June 01, 2019

ALIENATORS: EVOLUTION CONTINUES


ALIENATORS: EVOLUTION CONTINUES
(FOX, September 22, 2001-June 22, 2002)

The Montecito Picture Company, DreamWorks SKG, Dentsu, Inc., DiC Entertainment, Columbia TriStar Television





MAIN CAST:
Kirby Morrow – Dr. Ira Kane
Cusse Mankuma – Professor Harry Phineas Block
Andrew Francis – Wayne Green
Akiko Morison – Lt. Lucy Mai
Lee Tockar - GASSIE
Fiona Hogan – Dr. Allison Reed
John Payne – General Woodman
Mark Acheson - Scopes


            Evolution was projected to be director Ivan Reitman’s next Ghostbusters.


            The film was originally conceived as a more serious story by Don Jakoby. Reitman had writers David Diamond and David Weissman turn it into a comedy, which Jakoby liked enough to join in on the script rewrites. The film, set in Glen Canyon, Arizona, saw a meteor crash near the town. Disgraced military scientist-turned-college professor Ira Kane (David Duchovny) and his colleague, Harry Block (Orlando Jones), investigated and discovered the meteor contained an extraterrestrial nitrogen-based single-celled organism that was capable of both mitosis for reproduction and rapid evolution into more complex lifeforms. Their investigation and experiments are cut short when Ira’s former superior, General Woodman (Ted Levine), and the US Army take over the site. It soon became up to Ira and Harry to stop the military from causing the accidental takeover of the world from the invading creatures using copious amounts of Head & Shoulders shampoo, which contained a substance the aliens found poisonous: selenium. They also gained the help of wannabe fireman Wayne Grey (Seann William Scott) and clumsy scientist Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore).


Promotional image of Lucy, Harry, Ira, Wayne and GASSIE.

            Despite being about a couple of blue-collar guys taking on an extraordinary threat to save the world, being produced by Columbia Pictures, Reitman and Joe Medjuck, and even featuring a small role for Dan Aykroyd, the comedy failed to attain Ghostbusters-level numbers. In fact, it barely made back its $80 million budget when it opened on June 8, 2001, pulling in just over $98 million worldwide. However, they were all-in on making sure it would be like Ghostbusters and commissioned the creation of an animated series that would continue the story. Medjuck would serve as the executive producer as he had with both Ghostbusters cartoons, and the studio behind The Real Ghostbusters, DiC Entertainment, was tapped to bring the series to life.

At the edge of a Genus forest.

            Developed by Louis Gassin, the series began as the movie ended: with Ira (Kirby Morrow), Harry (Cusse Mankuma), Allison (Fiona Hogan) and Wayne (renamed Green, voiced by Andrew Francis) using a firetruck full of “the blue goo dandruff shampoo” to take out the aliens, now called the Genus. However, the Genus continued to live on in other pockets around Glen Canyon forcing the one-time heroes, eventually calling themselves “Alienators”, to step up and clean the city. However, this time they were granted government backing by the President, much to the chagrin of their overseer, General Woodman (John Payne). They received a new lab, upgrades to the fire engine that included a variety of gadgets, a motorcycle and a small detachable jet, and protective suits. They also received a new field partner in Lt. Lucy Mai (Akiko Morison); a by-the-book military combat expert whose disciplined nature often clashed with the scientists’ more improvisational methods. They also gained a mascot/hunting dog in the form of GASSIE (Genetically Altered Symbiotic Stasis in Evolution, vocal effects by Lee Tockar); a friendly Genus alien Ira created in the lab (and aptly named as he emitted a stinky gas whenever the Genus was near). Allison remained in the lab at the Center for Impending Disasters, working on ways to stop the Genus and to keep Woodman in check to prevent him from simply bombing the town. Their primary weapon was a Devolver gun that fired a mix of selenium, compressed carbon dioxide, and a de-evolution ray developed by Allison.

The highly-evolved Scopes.

            The Genus upped their game as well as they continued to evolve and develop an immunity to the selenium serum, often requiring Ira to modify it in some way. Unlike the movie, when defeated by selenium goo the Genus imploded and turned into a starfish-like thing that the Alienators would proceed to collect and store in petri dishes. They also gained a sort of leader in the most highly-evolved form to date. Named Scopes by Ira (after teacher John T. Scopes who was fined for teaching evolution in a Tennessee school in 1925, voiced by Mark Acheson), he was a giant, red beast who learned how to speak in binary by interfacing with a computer. No matter how many times the Alienators found a way to defeat him, Scopes would emerge from a new batch of Genus seemingly with the same knowledge as the previous one.

General Woodman is an unhappy camper.

The characters were designed by Francis Buchet, Florence Demaret, Sylvain Fournier, Noëlle Geoffroy, Eric Gosselet, Vincent Martin, Nathalie Minard, Anne Pellerin, Arnaud Roger and Hervé Vautier. To avoid likeness rights, Ira was made to look younger with a hipper hairstyle, Harry was given a buffer physique and long cornrows, Allison shorter hair, and Woodman was given more hair on top of his head and less on his face. Ira’s assuredness in his own abilities from the film was ramped up in the series to his constantly stating he was a genius, while Harry’s coaching of the girls’ volleyball team led to his not only watching/listening to every sports game he could, but inserting sports terminology into everything he said. The film’s romance between Ira and Allison was also ignored, with Allison seemingly barley able to tolerate Ira at times. Wayne’s status as a full fireman granted to him at the end of the film was changed to his still being in training and even played a role in an episode. GASSIE’s design was based on the three-eyed smiley face used in the film’s promotion.

A new batch of Genus hatching.

            Alienators: Evolution Continues (Evolution: The Animated Series internationally) made its debut on FOX as part of the Fox Kids programming block on September 22, 2001 (delayed a week by continuing coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks). The series was written by Michael Ryan, Ben Townsend, Kurt Weldon, Mark Seidenberg, Dick Grunert, Nick Dubois and Lance Falk. The theme, “Evolution (Creepy Crawly)” was composed by L.A. Piccirillo who also handled the rest of the series’ music with Jean-Michel Guirao. Animation duties were handled by Hong Ying Universe Company, Ltd.



            The series proved about as popular as its film counterpart; pulling in extremely poor ratings. It was dropped from the network before the final three episodes could air in the United States. However, before it left the airwaves, a Game Boy Advance game based on the show was developed by Digital Eclipse and released by Activision. A line of action figures was also produced by Bandai containing two sets of hero figures, a miniature GASSIE playset, and three vehicles, and Taco Bell released toys in their kids’ meals. In 2002, Lions Gate Home Entertainment released Evolution: The Animated Movie on VHS and DVD which contained the first three episodes edited together to form a movie. It was re-released the following year by Sterling Entertainment and contained the 4th episode as a bonus feature. In 2004, Anchor Bay UK released the first four episodes onto DVD in the United Kingdom, while Avenue Entertainment released two DVDs containing two episodes each in 2006. The entire series was made available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.



EPISODE GUIDE (* aired outside the US):
“Survival Part 1” (9/22/01) – Ira and Harry are lamenting the loss of their fame just as a new batch of the Genus appears and begins their evolutionary invasion anew.

“Survival Part 2” (9/29/01) – The government provides Ira and Harry with new equipment and a new partner, Lt. Mai, to battle any new Genus threats.

“Survival Part 3” (10/6/01) – The Alienators deal with a Genus tree that sprouts up in the middle of town.

“Don’t Drink the Water” (10/13/01) – Wayne accidentally washes Genus cells into the water supply, causing the townspeople to become mutated.

“Slick” (10/20/01) – A tanker full of Genus-infested petroleum runs aground in the Galapagos Islands.

“Swarm” (10/27/01) – The Alienators are sent to a farm to deal with a swarm of Genus wasps.

“Fire and Ice” (11/3/01) – An ice Genus is discovered in the French Alps when Woodman accidentally frees it with a detonation.

“Meltdown” (11/10/01) – The Genus plan to use old nuclear submarines to cause an explosion that will greatly speed-up the Genus’ evolution.

“Junkyard Dogs” (11/17/01) – Woodman has Ira and Harry thrown in the brig for destroying government property just as Wayne and GASSIE discover a new Genus outbreak.

“French Underground” (12/1/01) – Woodman causes an accident that frees the Genus into the Paris metro, forcing him to ask the Alienators for help.

“Runaway Strain” (12/8/01) – Woodman’s miracle anti-Genus germ turns out to be a strong strain of airborne Genus that causes the CID base to go into quarantine lockdown.

“Dead Wayne Cells” (12/17/01) – Wayne’s partial Genus DNA leads to his creating clones of himself.

“Roman Holiday” (2/9/02) - The Alienators head to the Roman catacombs to snuff out a Genus infestation.

“To Carthage Then I Came” (2/16/02) – The Alienators find themselves up against Genus sandworms in the Arizona desert.

“Year of the Genus” (2/23/02) – The Alienators have to stop the New Year’s celebration in Hong Kong before they set off Genus-infected fireworks.

“Hot Java” (3/2/02) – Scopes plans to rapidly evolve a new batch of Genus at the volcano on the Island of Java.

“Ira Knows Best” (3/9/02) – Ira takes the team for a getaway at his family’s farm, but the Genus come along for the ride.

“Itching for the Genus” (3/16/02) – With it quiet on the Genus front, it seems like the Alienators are no longer needed.

“Genus in your Tank” (3/23/02) – Genus-infected fuel causes the cars in New York City to become mutated Genus monsters.

“Cradle Will Fall” (3/30/02) – Wayne finally becomes a full fireman, leaving the Alienators to replace both hm and GASSIE on the team.

“Head Case” (5/4/02) – The Alienators are called to investigate an old English castle only to discover everything is absolutely normal.

“End Game” (5/11/02) – The Genus launch missiles to help them cover the world.

“General Disorder” (5/18/02) – The Alienators have to capture Scopes in order to synthesize a cure for the bite it gave Woodman.

“REAPER 1: Countdown” (6/8/02*) – Woodman discovers a plot between General Granger and Scopes.

“REAPER 2: The Ark” (6/15/02*) – The Alienators head into space to deal with an outbreak on an experimental space station.

“REAPER 3: Alpha Omega” (6/22/02*) – Granger and Scopes attempt to blow up the moon.

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