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TCA 2011: Is 'Terra Nova' a dinosaur show or a western?

August 5, 2011 |  5:12 pm

Jason O'Mara, from left, Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, Alana Mansour and Shelley Conn in Fox's fall drama 'Terra Nova.' Credit: Brook Rushton / Fox

Yes, it's chockablock with dinosaurs and other nasty beasts. But the producers of Fox's new sci-fi epic "Terra Nova" describe the show more as a western.

Speaking to reporters Friday at the Television Critics Assn. media tour in Beverly Hills, executive producer Brannon Braga repeatedly dubbed the series as a "frontier" story -- it's just that in this case, the family is time-traveling to a prehistoric frontier, where instead of native tribes they encounter some rather large reptiles. 

It may take awhile to get that message across, though. "It's going to be impossible to keep your kids away from the dinosaur show," said executive producer Rene Echevarria, with the tone of a man who knows exactly what his project's big selling point is.

Dinosaurs are a big part of what has made the show so difficult to shoot and edit. "Terra Nova" was announced well over a year ago but visual-effects artists had to create new motion-capture technology and software to make the show work.

"All of the visual effects houses we initially approached said, 'Nah, can't be done. Not on time,'" Echevarria said.

It helped that they just happened to have someone with some dinosaur expertise: "Jurassic Park" director Steven Spielberg, who also serves as an executive producer on the series, although his day-to-day involvement has been limited. "He has a lot of input on the dinosaurs," Braga said.

Producers have continued noodling with the pilot, most recently adding scenes at the beginning to give more back story on Jim Shannon (Jason O'Mara), the tough cop whose family is at the center of the drama.

The hope is that though audiences may come for the dinosaurs, they'll stay for the Shannons, who face their own internal battles as they struggle to adjust to their new environment.

As O'Mara joked to reporters: "We're also cheaper than the dinosaurs."


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Photo: Jason O'Mara, from left, Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, Alana Mansour and Shelley Conn in Fox's fall drama "Terra Nova." Credit: Brook Rushton / Fox.