In 1990 Tsuburaya Productions and the South Australian Film Corporation co-produced the first English version of Eiji Tsuburaya’s Ultraman character. The production was originally set to be filmed entirely using puppets for both the Ultraman character and monsters, which would have been a first for an Ultraman production. Tsuburaya Productions decided not use puppetry and instead go with a traditional live action production. This would include a combination of man in suit monsters, animatronic/remote controlled puppets, man in suit Ultraman character and models.
Ultraman series prior to the Australian production were comprised of a man in rubber Ultraman suit. A sort of vinyl suit was created for camera tests, but was replaced with a suit made from spandex during production.
The production was filmed and produced in Australia, but is said to never have been released there. While filming, it received coverage on Australian news outlets. According to a news segment that covered a visual effect shot featuring a car exploding, the production was a 13-part series slated for U.S. and European release. The segment also stated the budget was $4,000,000 AUD or approximately $3,070,000 USD and ¥19,300,000 JPY in 1990.
The production contained original music that was composed by Sinsuke Kazato, conducted by Patrick Thomas, and performed by Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. The theme music was based on music Kazato had composed for Ultraman: The Adventure Begins as it is known in the U.S. or Ultraman USA (ウルトラマンUSA Urutoraman Yū Esu Ē?) as it is known in Japan.
The production was based on an Ultraman character known in Japan as Ultraman Great (ウルトラマンＧ（グレート), Urutoraman Gurēto.) It was distributed as a 13 episode Mini-series titled Ultraman: Towards the Future as well as two movie versions titled Ultraman: The Alien Invasion and Ultraman: The Battle for Earth. In the english dub version of the production and subsequent English language references, the character is simply referred to as Ultraman.
While Ultraman had a 25 year history in Japan with a multitude of Ultraman characters and series, it was relatively unknown in the United States. Tsuburaya and its distributors would face competition releasing the production and building a product franchise against a multitude of well established American superheroes and pop culture franchises. In 1991 Tsuburaya, and toy makers DreamWorks and BanDai teamed up to release a toy series and video game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to establish a presence and gain interest in the character.
On January 4, 1992, Ultraman: Towards the Future aired in the United States on the FOX television network. In 1993, the 13 episode series was released in the US on VHS along with a first set of American comic book series. That same year the series aired in Thailand on Channel 9 on Saturdays and Sundays. Japan would later distribute the 13 episodes on VHS with version containing english audio and Japanese subtitles and another version with Japanese audio dub. The series was dubbed in Spanish as well.
The production was edited into two movie versions and released in Canada, England, Hong Kong and Japan by in various video mediums. Japan and Hong Kong also released the 13 episodes with on Laserdisc. The series and Ultraman Great character virtually disappeared after 1996 with the exception of brief appearances in two movies based on subsequent Ultraman characters and occasional pictures with all of the Ultraman characters.
A DVD release of Ultraman: The Alien Invasion and Ultraman: The Battle for Earth was only made available in Hong Kong by Panorama Distribution Co. but the picture quality was inferior to that of the 13 episode release on Japanese laserdiscs.
In July of 1016, it was announced that both the 13 episodes and 2 movie versions of the production would be released in Japan as a 5 disc, High Definition remaster on Blu-ray in January 2017.