Fox cans plan to premiere Spielberg's Terra Nova in May

Fox has pushed back plans to air its ambitious upcoming time-traveling, dinosaur-filled series Terra Nova in May, and the two-hour premiere will now air in fall with the rest of the episodes, the network announced on Friday.

Fox had previously planned on giving us a taste of the Steven Spielberg-produced Terra Nova on May 23 and 24, with the full series premiering in the fall. That plan changed. "The cutting-edge visual effects used to create the world of Terra Nova, which is of massive scope and scale, require more time to be realized," said Fox's president of entertainment, Kevin Reilly.

Terra Nova follows the adventures of the Shannon family, who leave a dying future Earth after scientists figure out a way to send a small pilgrimage of humans into the past to prehistoric times with hopes of saving the human race. The series stars Jason O'Mara (Life on Mars), Stephen Lang (Avatar) and Shelley Conn.

I recently chatted with executive producer Brannon Braga (24, Star Trek) in an exclusive interview about what was involved in getting Terra Nova up and running. "Creating a new television show is like giving birth to a child, and this just happened to be a really, really big baby," he said with a laugh. "It was trying to get the script right, where were we going to shoot it, casting ... doing all those things at the same time on a show with this ambitious magnitude, and then we ended up shooting it across the globe. It was a challenge, but a fun challenge." And that was before they added the CGI.

Since the series has dinosaurs and other creatures that might inhabit the prehistoric landscape, they're using animatronics and CGI. "It is a really difficult show to do," said Braga. "It's very challenging animatronic work that we did, but it needs digital enhancement. I think it's like if you watch the behind-the-scenes of Jurassic Park or anything like that you'd probably go, 'Oh, that's a puppet.' But once it all comes together it looks pretty cool. I mean, we had a pretty damn cool dinosaur called the Slasher. We built him full-scale animatronic, a 7-foot-tall dinosaur, that just standing near it even when it wasn't moving was frightening."

His next statement was particularly telling. "As far as the CGI dinosaur work, we're so early in the stages of that, right there, I can only tell you the small amount that we've done, it looks amazing. We are using some very cutting-edge technology to create it, some motion-capture technology, which has never been used to create animals before. So we're pretty excited," said Braga.

According to executive producer René Echevarria, the other challenge they've faced has been creating the prehistoric environment. "It is a rich setting. It has something of a western vibe to it, where it's life in a frontier town where people are forging a new existence where no one has ever been," he said in a separate exclusive interview.

The series is being filmed in Queensland, Australia, which gives you an idea how far they had to travel to find a place that would feel prehistoric enough.

"It is just a stunning, stunning piece of stagecraft that was built there," said Echevarria. "Obviously some of the stuff we're doing in terms of special effects wouldn't have been possible even five years ago on a television budget. But computer CGI continues to evolve and become more accessible."

Since Fox made the unusual move of ordering Terra Nova straight to series without filming the pilot separately first, you might think they've had plenty of time to get the first two hours of the series ready for that first look in May. But it's added up to an extraordinary challenge, said Braga.

"Did I think I'd end up in the jungles of Queensland, Australia, with a giant horsefly biting me in the neck? No," he said. "Did I think it would become as ambitious and big a show as when the script first came my way? It was just difficult to imagine what a huge, magnificent journey it would be to bring it to the screen. It feels like we're making an epic, and we are. It is just ... I didn't think I would be involved in something quite this scale, and that has been terribly exciting."

While it's not surprising that Fox and the producers have decided to hold off on giving us that May sneak peek of what to expect come fall, it's too bad. It would have been fun to see Slasher and get a Spielbergian blast-to-the-past dinosaur-laden joyride to heat up our summer.

Here's Fox's press release:

Friday, March 11, 2011


The new epic family adventure series TERRA NOVA will now launch with its series premiere in fall 2011 on FOX, it was announced today by Kevin Reilly, President of Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company.

"TERRA NOVA is one of the most ambitious television series ever produced," said Reilly. "The cutting-edge visual effects used to create the world of TERRA NOVA, which is of massive scope and scale, require more time to be realized. This aspect of the series is essential, so we are pushing back the special early preview date to give the visual effects team the time needed for their ground-breaking work."

"The world of TERRA NOVA is visually stunning on multiple levels, and effects play an enormous part," said executive producer René Echevarria. "Premiering in the fall will give us the proper time to create a world never before seen on television."

An epic family adventure 85 million years in the making, TERRA NOVA follows an ordinary family embarking on an incredible journey back in time to prehistoric Earth as a small part of a daring experiment to save the human race. In the year 2149 the world is dying. The planet is overdeveloped, overcrowded and overpolluted. With no known way to reverse the damage to the planet, scientists discover a portal to prehistoric Earth. This doorway leads to an amazing world, one that allows for a last-ditch effort to save the human race...a second chance to rebuild civilization and get it right this time.

The series centers on the Shannon family as they join the Tenth Pilgrimage of settlers to TERRA NOVA, the first colony established in this beautiful yet forbidding land led by its founder COMMANDER NATHANIEL TAYLOR (Stephen Lang, "Avatar"). JIM SHANNON (Jason O'Mara, "Life on Mars"), a devoted father with a checkered past, guides his family - wife ELISABETH (Shelley Conn, "Mistresses"); and children JOSH (Landon Liboiron, "Degrassi: The Next Generation"), MADDY (Naomi Scott, "Life Bites") and ZOE (newcomer Alana Mansour) - through this new land of limitless beauty, mystery and terror. In addition to blue skies, towering waterfalls and lush vegetation, TERRA NOVA offers new opportunities and fresh beginnings to its recent arrivals, but the Shannons have brought with them a familial secret that may threaten their citizenship in this utopia. These adventurers soon discover that this healthy, vibrant world is not as idyllic as it initially appears. The areas surrounding TERRA NOVA are teeming with danger - and not just of the man-eating dinosaur variety. The Shannons will come to suspect that not everyone on this mission has the same idea of how to best save mankind; in fact, there may be forces intent on destroying this new world before it even begins.

TERRA NOVA is produced by 20th Century Fox Television, Chernin Entertainment, DreamWorks Television and Kapital Entertainment. Peter Chernin, Steven Spielberg, René Echevarria, Brannon Braga, Aaron Kaplan, Katherine Pope, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Jon Cassar, Craig Silverstein and Kelly Marcel serve as executive producers. Alex Graves serves as executive producer and directed the series premiere.

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