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Art Binninger's STAR TRIX: Of Clay And Cardboard

7. Out of Uniform, Into the World

Home | 1. Pre-Trix: Getting from There to Here | 1a. Tom Vs. Joe La Rita Filmography 1970-1972 | Tom Vs. Joe La Rita Episodes 9 - 16 | Tom Vs. Joe La Rita 17 - 24 | 2. Airman Art | 3. A Starship Is Born | 4. The Changing Scene | 5.The Second Time Around: STAR TRIX II | 6. Up In Smoke: STAR TRIX III | 7. Out of Uniform, Into the World | 8. The New Trek Begins | 9. Sidetracked and SMEGed | 10. Building Sets And Momentum | 10a Sliding Into Space | 11. Lights! Camera! Stop-Action! | 12. Kitchen Counter Cinema | 13. STAR TRIX: THE FLICK | 14. STAR TRIX: THE FLICK Reel 2 | 15. Silly Art, TRIX Are For Lawyers | 16. Moving On | 17. ESCAPE FROM VEGAPINTO | About Me | Favorite Links | Contact Me
"You couldn't have learned that in the service"

It's Art, the Super Civilian!
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   After my release from active duty in the Air Force on May 3, 1976 (I wouldn't be completely out until my inactive reserve time was up in 1978), I drove cross-country to Long Island to stay with my parents and look for work. Unlike the saying "You can't go home again", I found that you can except your parents expect you to pay your own way this time. I looked for animation work in Manhattan and found that there was precious little going on for someone with my lack of formal training. I did get some nice response to my work on STAR TRIX III which I was using as a demo reel but got nothing in the way of employment. By the end of the summer after a number of false starts and dead ends, I made plans to return to the west coast. 
 

   Prior to leaving New York in September 1976, I bought the book SUPERMAN: SERIAL TO CEREAL by Gary Grossman. Besides being an excellent history of the Superman character's history in film and television up to that time, it gave a lot of information on the methods of old time low budget filmmaking. I was inspired to try my hand at a live-action superhero adventure and got Air Force friends Gary Loepke and Al Trezza to star in THE ADVENTURES OF CAPT. COORS in early 1977. Without the finances or resources I had available when I was in the service, the film has a number of rough edges but the cast were up to the foolishness. Their lack of inhibitions can probably be traced to the large amounts of beer consumed during filming (beer-drinking was considered a stunt and Gary and Al insisted on doing all their own stunts).

Martin Baumgarten and Art Binninger fly Capt Coors
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   Many of the effects were hold-overs from the STAR TRIX days except one. Martin Baumgarten and I figured out a way to have Gary and Al fly as solid images against the moving sky background. I photographed the guys standing against my black cloth background. The camera was tilted on the side to make it appear that they were parallel to the ground. They would stretch out their arms and arch their backs a bit to give the impression they were in flight. When the film was developed, it was projected on a sheet of heavy white paper and I would trace their silhouette on it. This was cut out and taped to a sheet of frosted glass. The footage of Gary and Al was projected on the cut-outs from the front and the moving scenery footage was projected from the back. The cut-outs held back the scenery so the projection of Coors and the Troll were solidly flying over Lompoc. The composite image was filmed with the ever-reliable Ektachrome 160. This technique, with later refinements, was used extensively in STAR TRIX: THE FLICK.

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The opening title sequence was a spoof of the 1950's TV series THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN titles.
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Alien spaceship approaches Earth. Slides and movie footage were again combined and rephotographed ala STAR TRIX.
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An alien female is searching for a suitable male to repopulate her planet.
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Capt. Coors starts his day with an almost fresh shirt.
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The alien closes in on Lompoc with her hand-held male spotter (actually a 1977 LED calculator).
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The Troll and Capt.Coors in flight via the cut-out mask and rear/front projection.
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After abducting the Malignant Troll, the alien beams back to her ship.
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The Captain flies into space to rescue his buddy from a life of reproducing.

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Not even a death ray can stop the Man of Recycled Aluminum.
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The Captain is momentarily incapacitated by a can of Coca Cola he's chugged down in place of his beer.

Art in NYC 1977.
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   In August of 1977, after months of job-hunting and doing piece-work for Roy's magazine, I returned to New York to try a trade school for television production. The Television Studio of New York was one of those operations that advertised on late night TV and offered job placement after completing the course. It turned out to be an ill-equipped facility run by feuding faculty and management. The school was located at 1600 Broadway (for fans of the Max Fleischer cartoons this was the building that housed his studio until 1938). The instructor for my class quit in a dispute over the curriculum a few weeks into the term. There followed a succession of substitutes who were thrown to the snarling New Yorkers who were my classmates. Finally, Nat Greene, a film editor I met at New York Institute of Technology in 1976, literally walked in off the street and was sent to teach us. One good thing that came out of the chaos was that I had STAR TRIX III and a couple of other films transferred to 3/4 inch videocassette. This made it easier to take it on interviews instead of my heavy Eumig projector. 

   Returning to Lompoc in early 1978, I was able to get a part-time job operating a TV camera for the local cable company Teleprompter. During this time, I contacted the STAR TREK staff at Paramount in hopes of getting work but to also show them my animated film. I received two nice letters from Jon Povill, who was first listed as Production Coordinator and later as Associate Producer. An interesting thing about the letterhead was that in April the text at the bottom read "A Paramount Motion Picture in association with Norway Productions". When the videocassette was returned in July there was a new logo for STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE and the bottom text read "A Gene Roddenberry Production - A Robert Wise Film".

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Letter dated April 14, 1978

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Letter dated July 21, 1978.

   With my animation job prospects looking slim and my savings account steadily decreasing, I decided to contact the film laboratory that handled my Super-8 printing needs. In August 1978, I was hired at Newsfilm Laboratory in Hollywood, around the corner and down the street from Paramount. The lab's bread-and-butter account was General Dynamics for which we did 16mm processing and printing. Since I was also experienced in dealing with 8mm, I would handle the assembly and printing of most of the amateur work that came through. This was very much like allowing a mouse to guard the cheese since now I could experiment with professional equipment to achieve some of my effects. When STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE was released in December of 1979, I was already mulling over the possibility of upgrading STAR TRIX on a grander scale.