(written from a Production point of view)
Harold "Mike" Michelson (15 February 1920 – 1 March 2007; age 87) was brought in by Director Robert Wise in late April 1978 to work as production designer on Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the function of head of the art department, taking over the department from Art Director Joe Jennings who had hitherto headed the department. Michelson's primary responsibilities were to redesign the sets that were in various stages of completion, constructed for the Motion Picture's immediate predecessor, Star Trek: Phase II, in order to upgrade them to theatrical motion picture standards. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 83-95) His designs, which included that of the air tram, also contributed both to the exterior and interior look of the refit USS Enterprise as seen in that film. His work on the film ultimately earned him an Academy Award nomination.
Many of his distinctive set elements remained when the motion picture sets were revamped to become that of the USS Enterprise-D of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Upon his work on The Motion Picture, he was interviewed by Fantastic Films for a piece titled "The Designing of Star Trek The Motion Picture".
Career outside Star Trek
A native of New York City, Michelson worked with the Bureau of Printing in Washington, DC after graduation. He went on to join the US Air Force and became a bombardier during World War II, flying more than forty missions over Germany. After the war, he became an illustrator for magazines and later for movie posters.
He began his career on Hollywood films as an illustrator and storyboard artist. The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Spartacus, The Birds, Cleopatra, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and The Graduate are just a few of the classic films on which Michelson worked throughout the 1950s and '60s. He was also an illustrator on the acclaimed musical West Side Story, his first collaboration with Star Trek: The Motion Picture director Robert Wise. Michelson eventually became an art director, first for television productions like The Andy Griffith Show and later for films, such as Two People (his second project for Robert Wise), Mommie Dearest, Spaceballs, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and Dick Tracy. He shared an Academy Award nomination (his second) for his art direction on the 1983 film Terms of Endearment.
He first worked as a production designer on the 1971 Cannes Film Festival Jury Grand Prize winning film Johnny Got His Gun. In 1981 he was production designer on the Mel Brooks-directed comedy History of the World: Part 1. His last film as a production designer was 1994's Intersection, which marked the film debut of Jennifer Morrison. Throughout this time, Michelson continued working as an illustrator, artist or visual consultant for films, including Firestarter, The Fly, The Two Jakes, Hoffa, and Death to Smoochy. In 1999 he received the Art Directors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2002 he was given Outstanding Achievement in Production Design Award from the Hollywood Film Festival.
Michelson died at the Motion Picture & Television Fund retirement home following a long illness. He was 87 years old.
Harold Michelson received the following Academy Award nomination in the category "Best Art Direction-Set Direction":
- 1980 for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, shared with Joe Jennings, Leon Harris, John Vallone, and Linda DeScenna
Star Trek interviews
- "Production Designer Harold Michelson; Visualizing the New Star Trek", David Houston, Starlog, issue 30, January 1980, pp. 42-46
- "Far-Out Production Design for Star Trek: The Motion Picture", Scott Henderson, American Cinematographer, February 1980, pp. 138-141, 189-191
- "Behind the Scenes: Production Design", Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 8, December 2001, pp. 97-99
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition) DVD-special feature, "A Bold New Enterprise", 2001
- "Ars Gratia Artis", Chapter 8, The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 83-95, 1980