(written from a Production point of view)
Fredric G. Meininger (born November 1944; age 76), generally credited as Tony Meininger, was a studio model maker who, as an independent contractor, operated his own modeling shop, Brazil-Fabrication & Design. While usually associated with his builds for the productions Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, he was actually already involved at the very start of the spin-off television series in 1987.
He began his association with the Star Trek-franchise with three uncredited, early single contributions as an outside subcontractor to Star Trek: The Next Generation. His very first contribution was for the title sequence of the new series. Visual Effects Coordinator Gary Hutzel recalled, "We wanted to fly through a series of nebulas. Well remember, at that time, there were no virtual clouds. You could not just program clouds flying by or something. You had to physically shoot something. So, it was decided to make what we call the "whorehouse mattress", which was a fiber base put over chicken wire in a frame. It was actually first created by Tony Meininger, who did many, many things for the show. He basically had spent probably what amounted to 100 man-hours. Once he had put this pad in, poking at it, and pulling it, shaping it, until it looked like a series of clouds." (TNG Season 5 DVD-special features, "Departmental Briefing Year Five: Shooting Elements")
His second contribution arrived in the form of the Delta Rana warship physical studio model for the 1989 third season episode "The Survivors". On this occasion, Meininger's input was required as the series' regular studio model vendor, Gregory Jein, Inc., was temporarily unavailable to the franchise. Subsequently, he build the painted fiber glass model of the spaceborne lifeform, featured in the 1990 fourth season episode "Galaxy's Child". Ultimately, this was followed-up by him becoming the primary studio model vendor for the first four seasons of Deep Space Nine, and first two seasons of Voyager. It was to this end that Meininger expanded his hitherto two-men company with additional staff.
He built the models of the Defiant-class, the Danube-class ships and the Federation attack fighter as well as the miniatures for the Voyager pilot episode "Caretaker" with the exception of the Maquis raider. He also modified the Galor-class model for it to become the Keldon-class in Deep Space Nine's third season. Meininger's most notable work however, were the physical hero studio models builds of the space station Deep Space 9 and the USS Voyager model. His work on Deep Space Nine earned Meininger, under his birth name, two Emmy Award nominations.
It has been under his birth name that Meininger has received his very last known motion picture credit, that of "tool person", for Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).
A modest and reticent man, Tony Meininger has never been one for interviews, and virtually none, not a single one whatsoever on his work for Star Trek in particular, are known to exist, be it in print or on tape. He was featured however in the 1994 documentary Movie Magic–"Models and Miniatures: A Model of Perfection" during the build of the Deep Space 9 model, but he is only seen at work, not providing any spoken commentary. Still, Meininger does have an in-universe character named after him.
Career outside Star Trek
Tony Meininger had, together with his wife Marianne, already founded his company as early as 1983,but the extent of his or that of their company's work during its first decade of its existence, aside from the Next Generation contributions, is unknown as Deep Space Nine is its first recorded motion picture contribution.
Outside Star Trek, he has, while operating his company, worked on the blockbuster movie Titanic (1997, alongside several other former Star Trek VFX staffers ). Upon completion of this project, Meininger found the services of his company no longer needed for the Star Trek-franchise as it had completed the full transition to the CGI visual effects technique, all but replacing the craft of physical studio model building and its filming, and he decided to close down his company.
Meininger subsequently joined the visual effects company Dream Quest Images (DQI, co-founded by Hoyt Yeatman and other former FGC employees who had worked on Star Trek: The Motion Picture) as a model shop supervisor/department manager and has, while employed by this company, worked on the science fiction comedy My Favorite Martian and the science fiction movies Bicentennial Man, (both 1999, but uncredited for the former ), Mission to Mars and the action comedy Shanghai Noon (both 2000). After DQI closed its doors in 2001, Meininger worked as an uncredited model shop/miniature construction supervisor on the science fiction films Reign of Fire (2002), as an uncredited scenic key artist on War of the Worlds (2005), and as a toolman on Cowboys & Aliens (2011). It was during this period in time that Meininger was either credited as "Tony" or "Fredric".
Emmy Awards nominations
For his work on Star Trek Tony Meininger has, under his birth name, received the following Emmy Award nominations as Model Maker in the category Outstanding Achievement in Special Visual Effects:
- 1996 for the episode "The Way of the Warrior", shared with Joshua Cushner, Judy Elkins, Steve Fong, Dennis Hoerter, Adam Howard, Don Lee, Gary Hutzel, Glenn Neufeld, Scott Rader, Jim Rider, and Joshua D. Rose
- 1998 for the episode "One Little Ship", shared with Judy Elkins, Gary Monak, Paul Maples, Adrian Hurley, Steve Bowen, Steve Fong, Davy Nethercutt, Kevin Bouchez, Laurie Resnick, and Gary Hutzel