Next Tuesday Titan Books will release a new Star Trek coffee table book on the artistry of Dan Curry. TrekMovie spoke with famed Star Trek designer Dan Curry and we also have some exclusive imagery from the book for a preview.
VFX, Weapons and Wonders from TNG to Enterprise
Even though his name is right there in the book title, Dan Curry will be the first one to tell you he didn’t do any of it alone.
“There is no single hero of Star Trek visual effects,” Curry told TrekMovie in a recent telephone interview. “It is the product of a lot of really gifted artists and technicians with a wide range of skills and different visions.”
Curry’s long association with Star Trek began in 1987, when he joined the visual effects team for the pilot of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He continued to work on TNG and all the subsequent series for the next 18 years, right up through Star Trek: Enterprise. From building alien spaceships out of disposable razors and coffee stirrers to creating the look and fighting moves of iconic Klingon weapons to designing the memorable title sequence of Voyager, Curry’s efforts helped craft the look and feel of the franchise, earned him seven Emmy awards in the process.
Now a new coffee table book celebrates the artistry of Curry and his team. Star Trek: The Artistry of Dan Curry, co-written by Curry and Ben Robinson (of Eaglemoss Collections), came to life after a San Diego Comic-Con panel.
“Ben Robinson invited me to appear on a panel with some other colleagues from Star Trek, like conceptual designer Rick Sternbach,” Curry says. “And we talked about designing models, and I showed some little videos about how some of the images came into existence. By a fluke, Risa Kessler, who is in charge of CBS Publishing, happened to be in the audience. And after the presentation, Risa came to me and said, ‘Would you be interested in writing a book, I like your sense of humor and your unusual approaches to solving some of the effects issues.’ It took about two years to get it all organized. And that’s how it came into existence.”
Curry says that Robinson turned out to be the perfect collaborator. “He was super knowledgeable, and was really easy to work with and just made the process fun.”
The resulting book, packed with photos and illustrations, covers Curry’s entire tenure with the franchise. “Ben and I tried to gear it for more general readers,” Curry says. “I tried not to get too technical, yet wanted to explain things and make sure that as many people as possible were recognized for their contributions.”
Curry and Robinson were given access to the CBS archives to find suitable images. But their search didn’t stop there. “It gave me the reason to go through old boxes in my garage and my storage facility to dig out old concept sketches and storyboards,” says Curry. “And one of the results of that is I was able to compile giant ring binders for each series and put pages into page protectors of storyboards, concept art, letters, charts, all sorts of things—which I now have, and they will be family heirlooms.”
But even that treasure trove of material wasn’t enough—Curry created some all-new material as well. “I did a lot of special illustrations so that people could understand things that would be difficult to put in words,” he says. “For example, how to blow up a model, but make it look like it’s happening in zero gravity. I did an illustration showing that we pointed straight up so that the ejecta from the explosion would radiate around the center of the lens’ point of view, and wouldn’t arc downward in gravity, which would then give away the gag.”
Those kinds of details fill the book. But Curry’s voice is not the only one presented. “Ben interviewed some of the stars and some of the colleagues I worked with on the show,” Curry says. “I made sure I was not involved with those conversations so that people would not feel obligated to say nice things. And that way, Ben got very honest comments from them.”
As our phone conversation came to a close, Curry wanted to make sure to again stress the collaborative nature of creating television magic. “The important thing, as I mentioned even in the opening of the book, is to make clear that there is no single hero of Star Trek visual effects,” he says. “It is the product of a lot of really gifted artists and technicians with a wide range of skills and different visions.”
And this new book, Star Trek: The Artistry of Dan Curry, stands as a testament to his skill as both an artist and a collaborator.
Available next week
All of the images above are taken from Star Trek: The Artistry of Dan Curry by Ben Robinson & Dan Curry, published by Titan Books. The 204-page hardcover coffee table book will be released on December, 1st, 2020. You can pre-order it on Amazon for $45.00.
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I’ve been avoiding Titan Books product like plague for quite awhile now, but this is one I gotta admit looks very tasty. When it eventually shows up at HamitonBooks.com for fifteen or twenty bucks, I’ll probably jump on it.
What’s the problem with Titan Books?
Errors in a lot of them, and especially in the magazines they publish. They did one or two STAR WARS mags a couple years back, and were still repeating idiotic early-IMDB claims that John Dykstra worked on 2001, even though he was in the wrong country and just getting out of high school at the time!
Plus on a professional level, I’ve found them to be iffy. I pitched them a much more comprehensive version of the recent TMP art book back in 2013 (essentially a re-pitch of the giant solicited proposal I made to Pocket in the early 90s) without response. When I made a similar pitch to a major Taschen author a few years ago, we actually had a significant dialog about the project and why Taschen — which is a MAJOR art book publisher — couldn’t go forward with it, but with Titan, nothing.
And this isn’t coming from a wannabe or an amateur; I know how to write a pitch, having sold hundreds of articles on film production, many running in the tens of thousands of words. I’ve probably interviewed more members of the TREK TMP VFX team than anybody around, as it has been a hobby pursued since the early 90s while doing other articles involving the same personnel.
Oh, I forgot, STAR TREK LOST SCENES from Titan is excellent. The authors on that really know their stuff.
Dan Curry, Rick Sternbach, Michael Okuda, Andrew Probert…. I wished Kurtzman had kept the creme de la creme of Trek production design instead of its bottom barrel!
Amen to that!
So true! They had the best vision of Star Trek.
For me that would be Matt Jeffries and William Theiss.
Yes, indeed. Agreed.
That Caretaker array looks out of this world. Perfect introduction to the mysterious Delta Quadrant.
At first glance it somehow looks Klingon to me.
Absolutely loved reading “The Art of John Eaves” when that came out. Hoping that this’ll be just as brilliant.
Dan Curry original concept drawings from Trek often end up on the market, they are worth keeping an eye out for!