|Created by||Jim Corston
and Michael Riley
|Opening theme||"There's A Hero"
by Four Square
|Country of origin||United Kingdom
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||39 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||23 minutes|
|Original release||4 September 2002– 14 December 2004|
Ace Lightning is a children's television series co-produced by the BBC and Alliance Atlantis, which originally broadcast in the United Kingdom but was also aired in other countries including the United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The show was filmed in Canada, but the program was set in America. It ran for two seasons, and spawned a number of merchandising products.
The programme featured live actors interacting with computer animated characters from a fictional video game. The series is significant in that until its creation, live action and CGI had not been attempted to such a huge and constant degree within a weekly television serial.
The series follows the life of British teenager Mark Hollander who moved to the American town Conestoga Hills with his parents. One stormy night, Mark plays his favourite video game, the fictional Ace Lightning and the Carnival of Doom - a superhero-based adventure game where hero Ace Lightning traverses the Carnival of Doom to find the pieces of the magical Amulet of Zoar, whilst battling his nemesis Lord Fear. Mark stumbles across a mysterious seventh level which is not meant to exist. A lightning bolt strikes the antenna on his roof, and through an electrical surge, the characters of the game come to life. Ace hires Mark as his sidekick to fulfil the game's objectives in the real world. Mark's life is turned upside-down, and his duty as a Lightning Knight effects his school grades and social life, often forcing him to make excuses to his family and friends. Meanwhile, Lord Fear's group of villains occupy the town's rundown Kent Bros. Carnival.
Most episodes balanced Mark's social issues and dealing with the game characters, and the animated characters fighting over the collected Amulet pieces. The world and rules of the game played out in Conestoga Hill; for example when two pieces of the Amulet were connected, a new character or weapon would be summoned. Several human characters learned of Mark's double life including his best friend Chuck Mugel, girlfriend Kat Adams, school teacher Mr. Cheseborough who comes to the belief that the characters are aliens, and Mark's cousin Ashley. Another character who is aware of the goings on is Duff Kent, the owner of the carnival who is shanghaied into being a minion for Lord Fear. An ongoing story was the love triangle between Ace and villain Lady Illusion, who was Lord Fear's mistress throughout the first season but betrays him in the finale.
The first season ended with Mark winning the game, with all the antagonists save Lady Illusion returning to the game world. In the second season, Chuck becomes Ace's secondary sidekick, and all of the villains return under the leadership of a new antagonist named Kilobyte. Kilobyte was created by Rick Hummel, a computer repairman and former games developer who took on the alias the "Master Programmer". Rick developed the program that brought the game to life, but was ridiculed and fired as a result. He desired to prove his worth by bringing the characters to life and ultimately conquering the world. A blackout in his shop allows Kilobyte to become independent, determined to rule the world. In the series finale, Ace and Lord Fear join forces and banish Kilobyte to the game world. However, Lord Fear turns on Ace and mortally wounds him, only to reveal that Lady Illusion took his place, and she dies in Ace's arms. A third season was planned but never produced.
The cast of characters balances live human characters who lives in the town of Conestoga Hills, and computer-generated characters from the fictional video game Ace Lightning and the Carnival of Doom. The main protagonist is 13-year-old Mark Hollander (Thomas Wansey), a British teenager who immigrates from the United Kingdom with his parents. He wants a normal life, but the antics of the video game characters disrupts his friendships, grades, and social life. He often interacts with his school friends and trying to keep them in the dark. His best friend Chuck Mugel (Marc Minardi) is an avid fan of the game, and becomes Ace's secondary sidekick in the second season. Mark has three girlfriends during the series - next door neighbour Samantha Thompson (Shadia Simmons) who moves to a private school in the second season, gossip girl Heather Hoffs (Petra Wildgoose), and headstrong Kat Adams (Ashley Leggat) who wants to be a journalist.
The titular character, Ace Lightning (Michael Riley), is a superhero from the Sixth Dimension and a member of the authoritarian organization known as the Lightning Knights. He starts off as a snarky, courageous hero who does not understand much about human relations or their culture, but over time evolves into a better person. He starts secretly dating Lady Illusion (Tamara Bernier Evans), a shapeshifting villainess who is mistress of the main antagonist Lord Fear (Juan Chioran). The love triangle between the three is a main storyline in the series. Lord Fear himself is a lich who was crippled by Ace in the past and wishes to use the magical Amulet of Zoar to conquer the world. He leads a small band of minions and operates from the Carnival of Doom, actually a rundown carnival owned by Duff Kent (Phillip Williams) who is used as a slave by the villains.
The second season introduced Kilobyte (Ted Atherton), a sinister man who usurps Lord Fear and plots to slowly hunt Ace and destroy him. Kilobyte was created by Rick Hummel (Brett Heard), a programmer on the original game who was fired after developing the program that brough the characters to life. He works as a computer repairman and takes on Chuck as an employee. Another notable character is Mr. Cheseborough (R.D. Reid), Mark's science teacher who becomes convinced the game characters are aliens after being briefly abducted by Lord Fear, and becomes increasingly paranoid over the series.
The season was produced in 2002. When broadcast in America, the episodes were shown out of order, which sometimes resulted in severe continuity errors. For instance, "Tunnel of Love" was shown before "Once Upon a Hero." Random Virus would show up as an established character the day before he would be established.
- The Game Begins (1/2) - Pilot episode.
- The Trap is Set (2/2)
- The Substitute (1/2)
- Face the Music (2/2)
- There's No Place like Home
- Opposite Attraction
- Only Human
- Behind the Mask - Halloween episode.
- Once Upon a Hero
- Knights Undercover
- Tunnel of Love
- Nobody's Hero (1/2)
- Ace's Wild (2/2)
- The Field Trip
- Not Alone at Home
- Unidentified Flying Superhero
- A Friend in Need
- The Last Laugh - April Fool's Day episode.
- Download Disaster
- Daffy Duff - Clip show episode
- The Unlikely Hero
- The Not So Great Outdoors
- The Biggest Fan
- The Play's the Thing (1/3)
- The Rat Turns (2/3)
- Game Over (3/3) - Season finale.
The second series was broadcast in most countries in 2004, but it aired in the United Kingdom during the summer of 2005 for unknown reasons. This season was not aired in the United States due to the poor reception of the first season. The graphics were greatly improved, and several of the characters including Staff Head and Pigface were changed to look more like the animals they resembled. Kilobyte, Rotgut, Kat Adams and Rick the Master Programmer made their debut in this season. Chuck also met the Lightning Knights, and Mark got his own weapon, allowing him to battle the villains. There were only 13 episodes with one overall storyline.
- Upgrades (1/2)
- The Game's On (2/2)
- Uninvited Guest
- A Secret Life
- Welcome to the Nightmare
- The Search For Sparx
- Bound to Fail (1/2)
- Formula For Disaster (2/2)
- Rotgut Rides Again
- Putting It Together (1/3) - Clip show.
- Kilobyte Bites Back (2/3)
- The Master Plan (3/3) - Season finale.
The show was developed by BBC and Alliance Atlantis, with Rick Siggelkow as executive producer and creator of the show, and Jim Corston as head writer. Originally, the program's plot was to feature a superhero from a comic book coming to life but it was changed due to children playing videos games more as a pastime than reading comics. Mark was inspired by Spider-Man's alter ego Peter Parker. The series was in pre-production for two years, and took a year and a half to complete the first season.
Matt Ficner designed the computer-generated characters for the series, and also provided the voices of Zip and Snip in the first season. Several characters were scrapped or did not make it into the series, including "Scrambler" (an early design of Kilobyte), "Buzzbeast" (a cybernetic dinosaur), "Candy Floss" (a female archer with a punk theme) and a group of villains referred to as "Carnival Grunts". Some characters were quite detailed in concept art, but their designs had to be simplified to meet the program's budget. The series was shot in Toronto in 2001 between 23 June and 22 November of that year.
According to the 2003-2004 annual review of BBC Worldwide's children's products, the series was a success and translated into numerous languages and forty countries, gaining high ratings in the United States on DIC Kids' Network. The series received 1.2 million viewers on average during the first season's airing in the United Kingdom.
However, a social argument occurred in 2004 regarding the series' content in relation to the Children's Television Act. Children's television analyst Dale Kunkel, a communication professor at the University of Arizona, described the series and Stargate Infinity as "anti-social". The opinions were shared by the activist groups the United Church of Christ and Center of Digital Democracy, viewing both programmes as violent. Former CEO of DIC Entertainment, Andy Heyward, defended Ace Lightning, taking the educational requirement very seriously for each episode. Heyward also had the support of Donald F. Roberts, who believed the descriptions given by the activists "mischaracterizes" the series they were attacking.
- "Ace Lightning Goes International". BBC Worldwide Press Office. 12 June 2002. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- Hempshall, Paddy (2002). Ace Lightning: Yearbook 2003. BBC Worldwide LTD. pp. 12–13. ISBN 056353235-1.
- Ficner, Matt. "MFP Illustration and Design". Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- Ficner, Matt. "Design Works: Character Designs". Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "AAC and BBC join forces on Ace Lightning.". 23 July 2001. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "Annual Review 2003-2004". BBC Worldwide. 2004. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- Oei, Lily (9 March 2004). ""Kids", "Ace" in DIC lineup". Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- Eggerton, John (2 September 2004). "DIC Defends Kids Shows". The Business of Television Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 18 October 2014.