War of the Gods Light Ship

Battlestar Galactica
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Galactica 1980
Visual Effects Model Maker

Flying Motorcycle
Kenneth A. Larson, AKA Ken Larson, was involved with Battlestar Galactica and Galactica 1980 as model maker starting with about the sixth episode. This is when Universal Hartland took over from MCA-57. Ken Larson was already working on Buck Rogers when Universal Hartland was established. Kenneth A. Larson is now a Set Designer who often designs CGI sets and well as Visual Effects models.

Most of the first half of Kenneth Larson's three decades in the entertainment industry was spent designing and building models for Visual Effects. He worked on Battlestar Galactica concurrently with Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Airport '79. In the Fall of 1979, work began on Galactica 1980 and Ken Larson worked concurrently on Buck Rogers and Galactica 1980.

The ILM. MCA-57, Universal Hartland, Apogee Connection

While not generally known to the fans of Battlestar Galactica, most of the Visual Effects for Battlestar Galactica and all of the Visual Effects for Galactica 1980 were done by Universal Hartland. Only the first few episodes and most of the primary models were by MCA-57 which consisted primarily of the ILM crew and equipment assembled for Star Wars. Universal Hartland then inherited the series and completed all of the Visual Effects for the majority of its run.
MCA-57 Completed in entirety...

Saga of a Star World
Lost Planet of the Gods
The lost Warrior
MCA-57 began and Universal Hartland completed...

The Long Patrol
The Gun on Ice Planet Zero
Universal Hartland did in entirety...

The Magnificent Warriors
The Young Lords
The Living Legend
Fire in Space
War of the Gods
The man with Nine lives
Murder onthe Rising Star
Greetings from Earth
Baltar's Escape
Experiment in Terra
Take the Celestra
The Hand of God

All of Galactica 1980
Apogee did not work on Battlestar Galactica. Apogee was formed by those talented ILM people who started Battlestar Galactica and then chose not to stay with ILM or with Battlestar Galactica once Battlestar Galactica moved to Universal Hartland. Apogee began as a company, with John Dykstra at the head, a few days after Battlestar Galactica moved to Universal Hartland. John Dykstra was not involved with Battlestar Galactica after the first week or so after the move. Originally, Universal planned for John Dykstra to head Universal Hartland, but he chose to start Apogee instead.

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

In development is an episode by episode account of what Ken Larson remembers from working on this special production. This is not a story summary, those are available elsewhere, these are of making the Visual Effects.

The Move

The Buck Rogers crew moved into Universal Hartland and started setting up. A few days later, the Battlestar Galactica models, equipment, and crew started moving in. As for the model shop, David Scott was completing the Bootlegger Shuttle. The Model-T Viper had been lost during the move, so if I recall correctly, David Beasley built a new one. Both of these models were for the episode The Long Patrol. The models for The Gun on Ice Planet Zero were already complete and moved directly to the five Universal Hartland stages. All the main models, Galactica, Cylon Base Ship, Rag Tag Fleet were already complete and we built storage cases for them. I didn't get to know most of the model makers well before they left for Apogee. I do remember someone taking up a collection to get a ping-pong table for break time. Years later, I learned that Apogee got a lot of use out of that table. Within only a few days or maybe a week, most of the original Battlestar Galactica crew, including John Dykstra, had left to form Apogee.

Post move

We concurrently worked on Batlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Airport '79, Cheach and Chong's Next Movie, and several other productions.
Behind the Scenes The History of Universal Hartland and Behind the scenes.
At this point, some fans may remember more than I about episode names and such. Please feel free to send me an e-mail to correct any such errors. E-mail Galactica Questions

Pete Gerard, original Model Shop Supervisor, adds a few recollections...

While I was modelshop supervisor at Hartland, my time was divided between Buck Rogers and Galactica, both of which were episodic television series. Because of the tight deadlines, I was running two crews, and often "putting out fires" as scheduling problems came up. One morning it was learned that the Cylon Base Star model was needed on the live-action stage at Universal. I was volunteered to travel with it, to supervise its use in a pre-invasion pep-talk scene with the Viper commander and pilots.

I already knew a little about the Base Star's fiber-optic lighting, but this was one of the ILM-built miniatures, saved from the original pilot. I told the A.D. and the propmaster that the lights, controlled by a rheostat, should never be turned to full brightness without extra compressed air cooling piped in for the fibers. I handed the model off to the propmaster, showed him the hidden control knob, and stressed the warning about full power. Naturally, when cameras were being lined up, the D.P. asked whether the model had on-board lights, and to demonstrate, the prop man turned the rheostat....all the way up. Brilliant pin-points of light appeared all over the model, then turned yellow, brown, and came a puff of smoke, and darkness! The shot was completed with an "oh, well..." from the director, and I escorted the injured model back to Hartland in time for lunch.

These little issues were an on-going problem. Once we began to shoot "beauty passes" on the Galactica mother-ship, we were expected to fire up its fiber optic lighting. Grant McCune's crew had done a great job outfitting their "leading lady" with internal light for the fibers, and fans to cool everything. Unfortunately the lighting power for our shooting stages at Hartland was still coming from big D.C. generators outside the building, while out new house mains were being completed. So when the Galactica was plugged into the distro boxes, nothing but a hum and a growing cloud of putrid smoke came forth. The internal lights were 12 volt MR 16's, run through transformers. The transformers, and the cooling fans, meant only for A.C. power, simply became induction heaters, and soon destroyed themselves. Once again it was due to what Strother Martin famously called "a failure to communicate". The wonderful models we had inherited did not come with schematic drawings or instruction sheets.

Items for sale. I am often asked if I can sell props, models, or artwork. For the record, all I have are these photos. This is a not-for-profit web site, however I will accept donations to help pay the web hosting expense if you like what you see. I do this as a service to our fans.

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).

Battlestar Galactica

Agroship
Agroship, Visual Effects model, Battlestar Galactica, First season, The Magnificent Warriors, 1979. This is the first episode that I worked on.
War of the Gods Light Ship
War of the Gods Light Ship, Visual Effects model, Battlestar Galactica, First season, 1979.
Eastern Alliance Battle Cruiser
Eastern Alliance Battle Cruiser, Visual Effects model, Battlestar Galactica, First season, 1979.
Pumpkin Shuttle
Pumpkin Shuttle, Visual Effects model, Battlestar Galactica, First season, Greetings from Earth. 1979.

Galactica 1980

The decision was made to begin work immediately on a new season of Galactica. This season was so different from the first, they even changed the name from Battlestar Galactica to Galactica 1980. The air time was pushed an hour earlier, into the "Family Hour." The FCC wanted the show to contain educational elements.

The Battlestar Galactica and the Rag Tag Fleet finally arrived at Earth, only an earth far behind the Galactica technologically. They found 1980 Los Angeles. Unfortunately for Earth, the Cylons were right behind and blew a hole in the Cinerama Dome among other Hollywood landmarks. The Galactica people, now a generation older, were befriended by a young teacher which allowed educational points to be introduced in a somewhat justifiable manor.
Flying Motorcycle
Full size flying motorcycle for
Galactica 1980, Second season, 1980.
Starbuck's Jalopy
Starbuck's Jalopy, last episode. Starbuck made this from a crashed Cylon fighter and his crashed Viper fighter.
Hand Props
Hand props for Galactica 1980, Second season, 1980.
Children Size Hand Props
Children size version of hand props for Galactica 1980, Second season, 1980.
Dr. Z Ship
DR. Z ship.
Dr. Z Ship, Bottom View
Bottom view of the DR. Z ship.

Universal Hartland was long gone by the time the remake series was produced many years later.

Galactica 25th anniversary screening
Battlestart Galactica 25th anniversary screening at Egyptian Theater. Photo includes former cast and crew. Ken Larson at right. 8-23-03.


Several of us participated in the 25th Anniversary GalactiCon in October of 2003.
25th Anniversary GalactiCon
Vance Frederick (VFX Model Maker), Pat McClung (VFX Model Maker), Kenneth Larson ( VFX Model Maker), Richard Bennett (Camera operator and machinist), Peter Berkos (Sound Engineer), Lee Stringer (CGI from new Galactica).
25th Anniversary GalactiCon
Lee Stringer, Pat McClung, Kenneth Larson, Vance Frederick, Richard Bennett .
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