Anyone who tuned into the premiere of the animated series "Invasion America" got an instant dose of southern Utah, complete with red rocks and arches.
As a matter of fact, a considerable amount of the action in this science-fiction saga about a teenager battling to free his planet and save Earth from his evil uncle takes place here.Coincidence? Not really. The producer/director of "Invasion America," Dan Fausett, is not only a Utah native but he still makes his home here, commuting between Utah County, where his wife holds down the fort with their four children, and the DreamWorks studios in Los Angeles.
"It's nice, especially when you're from there, to kind of throw that in," Fausett said.
The idea to make Utah a part of the series didn't originate with Fausett, however. A previous producer had dreamed up the idea - an idea that Fausett mentioned to executive producer Harve Bennett. "He said, `Oh, I think that would be a wonderful place. That sounds like a great place to stick an underground base.' That was kind of fun because I knew the area."
He isn't quite sure how the area got tagged the "Utah Badlands," however.
"I guess the thinking was that `badlands' is just any uncharted and uncivilized area," he said. "They didn't want to be specific to any one of those areas and tie us down."
Which is also why a recent episode included the town of Pitchfork, Utah.
For Fausett, "Invasion America" (which airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. on WB/Ch. 30) is pretty much a dream come true.
"I've always wanted to animate since I was a little kid. That's all I really wanted to do," he said. "I used to draw Disney pictures when I was little, and I loved the Warner Bros. cartoons."
Not only that, but he was a big sci-fi fan. "I've always liked that. My mom liked it as well. We used to watch `Godzilla' - the old one - whenever it would come on when I was growing up," he said. "I just thought that was a great show. That and `King Kong.'
"And I was a big `Star Trek' fan when that came out on TV."
A native of Price, Fausett said his father and grandfather were both coal miners. "I didn't want to do that, so I left."
Fausett spent some time at the College of Eastern Utah and a semester at BYU before he "kind of got out of school and got into actually working in the business, which was much more fun."
In 1980, he started out at XAM! Productions in Salt Lake City, moving on to Hyperion Films in 1990, where he worked as a layout supervisor on the animated features "Rover Dangerfield" and "Bebe's Kids." At Film Roman, he was a storyboard supervisor, working on the animated series "Mask" and producing "Savage Dragon."
And, working for Character Builders, he was layout supervisor on the feature "Space Jam."
Fausett ended up at Dream-Works and "Invasion America" coming off "Space Jam." Not only was it a chance to be in charge of the animation on an ambitious series, but it was a chance to work for Steven Spiel-berg, who created "Invasion."
And shortly after he was hired, Bennett - whose credits included four of the "Star Trek" movies - came aboard. "I remember him from way back, from `Six Million Dollar Man' and `Bionic Woman.' In fact, `Star Trek II' is my absolute favorite. So it was really amazing - all of a sudden they say, `You're going to be working with Harve Bennett.' And I was, like, `You've got to be kidding!' "
Fausett leads a team of about 28 artists, and all the designs are overseen or drawn by him. He has his favorites, including a group of powerful, nasty creatures with enormous fangs.
"What I hold dear to my heart are the manglers," he said. "Those were my designs from the very beginning."
And he's thrilled that "Invasion Earth" has achieved the look he was hoping for - something akin to Japanese anime, with dark colors, and combining both computer and "regular" animation styles.
"Steven (Spielberg) kept saying, `I want a film noir look,' " Fausett said. "We had a real fight as far as the look of the show went for a while, just getting everyone who had been in the business before comfortable with the idea that this would actually work on the screen. All the art has to go through my hands for approval. But we had a great team and that's what really made it work.
"We achieved a cel-look out of something that's usually only 3-D. We're very happy with that."
Even if he did have to travel to Korea four times in the past year to oversee the animation work there. And he wasn't even talking about trans-Pacific travel when he said, "It's been a real trip to be able to do this."