Creator, Producer, Director of Star Trek - Answers the Questions on...
Q: When was the concept STAR TREK ANIMATED thought of - when it all began and the reason for the decision?
Roddenberry: In the years since STAR TREK went off the air, I received several offers to do an animated show. I had turned them down because it was obvious that the people who were inquiring in that time were interested in doing a "kiddie version" with the ship full of space cadets who would say, "Gee wiz, Captain Kirk" and I didn't want to degrade STAR TREK that way. I felt that STAR TREK was a potentially valuable property and that sort of treatment would just ruin it. I told them I would not do an animated show until I had creative control and could guarantee that STAR TREK would be done as it should be done, the same characters, the same types of writers and so on. Finally this offer did come through from Filmation and Paramount and that's how we started on this one.
Q: How did the principal stars of STAR TREK feel about going into animation?
Roddenberry: Having decided to do the animation show, there were certain things we had to have. I wanted the voices of the original cast, I wanted original STAR TREK writers, and I was very fortunate in being able to talk Dorothy Fontana, our former STAR TREK story editor, into being our associate producer. So we essentially assembled the same group of people. We also found to our surprise and delight that at Filmation Studios a large number of the staff and artists were STAR TREK fans. We discovered we were going to get better than average treatment from them. They wanted STAR TREK to come back as it was. As far as the stars of STAR TREK were concerned, I think their reaction was the same as any fan's reaction. At first they didn't like the idea because when you say, "Saturday morning", you think in terms of what's been done with animation in this time period and their attitude to me was, "you're sure going to destroy STAR TREK". So I had to say to them that we were going to do it in the fashion that I had in mind. When they made a visit out to Filmation Studios and saw the drawings of themselves and the care with which we were approaching the show, then of course their fears were resolved.
Q: What age bracket or age group do you feel you will attract?
Roddenberry: We hope to attract all age groups. Obviously, Saturday morning is the time that children tune in but I think that if interesting programs are produced for that time period we'll get a lot of adults too. I don't think the difference between what children watch and adults watch is that far apart, or necessarily that far apart. I think the best example of this is that the evening STAR TREK, which was produced for adults, attracted an enormous kid's audience. Our fan-mail on the evening STAR TREK came from kids but also from college professors so I think that says something very interesting.
Q: What do you think will be the difference between STAR TREK ANIMATED and the original STAR TREK?
Roddenberry: Animation is a different form. There are a lot of things we had in the evening show we can't do in animation. Let me cite some examples: There is no way we can do the kind of animation Disney used to do - where you had fine drawings of facial features, etc. Animation has become so expensive that you can't do Disney type animation such as used in Snow White and Bambi, etc. So what we'll lose by it is when an actor in an evening show says a line and you know by his acting talent and the way his features work that he's lying. In animation you can't get that kind of subtlety. So we know we will lose some of the subtlety of real acting performances. The most we can do is have a few steps, head movements and that sort of thing. On the other hand, there are things you gain in animation which help balance that out. If you want a Mr. Spock fifty feet tall, as we have in one of our stories, it's easy to draw him fifty feet tall as six feet tall. If we want to go to a planet where there is an intelligent life form that is derived from plants we can do that. Well you can't find any intelligent plants in the actor's guild when you make an evening show. If we want an exotic space ship fifty miles across, it's as easy to draw that as it is to do one the size of the Enterprise. So as a result, you gain some things and you lose other things. Our hope is that by having the original writers and some of the original staff involved, they will keep it on as high a level as is possible in animation.
Q: Do you have the same principal characters in the STAR TREK ANIMATED show as in the original STAR TREK series?
Roddenberry: Hardly anyone in the industry would believe this because it never happened before. Every principal character in the show agreed to come back and do his own voice. In order to do that, they had to be convinced that it would have a quality level.
Q: Did animation give you the opportunity to have any new characters?
Roddenberry: Yes, that's been sort of the fun part of it. Watch for STAR TREK ANIMATED - and see our two new characters! When you do live television you just can't talk in terms of three-legged or three-armed creatures and cat-women. The costs of applying makeup and special appliances is just phenomenal in an evening show. Just Mr. Spock's ears was a major thing to get that done every day. In animation, however, obviously if you want a two-headed man, a three-legged man or a cat-woman you can draw it as easily as you can a human being - so I think this is one of the pluses of animation. The fans will see a greater variety of alien life all the way through the show. On the starship as in the places we go.
Q: How many episodes of the ANIMATED STAR TREK will be done?
Roddenberry: The way animated shows are done, you do them in blocks of sixteen and then you rerun them several times. If it is a success, we'll finish this block of sixteen and possibly six months from now we'll do another block of sixteen and then hopefully we will do another block. The economy of animation is based on immediate reruns. A fan might criticize us by saying, "Why don't you just do thirty or forty of them so we won't have to see the same ones over again" and I would say in answer to the fan, "We'd love to". Unfortunately, we're as much prisoners by the economics of the industry as anyone else.
Q: Do you consider going into animation a real challenge?
Roddenberry: Yes, it has been a challenge. And it's a great risk for NBC and Filmation and ourselves because we are risking an awful lot of money, time and effort on a belief that if we do present more intelligent programming on Saturday morning it will work. And I think if it does work, STAR TREK will have been a revolutionary show and it will change the entire picture of Saturday morning broadcasting. I think if this works, children are going to get better programming in other areas too. If it doesn't work, there will be a lot of "I told you so's" and children's programming will go back to being the dull, unimaginative insulting stuff that it has been for so many years.
Q: Do you have anything special that you would like the fan club members to know about the new STAR TREK ANIMATED show?
Roddenberry: I would like to say first of all that they are likely to see certain things lost in animation but I would like them to balance that out with the fact that there is some excitement and some things gained. I would like them to understand that we waited to do STAR TREK in animation until we got creative control so we could do it properly. I would like them to understand that one of the reasons we allowed the show to go into animation is because that we think that improves our chances of getting the original STAR TREK back on the air. If the animated show is a big hit, and we hope it will be, if we've guessed right about the level of children's intelligence and so on, it could do a great deal to help us get the original on the air.
- Associate Producer/ Story Editor Talks about...
Animation begins and ends the same way every film does. First, there is a script, written in the same form as any film script. STAR TREK is now a half hour show, so the scripts are divided into three acts – there is no teaser. An average length script of us is 36 pages, but can go as long as 42 pages if there is a great deal of description involved.
When the script reaches final draft, two things happen to it. It is recorded, and it "goes into story board". Recording the lines first is necessary because it would be impossible for the animators to give the characters appropriate facial expressions and properly move the mouths if they didn't know the exact lines, pauses, and emotional delivery of the actors. A story board looks something like a comic strip. It is the translation of the written script into visual terms. It must be remembered a story board is not the final art. It is a blueprint for the artists and animators, and indication of how a shot may be set up, character entrances and exits, backgrounds, effects, etc.
From story board, the production goes to the layout department. Here are our three key artists, Bob Kline, George Jenson, and Herb Hazelton. These three men do all the basic art – the background designs, the regular characters, the aliens, the ships. They follow photographs and slides of established sets and characters, and use their great creative ability for the rest.
From layout, the drawings go to the animators. These are the artists who do "all the little moves in between". As you know, it takes many frames to move a hand up to press a button in animation. Multiply this by all the moves in a scene and then in the entire film. The animators do the drawings for all this from the basic art of the layout artists.
When the animators return the many drawings, they are Xeroxed onto acetate cells which will be painted by hand. The back-grounds are painted directly onto sturdy cardboard. Only the components of individual characters and foreground items are done on acetate cells which are "overlaid" on the backgrounds to make composite pictures.
From the Paint Department, all the elements are checked for accuracy, then taken to Camera. There, each scene and each component part of the scene (as many as seven layers of cells) are photographed onto 35mm film, frame by frame. This is painstaking work, as is each phase of animation, for one slip in putting the components together can ruin an entire scene.
Now the process becomes the same as for any film. The developed film is edited; retakes or pickups can be done an edited in. Music is set up for mood and background emphasis. Sound effects are also added. Finally, the many pieces of film, dialogue track, music track, and sound effects are "dubbed" – processed into one complete film – and a final "answer print" is made to be broadcast.
While an animated film begins and ends the same as any live action film, the difference is that it takes about six weeks to complete a half hour live action film ... and four and a half months to complete a half hour animated film.
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