Star Trek vs. Star Wars: The Armistice

startrek-vs-starwars (Mini Media Bites)
Credit: Mini Media Bites

There has been a fan rivalry between the two biggest sci-fi franchises, Star Trek and Star Wars, since their first incarnations. Each has touched the world in their own unique way. Star Trek’s progressive and optimistic outlook of humankind’s future has inspired generations of scientists and Star Warss cutting-edge movie technology innovations have changed the look and feel of cinema forever. The two share a closer history than you might think.

Roddenberry (The Humanist)
Roddenberry Credit: The Humanist

Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek’s creator, was a pilot during World War II. He saw action and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. Later he was an officer for the Los Angeles Police Department. He had a handful of careers but Roddenberry’s passion always lied in writing. He sold short stories to aircraft magazines before building up enough credentials to become a fulltime screenwriter in Hollywood. He penned for shows such as Highway Patrol, West Point and The Virginian. After creating and producing one season of The Lieutenant in 1963, he turned his attention to a science fiction television idea that had been sitting in the back of his mind since first being inspired by Forbidden Planet (1956).

Star Trek Cast (Quora)
The original Star Trek cast Credit: Quora

The original Star Trek series lasted three seasons from 1966 to 1969. Roddenberry was a futurist who believed humanity’s best traits would out last its worst and this was reflected in the show’s stories. Captain Kirk (William Shatner), with Mr Spock (Leonard Nimoy), led the crew of the USS Enterprise on a mission of peaceful exploration into the deepest unknown corners of our galaxy. The ship embraced diversity and cultural acceptance; things such as racism and sexism had become relics of the past. Though this didn’t mean Kirk would back down from a fight. The Enterprise had notorious confrontations with evil aliens, namely Klingons and Romulans.

Star Trek achieved a lot on a small budget. It had the first interracial kiss—between Kirk and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols)—on American television. Nichols was planning to quit the series until she met fan and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. He thanked her for being such an important role model for black people all across the world. She would go on to reprise the character in The Animated Series (1973-1974) and six feature films. The show was ultimately cancelled due to low ratings.

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Lucas and Hamill Credit: Time

George Lucas directed his first film, American Graffiti, in 1973. It performed strong at the box office and reviewed well. His next project was Star Wars. Lucas had been working on the idea for a number of years but was never satisfied. By this time Star Trek had been off the air for a while and was doing well in syndication. It was finally reaching its audience and fans were meeting in small conventions all across America. Among exploring other creative outlets, Lucas attended some Trek conventions hoping to find inspiration for his galaxy far, far away. He said Star Trek made space flight look fun.

Skywalker, Leia and Solo (Digital Spy)
Hamill, Fisher and Ford Credit: Digital Spy

Star Wars (later renamed Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope) was released in May 1977 and broke all kinds of records. It was the most successful sci-fi film since 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The film followed the story of a group of rebels, that included our heroes Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), as they fought an evil Empire hell bent on galactic domination. After the success of Star Wars, Hollywood took sci-fi as a serious and profitable genre. Many films were greenlit during the era thanks to Wars.

X-Wings during trench run (The Star Wars Report)
X-Wings during the Death Star trench run in Star Wars (1977) Credit: The Star Wars Report

The movie pioneered many new visual effects (VFX), including some cutting edge model work. Never before had spacecrafts appeared so fast and graceful while engaging in dogfights on screen. It was made possible by a new camera system. The technology was computerised and could reproduce the same angle every time while filming the model, no matter how many takes. This made it easier to blend the many shot layers together to create the final VFXs in post-production.

Falcon Model (Strange Tales)
ILM production crew working on the Millennium Falcon Credit: Strange Tales

Many of Star Wars’s visual effects were made possible by the creative team at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Lucas formed the company in 1975 as part of Lucasfilm Ltd. ILM has been at the forefront of movie technology advancement ever since. They have worked on films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Back to the Future (1985), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Jurassic Park (1993), Titanic (1997) and numerous other award-winning movies.

After the first Star Wars, Lucas focussed on producing and has had a long and successful partnership with Steven Spielberg. The two are also very close friends. Lucas didn’t return to the director’s chair until Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace in the late 1990s.

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The Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) Credit: iMDB

In the 1970s, Paramount Pictures played around with many ideas to bring Star Trek back. Phase II was to be the Enterprise’s second five-year mission going where no one had gone before. Actors were hired, sets were built and scripts were written for the TV series. After Star Wars took the world by storm, the studio decided to turn Phase II into a feature film. It would become Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). During pre-production, illustrator Ralph McQuarrie was brought onboard. He was responsible for Star Wars’s overall aesthetic and designed the look of iconic characters such as Darth Vader, C-3PO and the Storm Troopers. McQuarrie left early as he was needed for the production on the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back (1981). He returned for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in 1986. McQuarrie’s protégé, Andrew Probert, was his replacement on The Motion Picture. Probert designed the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979), the DeLorean Time Machine in the Back to the Future trilogy and the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994).

McQuarrie Darth Vader Concept (Cnet)
One of McQuarrie’s original Darth Vader concepts Credit: Cnet

ILM has worked on most of the Trek films. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) was the first collaboration. The Genesis Device introduction was the first fully computer-generated sequence in a movie.

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ILM’s impressive VFXs in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) Credit: Ex Astris Scientia

Normally in the early stages of production a designer will create artwork based on the ideas and suggestions of the director. The drawings will be presented, feedback offered and the designer will go back and either refine or create new concepts. Once the director has given their final okay, a studio replica model is created. For Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), ILM changed things up. Davis Carson, Nilo Rodis-Jamero, Steve Gawley and Bill George drew up rough sketches of ships and created small 3D models of the USS Excelsior. It was a way for director Leonard Nimoy to inspect each design from every angle. The film needed the Excelsior to be the newest and most advanced Starship in the fleet, and it had to outshine the Enterprise. Towards the end of the model work, George created one more design that was inspired by Japanese architecture. This was the one Nimoy picked. Next to the Enterprises, the Excelsior studio model has appeared in more Trek movies and TV shows than any other ship.

USS_Excelsior (Memory Alpha)
USS Excelsior Credit: Memory Alpha

Roddenberry passed away from a heart attack on October 24th, 1991. He liked and respected Star Wars. His son, Rod, was a big fan growing up.

Numerous actors have appeared in both Trek and Wars. Clive Revill voiced Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes Back and was a guest actor in an episode of The Next Generation. Best remembered as Boba Fett, Jason Wingreen also played a guest doctor in the original Star Trek series. Simon Pegg, Scotty in the new Trek films, was also Unkar Plutt in The Force Awakens. Deep Roy has not only played parts in Wars and Trek but has also been in Doctor Who and The X-Files.

Pegg in Make Up (Radio Times)
Pegg half in makeup in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Credit: Radio Times

Both franchises have inspired real life science. Mobile phones are reminiscent of Star Trek’s communicators and modern-day medical equipment, such as MRI machines, share many functions with Tricorders. Characters in ‘90s Trek used Personal Access Display Devices similar to today’s iPads and Tablets. After Luke Skywalker lost his hand in The Empire Strikes Back, it was replaced by a robotic one. Similar technology is now being used for people who have lost appendages.

There have been subtle nods to the other in each franchise. The Millennium Falcon shows up in the background during a space battle in Star Trek: First Contact (1996). R2-D2 made a split-second cameo in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). A Cardassian ship can be seen on a console in an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-).

Falcon in First Contact (Reddit)
Millennium Falcon cameo in Star Trek: First Contact (1996) Credit: Reddit

In 2012, Disney bought the rights to Star Wars. They started making plans for a new trilogy and standalone movies. JJ Abrams became the first person to direct Trek and Wars films. He’s helmed Star Trek (2009) and Into Darkness as well as Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and, the currently untitled, Episode IX (2019).

Enterprise Space Shuttle (Space.com)
NASA’s Enterprise Credit: Space.com

Neither franchise would be what it is without its fandom. There is something special that draws us to each, or both. Trekkies/Trekkers banded together to save the original Star Trek series from an earlier cancellation. Nearly ten years later, with a strong letter writing campaign, they managed to get NASA’s prototype space shuttle’s name changed to Enterprise. It was going to be called the Constitution, which is the vessel class of the first Enterprise. In 2013, Star Wars fans petitioned the US government to make a full scale Death Star. The spin was it would help the economy and create jobs. It was estimated to have a $850 quadrillion (15 zeroes) price tag. Barrack Obama’s administration responded after 35,000 signatures had been collected. They felt the endeavour was unfeasible and that they did not support the destruction of planets. Star Trek and Star Wars have new movies and TV series in production. It’s definitely a good time to be a fan.

Roddenberry and Lucas (Trek Nation)
The only known photo of Roddenberry and Lucas Credit: Trek Nation

Sources:

Designing the USS Excelsior – The Official Star Trek Starships Collection (Eaglemoss Magazine)

Gene Roddenberry – Stat Trek.com (http://www.startrek.com/database_article/roddenberry)

George Lucas – Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Lucas)

How ‘Star Wars’ Changed the World (https://www.space.com/8917-star-wars-changed-world.html)

Industrial Light & Magic (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Industrial_Light_%26_Magic)

No ‘Death Star’ for US Military, White House Says (https://www.space.com/19246-death-star-white-house-petition-response.html)

Ralph McQuarrie – Memory Alpha (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Ralph_McQuarrie)

Ralph McQuarrie – Wookieepedia (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Ralph_McQuarrie)

Space Shuttle Enterprise (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Enterprise_(OV-101))

Star Trek: History & Effect on Space Technology (https://www.space.com/31802-star-trek-space-tech.html)

Star Trek vs. Star Wars – Diffen (https://www.diffen.com/difference/Star_Trek_vs_Star_Wars)

Star Trek Vs. Star Wars – The Perspective (https://www.theperspective.com/debates/entertainment/star-trek-or-star-wars/)

Star Trek vs Star Wars: the space battle that will never end (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2016/07/18/star-trek-vs-star-wars-the-space-battle-that-will-never-end/)

Star Wars at 40 | 5 Ways Star Wars: A New Hope Changed Everything (https://www.starwars.com/news/5-ways-star-wars-a-new-hope-changed-everything)

Star Wars – Memory Alpha (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Star_Wars)

The First Openly Gay Character in an American Drama Series

cruz_wilson_my_so_called_life_43689l (Stade Side Stiles)
Credit: statesidestills

In the mid-1990s, the TV drama series My So-Called Life lasted one season. During the shows run, it was critically acclaimed and praised for its social commentary. It not only launched the careers of Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet and Homeland) and Jared Leto (The Joker in Suicide Squad and the lead singer of the band 30 Second to Mars), the series featured a quiet, out of place individual named Enrique Vasquez. Enrique, or Rickie as he is preferred to be called, was played by Wilson Cruz and was the first openly gay character on an American network program.

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Angela (Danes) and Catalano (Leto) Credit: Scroll In

My-So Called Life was created by Winnie Holzman. She is best known as a writer and producer for Thirtysomething (1987–1991), Once and Again (1999–2002) and Roadies (2016). Holzman also wrote the book that inspired the hit Broadway musical Wicked. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 2004 for the novel. She wanted My So-Called Life to standout from other teenage dramas of the time. She was not afraid to have real and flawed characters in situations the audience could relate to. When pitching Rickie to ABC Productions, she was surprised they had no issues with him being gay but questioned his feminine traits. Rickie shied away from violence and was happier hanging out with his close friends Angela Chase (Danes) and Rayanne Graff (A. J. Langer). The network worried about the amount of makeup the character applied and his fashion sense. Rickie’s look was inspired by Prince, Michael Jackson and Lenny Kravitz. Cruz related to the character so much that he auditioned with colourful hair, a rainbow-striped shirt and red jeans on. Holzman stood her ground and the network reluctantly allowed Rickie to remain the way he was envisioned.

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Holzman and Danes Credit: Dig Boston

Wilson Cruz was born on December 27, 1973, in Brooklyn, New York. He had been acting since plays in school, but My So-Called Life was the first pilot he auditioned for. Like Rickie, Cruz is also gay and he was naturally drawn to the character. In his audition, he said to casting director Mary Goldman that the character was very important and wished he had such a role model on television when he grew up in the 1980s. Cruz’s performance made an impression. In his second and third auditions, Cruz’s audience grew to include Holzman, producers and network executives. He felt the pressure. Cruz made a pack with himself that he would come out to his family if he got the part. He was cast and told his mother first. She quickly warmed up to the notion of her son being gay, but his father was another story. Cruz was kicked out of the house and the two stopped talking. He slept on friend’s couches until filming began. After My So-Called Life, Cruz has been a strong activist for LGBT rights and equality. He has worked extensively with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Rayanne and Rickie (Pinterest)
Rayanne (Langer) and Rickie (Cruz) Credit: Pinterest

The episode ‘So-Called Angels’ opens with Rickie crying, coughing up blood with a bruised face in a dark, cold and ominous street. It’s close to Christmas and Rickie stumbles along with nowhere to go. The next day at school he meets with friends Angela and Rayanne, pretends nothing is wrong and heads to class. The two talk—subconsciously knowing Rickie is a victim of domestic violence—Rayanne prefers to leave the issue alone but Angela wants to help. Rayanne has witnessed this happen to Rickie before and knows he doesn’t want to acknowledge the problem. Later that night, Rickie shows up at Angela’s house desperate. He is hungrily eating left over food when Angela’s parents arrive home. They talk to her in private about Rickie and he slips out into the night. He doesn’t want to be a burden. Rickie eventually finds himself in an abandoned warehouse with other runaway youths. It takes Angela along time to find him. In later episodes, he briefly lives with Angela and her family before staying with close friend, mentor and teacher Mr. Katimski (Jeff Perry). Katimski too is gay and knows how hard it can be growing up.

Jeff Perry (IMDb)
Mr. Katimski (Perry) Credit: IMDb

The storyline paralleled Cruz’s own life. Like Rickie, when he told his father that he was gay, he was thrown out of the house and had nowhere to go. The two stopped talking and this affected Cruz greatly. Little did he know, when My So-Called Life started airing, Cruz’s father secretly watched the show. Within an hour of the ‘So-Called Angels’ broadcast, he had called his son and they were having a deep heart-to-heart conversation. Cruz thanks the show for strengthening their relationship. Cruz and Holzman are not sure how Rickie’s storyline came about. She doesn’t remember where the inspiration came from and he doesn’t remember talking about his private life at the time.

Behind the Scenes (Pinterest)
Behind the scenes: Danes, Cruz and Langer
Credit: Pinterest

Cruz is also especially fond of the fan feedback he has experienced over the years. Many have told him how much Rickie helped them to tell family and friends they were gay. In one special case, Cruz received a letter from a fan who lived in the Midwest of America. He considered hurting himself but seeing Rickie on television showed him that he was not alone. The handwritten letter was tear–stained and Cruz still has it today.

My So-Called Life was cancelled after nineteen episodes, three further episodes never being made. Rumours were that Claire Danes had to leave the show because of her budding film career. Cruz continued to act and has had parts in Ally McBeal, Party of Five, The West Wing, NCIS and Grey’s Anatomy. He recently gained a recurring role on Star Trek: Discovery as Dr. Hugh Culber. His character is in a relationship with Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and they are the first gay couple in the franchise’s history.

Culber and Stamets (Out Magazine)
Culber (Cruz) and Stamets (Rapp) Credit: Out Magazine

Sources:

Actor and Activist Wilson Cruz Joins GLAAD Staff (https://www.glaad.org/blog/actor-and-activist-wilson-cruz-joins-glaad-staff)

Claire Danes – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000132/?ref_=nv_sr_3)

Finding My So-Called Queer Identity in My So-Called Life

(http://time.com/3160995/my-so-called-life-20th-anniversary/)

How Wilson Cruz’s Coming Out Story Mirrored His My So-Called Life Character’s — and His Advice for Gay Youth (http://people.com/tv/wilson-cruz-national-coming-out-day/)

Jared Leto – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001467/?ref_=nv_sr_1)

‘My So-Called Life’ Creator Winnie Holzman on Boys Wearing Eyeliner (http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/my-so-called-life-creator-winnie-holzman-rickie-vasquez-1201570756/)

My So-Called Life – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108872/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)

My So-Called Life’s Wilson Cruz on Rickie Fans, LBGT Awareness, and ’90s Fashion (http://www.vulture.com/2014/09/wilson-cruz-my-so-called-life-1994-1995.html)

My So-Called Life Wiki (http://mysocalledlife.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page)

Wilson Cruz – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0190497/?ref_=tt_cl_t2)

Winnie Holzman – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0392848/?ref_=tt_ov_wr)

My So-Called Life (1994-1995): ‘So-Called Angels’ (Episode)

Filming Locations: Vasquez Rocks

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The Vasquez Rocks Credit: Roadtrippers

The Vasquez Rocks are one of the most iconic filming locations in American cinema history. It has been used as a backdrop in movies since the late silent era and is still prominently seen in modern films and television series. The Vasquez Rocks have been featured in Dracula (1931), The Texas Ranger (1931), The Girl and the Bandit (1939), Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993-1995) and Star Trek (1966-1969), among many others. The rock formation is located close to the town of Agua Dulce and is about a forty-five minute drive from central Hollywood. It is believed the Rocks was formed approximately 25 million years ago when the tectonic plates along the San Andreas Fault line pushed together. The Vasquez Rocks are near 45 meters tall, at their highest point, and cover an area just under four kilometres square.

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Power Ranger Command Centre
Credit: Blogspot

The Rocks take their name from notorious outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez (1835-1875). The earliest known group of people to occupy the Vasquez Rocks region were the Chumash Native American Indians in 450AD. Their descendants, the Tataviam, later lived in the area. But it wasn’t until Tiburcio used the Rocks as a hideout in 1873 and 1874 that it would later gain fame. Before Tiburcio’s time, the area was known to locals as simply “The Rocks”. Born Jose Jesus Lopez, Tiburcio entered a life of crime at an early age. He was in and out of prison throughout his youth. On August 13, 1873, he and a gang robbed the general store in Tres Pino and killed three people in the process, including one marshal. A bounty was issued for his capture: $8,000 alive or $6,000 dead (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation). For the following two years, Tuburcio and his gang used the Vasquez Rocks to elude law enforcement. Eventually Tuburcio was captured and brought to justice. He was somewhat of a celebrity leading up to his hanging on March 19, 1875. While in custody, Tuburcio signed autographs and was considered charming by anyone who met him. He was played by Anthony Curio in an episode of Stories of the Century (1954-1955).

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Tiburcio Vasquez Credit: San Francisco Chronicle

In 1910, entrepreneur Henry Krieg recognised the location’s uniqueness and invested in turning it into a tourist destination. Krieg’s family still reside in the area.

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Title Card from 1952 Credit: The Agua Dulce History Project

As of today, over 200 movies and television series have been filmed at the Vasquez Rocks. The site’s harsh and rural landscape was extremely popular in B-Westerns during the 1940s and 1950s. The Rocks can be seen in the backgrounds of Golden Trail (1940), Along the Oregon Trail (1947) and Shotgun (1955). Television companies began to utilise the area’s close proximity to Hollywood when they became regular productions in the 1950s. Some shows include The Lone Ranger (1949-1957), Gunsmoke (1955-1975), Bonanza (1959-1973) and The Big Valley (1965-1969). The Vasquez Rocks have been used as alien worlds in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981), the original Battlestar Galactica (1979-1980) and four series and three movies of Star Trek.

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Captain Kirk and the Gorn fight  Credit: Los Angeles Times

In the Star Trek first season episode “Arena”, Captain Kirk is transported to the surface of a remote asteroid – by an alien intelligence – where he must fight a Gorn commander to the death. Using local materials, Kirk forms a crude weapon and overpowers the lizard. At the final moment when Kirk can kill the Gorn, he refuses. Impressed by Kirk’s resolve, the alien intelligence return them to their ships. Peaceful dialogue between the Federation and the Gorn Hegemony had been opened. The Enterprise flies off in search of its next adventure.

 

Considered corny by today’s standards, the fight sequence is regarded as one of the most iconic scenes in film history. The desert shoot lasted for two days in November, 1966. Actors Bobby Clark and Gary Combes got so hot inside the Gorn rubber suits that they nearly fainted. The Vazquez Rocks have been a favourite filming site for Star Trek and have been featured in The Next Generation (1987-1994), Voyager (1995-2001) and Enterprise (2001-2005).

The Vasquez Rocks was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It is maintained by The County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation. The Interpretive Centre (tourist information) was opened in 2013, and was awarded the highest ratings award for environmental safety. People can visit the site most days of the year, but a permit is required for filming. Weddings are a popular event, with groups of up to forty being allowed per function. Filming shoots are still common at the Vasquez Rocks with many being planned for the immediate future.

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Interpretive Centre Credit: Gruen Associates

Sources:

County Parks – Vasquez Rocks Natural Area (https://santaclaritaguide.com/VasquezRocks.html)

How Vasquez Rocks, L.A.’s onetime outlaw hideout, became ‘Star Trek’s’ favorite alien landscape (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/la-et-st-star-trek-50-vasquez-rocks-20160829-snap-story.html)

Memory Alpha – Vasquez Rocks (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Vasquez_Rocks)

Movie Sites – Vasquez Rocks (http://www.moviesites.org/vasquez.htm)

The True Hollywood Story of The Vasquez Rocks – Hollywood’s Favorite Rocky Set (https://filmmakeriq.com/2012/06/the-true-hollywood-story-of-the-vasquez-rocks-hollywoods-favorite-rocky-set/)

Vasquez Rocks (http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/vasquez-rocks)

The Life of a Disney Inker and Painter

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Credit: Playbuzz

The alarm clock sounded and she stirred in bed. It was 4:30am and too early to get up. She felt like her head had only hit the pillow a moment ago. She couldn’t remember what day of the week it was; the days were blurring into one continuous shift. She and other women, of the Disney ink and paint departments, had been working double shifts to get the celluloid prints for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs finished in time for its premier. She reluctantly placed one foot out of bed and onto the cold surface below. She got up and raced to get ready before her mind had time to catch up, and complain about the sudden exertion. After leaving her apartment eating the last remnants of a quick breakfast, she shivered waiting for the bus. It was still early, but she fretted because anything could still happen to make her late. After hours of zigzagging on public transport, she had made it to the studio. She was just in time for the 9:00am start. Managers rhythmically walked back and forth, taking notes, of inker and painters who were not yet at their desks. Anyone late would be docked pay for every minute they were not working. She let out a sigh of relief; she had made it, again. She reached over and picked up one of her many pencils and began another very busy, but satisfactory, day.

Nearing the end of Snow White’s production in 1937, the ink and paint departments were made up of 100 hardworking and dedicated women. The last couple of months saw them sitting at their desks for an 85-hour working week. Many of them fell asleep where they sat but never complained about the long hours. Many of the inkers and painters became lifelong friends.

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Credit: Matterhorn

Both of the departments were responsible for the celluloids, or cells, for a Disney feature. The inkers would sketch the outlines of characters and environments. Once this was done, the cells were passed onto the painters who would add colour. Walt Disney was a perfectionist and some iconic characters were quite complicated. Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket alone was made up of 27 different colours. A relatively new process at the time, celluloid backgrounds could be made of up to six layers before they appeared on screen. The women had to work fast. Inkers had to be accurate and make sure no lines smudged. Painters had only moments to work as the paint dried quickly. To make the process even harder, two women were left handed and had to learn everything backwards. The paint was expensive and made in house in the studio lab. One production day would, usually, add up to approximately one minute of screen time. Each woman averaged between eight and ten cells an hour. Productivity was closely monitored and the inkers and painters refrained from talking while they worked.

Walt Disney only wanted the best and many of the inkers and painters were recruited right out of elite art schools, such as the California Institute of Technology. The average age was 25. Hiring was a rigorous process. Out of an initial group of 60, only three were employed. In fact, one of the three dropped out early on as well.

The male animators joked and laughed as they didn’t consider inking and painting artistic. The women were only expanding on earlier creative content that the men had already designed and fleshed out.  In 1941, top animators made $300 a week while the average inker and painter made only $18 a week. Many of the women, such as painter June Walker Patterson, could barely pay the rent. Inkers and painters were only allowed in the animation department “with good reason”. Disney initially shyed away from having female animators.

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Credit: CBR

There were a handful of women who made the transition to animation, but they were rare. The common belief was that Disney felt women would soon be leaving to get married and start families. It took ten years of study to become an animator, while only four years to become an inker or painter. Training new animators was a costly endeavour. When World War II broke out, a number of the male animators were drafted. During this period, Walt Disney gave women a chance to make the move across to the animation department. Male animators returned to their former positions when they came back from the war. The women either went back to the ink and paint departments or left Disney all together.

In May 1941, a large group of the women went on a 14-week strike to campaign for better working conditions. The event gained sympathy from other Hollywood animation studios, such as Warner Bros., with a number of them offering support. The strike resulted in an increase in pay. Some women also received screen credits, recognising their contributions to films that are now considered Disney classics.

As time went on, technology advanced. Handmade Ink and paint work began to be replaced by the photocopier and Disney downsized. Some of the women would return to animation production in the 1960s. Their families were all grown up when they went to work part time for Hanna-Barbera Productions. The studio responsible for TV cartoons such as The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, The Jetsons and Scooby-Doo. The environment was laid back and, unlike Disney, they could take their work home. Even after all these years, they were still surrounded by good friends and felt passionate about their work.

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Credit: Matterhorn

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on March 22nd, 2017. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

Coloring The Kingdom (http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2010/03/disney-animation-girls-201003)

Look Closer: Women in the Ink and Paint Department (http://waltdisney.org/blog/look-closer-women-disney-ink-and-paint-department)

Movie Legends Revealed | Did Disney Really Not Allow Women Animators? (http://www.cbr.com/movie-legends-revealed-did-disney-really-not-allow-women-animators/)

D. C. Fontana: The Woman Behind Star Trek

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Credit: StarTrek.com

A television series is only as good as its creative team. Star Trek is no exception. For 50 years now the franchise has been a cultural phenomenon, pulling in new fans with each new incarnation. The original series (1966-1969) pioneered many things and seriously went where no TV series, of the time, had gone before. It presented a unique view of the future where humanity had put their differences aside and explored the galaxy peacefully in starships. Our hero ship, the USS Enterprise, was led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) with Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley) not too far behind. A big behind the scenes imprint came from writer D. C. Fontana. Not only did she write some of the most notable episodes, but she held a position very few women had in the male-dominated era of 1960s Hollywood.

Dorothy Catherine Fontana was born in Sussex, New Jersey, on the 25th of March, 1939. From an early age, Fontana had a great love for reading and writing. She would read whatever she could get her hands on and write short stories and plays, acting them out with friends. Her other great love was the western film genre. This love would go on to play a significant part in her writing style and television career, where she wrote for many series such as The Tall Man, Frontier Circus, The Road West and The Big Valley.

After completing a degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University, majoring in Executive Secretarial, Fontana moved to New York City where she became a junior secretary for the president of a television studio. Her position at Screen Gems didn’t last long as the president fell ill and passed away. With no job waiting, Fontana moved back home. She then tried her luck in Los Angels. She landed employment in the typing pool at Revue Studios. Along with a group of other secretaries, Fontana typed up documents for producer Samuel A. Peeples.

One day Fontana tried her luck pitching a story idea to Peeples. This was her first sell; she was 21-years-old. As time went on, Fontana continued her secretarial responsibilities during the day and wrote at night. She was dedicated making sure neither affected the other. Fontana followed Peeples to the production of The Lieutenant. Here she met Gene Roddenberry for the first time. When filming was wrapping up – The Lieutenant wouldn’t be returning for a second season – Roddenberry slid a document across a desk towards Fontana. He asked her what she thought. The document was the original network pitch for Star Trek.

Around the time she started on Star Trek, Fontana had some stories knocked back from other television series due to gender bias. Male producers rejected her proposals when seeing a woman’s name on the document. She changed her screen credit from “Dorothy C. Fontana” to “D. C. Fontana”. From then on when she met producers for the first time, they were surprised to find a woman behind the script. Many got over the initial shock as they only wanted a good story for their show.

While submitting pitches to other shows (she was quite successful), Fontana focused the majority of her attention on Star Trek. She was still a secretary when Gene Roddenberry asked her to write an episode. “Charlie X” was the second episode of the show to air on television. Fontana penned many notable episodes such as “Tomorrow is Yesterday”, “This Side of Paradise” and “Journey to Babel”. Roddenberry noticed Fontana had a unique understanding of Star Trek and promoted her to story editor. She juggled the responsibilities of the position while still writing episodes. It was extremely rare for a woman to hold such a title as story editor in the mid-60s. Fontana fleshed out much of the Vulcan race’s history and added a lot to Mr. Spock’s background.

Fontana left the production of Star Trek towards the end of the second season. She would write two episodes, including “The Enterprise Incident”, as a freelancer for the third season. Fontana felt she had done all she could on Star Trek and wanted to explore other writing opportunities in Hollywood.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Fontana wrote for shows such as Bonanza, The Six Million Dollar Man, Logan’s Run, Dallas and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She contributed one episode to the short lived Star Trek animated series, “Yesteryear”. Fontana also started getting further involved with the American Writer’s Guild. She and others felt there was hardly any female representation in the industry and formed the women’s committee. At the time the guild was made up of 90% men and 10% women. Fontana would serve as a board member for the Guild in the late 1980s.

Gene Roddenberry approached Fontana for the production of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the late 1980s. She co-wrote the pilot, “Encounter at Far Point,” with Roddenberry and, again, served as story editor for the show. She pitched a number of ideas and wrote a few episodes for the first season. Fontana and other Star Trek production veterans left the show early on due to conflicts with Roddenberry. Fontana’s Star Trek days weren’t over just yet. The episode “Dax” was written for the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in 1993. Fontana also wrote three episodes for Babylon 5, another sci-fi series set on a space station.

Since 1998 Fontana has been teaching screenwriting at the American Film Institute. She gives this advice to aspiring writers: “…you can listen to experts tell you how to do it…but you have to write. You have to put the words on the page. You’re the one who has to tell the story”.

Fontana retired from professional screenwriting in 2009. She continues to teach and attends the occasional Star Trek convention.

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on January 13th, 2017. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

D.C. Fontana – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0284894)

D.C. Fontana – Memory Alpha (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/D.C._Fontana)

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Dorothy Fontana, Part 1 (http://www.startrek.com/article/exclusive-interview-dorothy-fontana-part-1)

Star Trek Fontana, Dorothy (D.C.) (http://www.startrek.com/database_article/fontana)

Writer Speaks: D.C. Fontana, The (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCSp8TnnbNU)