I didn’t watch a whole lot of Astro Boy in my youth, so you’ll forgive me if I can’t remember what the little bastard sounded like.  Kinda like a girl, right?  Definitely not British.

So here’s where the Astro Boy purists get all up in arms over the voice casting of everyone’s favorite pint-sized Brit* Freddie Highmore as Osamu Tezuka’s robot laddie who travels the galaxy in his underwear.  (Seriously, the only reason this movie isn’t being done live-action is because shooting a twelve-year-old kid in that costume would land you in jail.)  I mean, if they can’t do the proper thing and release a subtitled version, the least they could do is honor animation’s gender-bending tradition and have him voiced by a thirty-five-year-old woman.

While the fans may go ballistic, David Bowers, who’s directing the CG revamp of the Tezuka’s Pinocchio-inspired series, is overjoyed with the casting:  “It’s terrific that Freddie has agreed to play Astro.  He’s a remarkably skilled young actor, whose freshness and vitality make him perfect for the role.  AstroBoy is a beloved superhero and has captured hearts around the globe for more than 50 years.  I can’t wait to see where Freddie takes him.”

The film is budgeted at a modest $50 million, and was written by Timothy Harris, whose last animated effort was Space Jam.  But before you have a laugh over the man’s, um, “recent” filmography (Pure Luck, Kindergarten Cop, My Stepmother Is an Alien), keep in mind that he co-wrote Trading Places.  It’s been a rough (and lucrative) twenty-five year stumble.

Astro Boy is slated for release in 2009.  Warner Brothers and The Weinstein Company will distribute.

*Aside from Edgar Wright.