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David Koenig
Sharing a Universe — Disney's Star Trek Connections
Disneyana conventioneers are an eclectic bunch. There are the fans who drone endlessly on the same obscure piece of trivia. The hard-core collectors who scribble off $1,000 checks for knickknacks that look like Goodwill rejects. And, of course, there are the pin traders who wear their hobby on their sleeves—and on their caps and their jackets and their pants…

Pin collectors waiting in line overnight at Disneyland last December
Pin collectors waiting in line overnight at Disneyland last December

None of it compares, though, to the fanatics who attend Star Trek conventions. Imagine a rummage sale at the cantina from Star Wars. Where else can you debate the Eternal Mystery (Kirk vs. Picard) with Klingons and Ferengis? Hundreds of fans turn out in full costume and makeup, having morphed into Worf from ridged forehead to toe.

Certainly fans are deeply passionate about both Disney and Star Trek. Yet, at least on the surface, there seems to be little in common between the two pop culture phenomena. One specializes in classic, family- friendly fairy tales. The other mixes action/adventure and sci-fi soap opera with heavy-handed commentary on the latest political hot buttons, from interracial romance to euthanasia.

On a more basic level, both Disney and Star Trek are famous for the same things: Taking audiences to exotic new worlds in a far-away time. Introducing memorable, endearing characters who aren't always human, but display the gamut of human strengths and weaknesses. Celebrating heroism, teamwork and family. And, anchoring themselves with a conscience, so there's always a moral at the end of the story.

Atlantis promotional art  Disney
Atlantis promotional art Disney

Not surprisingly, the two franchises have overlapped over the years—and will even more within the coming weeks. Disney's upcoming animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire could co-opt Star Trek's motto of seeking out new civilizations and boldly going where no man has gone before. The look, feel and story of the film seem more Gene Roddenberry than Walt Disney. Compare, for example, the hawk-like Leviathan, mechanical guardian of Atlantis, to a Klingon bird-of-prey warship.

One of the newly redone scenes from Star Trek: The Motion Picture special edition DVD to be released later this year -Publicity photo  Paramount Pictures
One of the newly redone scenes from Star Trek: The Motion Picture special edition DVD to be released later this year - Publicity photo Paramount Pictures

Atlantis co-director Kirk Wise admitted, "As a lifelong Star Trek fan, it's hard for me to deny that there are some teeny-weeny Trek homages sprinkled throughout Atlantis. Some less obvious then others."

Atlantis promotional art  Disney
Atlantis promotional art Disney

Some parallels are unmistakable. Star Trek's Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy, provided the voice for the reclusive, 25,000-year-old King of Atlantis. Protective of his daughter, Princess Kida, and the Atlantean citizens, the King is alarmed by the arrival of outsiders and resists all efforts to befriend them.

Claudia Christian (Commander Susan Ivanova of the Star Trek- inspired Babylon 5) voiced Helga Sinclair, the exploration team's icy blonde lieutenant. (MousePlanet today also has an interview with Claudia.)

Another one of the newly redone scenes from Star Trek: The Motion Picture special edition DVD to be released later this year -Publicity photo  Paramount Pictures
Another one of the newly redone scenes from Star Trek: The Motion Picture special edition DVD to be released later this year - Publicity photo Paramount Pictures

To raise the credibility of the Atlantean civilization, the filmmakers asked linguistics expert and Star Trek contributor Marc Okrand to create an original readable, speakable language. Okrand had previously created words for the Vulcan language (for Star Trek II) and went on to invent the Klingon language (used in Star Trek III and on Star Trek: The Next Generation). He even wrote a best-selling Klingon Dictionary. For Disney, Okrand made up hundreds of Atlantean words to be spoken by Nimoy, Cree (Princess Kida) Summers and others. The Atlantean language, which has a corresponding 29-letter alphabet, is rooted in Indo-European, but essentially possesses a set of rules all its own.

Asked to identify more subtle "mini-tributes" to Star Trek, co-director Wise was silent; we'll have to see the movie to find out.


Walter Koenig publicity photo

Walter Koenig, who played Russian ensign Pavel Chekov in the original Star Trek series, has made countless appearances at science fiction conventions. But sharp- eyed collectors might also spot the actor walking the halls of Disneyana conventions.

For nearly 30 years, Koenig has been collecting Disney and other comics-related memorabilia. He's not interested in the comic books themselves, just related items, such as the mini-comics of the early 1930s and 1940s. "I collect vintage pinback buttons (1930s-1960s), old Marx figurines and more recent PVC's," he says. "Also, some old paper stuff—mostly gum cards, tattoos and iron-ons."

Walter Koenig in a publicity photo for Star Trek: The Motion Picture  Paramount Pictures
Walter Koenig in a publicity photo for Star Trek: The Motion Picture Paramount Pictures

The collectibles aren't strictly Disney. Koenig says, "My Disney collection is part of a greater collection of comic character memorabilia that I have been working at since the early Seventies. I don't want to even think about the psychological ramifications of this obsessive- compulsive behavior. I'm depressed enough as it is."

He has hundreds of comic book figurines, from Buck Rogers to Captain Marvel. Comic character buttons are a favorite; some of his buttons date back to 1886.

Koenig says he enjoys attending Disneyana shows, but doesn't get to "as many as I'd like too. Weekend shows frequently interfere with my own out-of-town appearance engagements."

Unfortunately, Koenig has yet to mix his hobby with his business. He once played a Russian general on the TV series Son of the Beach. "There were lots of war ribbons and medals on my uniform," he says. "I tried to slip in a Donald Duck pin, but the wardrobe person spotted it."

Walter Koenig in a publicity photo for Drawing Down the Moon -Photo by Bob Evans
Walter Koenig in a publicity photo for Drawing Down the Moon -Photo by Bob Evans

Does Koenig see any parallels between Disney and Star Trek? "No, not really," he says. "There was one actor on our show who had a sort of Mickey Mouse approach to working with the rest of us, but after that the similarity ends."


You can write to David atthis link..

Star Trek promotional art  Paramount Pictures
Star Trek promotional art Paramount Pictures

STARFLEET MEETS MICKEY

Leonard Nimoy

Contemplative, venerable Vulcan Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek.

Contemplative, venerable King of Atlantis.

George Takei

Helmsman Lt. Sulu in the original Star Trek.

First Ancestor in Mulan.

Christopher Lloyd

Maniacal Klingon villain Kruge in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Maniacal villain Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and villainous shapeshifter Merlcok in Duck Tales: The Movie.

Rene Auberjonois

Shapeshifting security chief Odo in Deep Space Nine.

Out-of-shape chef Louis in The Little Mermaid.

Wil Wheaton

Brainy youth Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Brainless youth Bennett in Flubber.

Whoopi Goldberg

Wise, mysterious muse Guinan, the hostess of Ten-Forward, in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Wise, mysterious muse Califia in "Golden Dreams" at Disney's California Adventure; also, decidedly unwise hyena Shenzi in The Lion King.

Aerodynamic Humpbacks

Whales soaring through the heavens in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Whales soaring through the heavens in "Pines of Rome" sequence from Fantasia 2000 (not to mention Quasimodo soaring through the belltower).

OTHER LINKS

The Atlantis official website

A link to the Aint It Cool news posting describing the upcoming special edition DVD release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The Koenig Kontinuim -The Walter Koenig official fan club page

A Walter Koenig discussion board

"Chekov's Enterprise : A Personal Journal of the Making of Star Trek : The Motion Picture" -a link to the Amazon page for the book

"Warped Factors -A Neurotics Guide to the Universe" -A site for the book by Walter Koenig / Also a link to the Amazon page for the book

"Drawing Down the Moon" -Official site for a recent Walter Koenig film / Also a link to the Amazon page for the film

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999); all titles published by Bonaventure Press.

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.

You can contact David here.

LINKS

Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)

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