The Animated Series

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by EnriqueH, Aug 20, 2014.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'm only talking about the discussions I've personally experienced. I'm assuming nothing about anything beyond that. You asked whether reanimating TAS has been discussed, and I referred to the discussions I've personally been aware of, because I have no knowledge of any others.




    Please take another look at what I wrote. I'm not saying TAS holds up well compared to animation from the '80s or '90s or today. Heck, even Filmation's work from five or six years later was a quantum leap above what they achieved in TAS. What I said, quite specifically, was that it was about as good as you could expect TV animation from 1973 to have been. It's not like all the other shows from that era were beautifully done and TAS's makers somehow dropped the ball. If anything, TAS had more money and care (though less time) put into it than most of its contemporary shows.

    I'm certainly not saying TAS's animation was flawless. I'm just saying that it was a product of its time, that there's no realistic way in which a Saturday morning television show made for NBC in 1973 could have been much better made than TAS was. So it's a matter of setting your expectations to what was possible in the context.

    I guess what I'm saying is that I try to judge things by how well they do in comparison to their limitations, rather than in comparison to something that has fewer limitations. For instance, if I see a low-budget SF movie from the '60s or '70s and they do a cool piece of miniature work even though you can clearly see the wires, I may respect that more than a CGI shot in a modern big-budget movie. Because even though the CGI shot looks more realistic, it was, if not necessarily easier for its makers to achieve in terms of labor, at least more expected because we know the means were easily available. When I look at a TV show or movie, I'm not just seeing the result, I'm thinking about the effort that went into it. Maybe it's because I'm a creator myself, or maybe it's just because The Making of Star Trek was one of the first non-children's books I ever read and it started my lifelong fascination with film and TV production. But if I know that the creators of a film or show were working under a specific set of limitations, I respect it if they manage to transcend those limits in any way, rather than damning the limits themselves.


    I might actually be okay with a Star Blazers 2199-style recreation if it were done by animators who strove to be faithful to the design sensibilities of TAS while making the animation richer and more fluid. I'd particularly like it if they tried to update it in a Filmationy way -- e.g. incorporating the kind of rotoscoped action sequences that Filmation was using by the time of Tarzan and The Lone Ranger and Flash Gordon and He-Man, so that it looked like Filmation itself had made it a few years further along. Maybe it could be done; as I think I mentioned, the current Ninja Turtles series did an amazingly authentic TAS pastiche last season, beautifully capturing the art style.

    And it might well be possible to capture or duplicate the actual, original background paintings and reuse them, with new animation composited over them and maybe a bit of digital enhancement to give them more movement. It's that artwork that I most want to see preserved.

    What I absolutely would despise would be if it were changed to fit the generic 3D-animated style of today's shows. That would take away all its charms. I freely admit that TAS's animation was severely limited, but its design was fantastic. I would like something that had more movement and dynamism than TAS, but I would not want to lose the look.

    The problem, though, is that even if you updated the visuals, you'd still be stuck with a 1970s-vintage voice, music, and sound effects track. I suppose that, since the voices are on a separate audio channel from the music and FX (so that foreign dubbing can be easily done), it would be possible to keep the voices and redo the music and sounds. But I'd hate to lose all that marvelous Ray Ellis music. It could, I suppose, be recreated by a modern orchestra, but it wouldn't sound quite the same. And I assume audiences today would want a wider range of musical cues; if so, I'd prefer to have them drawn from other Ellis Filmation scores such as Space Academy, Jason of Star Command, Flash Gordon, and Blackstar. Again, though, they'd have to be recreated, since the original masters are missing.

    Even with all that, though, you'd still be stuck with the voice performances, which were also pretty limited in their own way. It might be a little incongruous to hear them alongside more modern, sophisticated animation.


    I'd say it's very dissimilar in principle, because it's not just about substituting a few brief shots but about replacing the entire visual content of the series.


    As I said, I think TAS's budget was actually relatively high for a Saturday morning network cartoon in '73-4. But that was probably pretty low in absolute terms.
     
  2. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    At least one person in the TrekBBS world has recommended just listening to TAS. I did watch "Magicks" last night (remember I'm pro-TAS overall) and laughed out loud twice b/c of the "animation." Why do I remember Batman/Tarzan and Superfriends (different studio, I know) being somewhat more animated than TAS? I'll have to go look on the Youtubes. That'll be a trip.

    And of course, "they" aren't going to reanimate the TAS soundtracks. They exist to increase shareholder value, and that would be a money-losing proposition. I think. Would a new animated Trek in the JJverse make money? That's why a company/cable network would do one.
     
  3. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    I was extremely impressed with Star Wars Clone Wars. The first year was admittedly shakey as far as the animation went, but the later stuff was all awesome all the time. I would say that if CBS pursued a new animated series set in the JJ-verse as a partnership with Cartoon Network (or at least in a vein that uses the Clone Wars crew, or similarly experienced folks), they would probably enjoy some real success.

    --Alex
     
  4. Joel_Kirk

    Joel_Kirk Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    And, "The Clone Wars" could get kinda dark at times. Hence, it wasn't only the animation, but the stories that allowed us to resonate with the characters, especially the clones.

    I would definitely be up for a JJ-verse animated show. Of course, with good writing.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But, again, the actual artwork is lovely, even if it doesn't move much. The background paintings and designs are terrific.


    As I said, Filmation's work improved over the years. Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle and The New Adventures of Batman were made later in the '70s when Filmation had incorporated further refinements into its techniques, such as the use of rotoscoped action shots -- which allowed them to continue recycling stock animation but having more movement and fluidity in the stock sequences. (As a kid, I actually memorized the repeated movements made by characters like Tarzan and He-Man, and even imitated them when I played. I still remember some of them.)

    As for Super Friends, my recollection is that its animation was typical Hanna-Barbera stuff, with less stock footage and more movement than Filmation's work but much cruder, sloppier art overall (and generally stupider writing). It got somewhat better in the later seasons of the franchise in the early '80s, but by that time H-B was subcontracting its animation out to Japan. Filmation was the last American TV animation studio to keep all its animation in-house (the sole exception being its Zorro series, which was subcontracted to the superb Japanese studio Tokyo Movie Shinsha, the makers of Akira, because Filmation just had too many shows on the air that season to produce them all itself). And I mean literally in-house -- it was all made within the same building, moving from floor to floor for each successive step of the production. They had a very efficient, if cheap, operation.

    By the way, I overlooked this before:
    Right -- people like J. Michael Straczynski, Larry DiTillio, Diane Duane, Michael Reaves, Marc Scott Zicree, even Paul Dini and Bruce Timm cut their teeth on this show. I think of Filmation's Lou Scheimer as animation's answer to Roger Corman: What he made was cheap and quick, sure, but his studio was a training ground for many people who went on to become major talents, people who changed the face of TV animation in the late '80s and '90s.



    Oh, please, not Cartoon Network. They have no interest anymore in any animated series that isn't targeted at preteen boys. They've cancelled excellent, intelligent shows like Young Justice because they didn't skew young enough to suit CN's very narrow target demographic. They even killed Paul Dini's excellent live-action series Tower Prep for the unforgivable crime, in their eyes, of being popular with female viewers. That's right, they actually cancelled a show for being too popular. That's how insane their decisions are these days. Any show that appeals to teenagers or adults or, heaven forbid, girls gets cancelled forthwith. There's no way the current CN regime would ever air a Star Trek series, at least not one that deserved the name.
     
  6. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Definitely agree on the stupider writing (even though that was my favorite show when I was a kid). One needs only look at the vampire episodes to see that. I mean, come on, vampirism spread by frickin' laser beams? :guffaw:
     
  7. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Beyond general sloppiness, Super Friends of the Wendy and Marvin era had its share of animation errors, including painting areas with the wrong color, just like TAS.

    With the understanding that the labor pool was studio-wide, it's easy to see how some of the errors cropped in. Individuals who weren't familiar with a show might have been called to help out for episodes that were more labor-intensive. Their job is to, say, paint a set of cels, most of which require red paint, and the one that has to have blue gets overlooked or misunderstood, or maybe someone upstream also not familiar with the show put it in the wrong set to begin with, and the problem isn't noticed in time to fix it (I'm thinking of a possible explanation for the situation in "The Lorelei Signal", where Chapel beams down with Uhura and a security detail of women and materializes in a red dress).
     
  8. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    Only episode of SuperFriends I halfway liked involved Mxlplk (however it's spelled) turning three of the heroes into denizens of Oz. Wonder Woman gained leonine features, resulting in her looking a bit like a plantigrade version of M'Ress...in "cosplay". ;) Okay, she was actually turned into the "cowardly lion", but the final design looked coincidentally "Caitian".

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The last couple of seasons of Superfriends, under the Super Powers Team rubric, were much better written and made than the previous ones, thanks to the input of writers who'd later go on to play an important role in the '90s DC shows, such as Alan Burnett and Rich Fogel. Burnett's "The Fear" in the final season was the first screen adaptation of Batman's origin story and practically a backdoor pilot for Batman: The Animated Series.
     
  10. Kobayshi Maru

    Kobayshi Maru Commodore

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    I think all in all the mistakes in TAS are not that bad.
     
  11. EnriqueH

    EnriqueH Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I've seen the first 8 episodes, just finished Mudd's Passion.

    I've enjoyed all the shows, with Yesteryear being especially good. Didn't like the Guardian's voice.

    Too bad some of these weren't live action. I always wanted to see Nichelle Nichols sit at the captain's chair.
     
  12. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, I was not too thrilled with the voice or inflection. I guess they were thinking in terms of a "ghostly" harbinger rather than the "authoritative" air of the live action original.

    It also looked like the Federation historians may have had the region cleared of rubble and debris. ;) Though I will admit the Guardian looked a bit more enigmatic standing upon an endless plain, like something from a sci-fi book cover illustrated in the 50s or 60s.

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yeah, that was a weird choice with the Guardian's voice. We know Doohan can do a deep, booming voice (e.g. the Oracle of Yonada), so why not do that for the Guardian?
     
  14. drt

    drt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I wonder if he just couldn't remember how they'd voiced the Guardian in "City" - I doubt he had a personal copy of any sort and chances were slim it happened to air when he was recording.
     
  15. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    Doohan's voice for Sargon ("Return to Tomorrow") would have been a decent Guardian.
     
  16. EnriqueH

    EnriqueH Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Just saw Magicks of Megas Tu

    I understand this is like the Spock's Brain of TAS, but I thought it had some interesting (and weird) ideas that made it pretty watchable.

    The more I think about it, the more I thought it was one of the better, more interesting stories in TAS so far. And quite ballsy. I can't believe they pulled off that controversial storyline. Wow.

    I liked it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2014
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    "Magicks" is a problematical episode. The idea behind it is nice; it's a very Trekkian statement about prejudice, and it's strikingly subversive in its, shall we say, sympathy for the Devil. And I've always kind of liked the idea of an alternate universe whose different physical laws allowed something analogous to magic (although why the Megans don't lose their powers in our universe when the crew gains powers in theirs is unexplained). But there are a couple of things that are really, really hard to get past.

    First, there's the science. There are two parts to this; one is the easy access to the center of the galaxy, which, like TFF, is incompatible with what the 24th-century shows established about galactic travel times on the order of decades. The second, more fundamental problem is the episode's heavy dependence on the continuous-creation theory of cosmology, which has since been soundly discredited in favor of Big Bang cosmology -- and since the Big Bang has been repeatedly referenced in later Trek, it kind of blows this episode out of the water.

    The second problem is with the portrayal of the Salem witch trials as resulting from the actual use of sorcery. That's kind of like saying that the Holocaust was prompted by Jews actually engaging in human sacrifice and conspiring to destroy the German economy, or whatever. It's glossing over a crime resulting from institutionalized misogyny. Although I guess it's not as bad as it could be on that count, because it still acknowledges that the victims of the trials were harmless and wrongly persecuted, even if it alters the reasons why. But that very avoidance of the true cause remains troubling.
     
  18. EnriqueH

    EnriqueH Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Interesting.

    I'm a little ignorant on the science, but wasn't the science of the time not as established as it is now?
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, that's pretty much true of everything. But actually, the steady-state or continuous-creation model had been mostly discredited in favor of Big Bang cosmology by the discovery of the cosmic microwave background in 1965; that background radiation was best explained as the residual blackbody heat from the Big Bang, since it was too uniform to have anything less than the entire universe as its source. And its existence had been predicted by the Big Bang model in the 1940s, which was a major win for the theory. Also the discovery that quasars were found only in very distant galaxies (i.e. those we see as they were billions of years ago) suggested that the universe did change over time rather than being constant and eternal. But steady-state proponents stuck to their guns for decades thereafter despite being in the minority, trying to explain away the CMB as scattered heat from stars and galaxies. More detailed satellite measurements of the CMB in the '90s further verified the Big Bang model's predictions and ruled out the steady-state CMB model, to the point that steady-state is pretty thoroughly dead today. But it was a fringe view already when "Magicks" was made. Still, sometimes SF writers pick theories based on what they can get an interesting story from rather than what's likely to be true.
     
  20. EnriqueH

    EnriqueH Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Hmmm. Well, the episode had bigger fish to fry in terms of its storyline and themes, so I'm willing to forgive the science based solely on its ambitions (and brave) themes. Good episode.