On Christmas Day 1959 Toei’s second animated feature, Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke, premiered in Japan. Producer Hiroshi Okawa had high hopes for overseas sales, and eighteen months later, on 22 June 1961, Akira Daikubara and Taiji Yabushita’s film opened in the USA under the title Magic Boy.
It was dubbed into English, but with most of the original songs in Japanese, and released by MGM. Toei were clearly credited on the posters, so there was no attempt to hide the Japanese origins of the movie, but its format – a folktale with action, a clear distinction between good and evil, exotic costumes, singalong songs and funny animals – was close enough to the Disney formula to enhance its chances in the market.
The MGM connection also means it occasionally surfaces on American TV, most recently as a Turner Classic Movie. Stills and posters like these occasionally turn up at US auctions and in memorabilia stores.