(written from a Production point of view)
Robert Postal Swarthe (born 6 September 1942; age 77) was part of the special animation effects team of Robert Abel & Associates (RA&A), the company that was initially contracted to do the visual effects (VFX) for the 1979 movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. While there, Swarthe worked on the wormhole mishap sequence, one of RA&A's few, if not only, VFX sequence to survive to be featured in the movie, after RA&A was pulled from the project.  When RA&A was released from the project in February 1979, Swarthe was asked by VFX Supervisor Douglas Trumbull, who was already acquainted with Swarthe's abilities, to join his company, Future General Corporation (FGC), the VFX company that took over the work from RA&A. As animation supervisor in FGC's art department, Entertainment Effects Group (EEG), Swarthe and his team continued to work on the additional animated visual effects sequences, most notably that of the USS Enterprise's warp streaking effects and the various V'ger approach effects scenes.
The work done on the movie garnered him and his team an Academy Award nomination, as well as, though not personally nominated, helping others of the visual effects team win the movie's only award, the 1980 Saturn Award for "Best Special Effects". In 1979, while he was still working on the movie, Swarthe had talked in depth about his work for the production to Cinefantastique reporter Preston Neal Jones, but the latter's copy was only published 35 years later in the title listed below.
Career outside Star TrekEdit
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Robert Swarthe has developed a keen interest in the art of animation from an early age onward. As a student, he already produced an unofficial Disney short cartoon in 1964, entitled Uncle Walt, as part of The UCLA Animation Workshop. The only known mass public screening of the short took place in June 1972 at the American Film Institute, as part of a presentation titled "50 Years of American Animation". Legend had it that Walt Disney wanted to know who made it in order to launch legal proceedings against its creator. The short however, did not contain any titles, so that Disney was not able to go through with legal proceedings during his lifetime. Early projects Swarthe has embarked upon on personal title after his student days, were the shorts K-9000: A Space Oddity (1968) and Kick Me (1975), the latter of which bringing him some renown in peer circles, as it earned him his first, 1976, Academy Award nomination in the category "Best Short Film, Animated".
In the early to mid-1970s, Robert Swarthe worked for the effects company Graphic Films, where he met and befriended Douglas Trumbull. It was through this acquaintance with him, that Swarthe was asked by Trumbull a few years later to work for FGC on the science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, starring Teri Garr) as the VFX and animation supervisor, in particular on the film’s many starfields, revisiting that production, directly after The Motion Picture had wrapped for its 1980 "Special Edition", as so many The Motion Picture visual effects staffers did.
After his tenure at FGC, Robert Swarthe worked for Francis Ford Coppola on two of his productions, One from the Heart (1982) and The Outsiders (1983), yet seemed to have left the motion picture industry afterwards, as no other motion picture credits are known for him.
Academy Award Edit
Robert Swarthe received the following Academy Award nomination in the category Best Effects, Visual Effects:
- 1980 for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, shared with John Dykstra, Richard Yuricich, Douglas Trumbull, David K. Stewart, and Grant McCune
Star Trek interviewsEdit
- "Special Visual Effects: Robert Swarthe", Don Shay, Cinefex, issue 11, January 1983, pp. 50-71
- Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, December 2014