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Can Fans Save “Invasion America?”

 
 

By Joe Tracy

In June 1998, Warner Brothers started airing an animated prime time dramatic miniseries called “Invasion America” that told the story of a half-alien and half-human boy in search of his father and on a mission to save Earth. The six-hour miniseries mixed traditional 2D Korean animation (by a company called AKOM) with 3D animation, courtesy of DreamWorks TV Animation. The show was a refreshing and intelligent sci-fi adventure for many people and ratings remained good throughout its run.

“It is an adult animated drama and something that I have not seen done by Americans before,” says Jason Moon, a 25-year old security guard in Washington who was an avid watcher of the series. “The characters are engaging, the plot is very interesting and surprise-filled, and the animation quality is top-notch for an American production.”

Invasion America attracted a large number of fans to the series, many being adults. The attraction to the miniseries came for many reasons, including the fact that Invasion America was original and not based on some comic character or merchandising ploy. Others were attracted by the strong story line and character development.

“Why do I like IA so much? It's hard to put a finger on exactly why, but I think it's primarily because I care so much about the characters,” says Laura McKittrick, a 47-year old computer database analyst for the Department of Treasury and fan of the Invasion America series. “I've been captivated by Invasion America since it first started last summer. I almost didn't even start watching it because it was animated, and like many American adults, I wasn't inclined to take an animated show seriously. But I started because I was drawn by the missing-father theme.”

Now McKittrick doesn’t know if she could watch it if it was live action because the team did so well with bringing the animated story to life. It’s no wonder that McKittrick and thousands of other adults are drawn into Invasion America. The writers and producers set out to create a very realistic and dramatic story that was far from the cutesy animated shows most people, including Warner Brothers, are familiar with. Steven Spielberg was the Executive Producer for Invasion America, while the producer was Harve Bennett who is no stranger to sci-fi fans. Bennett was the writer and executive producer of Star Trek II, III, IV, and V. One of his goals in Invasion America was to make sure that everything was portrayed realistically, even down to how the characters communicated with each other and how dialogue was achieved.

"One of the things that Steven [Spielberg] and I talked about was that in traditional animation, the actors are used to stepping aside and taking breaks from each other," says Bennett. "We wanted overlapping, naturalistic dialogue."

The gamble for realism worked as minimal marketing efforts by Warner Brothers still brought respectable ratings for Invasion America that reached a large audience consisting mostly of teens to adults.

“There is more emotion and excitement in Invasion America than in most cartoons,” says Melody Cheng, a student in California. Cheng believes that the animation comes across as more of a film or show than animation because of the way it was written and that was one of the things that appealed to her.

When the prime time series aired the final episode on July 7, the show ended with the words “End of Book One” and many situations still unresolved. Talk of making Invasion America into a regular prime time show had gone on for some time. Yet after the series ended some people close to the project claimed that internal Warner Brothers politics could end up killing any chance of Invasion America being made into a series. This angered thousands of fans of the show and resulted in efforts and campaigns aimed at saving Invasion America.

“I've written to the Warner Brothers headquarters four times; called my local WB programming director several times and written to him once to send him a copy of a letter I'd sent to the main Warner Brothers office,” says McKittrick. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She also helped collect information on every sponsor of the show and has written each one. Furthermore, she’s been in contact with some people directly involved with the show (that would speak with her) and she’s written DreamWorks. McKittrick personally got dozens of people interested in watching Invasion America where she lives and has been active on all the Invasion America message boards online. All of this by just one fan!

“Such involvement in a TV show is an unheard-of thing for me. I watch very little TV, especially series, and particularly on week nights, which is when IA was on last summer,” says McKittrick, who has also been an active supporter of the online Web sites created solely in hopes of saving the show.

One “Save Invasion America” Web site is run by a gentleman named Sean Fitzgibbons who truly believes that Invasion America is groundbreaking television. He hopes his site will contribute to the effort to save the show.

“We have started a massive letter writing campaign to Warner Brothers about continuing the show,” Fitzgibbons told Animation Artist magazine. “We also have asked those with a Web site to add a special "Support Invasion America" button, increasing awareness about the situation of the series.”

Shortly after efforts by fans to save the show began, Warner Brothers announced that it would be reairing an edited version of Invasion America in the fall as part of its Saturday morning Kids WB lineup. The move shocked a lot of fans that felt Invasion America belonged in prime time as part of the teen and adult lineup because of its strong and realistic action/adventure theme.

“It's not a Saturday morning cartoon,” says Fitzgibbons. “It was designed specifically to be an animated drama and air in prime time. This is the first show of this genre to be seen on American television and to abruptly cancel it will hinder other networks from creating animated dramas. To cut the series short like this is preventing the evolution of American television.”

Cut the series short? It appears, after airing a number of episodes of the miniseries on Saturday morning, that Warner Brothers decided to kill the rest of it, suddenly skipping four episodes to show the finale. The story, with key elements missing, made no sense to those who were seeing the entire series for the first time. This recent development may secure the fate of Invasion America – a fate that fans don’t want to see. But that’s not stopping them. Like Fitzgibbons, Peter Gott is also actively involved, via a Web site, in the “Save Invasion America” effort.

“All in all, I think the campaign is going quite well--almost too much response for me to handle,” says Gott. He’s taken a different approach to saving the show by having people sign up to receive a petition in the mail that they sign and then forward to the next name on the list. The process does have its problems, mainly forwarding the same petition via snail-mail with the potential of it getting lost. He’s recently implemented plans to distribute numerous petitions to help speed up the process so that the petitions can be forwarded to Warner Brothers.

Hundreds of fans have joined the effort to save Invasion America so that the rest of the series can be created. The end of book one left a lot of situations unresolved and many fans still waiting for answers. Yet that hasn’t stopped some fans from creating their own sequel to the series. Christopher Bell is a high school student in Florida who was also captivated by the series. One of the situations left unresolved was the potential of a relationship between the main character and another female. So Bell decided to create the “Foundation For David And Sonia Being Together.” Like many other Invasion America sites, the main entrance to his page has a banner link to one of the two main “Save Invasion America” sites.

The fight to save Invasion America has been exhaustive for those involved. They also acknowledge how frustrating it has been dealing with Warner Brothers.

“I find it very frustrating that Warner Brother's top management seems to be so secretive,” says McKittrick. “I've found even their own people -- programming directors, managers -- seem to have trouble finding out what's happening. Those at Warner Brothers who could answer fans' questions never respond, or even acknowledge they've heard us.”

Even so, the fans will be the first to admit that this is only the beginning. Like in Invasion America, fans now have a mission almost as important as the one in the animated miniseries. Their mission is to save the reality of the characters that saved Earth.

Joe Tracy is the Publisher of Digital Media FX Magazine and author of the book Web Marketing Applied.


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