Nearly a year ago, we (along with many other websites, don’t just blame us) reported on the possible existence of a pilot called “Operation: Aliens.” The proposed animated series would have ran on Fox Kids during the 1992-93 season, but it was cancelled, leading to a lot of offbeat “Aliens” merchandise suddenly appearing in 1993, some of it bearing the “Operation: Aliens” logo.
Unfortunately….some recent testimonials have come to light from people who were working in the industry at the time, and it turns out none of it is true. An Aliens cartoon was never actually planned.
An amateur journalist who goes by “JimboX” emailed Margaret Loesch, head of Fox Kids during the early 90s, to see if she would remember this cartoon. He wasn’t expecting a response, but he got it:
“Hi Jimbo. Well, I have racked my brains and I simply do not have a recollection of any project we developed called ‘Operation: Aliens.’ I even checked with two of my former colleagues who worked for me – Sidney Iwanter, who proctored ‘X-Men’ for me, and Maureen Smith, who was our head of research and later became head of [the]Fox Family Channel cable channel. Neither of them remembers the project either. Sorry I can’t help you – it sounds like something I would have loved to have developed, but I didn’t!”
Loesch sent a second E-mail to Jimbo hours later:
“Jimbo, just to follow up – I do have a recollection that Kenner Toys may have had the merchandising rights to ‘Aliens’ and we had a good relationship with Kenner’s president, Bruce Stein, in the early ’90s. It may have been that we discussed doing an ‘Aliens’ cartoon but ultimately probably decided not to do it because we would have had to modify it to make it acceptable to our broadcast standards and practices. I just don’t remember – what I do know is that we did not develop it and we, Fox Kids, never made a pilot for it.
“My recollection is that Kenner Toys designed some prototypes and showed them to us at Fox. Kenner was a remarkably creative company and they had great designers. They did the same with ‘Planet of the Apes’ – [the] toy prototypes they designed were remarkable but ultimately we decided not to go forward with an animation series for either property because of the broadcast standards issues we would face with both concepts. The Korean studio that worked on a presentation for ‘Aliens’ may have been Nelson Shin’s company, I just don’t remember.”
Nelson Shin was president of AKOM, a Korean animation studio. You can blame AKOM for the wonky (yet cheap!) animation in shows like X-Men. If Fox Kids never had any interest in an Aliens cartoon, why would AKOM have animated any part of it?
We have our answer thanks to a recent eBay auction of Will Meugniot’s storyboard for a scene from that promo. It wasn’t a pilot. It was the original version of the ads for the Aliens action figures!
In 1992, while producing Conan the Adventurer and X-Men for Graz Entertainment, Meugniot was asked to storyboard, produce and direct animated segments for three Aliens toy commercials, done in support of a new Aliens toyline. The trio of ads were all concerned with a team of space marines defending a space station from an Alien attack. The animation was done by Akom, using the same team that did the Conan titles. However, a new snorkel camera had come to the attention of the commercials’ live action producer, allowing him to film the toys with unprecedented clarity, so he decided to use this footage instead of the completed animation in the final cut of the commercials.
The shown frame captures from finished animation have sparked an internet myth that there was an “Operation Aliens” animated pilot, which doesn’t exist.
So there you have it. “Operation Aliens” was entirely cooked up by Kenner as a toy line brand. The early 90s Aliens cartoon does not exist. But I think I speak for all of us when I say that I wish it did!