For Danish-born animator Jakob Jensen, to animate Japan's classic manga Astro Boy at Hong Kong's Imagi Animation Studio seems like a difficult challenge, according to The Hollywood Reporter. After all, Astro Boy is virtually a national treasure of Japan, but far less well known in the rest of the world. But Jensen has confidence that he can make Astro Boy fly.

"I want to apply my DreamWorks experience and implement philosophies I learned at that company into the work flow and the pipeline of the studio in Hong Kong to make Astro Boy as empathic in the U.S. as he is in Japan," said Jensen, 32, the animation acting director for Astro Boy at Imagi.

Now in production, Astro Boy is set for release in 2009. It is a computer graphics adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's famous manga about a boy robot, first published in 1952.

The film is Imagi's third theatrical feature, following TMNT and Gatchaman, also now in production. But unlike Imagi's TMNT and Gatchaman, both action-heavy films, Astro Boy has a largely emotional core, pushing the performance, acting and movement principles of the animated main character into the spotlight, Jensen said.

Jensen was not familiar with Astro Boy before being approached by Imagi in June to work on the film, and was immediately attracted to the Pinocchio-like story. He notes that Imagi is being faithful to Tezuka's original story arc, at the same time bringing out elements needed for those unfamiliar with the story.

"I was intrigued with the possibility of the project. I'm in the process of educating myself about the Astro Boy universe, and I love what I see. Astro Boy utilizes very classical story principles of the hero's journey that we see in all good storytelling around the world, Jensen said. "Astro Boy has the moral underpinning and strong emotional resonance that a lot of animation today is lacking."