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Ultraman: The Adventure Begins was an animated movie joint produced by Hanna-Barbera and Tsuburaya Productions in 1987. The movie was titled Ultraman USA (ウルトラマンUSAユーエスエー, Urutoraman Yū Esu Ē) for its Japanese release in 1989. The movie was intended as a backdoor pilot for an animated series, but no such series ever emerged. However, the costumes based on the three main heroes (the Ultra Force) were made for use in stage shows in Japan.

Production

Ultraman The Jupiter Effect

Newspaper promotional coverage for Ultraman: The Jupiter Effect[1]

In the 1980s, Tsuburaya Productions proposed creating theatrical films based on the Ultraman series. These projects included Ultraman: Monster Bible and Ultra Q: Monster Concerto. However, due to concerns about the content and potential box office performance, these proposals were ultimately shelved. At that time, President Noboru Tsuburaya strongly hoped that the Ultraman series could be produced as theatrical films or TV series in the United States, aiming to make Ultraman a global character.[2]

The precursor to Ultraman: The Adventure Begins can be traced back to 1979, with a project referred to by the Japanese staff as "US Ultraman." The script was titled Ultraman: The Jupiter Effect.[3][4] This project was planned to be directed by Akio Jissoji, with the English script written by Jeff Segal, and was scheduled to start filming in the winter of 1979. Reportedly, the movie even advertised in English newspapers. However, just as the main staff were about to travel to the U.S. for pre-production, the project was canceled.[2]The remaining script was used as a modified version for an English recut of the finale of The☆Ultraman, and the concept and general premise were utilized as a building block for Ultraman: Towards the Future.

Ultraman Hero from the Stars

The script cover for "Ultraman: Hero from the Stars" and the concept art of the original Ultraman featured in the film were illustrated by Alex Wald.[5][6]

Despite this, the overseas expansion project continued to be part of Tsuburaya Productions' film planning. Between 1981 and 1983, Tsuburaya Productions established a planning department in the United States called "ULTRA COM," with the aim of creating a film script titled Ultraman: Hero from the Stars.[7] This film, written by Donald F. Glut, focused on the story of an Ultraman active in the United States. The initial plan was to produce a live-action tokusatsu film, with Jackson Bostwick and Anne Lockhart cast as the main actors.[8][9]

However, considering various factors such as production costs and budget promotion, the project was ultimately decided to be produced in animated form. This transition was confirmed around 1985. After extensive discussions, Tsuburaya Productions decided to collaborate with the American animation production company Hanna-Barbera Productions to create the animation.

The reason for selecting Hanna-Barbera as a partner lies in the fact that since its establishment in 1960, the company has produced many well-known television animated works and enjoys high visibility in Japan as well. Although the animation production was carried out by the Japanese production company Studio SIGN and Ashi Productions, Hanna-Barbera provided crucial advice and guidance in planning and production. In 1986, the project entered the specific implementation phase, with Mitsuo Kusakabe from a Japanese studio serving as the director, and the script being jointly authored by four American writers under the pen name John Eric Seward. Eventually, the television pilot version was completed in 1987, which is the current movie version.[7]

Ultraman The Adventure Begins Japan 02

Ultraman Film Festival 1989 poster

Due to various reasons, the planned TV animated series for Ultraman: The Adventure Begins was ultimately not realized. However, the concept of this series was incorporated into the "New Ultraman" project undertaken by Tsuburaya Productions in Japan since 1986. This trend became the primary direction for Tsuburaya Productions in producing Ultraman: Towards the Future" after 1989.[7]

Ultraman: The Adventure Begins finally premiered on October 12, 1987, on television in the United States. On April 28, 1989, it was released in Japan as part of the Ultraman Festival in a Japanese dubbed version, a film program that also included Ultraman: Terror on Route 87, Ultraman Ace: Giant-Ant Terrible-Monster VS the Ultra Brothers, and Ultraman Kids.[10]

Original Concept

An early pilot film treatment from 1986 had a working title of "The Evil That Men Do: An Ultra Adventutre" with a different premise and cast of five Ultra characters although the main one was still referred to as Scotty, perhaps a holdover from the earlier U.S. adaptation of Ultraman Joneus which was also helmed by screenwriter Jeff Segal.

Plot

Scott, Chuck, and Beth, a trio of stunt pilots, experience a strange burst of light during a stunt show. In spite of their planes crashing as a result, they emerge unharmed. They are soon contacted by an agent from outer space (whose secret identity is the groundskeeper of a Pebble Beach golf course), who informs them that they've become the host forms of three alien warriors who've arrived to protect the planet from a group of monsters from the planet Sorkin. The three pilots become the members of a group called the Ultra Force headquartered within Mount Rushmore. They are equipped with futuristic fighter ships, and when in particularly great danger they automatically assume the forms of the alien warriors. After defeating the final Sorkin monsters, the warriors remain on Earth to protect it from further danger.

Characters

Ultra Force

Others

Ultras

Kaiju

Cast

Character Original Japanese
Scott Masterson/Ultraman Scott Michael Lembeck Toru Furuya
Chuck Gavin/Ultraman Chuck Chad Everett Shinji Ogawa
Beth O'Brien/Ultrawoman Beth Adrienne Barbeau Hiromi Tsuru
Walter Freeman Stacy Keach, Sr. Kōhei Miyauchi
Susan Rand Lorna Patterson Rihoko Yoshida
Newsman David Hall Unknown
Scientist
General Cooper Ed Gilbert Takeshi Aono
Old Lady Adrienne Alexander Unknown
Woman
Andy Charley Adler Kyoko Yamada
Samson Ronald Schell Hiroshi Ōtake
Ulysses William Callaway Isamu Tanonaka
Cajun Peter Renaday Unknown
Paramedic
Clarinetist Al Fann
Paramedic
Mark Watkins Mark Taylor Kaneto Shiozawa
Baldinger/Colonel Bodinger Allan Lurie Masaharu Sato
Aide Vince Trankina Unknown
Doctor #2
Photographer
Dr. Philby Les Tremayne Yasuo Tanaka

Additional Voices

  • Masato Hirano
  • Hiroyuki Satou
  • Kōzō Shioya
  • Kazumi Tanaka
  • Kouji Totani
  • Kouji Yada

Staff

  • Executive Producer: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Noboru Tsuburaya
  • Producer, Original Story: Noboru Tsuburaya
  • Creative Producer for Hanna-Barbera: Jeff Segal, Kelly Ward
  • Writer: John Eric Seward
  • Supervising Director: Ray Patterson
  • Director: Mitsuo Kusakabe
  • Creative Design: Iwao Takamoto
  • Key Character Design: Floro Dery
  • Key Background Supervisor: Al Gmuer
  • Character Design: Kazuo Iimura
  • Background: Akira Furuya
  • Voice Director: Gordon Hunt
  • Animation Casting Director: Andrea Romano
  • Talent Coordinator: Kris Zimmerman
  • Sound Director: Noriyoshi Matsuura
  • Editorial Supervisor: Larry C. Cowan, Joe Sandusky
  • Film Editor: Naoyuki Masaki
  • Music: Shinsuke Kazato
  • Ultraman Theme Music: Toshikazu Tokura
  • Musical Producer: Hidetoshi Kimura
  • Musical Director: Kazuo Kogure
  • Executive in Charge of Production: Jayne Barbera

Music

Opening Theme
  • Sky High Hero (スカイ・ハイ・ヒーロー)
    • Lyrics: Yū Aku
    • Composition: Toshikazu Tokura
    • Arrangement: Shinsuke Kazato
    • Artist: Shinichi Ishihara Feat. Koorogi '73
Ending Theme
  • Toki no Naka o Hashiri Nukete (時の中を走りぬけて, lit. Running Through Time)
    • Lyrics: Yū Aku
    • Composition: Toshikazu Tokura
    • Arrangement: Shinsuke Kazato
    • Artist: Shinichi Ishihara Feat. Koorogi '73

Soundtrack

The music was composed by Shinsuke Kazato and released by Nippon Columbia. The soundtrack was released as a Limited Edition printing of 5,000 copies. Kazato would go on to compose the Soundtrack to Ultraman Great, and both works feature the same main theme.

Home Media

Ultraman: The Adventure Begins was initially released on VHS in April 1989, followed by a LaserDisc release in July 1991.

Due to shared ownership of the rights by two companies, the film remained unavailable on DVD or Blu-ray for a considerable period. Besides copyright issues, a major obstacle was the lack of contact with the screenwriter, John Eric Seward, which led to complications in royalty payments.

In April 2018, Tsuburaya Productions placed an advertisement on the "Rights Information Center" page of the Copyright Research and Information Center, seeking contact information for John Eric Seward.[11] after, an American volunteer expressed willingness to provide relevant information via Twitter. According to this volunteer, "John Eric Seward" was not a single individual's name but rather a collective pseudonym shared by three to four individuals.[12]

On September 26 of the same year, Bandai Namco Arts officially released the Blu-ray version, digitally remastered from 35mm film to high-definition digital format. This edition marked the first time both the Japanese and English versions were included.[13][14]

In July 2024, Mill Creek announced plans for a 2025 release of the film as part of an announcement of a screening at G-Fest XXIX.[15]

Gallery

Trivia

  • This movie marks the last Ultraman Series production of the Showa era.
    • Although it was first produced and premiered during the Showa period, the era had changed to Heisei by the time the movie was available in Japan. Hence, Tsuburaya Productions officially recognizes this film as the first "Heisei" Ultraman Series production, as verified in magazines from 2019.

External Links

References


Productions
Showa Series Ultra Q | Ultraman | Ultraseven | Return of Ultraman | Ultraman Ace | Ultraman Taro | Ultraman Leo | Ultraman 80
Heisei Series Ultraman Tiga | Ultraman Dyna | Ultraman Gaia | Ultraman Cosmos | Ultra Q: Dark Fantasy | Ultraman Nexus | Ultraman Max | Ultraman Mebius | Ultraseven X | Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle | Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle: Never Ending Odyssey | Neo Ultra Q | Ultraman Ginga | Ultraman Ginga S | Ultraman X | Ultraman Orb | Ultraman Geed | Ultraman R/B
Reiwa Series Ultraman Taiga | Ultraman Z | Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga | Ultraman Decker | Ultraman Blazar | Ultraman Arc
Outside of Japan Ultraman: The Adventure Begins | Ultraman: Towards the Future | Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero | Ultraman: Rising
Original Video and TV Special Ultra Fight | Ultraman vs. Kamen Rider | Ultra Super Fight | Ultraman Nice | Heisei Ultraseven | Ultraman Neos | Ultraman: Super Fighter Legend | Ultra Idemitsujin | Ultra Zone
Showa Movies Ultraman: Monster Movie Feature | Ultraman, Ultraseven: Great Violent Monster Fight | The 6 Ultra Brothers vs. The Monster Army | Ultraman (1979) | Ultraman: Great Monster Decisive Battle | Return of Ultraman: MAT Arrow 1 Takeoff Order | Ultraman ZOFFY: Ultra Warriors vs. the Giant Monster Army | Ultraman Story
Heisei Movies Ultra Q The Movie | Revive! Ultraman | Ultraman Zearth | Ultraman Zearth 2 | Ultraman Tiga & Ultraman Dyna | Ultraman Tiga, Ultraman Dyna, & Ultraman Gaia | Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey | Ultraman Cosmos: The First Contact | Ultraman Cosmos 2 | New Century Ultraman Legend | Ultraman Cosmos vs. Ultraman Justice | New Century 2003 Ultraman Legend | ULTRAMAN (2004) | Ultraman Mebius & the Ultra Brothers | Super 8 Ultra Brothers | Mega Monster Battle Ultra Galaxy: The Movie | Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial | Ultraman Saga | Ultraman Ginga Theater Special | Ultraman Ginga Theater Special: Battle Royale | Ultraman Ginga S The Movie | Ultraman X The Movie | Ultraman Orb The Movie | Ultraman Geed The Movie | Ultraman R/B The Movie
Reiwa Movies Ultraman Taiga The Movie | Ultraman Trigger: Episode Z | Shin Ultraman | Ultraman Decker Finale | Ultraman Blazar The Movie
Spin-Offs Andro Melos | Ultraman Zearth: Parody Chapter | Revival of the Ancient Giant | The Return of Hanejiro | Gaia Again | Ultra Q Kaiju Legend | Ultraman Kaiju Legend | Hikari Saga | Armored Darkness | Ghost Rebirth | Ultraman Zero vs. Darklops Zero | Q - Door to Another Dimension | Killer the Beatstar | Ultra Zero Fight | Ultra Fight Victory | Ultraman Orb THE ORIGIN SAGA | Ultra Fight Orb | New Generation Heroes | The Absolute Conspiracy | Sevenger Fight | The Struggle of Special Section 3 | The Destined Crossroad | Continued Ultra Fight | Shin Ultra Fight | Return of Special Section 3 | Ultraman Regulos | Ultraman Regulos: First Mission | Ultraseven IF Story | SKaRD Break Room
Rebroadcast Shows Ultraman Retsuden | New Ultraman Retsuden | Ultraman Zero: The Chronicle | Ultraman Orb: The Chronicle | Ultraman New Generation Chronicle | Ultraman Chronicle: ZERO & GEED | Ultraman Chronicle Z: Heroes' Odyssey | Ultraman Chronicle D | Ultraman New Generation Stars
Informational Ultraman The Prime | ULTRAMAN ARCHIVES | Ultra Science Fantasy Hour | Ultra Fight Club | UlSummer Information Station | Ultra Information Center | Professor Teruaki's "Blazar Kaiju Academy" | Super Power! Ultra Encyclopedia! | Ultra Construction Tour | THE ORIGIN OF ULTRAMAN | Ultraman 4K Discovery
Docudramas Fly in the Sea Breeze! Ultraman | The Men Who Made Ultraman | My Beloved Ultraseven | The Man Who Wanted to be Ultraman | The Kaiju Club | The Two Ultramen
Other Series and Movies Kaiju Booska | Captain Ultra | Mighty Jack | Fight! Mighty Jack | Operation: Mystery | Chibira-kun | Mirrorman | Redman | Triple Fighter | Emergency Directive 10-4·10-10 | Iron King | Horror Theater Unbalance | Fireman | Jumborg Ace | Mirror Fight | Jumborg Ace & Giant | Mars Men | Army of the Apes | Pro-Wres no Hoshi Azteckaiser | The Last Dinosaur | Dinosaur Expedition Born Free | Dinosaur Great War Izenborg | Star Wolf | Dinosaur Squadron Koseidon | Anime-chan | Gridman the Hyper Agent | Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad | Moon Spiral | Cyber Beauties Telomere | Booska! Booska!! | Otasuke Girl | Mysterious Incident Special Investigation Team SRI | Mirrorman REFLEX | Bio Planet WoO | Operation: Mystery - Second File | Mirror Fight 2012 | Operation: Mystery - Mystery File | Gridknight Fight
Anime The☆Ultraman | Ultraman Kids | Ultraman Graffiti: Wild! Ultra Country | Ultraman: Super Fighter Legend | Ultra Nyan | Ultra Nyan 2: The Great Happy Operation | Ultraman M78 Theater Love & Peace | Gridman the Hyper Agent: boys invent great hero | The・Ultraman: Jackal vs. Ultraman | Kaiju Sakaba Kanpai! | Kaiju Girls | SSSS.GRIDMAN | ULTRAMAN (2019) | Kaiju Step Wandabada | SSSS.DYNAZENON | KAIJU DECODE | GRIDMAN UNIVERSE
Outlaw Content Space Warriors 2000 | Project Ultraman | Ultraman The Animation | Ultraman: A Little Journey on Earth | Fun... English with Ultraman | Young Ultraman | Ultraman Big Transformation | Sinic Q | Red Jade | Dragon Force: So Long Ultraman | Dragon Force: Rise of Ultraman
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