief Creative Officer of Imagi Studios
during the unveiling event of the Astro
Boy figure at Madame Tussauds Hong
Kong today.
Astro Boy’s figure joined the “world
famous home of the famous” on
September 29, 2009 in the World
Premiere section of the attraction.
The voice for Astro Boy, Ian Gouw smiles
as he poses by the anime’s figure at the
unveiling event of the Astro Boy likeness
at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong today.
Astro Boy’s figure joined the “world
famous home of the famous” on
September 29, 2009 in the World
Premiere section of the attraction.
Astro Boy’s figure joins the “world famous
home of the famous” on September 29,
2009, in the World Premiere section.
Guests to Madame Tussauds Hong Kong
can also participate in an interactive
display where they can literally step into
the boots of Astro Boy and feel as if they
are flying over Metro City.

IBM Aims at Google, Microsoft With New Webmail

Chris Kanaracus, IDG News Service

Thursday, October 01, 2009 9:20 PM PDT

IBM has launched LotusLive iNotes, an on-demand e-mail, calendaring and contact management system meant to compete with the likes of Gmail and Microsoft Exchange, the company said Friday.

Pricing starts at US$3 per user per month, undercutting Google Apps Premier Edition, which costs $50 per user per year.

IBM is aiming the software at large enterprises that want to migrate an on-premise e-mail system to SaaS (software as a service), particularly for users who aren't tied to a desk, such as retail workers. It is also hoping to win business from smaller companies interested in on-demand software but with concerns about security and service outages, such as those suffered by Gmail in recent months.

LotusLive iNotes is based on technology IBM purchased from the Hong Kong company Outblaze.

"What we brought to Outblaze and to the marketplace is what you'd expect from IBM in terms of security, reliability and privacy," said Sean Poulley, vice president of online collaboration.

While alluding to Google's service outages, Poulley acknowledged that no company can guarantee 100 percent uptime for on-demand applications. But IBM has a long-standing track record of running "the world's mission-critical systems," he said.

IBM will also have an opportunity to win customers from Microsoft who aren't ready to migrate to the upcoming Exchange 2010 release, given the headaches and investments involved, Poulley said.

Overall, the main point of interest in IBM's announcement is price, said Gartner analyst Matt Cain.

"Outblaze always sold low-cost mailboxes and that's what this is," he said. "Google's long been in it, Microsoft's long been in it. Now IBM's in it."

However, that's not to say IBM's brand on the software isn't of some value, Cain added. ."From an enterprise perspective, you'd rather buy e-mail from IBM than a company called Outblaze."

It's unlikely that IBM's pricing strategy will cause competitors to lower fees for their offerings, according to Cain. For one thing, Microsoft already has a $2 per month Exchange Online option called "Deskless Worker," Cain noted.