Tezuka and staff members of Mushi Production in front of its Studio No.1
In 1958, as a contract employee at Toei Animation, Tezuka Osamu wrote a draft scenario and storyline for and also directed the long animated film "Hsi Yu Chi (The Journey to the West)". In June 1961, Sakamoto Yusaku, Yamamoto Eiichi, Hirokawa Kazuyuki, Watanabe Chikako, and Tezuka Osamu came together at Tezuka Osamu's newly built house in Fujimidai, Nerima-ku, Tokyo to establish the animation division of Tezuka Productions. Subsequently, veteran animated cartoon writers, including Konno Shuji, Sugii Gisaburo, Ishii Motoaki, and Nakamura Kazuko joined them and in December of the same year, the division was reorganized and officially established as Mushi Production Inc.
A barmaid character
The newly established animation division of Tezuka Productions decided to produce a medium-length animated film entitled "Tales of the Street Corner" as its first job, and completed production in September 1962. "Tales of the Street Corner" was a 39-minute CinemaScopic lyrical animated film directed jointly by Sakamoto and Yamamoto. In order to reduce the number of moving pictures in accordance with a limited budget, posters and other non-moving objects were used as characters, which gave an innovative impression. Evaluated as a high-level animated film, "Tales of the Street Corner" won the First Ofuji Award at the 1962 Mainichi Film Contest and also received the 17th National Arts Festival Encouragement Award and the 13th Blue Ribbon Educational and Cultural Film Award. In August 1962, Mushi Production decided to produce the animated cartoon "Astro Boy," the first to be televised in Japan in serial form. In November, the company held its first product presentation meeting at the Yamaha Hall in Ginza to show "Tales of the Street Corner," the first episode of "Astro Boy," and "Osu"(Male).
Toys, books, and records with "Astro Boy"
The April 1963 issue of the American magazine "Television Age"
On January 1, 1963, Fuji Network Systems (FNS) began broadcasting "Astro Boy," the first long serial TV animated cartoon produced in Japan. Although the first domestically produced TV animated cartoon was "History Calendar," which was created by Otogi Productions and was first aired in September of the previous year, it was only a five-minute program. "Astro Boy," on the other hand, was the first 30-minute long serial program. In order to meet the schedule of one episode per week, the same limited animation method developed by Hanna Barbera Productions in the United States was introduced. The firm also implemented energy-saving techniques such as stop-motion cinematography and the "bank system" in which cell pictures were stored for repeated use. For "Astro Boy," a total of 193 episodes had been produced by December 1966, and the program gained popularity, marking a high audience rating of 40.3% at its peak and 25% on average. Furthermore the American TV network NBC began to re-broadcast the show in September 1963. "Astro Boy" was the first instance of manga in which the copyright was properly managed, a prerequisite to the establishment of the character business.
The storyboard for the first episode "Go! The Child of Panja"
The original picture of Panja as a character
In October 1965, following the success of "Astro Boy," Mushi Production began to broadcast the TV animated cartoon "Jungle Emperor Leo" through FNS. It was the first domestically produced color animated cartoon for television. At that time, color TV had not yet spread to ordinary households, and a stronger red color was used to prevent color dulling. In order to cover production costs, which were three times higher than those for monochrome, a move to commercialize characters and export the manga was made. Yamamoto Eiichi directed production, and Tomita Isao wrote the music for the animated cartoon. Yamamoto put the majority of the firm's annual production budgets into this work, and the image of the opening scene accompanied by Tomita's music was so successfully produced that it is said that it is difficult to create a similar image even today. A scene where a flock of flamingos take flight particularly amazing. "Jungle Emperor Leo" won the Special Award of the TV Reporters Society Award. Later, its theater version received the San Marco Silver Lion Prize at the Venice International Film Festival. Other production staff members included Nagashima Shinji, Kitamura Hideaki, and Murano Moribi.
A cell picture for "Princess Knight," 1967
Encouraged by the success of "Astro Boy," many TV stations and animated cartoon productions, which had hesitated to produce TV animated cartoons, announced their plans to do so one after another. In the fall of 1963, "The Iron Man No. 28," "The Eight Man" both by TCJ, and "The Wolf Boy Ken" by Toei Animation appeared. With the appearance of "The Bogey Kyutaro" produced by Tokyo Movies in 1965, the animated cartoon boom reached its peak. Mushi Production produced "Jungle Emperor Leo" and "Amazing Three" in 1965, "New Jungle Emperor Leo: Go Ahead! Leo" in 1966, and "Goku's Great Adventures" and "Princess Knight" in 1967. In addition, Mushi Pro Shoji, the trading firm that managed the Mushi Production copyrights, produced "Vampire," Japan's first TV film based on the aerial synthesis method, which combined animated cartoons and films of actual drama.