Utah survives invasion of 'The Aquabats'

Television • There were explosions when they came to town to shoot Season 2 of TV show.
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"The Aquabats" descended on Utah last fall and blew up the cereal aisle at the Reams in Sandy.

They had permission, of course.

"We were messing that store up pretty bad," Jason deVilliers, the director/executive producer of this action-adventure kids show, said with a laugh. "We had explosions going off in the cereal aisle. We were blowing up big mounds of toilet paper. It was incredible.

"And without having a huge budget, that's something you could never pull off in Los Angeles."

"We kind of destroyed the place a little with pyro and everyone was still super-cool to us," added Ian Fowles, aka Eagle "Bones" Falconhawk.

That's part of the reason "The Aquabats! Super Show!" moved to Utah for Season 2 after shooting its first season in Orange County, Calif.

"The experience down there was great, but the problem was that all of Orange County looks pretty similar," deVilliers said. "And we wanted Season 2 to have a little bit bigger feel."

After considering moving the production to New Mexico, Michigan, Louisiana or Canada, "We were, like, 'What about Utah?' " said deVilliers, who grew up in the Highland/Alpine area and graduated from American Fork High. He and Christian Jacobs — aka the MC Bat Commander — who also spent time in Utah when he was growing up, knew they'd be able to film in the mountains, in the desert, on the Salt Flats and at various spots around Salt Lake City.

"It made it much easier for us to do all the things we wanted to do," deVilliers said. "Every episode, Christian and I have these grand visions of what monsters we can have tearing the city apart and the Aquabats have to come save the day. We want to do explosions. It's an action-adventure kids show, so we always have all this stuff we want to do, and we were allowed to do it up here. It was really cool."

Although they did get a few strange looks from people who didn't quite know what to make of these guys in superhero tights.

"People would stop and take pictures," said drummer Richard "Ricky Fitness" Falomir. "They don't know who we are, but they're like, 'This is different.' "

"And then occasionally, there are people who recognize us, which is kind of crazy," said Fowles. "Like, 'Oh, Aquabats! I love you!' "

Explaining the Aquabats is tricky, even for the Aquabats.

"It's kind of tough," Fowles said, "because you say, 'I play in a band. But we have a TV show. We're kind of geared toward kids, but not just toward kids. It's kind of hard to describe. Not a normal band, not a normal TV show.' "

The Aquabats have been around since 1994 in various incarnations. They're a real band and, yes, they dress in superhero costumes.

Jacobs tried to get the Aquabats their own TV show for years. When that didn't work out, he and deVilliers went in another direction — they created, produced and wrote the hugely successful kids' show "Yo Gabba Gabba."

Now, they are also the stars of the "The Aquabats! Super Show!," which kicks off Season 2 on Saturday. It's goofy and loads of fun — sort of a modern-day version of "The Monkees." Only these guys were a band before they were TV stars, and they write their own music.

Group members are Jacobs; Falomir; Fowles; Chad Larson, aka Crash McLarson; and James Briggs, aka Jimmy the Robot. And it's clear they have fun putting the show together.

"Everyone has a hand in every part of the show — the music, the writing," Falomir said. "It's definitely a group effort."

"And there's not many egos," Fowles said. "We've all been good friends forever. And our director [deVilliers] has been a good friend for a long time. He gets it. We can approach him with ideas. And if he likes them, he integrates them on the spot."

"It is a blast," deVilliers said. "Christian and I really try to create camaraderie on set. It is a family environment. We love having creative input from all the people on our team."

A lot of the ideas are the ones any kid would have. Heroes fighting monsters and villains. Explosions. Larger-than-life adventures. The sort of thing boys dream about when they're boys and the Aquabats still get to play with today.

"I think that's where it all comes from," Falomir said. "Things we wanted to do when we were little kids."

And deVilliers sees more than a bit of an echo of his younger days.

"I feel like I'm making the movies I made as a kid in junior high and high school, but we've got a bigger budget to do it with," he said. "We get to do exactly what we wanted to do — lasers and monsters and special effects and action."

And blowing up the cereal aisle at Reams.

spierce@sltrib.com —

'The Aquabats! Super Show!'

This action-comedy-adventure show, which is now filmed in Utah, is not your normal kids show. It features a real band, dressed in superhero costumes, with names such as MC Bat Commander and Eagle "Bones" Falconhawk.

When • Season 2 premieres Saturday, June 1, at 11 a.m.

Where • On cable network The Hub — Comcast Channels 121 and 719; DirecTV Channel 294; Dish Channel 179.

Details • Season 1, featuring 13 episodes, is available on DVD and Bluray,