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Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
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Probably the best non-commercial Buck Rogers in the 25th Century web site by an actual member of the Buck Rogers crew.
The year is 1979 and Universal Studios launches its latest Sci-Fi epic. In a fortunate mishap Ranger 3 and the Visual Effects Crew of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century are blown out of their trajectory of making a TV Movie and into a Feature and two seasons of a TV series and brought to Earth to still entertain fans 30 years later.

This web site was developed by Kenneth A. Larson, AKA Ken Larson who built many of the models used for the feature and two seasons of the series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Much of Ken Larson's three decades in the entertainment industry have been designing and building models for Visual Effects. Buck Rogers began it all. Kenneth retired from Visual Effects Model Making in 1996 - he prefers his new career of Set Designer for live action, miniatures, and CGI. Ken and Universal Hartland worked on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century concurrently with Battlestar Galactica and Galactica 1980, Airport '79, and several other projects. These were all done at the little known but very capable Universal Hartland - a wholly owned subsidiary of Universal Studios.

Note: Kenneth A. Larson is in no known way related to Producer Glen A. Larson. Ken Larson is a self made model maker (you can make anything with Bondo).

Episode Breakdown: What Visual Effects Universal Hartland provided for each episode.

The History of Universal Hartland.
Behind the scenes.
Frequently asked questions.
Behind the Scenes

Contact

Items for sale. Ken is often asked if he can sell props, models, or artwork from Buck Rogers or Galactica. For the record, all Ken has are these photos. This is a not-for-profit web site and it's only purpose is to entertain you. However, Ken will accept donations through PayPal using the button at the bottom of this page if you like what you see. Ken does this as a service to the fans. Send an e-mail. Art for Sale
Ken does have original art work for sale.

Legalese


Kenneth A. Larson built many of the Visual Effects Models used on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century between 1978 and 1980. He retired from Visual Effect Model Making in 1996 after working on the motion picture Independence Day and three weeks later began working as Visual Effects Set Designer on Batman and Robin . Ken no longer is actively seeking work as a Visual Effects Model Maker.

Ken has nothing for sale. Ken has no models or model parts and these photos are not for sale. These images are here for your enjoyment only.

Ken does NOT give permission to others to copy these images to other web sites or to use for publication. Ken Larson is somewhat annoyed that some of these images have been ripped off to use on other sites and would like these images removed from these other sites. Come to this site to view these images where there are no advertising or pop-ups. If you know of other sites using these images, please inform the site operators that they do not have permission to use these images. If the abuse does not stop, this web site will vanish and this archive of information will not be available to anyone.

Thank you very much for your understanding and cooperation.

Kenneth A. Larson
Visual Effects Model Maker - Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
Pete Gerard, original Model Shop Supervisor, adds a few recollections...

It was difficult for me, at the beginning of the "Buck Rogers" project. I was of two minds; it had enabled me to get out from under a martinet in my previous workplace, and it promised me a long period of employment as a shop supervisor. On the other hand, I recognized this show for what it was....another attempt to catch and ride the wave of enthusiasm unleashed by the dazzling popularity of George Lucas' recent mega-hit. It was a wild time, because every studio in town wanted to do as Lucas had done, but I doubted Universal was willing or able to give their products the same magic, the same classically-rooted appeal that made "Star Wars" work.

That movie had definitely raised the bar, and several clones and "wanna-be's" that soon appeared couldn't come close to it. The very premise on which my new project was based looked quite shallow to me, so I found it a bit of a stretch to somehow invest it with sincere and total dedication. Looking back on it, the choice I'd faced, upon leaving Magicam, had been between "Buck Rogers" and "1941", so if ratings and box office are the criteria, I probably made the right move.

But with my ethics still intact, I decided we should make the best show of it from the artistic standpoint, while I worked to improve my "people skills" as an effective group leader. That was the most difficult aspect of the whole adventure; at the end of a typically stressful day, I'd peruse the shop, unable to spot anything I had physically accomplished. I leave it to history, and to my devoted former crew members, to judge my effectiveness.

The show speaks for itself, and I firmly believe Hartland rose to the occasion and did their very best. I also believe Peter Anderson should ultimately wear the laurels for Hartland's many successes, for he was our guru...he took good care of the whole place and everyone in it.

Feature

Draconia
Draconia, Visual Effects model, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Feature, 1979.
Draconia Set Piece
Draconia set piece.
New Shuttle
The "New" shuttle. There was also an aged shuttle. The molds were used two more times for the end of the first season of Battlestar Galactica and the second season of Buck Rogers.
Ardala's Launch
Ardala's Launch. This beautiful model was rebuilt into the less attractive Vorvon Shuttle.
Thunder Fighter
Thunder Fighter.
Hatchet Fighter
Hatchet Fighter/Pirate Fighter/Draconia Fighter.
Launch Tube
Launch Tube, New Chicago. Made from Styrofoam packing material.
New Chicago
Matte paining of New Chicago.
New Chicago
Matte paining of New Chicago.
New Chicago
Matte paining of New Chicago.
Earth
The making of Earth. Work of Janet Kusnik.

Right. Star Cyc. This is not a great photo, but I thought you might like to see how we did a star field. Colin made a very accurate rendition of a star field. The white cylinders in the foreground are unfinished blue screen neon covers for the model movers.
Star Cyc

Pete Gerard, original Model Shop Supervisor, comments on his departure. As Buck Rogers shifted to weekly series, budgets were cut and shortly after the beginning of season one, Pete left.

I remember my last day at Hartland. The Tower, in their infinite wisdom, had finally eliminated my overtime, which had been in the works anyway for a couple of weeks. I had already said that if it happened, that would be my last week. Grant McCune was staffing up for the remainder of Apogee's huge "Star Trek" work-load, I knew this, and he knew where I was working. A deal was struck, I was to start on Saturday.

Friday in the Hartland shop there was a little ceremony, in which refreshments were served, and I was to hand over the keys to the model shop to Jerry Allen, my designated successor. I was one of the very few Hartland honchos who had never been on the receiving end of a Peter Anderson pie-in-the-face, a long-standing Hartland tradition. Peter stood back dangling a Polaroid, everyone gathered around, and I said a few words of thanks to everyone. After handing off the keys, I glanced up briefly....a split second too late!

It was as if the whole assembly had somehow parted, arranging itself like a bowling lane, and I was one of the pins. Peter and his pie came at me through the gap like a freight train, and everything went white. Cool and soft, the cream topping had wrapped itself around the lenses of my glasses. Soon someone helped me to a washroom, and the Polaroid snapshots began making the rounds.

On the way out to Van Nuys the following day, I stopped at Sam's Tool Mart, to celebrate the event by purchasing myself a new Gerstner machinist's chest of solid oak, which today still holds my precision tools in its green felt-lined drawers.

Season 1

Scorpion
Scorpion - one of Illianna's best works.
Matte Painting
Matte Painting from Planet of the Slave Girls.
Sinaloa
Sinaloa, AKA, Casino in Space.
Theta Station and Gemini Freighter
Theta Station and Gemini Freighter. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, First season, 1979.
Vorvon Shuttle
Vorvon Shuttle, Visual Effects model,
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, First season, 1979.
Asteroid Field
This asteroid field was made for the episode Return of the Fighting 39th, first season, 1979.
Sled
Sled - Vance Frederick built this model.
Raven
Raven.
Annsiud
Annsiud (Associate Producer Ann's IUD) mining probe. I can't find the photos, but threw together this computer model from memory. It was filled with colored lights and shapes. Visual Effects model, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, First season, 1979
Time Capsule
Time Capsule.
Spy Satellite
Spy Satellite.
Arora
Arora. I didn't do all the work to this model, but I can't remember what I did except that it started out as something else and I converted it .
Learian Queen
Learian Queen cruise ship, Visual Effects model, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, First season, 1979.
Bigfoot
Bigfoot, Visual Effects model, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, First season, 1979.
Canarious
Canarious - I think Pat McClung built this one.
AstroSled
AstroSled. Visual Effects model, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, First season, 1979.
Ranger
Ranger, Visual Effects model, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, First season, 1979.
Music World
Music World, Visual Effects model, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, First season, 1979.
New Chicago
New Chicago, Visual Effects model, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, First season, 1979. This model was built to provide new establishing shots of New Chicago but too small an area and never used.
Planet
One of many planets we made.
Matte Painting
Matte Painting of City by the Sea from A Dream of Jennifer.
Zadd Battle Cruser
Zadd Battle Cruser, Visual Effects model, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, First season, 1979.
Shark
Shark.

Season 2

Season Two began about normally, and then the Actors strike of 1980 began. This was the first major strike by the Screen Actors Guild and caught everyone off-guard. Features with only a few days left of shooting shut down for months and after the strike was settled, had to reassemble the casts and crews to finish the final shots. The new TV season was delayed for months and prime time showed reruns and anything to fill the space left vacant by the strike. At Universal Hartland we had a short hiatus after the unexpected cancellation of Galactica 1980 which we had hoped would carry us through and had just begun production of Season Two of Buck Rogers. There were changes to Season Two. The producers felt that being stuck on Earth was limiting the show and wanted more of a Star Trek feel, so the Learian Queen, from the episode Cruise Ship to the Stars, was reworked into the Searcher, an interplanetary vessel of exploration. The story was that Earth had now recovered enough from the destruction from war centuries earlier and now had the resources to send out voyages of discovery. New characters were introduced including Captain Asimov (named in honor of the famous sci-fi writer, but kind of a wimp), the professor (who's name I forgot), Hawk the bird-man, and the annoying back-step robot Criton, and Twiti's voice changed. Gone was Doctor Huer and New Chicago.

We started working on the models and then the strike hit. Because most of what we did was not dependent on the actors, we inched along working about two weeks a month with no overtime and produced visual effects for about one episode a month. There was even time for our new Executive Producer, John Mantley who replaced the departed Glen A. Larson, to stop by and visit several times, something Larson only did once in two years. This slow time did give us more time to develop more complicated effects than we otherwise would have had time for. For the episode Journey to Oasis, a character could remove his head and I remember John Mantley wearing a green cover on his head for a test of the removal sequence. Eventually the strike ended and things slowly ramped back up, but we had several episodes of effects all ready to go. Toward December 1980 it was clear the show was not going to go beyond the eleven episodes for Season Two. Kenneth Larson left the show after two and a half years when all the model work was nearly complete, but did return a few months later for two weeks to help build two Draconia models and four Hatchet Fighter models for Universal Studios Tour's new Special Effects Stage attraction.
Searcher
Searcher, rebuilt from the Learian Queen
Hawk Fighter
Hawk Fighter - Vance built most of this model.
Mountain Under Construction
Mountain under construction.
Mountain  Finished
Mountain completed.
Click for Video Clip of the mountain

Spot's Cave
Spot's Cave.
Argo Tanker
Battle Cruiser. Obviously a second reuse of the Battlestar Galactica Prison Ship. The Agro Farms were removed and these tanks added.
Shuttle Crash
We crashed the Battlestar Galactica Shuttle into vermiculite and fullers earth, then sank it for this second season episode. 1980. Click to see a Video Clip.
Behind the Scenes
Behind the scenes shot of the crash sequence.
Gnome Mobile
Gnome Mobile. This was originally the Bootlegger shuttle for an early episode of Battlestar Galactica.
Shuttle Another Shuttle.
Jade Box
Jade box. This internally lite box had light levels that could be controlled by remote control.

An Earlier Buck

Before the Buck Rogers that became a feature film and one and a half seasons of television, there was an earlier attempt. Drawings were produced and the model shop was set up. For reasons attributed to story issues, the production shut down for a short time. Because of issues with some members of the model shop crew, a new crew was charged with continuing the project once the story issues were resolved. All the miniature work completed for the final film and television series was provided by the second crew. Some members of other departments worked on both versions.
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I hope that you find this web site helpful. This web site was designed and built by a former Universal Hartland Model Maker for your benefit. I don't allow paid advertising. This web site is for your benefit and enjoyment and I make no profit on it. For ten years it has been supported primarily from my regular paycheck as a Set Designer and there haven't been many the last few years. I can no longer run it without help. Alternative funding is needed. A non-tax deductable donation helps cover the cost of operating this web site and may be made to Kesign Design Consulting through PayPal.

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