Imagi, the animation studio behind Astro Boy and Gatchaman, may be out of cash and shutting down operations, at least temporarily. The word comes from Steve Hulett, the Business Rep. and Kevin Koch the president of The Animation Guild (TAG), Local 839 IATSE on their amazingly cool blog about the ins and outs of being an animator.

There hasn't been an official word from the studio, but according to Koch, one of Imagi's LA area animators was called over the weekend of January 24 and told that the studio was out of cash and that he should not report to work on Monday. This comes on the heels of the company reportedly having cashflow problems related to the credit crunch.

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Although the news is grim, especially for those employed by Imagi, it also doesn't mean that the shutdown is necessarily permanent, and production on Astro Boy (and hopfully Gatchaman) will resume. One thing that will probably determine the final fate of the movie would be how far along they were with the production. It may be that the film is close enough to completion for the studio to push through, and use the profits to finance their next project. Another option is we might see the remaining sequences farmed out and see AstroBoy as a co-produced film.

Directed by David Bowers, the Astro Boy's vocal cast includes Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy, Eugene Levy, Matt Lucas and Freddie Highmore. Astro Boy was created by the "god of manga," Japan's Osamu Tezuka, in the early 1950s. The animated television series first aired in 1963 in Japan and found great acclaim and success around the world. In the U.S., it quickly became a top syndicated children's show.