Watch: ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ In TAS Style + Interview With Creator [UPDATED]

A new video has gotten a lot of attention from Gazelle Automations. Founded by Justin and Lindsay Lee and based in Toronto, Canada, Gazelle Automations has the goal of creating entertainment with the magic of puppetry, model miniatures and animation. They work with Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds, ITV, BBC, CBC, and others.

The 2 minute clip is a reimagining of the kidnapping of Captain Picard from “Best of Both Worlds” as if it were done by Filmation in the 1970s (the animation firm that produced Star Trek: The Animated Series). They nail the simple animation style, the recycled generic sound effects, and the use of blocks of purple color. They also include a Kzinti (which originated in TAS) at the conn. It’s the little details they included that really make this feel like an artifact from a bygone era: there’s simulated bits of dirt between the different animation cel layers, and the occasional wobble of film gate weave.

TrekMovie reached out to Justin Lee to get more information about this unique homage to The Animated Series which ran from 1973-1974.

Was this video just a bit of fun or was there more to it?

My wife and fellow Gazelle Automations founder Lindsay Lee is a fan of Star Trek: The Animated Series (as am I), and we’d long talked about how that show is full of serious situations and very earnest storytelling, but with that Filmation style that makes a lot of it quite hilarious. So I started thinking about how neat it would be to pay homage to Trek and how much we love it by giving that TAS treatment to a really pivotal moment in Trek history. Which of course was Picard being abducted by the Borg. And also pairing TNG dialogue with Ray Ellis’ TAS music was just something we really wanted to hear!

The reception of TNG:TAS totally took me by surprise. After I posted it yesterday, I kinda turned everything off and didn’t see what had happened until this morning. So we’re thinking about stuff now, but it’s still just a wonderful surprise that lots of other fans are enjoying this!

I worked on this on and off for about a week. It’s funny that many people (including me) associate the Filmation style with being ‘cheap’ (which in relative terms it is), because I found to authentically recreate the look and feel, I couldn’t use most of my go-to digital shortcuts like interpolating/tweening artwork for the head, forearm, torso, etc. Sometimes Filmation would slide a static cel to make a character move (the Kzinti being scared in The Slaver Weapon comes to mind), but often character movement was  still drawn one cel at a time. So I did end up doing a ton of drawings (even though it doesn’t look like it!) so there was that hand-drawn ‘life’ to the movement and the lines. I also noticed the dirt, fingerprints and so forth on the cels would change every time cels were swapped, so there were additional elements animated overtop to simulate that.

A look at the work in progress of the TNG bridge.

I’d always intended to show the turbolift door open (a mistake often seen in TAS), but the idea to put a Kzinti officer at the conn was a very last-minute addition. I suddenly remembered Walter Koenig talking about writing for TAS, and how Gene Roddenberry kept telling him to exploit the medium of animation. So it wouldn’t have been right to have an animated TNG bridge crew that’s nearly all human!



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Nice!

This is brilliant!

was literally coming to write the exact same words

How long before the cease-and-desist letter arrives?

I’d prefer it if this becomes season 8 of TNG

Probably already in the mail.

I enjoyed the animated series but that same music over and over again drove me mad after awhile. And it returns here! Good job otherwise though.

Completely agree. I re-watched TAS recently as per my comment below and the music “did my head in” as we Scot’s would say. The same 3-4 cues used over and over again. What a contrast with TOS which reused cues but they were derived from some of the most beloved scores in television history.

as we Scot’s would say”

All Britons use that turn of phrase, not just Scots 😂

If you wanna get specific, Scots are more likely to say “di’ ma heid in” 😏

Fair point David.

As repetitive as it was, it was better than the ‘sonic wallpaper’ that plagued TNG.

7 seasons and the movies please!

Yes, pretty please with phasers on top!

Honestly wouldn’t mind if they did entire episodes, just remake them, in this style. Would be a lot of fun.

OMG. They even have the randomly open turbolift!

Making the Borg purple and pink was a nice touch.

The only thing it’s missing is a wackier story. Can you imagine if someone went and did new episodes of TNG in this style, with crazier, bizarre aliens with hair for eyes and glass legs who speak in backwards riddles, and are swim through the air on surfboards made of penguins?

I did a complete re-watch of TAS in the first year of lockdown and this is a superb homage.

Brilliant work everyone involved.

this was great. in the 80s as a kid i use to watch reruns of TAS….it was a great introduction to ST considering before 87 TOS reruns were normally on a midnight and i could only watch those Friday nights….sometimes

With all the love for TAS, what does it take to get Paramount to finally make it available on iTunes so we can own it digitally?? It’s the only Trek series you can’t purchase that way!

I mean, DVDs and Blu-rays are digital… :p

But yes, I get what you meant. No, I don’t know why Paramount doesn’t offer it for download. I actually wasn’t aware until seeing your post that they don’t.

Maybe they don’t make it available on iTunes because they want people to subscribe to Paramount+. Of course, you could make the same argument for the other shows but maybe those are covered by existing contracts that they can’t get out of. CBS have stated repeatedly that they want Paramount+ to be the exclusive home of all Trek shows.

Not true at all. LD, DSC, PIC are all available on Vudu. TAS just isn’t available digitally on any purchasable platform.

I love that they also included the dirt and smudges that were part and parcel of the cheap animation of the original series.

And a Kzinti at the helm is also a nice touch.

Absolutely outstanding! The attention to every detail to reproduce those beloved Filmation flaws is quite incredible. I’d love to see key episodes done in this style too. Best new Trek I’ve seen in quite some time! :D

Hey Alex,

Make this show happen!

Incredible!

I saw this on line yesterday and was floored at how authentic it looked. I loved it!

Good work, everyone!

The stories in TAS are often quite good, but he’s right… The animation style makes it hard to takes seriously. I’ve hoped for the “reverse” of this excellent homage. Use the original TAS dialog recordings with Shatner, Nimoy, and the rest of the cast. Replace animation with modern CG animation, in the style of ST: Prodigy. Create new (and not repetitive) music and sound effects, but keep them recognizably to the original, especially the awesome title theme. Do this for the 10 best TAS episodes and call it a limited series!

Maybe replace some of the many characters voiced by Doohan and Barrett with new voice actors as well.

I’ve been thinking ever since the original demos for Unreal Engine 5 came out, it would now be possible to almost convert TAS into a 4th season of TOS.

They could do this for TAS and the games(25th anniversary edition, Judgement Rites and the unreleased Secret of Vulcan Fury) Make it the 4th and 5th year or make it the second five year mission. Phase II

That’s been a dream of mine for at least 2 decades.

Probably would never be possible, but if it were, the source audio for TAS, 25th anniversary edition, Judgement Rites and Secret of Vulcan Fury, with effects and music-cues from TOS would make for a great way to “update” the past for a new audience. The dialogue for the games may be a bit “stiff”, but I think most people would be forgiving enough given where the age and source of the material they’re using.

Awesome — outstanding job!

A minor quibble on the Picard animated character — it just doesn’t look much like him

Looks more like him than Tom Hardy does..

Amazing!

This was pure joy! It’s always great to see so many in fandom put in so much effort into something they love.

I watched TAS for the first time a year ago and while the animation and music especially was definitely lacking, the stories themselves were great. I doubt I’ll ever watch it again but I did like it.

But I would definitely watch a TNG version just for the thrill of it.

That was really fun.

Loved it!!!! So much love for the details down to the purple Borg… exactly the kinda of goof that TAS would have made. (It was more compelling, better thought out and more of a joy than the last 3 episodes of Star Trek: Picard.) Bravo!

Filmation’s animation for ST-TAS is always derided as cheap, stiff, and static.

Maybe, I never saw any of that as a drawback. It always struck me as one of the most distinctive looking shows in all of animation. Even Filmation’s other shows didn’t look quite like this.
Outside of TMP, you won’t see a combination CU/long-shot anywhere.

And the music is awesome.

I adore TAS, undeniable limitations and all. I admire what it was able to accomplish within the tight constraints of early ‘70s animation for American television.

I think in this era it’s often hard to keep in mind just what American animated TV series in that era were like. Limited animation was the order of the day; this was long before advancements and refinements in both technology and technique came that let today’s TV animation shine like it does, and little was typically expected of the storytelling as well, and frequently little delivered. It just wasn’t taken seriously at all for the most part, and resources were allocated accordingly.

Given all that, it’s not just remarkable but borderline amazing that Star Trek TAS is as good as it is. To us in 2022, it looking at it in the contexts of both the greater Star Trek franchise and TV animation in general (so much of which has been made since then, with so many leaps in all sorts of ways), it seems absolutely impoverished, but as I understand it it was actually one of the most expensive animated American TV series up to that point, if not the most expensive, largely because of its substantial regular voice cast of actors reprising their roles from the original live-action show, which was pretty unusual then.

It also boasted numerous writers from TOS (and/or a few who’d go on to work on TNG, DS9, and even Voyager), and as such explores lots of the same ideas and so on as the live-action shows.

All the Hal Sutherland directed animated shows had the same style with a character’s face filling up most of the frame so there’s very little to animate. Archies, Groovy Ghoolies, New Adventures of Gilligan, Fat Albert, etc. etc. etc.

Excellent work. The stories in TAS were awesome and kind of weird at times too. I still remember the Enterprise crew literally encountering the devil in one episode. Imagine that for a supposed children’s Saturday morning cartoon. I always enjoyed them and consider them to be the official 4th year of the 5 year mission in my head canon.

I love that they even have the cat-person helmsman.

Cute, but don’t want it. Go with the Prodigy animation style. and the Music! God! it’s awful!!

Don’t be surprise if the TAS style shows up on LOWER DECKS…

It already has, albeit just for still images and not moving characters.

and that was the funniest gag in the entire series (and I like Lower Decks overall) – it was just entirely unexpected and perfect

Lower Decks is a reason why I wanted to watch TAS for the first time since they were doing a lot of references from that show that was going completely over my head.

I love Lower Decks for a number of reasons, some having nothing to do with TAS specifically, but one reason I love Lower Decks is that I also love TAS, and Lower Decks has probably shown more love for TAS than probably all the other Trek movies and shows made between that one and this one combined. I can only assume someone on the Lower Decks creative team, quite likely more than one person, has similar affection for the show.

TAS was my first Trek, followed by TNG (TOS in the LA area was usually only on at midnight, too late for a kid). So I really enjoyed the mashup on a personal level.

That animation was totally awesome. Would it be too much for Paramount+ to create one series with the old Filmation style? And hire this guy to help them out!

I see some comments deriding the original Filmation technique, but those of us who saw the Star Trek cartoon on Saturday mornings in 1973 were pleased as punch. Here is a book co-written by Lou Scheimer, the Discount Disney himself, which has a thorough passage on TAS:

https://archive.org/details/louschcrethefilgen

This is just great! :D

Y’know, I always thought they should take the voice tracks of those TAS episodes and redo the stories with modern animation. It just seems like a no-brainer to me. A lot of the stories were great and written by TOS writers and Dorthy Fontana and David Gerrold always considered them to be in-continuity and never understood why Roddenberry, who produced them, later said they weren’t. It’s like he was later ashamed of them. They weren’t dumbed down, though. There’s not much on the character drama part with < 30 minutes per story but the stories were wild and fun and there were no budget constraints on the SFX or production. The only flaw they have is how static the animation is, and now that’s no issue at all.

Of course, this TNG cartoon is going the other way and it’s just nostalgic fun!

Great job!

Love that he nailed everything about TAS… also, amazing amount of work for “about a week on and off”-!!

Awesome!

This should be an official spin off web series. It would be perfect for YouTube etc Perhaps it could recreate some classic Trek moments across TNG, DS9 & VOY. Incredible work and definitely lots of fun!

This is a Special Edition I can get behind.