While Trumbull was working on Showscan in 1977, he was approached by Paramount Pictures to work on special effects for the recent “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” Because of his work on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and because he was concerned about Showscan, Trumbull had to turn down the job. The story goes that Paramount was so furious that Trumbull turned them down that they vengefully cut the budget of his effects studio, essentially shutting it down. Paramount hired the effects house instead Robert Abel and associates, best known for his television commercials, for inventing cutting-edge CGI effects for the film. Abel worked furiously for months, but continued to fail, unable to produce the kind of special effects needed. Late in production, Trumbull even offered to come in at the last minute to help, but Paramount still refused.
By early 1979, principal photography had finished on “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”, and Abel still hadn’t produced a single second of usable CGI footage. With only six months to go, Paramount finally acquiesced and hired Trumbull to take over production. Trumbull, working with a relatively small, already-built model of the USS Enterprise, began filming. He added a few more slit-scan photographs, added as much detail as he could to the Enterprise, and made a damn decent movie; It would be hard to say that the effects of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” were produced on such a tight deadline. For Trekkies who want an epic look at a previously rinky-dink 1960s TV show, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” delivered, adding a huge sense of scale to the ship and the show in general.
Trumbull said the six-month, 24-hour labor left him in hospital with ulcers and exhaustion. 650 FX plans in six months, man. That’s as much as “Close Encounters” and “Star Wars” combined.