Television animation isn't just for children anymore.
Tonight, the WB premieres the ambitious, not to mention fascinating, animated series "Invasion Earth" - a rip-roaring adventure series that combines an almost mythical battle between good and evil with loads of action and some darn good TV animation.Oh, and don't miss the "locations" in Southern Utah.
In the premiere (8 p.m., Ch. 30), we flash back to "Utah's badlands" (huh?) some 17 years ago. (It's quite obviously Southern Utah, complete with an arch or two, but where they got this "badlands" thing is a mystery.)
The young ruler of the planet Tyrus, Cale Oosha, arrives at a secret alien outpost built under an abandoned Air Force base in the Utah desert. He's expecting a peaceful visit with Earthlings, but he's double-crossed and attacked by his evil uncle, the Dragit, who has plans to invade and conquer.
Cale Oosha escapes with the assistance of a human woman, Rita Carter, and the two fall in love.
Rita gives birth to David, and when he's still an infant his father returns to lead the fight against the Dragit and his nefarious plans.
We then flash forward to the present day, when the Dragit's plans are coming to fruition and his evil minions are seeking out young David.
"Invasion Earth" is by no means theatrical-quality animation, but it's very good TV animation. It's sort of a combination of Japanese anime, the new "Batman" cartoons and some sophisticated computer animation of various space ships and alien machinery.
But the plan here is to transcend the format - something writer/executive producer Harve Bennett and his team do with some degree of success.
"If we've succeeded, then you have forgotten that this is animated in any sense - and certainly that it is a cartoon," said Bennett, the producer of the second through fifth "Star Trek" movies.
"If we've succeeded - and this sounds pompous, but I don't mean it that way - it will be a new television art form. A new way to tell a story on television."
It may not be as ground-breaking as all that, but it is good, solid science fiction that will appeal to viewers of a variety of ages. And amidst the action is a morality tale about good and evil.
"I've always felt that science fiction falls into two broad categories," Bennett said. "One category says the world will be a terrible dark place. . . . The other is the world is a wonderful place where things will be very interesting and different but man will still be a glorious animal. That latter category is what attracted me to `Star Trek.'
"In spite of the overall threat in `Invasion America,' which intensifies throughout the (series), this is a tale of nobility, of heroism. And it's a tale that dares to say our life is worth fighting for and our world is a good place to live."
PARENTS BEWARE: "Invasion America" is not exactly R-rated material, but it is loaded with (cartoon) violence. People get shot with bullets and ray guns. People are attacked by vicious alien animals. Sympathetic characters die.
It's not any more violent than a lot of TV animation, but parents of young children may want to be cautious.
SPIELBERG'S INVOLVEMENT: This is not by any means "Steven Spielberg's Invasion America," but the super-director is the series creator, one of its executive producers and it comes from his DreamWorks TV Animation department.
"The idea was Steven's," Bennett said. "It has been bubbling for probably this entire decade. It's had several incarnations within his own mind and on paper."
The idea was kicked around at Amblin Entertainment, at Warner Bros. and finally at DreamWorks. And the WB and Spielberg asked Bennett to run the show.
But Spielberg was still involved.
"Steven has played more than an important role. He's been there all the time," Bennett said. "He has been with us for meetings, conferences, art approval. I'd say he was not at my side, but over my should-er.
"He says, `Hmmm' and that means he doesn't like it. Or he says, `That's cool!' and that means he really likes it. And most of the time he's said, `That's cool!' "
SPEAKING UP: The voice of "Invasion America's" hero, David Carter, is newcomer Mikey Kelley. But there are a good number of familiar voices as well, including Edward Albert, Nora Dunn, Lorenzo Lamas, Kristy MacNicol, James B. Sikking, Rider Strong, Robert Urich - and Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy.
All episodes appear on WB/Ch. 30:
- Tonight: 8-9 p.m.
- Tomorrow: 8-9 p.m.
- Tuesday, June 16: 8-9 p.m.
- Tuesday, June 23: 8-9 p.m.
- Tuesday, June 30: 8-9 p.m.
- Sunday, July 5: 6-7:30 p.m.