Original Zark V model sheet

7-Zark-7 pilot animation cel

The original Battle of the Planets logo

A key cel setup in 7-Zark-7's Think Tank


From the very beginning, Sandy Frank envisioned selling Science Ninja Team Gatchaman as an outer space adventure. Yet the makeup of the Japanese original clearly showed Gatchaman took place mostly on Earth. The Ninja team's brief forays into outer space were confined to locations very close to Earth.

The Japanese series also included a great deal of action-style violence that would not be allowed to play on an American children's television program. While it wasn't filled with the "rivers of blood" that some have claimed, the show was unquestionably intense. People were shot at, they got punched and kicked and they often died on camera in blistering explosion sequences.

When Jameson Brewer and his writers got the chance to view a few of the films, they knew some major editing was going to have to be done. The violent content actually played in their favor though, since it would have to be excised, it would make adding new scenes that emphasized an outer space angle much simpler.

Sandy Frank had confidence in the property and okayed the time-consuming and expensive changes that were required to get the series on American TV. To get the pilot done, Jameson Brewer hired a few friends and acquaintances that he knew would be able to turn the project around quickly and accurately.

Brewer came up with the basic idea and design for 7-Zark-7. It was his thought to add this little R2-D2-like character to act as a focal point and narrator for the series. He would stay in his control room in G-Force's base, Center Neptune, watching the action and dispatching the team as needed. Pilot Producer/Director Alan Dinehart asked his friend, Hanna-Barbera character designer Alex Toth to create a model for the new character. Toth titled this model "Zark V," which quickly became 7-Zark-7.

For the animation tasks, Brewer went to David Hanson who owned Gallerie International Films in North Hollywood, California. Hanson was a friend of his from years earlier when they both worked on the live action The Addams Family TV show. Gallerie had recently changed its name from Levitow/Hanson Films, which Hanson had co-founded with animator Abe Levitow in 1972. The studio was responsible for a great deal of TV commercial animation as well as a handful of TV specials like B.C., The First Thanksgiving.

The task of animating the few sequences for Battle of the Planets was nothing more than a one-shot job at this point. Working from Toth's model and a few they did themselves, like 7-Zark-7's Center Neptune interior environment, Gallerie went to work. The whole thing amounted to only a couple minutes of footage for the lone pilot episode and it was not a great challenge for the studio. They were able to complete the work quickly, easily and economically. Animation work was reportedly done by Emil Carle who worked on 7-Zark-7, and Thomas Wogatzke, who created the pilot's title logo.

Once the animation was completed, it was sent to C&D Productions in Hollywood for the xerography (adding the black lines to individual animation cels) and cel painting. Photography on the completed cel work was done by Take One Studios, also in Hollywood. The entire process of creating the new animation for the pilot took approximately three weeks.

Once the pilot was sold to buyers a few months down the road, then the real work had to begin. Brewer suggested taking the series work back to Gallerie International since they worked out so well on the first episode. Everyone agreed and Gallerie got the job. This was a fortunate thing too, since at that point Gallerie was relying on Battle of the Planets to keep the little company's doors open.

Further review of the Gatchaman films showed that there was going to be a lot more footage needed than was done for the pilot. Some of the earliest work on the Battle of the Planets series was the animation for several "stock" scenes that could be pulled up and altered slightly whenever they were needed. It may not seem like it, but every episode of Battle of the Planets had to have some amount of new animation done. Even though these stock sequences were done up, they only accounted for the main animation in a given scene. Mouth movements would always need to be created to fit the individual episode's dialogue and once in a while the stock was customized to fit something different that had to happen.

Regular series animation was again handled by Emil Carle, who was listed as the Production Manager on the series. He had previously worked at Hanna-Barbera and then spent some time as a freelance animator. Eventually he went to work at Gallerie International Films and was brought in by David Hanson as lead animator for Battle of the Planets. Perhaps "lead animator" is a bit misleading because by all accounts he was one of only three people who animated for Battle of the Planets. Carle was assisted at Gallerie by Harold Johns, who was listed as the series' Animation Supervisor. Finally, Jameson Brewer actually touched up some of the animation himself when he found something lacking. Aside from these men, no others were known to have had a hand in the 7-Zark-7/G-Force footage.

While Gallerie busied themselves with the 7-Zark-7 sequences and others like G-Force in their ready room, on 7-Zark-7's monitors and miscellaneous shots like rockets taking off, Brewer turned to another company to provide specialized outer space stock shots. For those he went to the Fritz Miller Company, a specialized effects studio that was capable of creating the more detailed starfields and space imagery he was looking for. Fritz Miller completed the antimation of various nebulae, planets, flight sequences and other original outer space footage.

The studios used for ink and paint and photography of the Gallerie footage are unknown (The Fritz Miller Company footage was all completed in-house). They may have been the same ones used for the pilot, but no surviving records indicate this for certain. All of the new animation was captured on 16mm film stock.

The G-Force team in uniform as animated in America

There are times where a viewer can tell two distinct styles of animation at work. For instance, Mark appears differently in the times he comes into 7-Zark-7's Think Tank, or 7- Zark-7's cape is animated differently when he flies. This was because, as mentioned earlier, Jameson Brewer was not always happy with the work he got back from Gallerie. Brewer recalled they were constantly under pressure to finish episodes and he would frequently get sequences to check over that he was unhappy with. If there was time and he was particularly upset with a sequence, Brewer would reanimate scenes himself. This accounts for some of the differences in appearance 7-Zark-7 had over the course of Battle of the Planets.

Even casual viewers could notice that 7-Zark-7 changed over the course of the show. From his original pilot episode look, the first change was the alteration of the details on his chest. After that, he was given a sweater which he wore exclusively in his own Ready Room. Following that, he received the ability to fly by flapping his cape and finally he got a yellow helmet with a transparent visor, somewhat similar to the G-Force versions. His environments expanded a bit too when he received his own Ready Room where he could take breaks. To get from his Ready Room to the Think Tank he used an often-seen glass tube elevator. 1-Rover-1, a companion robot dog, was also added fairly early in the run of the series.

The G-Force team in civilian clothes as animated in America

For those curious, there were twenty-five sequences animated by the Fritz Miller company. The rest of the original animation done at Gallerie International included thirteen Ready Room sequences, nineteen 7-Zark-7 sequences and an additional six 7-Zark-7 and Rover sequences that could be used as partial stock. Many of these shots could be divided into separate segments and zoomed/panned in any desired manner to create the impression of a unique shot for the episode in which it was used. Take for example the final 7-Zark-7 sequence, its official description reads: "Zark and Rover two-shot, Rover looks at Zark, Mark and Princess enter, Princess kisses Zark." That sequence alone could account for up to four distinct pieces of animation that could be broken up as needed or simply allowed to play straight through.

As mentioned earlier, these sequences needed customizing with new mouth movements meaning the stock animation would then need to be reanimated and re-photographed. So a series of backgrounds and previously painted cels would simply have new mouth movement cels laid over top and re-photographed. Having as much stock on hand as possible as a base ended up saving the production staff a lot of time.

Overall, the new animation was seen as a weak point. It didn't match the Japanese footage at all and youngsters could easily tell something was up - even if they didn't quite know what it was. Had the production crew had a little more time, or if the animation tasks had gone to a different studio, things may have turned out differently. But this shouldn't take away from the achievements that the Battle of the Planets staff accomplished. They were able to convincingly turn Gatchaman into an outer space adventure, and that aspect at least was probably never questioned by its young audience.

Special thanks to head writer Jameson Brewer, producer Sandy Frank, supervising editor Franklin Cofod and Kenneth Urheim for their invaluable information and assistance.


Unless otherwise stated, all program material, situations, descriptions and depictions are copyright © Tatsunoko Production Co., Ltd.