Kristen Bell—who has become a cult favorite for her roles in Heroes, Fanboys and Veronica Mars—is likely to extend her following as she lends her voice to the ultimate sci-fi franchise: She plays the new girl in Imagi Studios' upcoming 3-D animated feature-film version of the venerable Japanese Astro Boy series.
"I play Cora, who is a girl who befriends Astro when he comes down from Metro City onto the surface of Earth," Bell said in an interview last week at the Saturn Awards in Burbank, Calif. (She presented the award for best action/adventure film.) "She runs a little kind of like Peter Pan group of kids. She's pretty tough, pretty sassy."
The original Astro Boy series, based on the 1952 manga by Osamu Tezuka, is often credited as the first anime-style film. Like the original series, the new English-language movie centers on the origins of the robot boy who was created by a scientist who had lost his real son. Fans got their first peek at the new CGI incarnation of Astro Boy at New York Comic Con in February. Bell has seen footage throughout the process of animation.
"I've seen a lot of it, actually," Bell said. "It looks amazing. To be involved in the process is really exciting, because you see the layers that they put on, and you see when they don't have the 3-D involved and then when they do, and you see when it's just penciled out. It was a really interesting process."
Bell's part has not changed much throughout the visual development of the film, although she has had to re-record lines based on other voice actors' performances. "Sometimes when another character comes in and records and they like something they've done, you have to match it or be at a comparable state of mind in the scene, because you don't record with other people," she said. "Overall, it was a really easy, fun process."
For all her self-professed sci-fi obsessions, Bell was a newcomer to Astro Boy. Until now. "I didn't know Astro Boy at all, but now I'm immersed and have all the little toys and stuff," she said.
Summit Entertainment will release Astro Boy in theaters on Oct. 23.