Netflix Is Making A CG-Animated 'Ultraman' Movie

Ultraman is one of the biggest superheroes in Japan, though you'd be hard pressed to find people who know of it outside of the country's borders, or outside of the tokusatsu/anime community. But Netflix is looking to change that. Netflix is setting up a CG-animated Ultraman movie with the help of Industrial Light and Magic, the VFX company founded by George Lucas. And it wants this animated Ultraman movie to boost the character's global popularity to the likes of Godzilla or Pokémon.Variety reports that Netflix is partnering up with Tsuburaya Productions to develop an Ultraman CG animated feature film "aimed at bringing a new, wider audience to the beloved silver-suited character." The film will be directed by Shannon Tindle, an animator on Laika hits like Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings, in his feature directorial debut, from a script co-written by Tindle and Kubo screenwriter Marc Haimes. John Aoshima (DuckTales, Gravity Falls) will co-direct.

The Ultraman movie will follow Ken Sato, "a superstar baseball player who returns to Japan to become the latest hero to carry the mantle of Ultraman. His plans go awry, however, when he is compelled to raise a newborn kaiju monster — the offspring of his greatest enemy — as his own child. Sato will also have to contend with his relationship with his estranged father and the schemes of the Kaiju Defense Force."

To call the movie an anime might be stretching the definition. Ultraman will be animated by ILM, which released the first concept art for the movie, which can be seen above, and the animation team appears to be mostly westerners. (To be fair, a lot of Netflix "anime" falls under this umbrella.) But the concept art looks promising, with a retrofuturistic/art deco-inspired, which is likely an homage to the origins of Ultraman, which began all the way back in 1966 and helped spawn the tokusatsu (live-action heroes like Power Rangers, Kamen Rider, etc.) genre.

No actors have been cast yet in Ultraman, but Variety notes that the team plans to cast a mix of Japanese and western stars, with "a large number of below-the-line talent from Japan. Tom Knott will produce and Lisa Poole will co-produce.

"Making this film is a dream come true," Tindle said in a statement. "What began as an original story inspired by my love for Eiji Tsuburaya's Ultraman somehow became an actual Ultraman film thanks to the incredible trust of the team at Tsuburaya Productions, and the support of the folks at Netflix Animation. We've assembled an all-star team and I can't wait to share our unique take on Ultraman with the rest of the world."

"This partnership with Netflix will be the first full-scale endeavor to reach the global market for Tsuburaya Productions," added Tsuburaya CEO and chairman Takayuki Tsukagoshi. "Ultraman, since it was created, has charmed many people around the world. And Shannon Tindle is one of those people. He was greatly influenced by Ultraman as a child, and he grew up to become a creator himself. I am delighted that families around the world will be able to watch Shannon and his team's vision for Ultraman on Netflix and foster feelings of courage, hope and kindness."

For now, you can see how Netflix is handling Ultraman with its ongoing CG anime series. But if we're really placing our bets on who could turn Ultraman into a global phenomenon, I'm betting on Hideaki Anno.