It's sounding more and more like the original starship USS Enterprise - NCC-1701 has indeed been redesigned for Star Trek (11).
First came a report from IESB a month ago stating that the ship will have a new design in the movie. Now TrekWeb points us to a post over at the Star Trek New Voyages forum where James Cawley claims that he has seen the new starship Enterprise NCC-1701. Cawley is producer of the New Voyages fan-made Star Trek series and plays Captain Kirk as well.
He was not pleased with the new look of the iconic NCC-1701.
On the forum, Cawley makes clear that he wants the film to succeed:
"I understand the reboot thing, it is simply business and a way to hopefully sell many more new action figures and toys based on new designs, it always comes down to the money to be made. I just don't agree with changing such iconic designs that are so ingrained in pop culture, it is really needless."
"I would be a hypocrite if I did not believe in recasting these iconic roles, I do in fact support it. I just don't want the production design radically changed. I see Matt Jeffries' designs as 'TIMELESS' and as 'Pure Science Fiction', I feel the Big E as designed by Matt deserves it's day on the big screen."
There's no doubt that Cawley is a huge Star Trek fan as evidenced by the fact that he has put together enough money, people and resources to have created multiple "webisodes" of a series with very impressive sets and production values (they even had George Takei guest star in one episode). There's no doubt that's pretty hard core, but I think from his statements that he's at least open to the concept of rebooting the series, even if he's not totally in favor of it.
As to his specific thoughts on the redesigned Enterprise:
"Yes, I have seen the New REBOOTED Enterprise... at any rate, I don't like it. It is supposed to be NCC-1701, no bloody A,B,C,D or E! and it sure does not look like the 1701 I grew up with!"
"I have seen what was purported to be the final design of the New Enterprise, and I don't like the changes. Period."
And what does it look like, exactly?
"...all I will say is that the ship design seems to borrow heavily from 'Contemporary Trek.'"
From his comments it sounds like the ship will retain it's overall saucer, main hull and twin nacelle configuration but within the confines of those elements you can still have a design that is very different from the original.
For reference purposes, here is a history of the design of the USS Enterprise on TV and in the movies:
This was the first Enterprise designed for the screen. The image above is from the newly remastered version of The Original Series and is a new CGI model. Notice how they avoided the temptation to "upgrade" it in any way. It's completely faithful to the original.
This was the upgraded version used in the six films starring the original cast.
This ship was highlighted briefly in the awful Star Trek: Generations. It was on it's inaugural journey and was the ship on which Captain Kirk was supposedly killed.
This ship was highlighted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Yesterday's Enterprise where it traveled through time to the future to meet Captain Picard and crew. You can see that it has more in common with the original ship and the 1701-A than it does with the 1701-B. That's because it was designed in 1990 while the 1701-B was designed in 1994.
This is the ship that came about 100 years after Kirk's era. It is monstrously huge and I was always torn regarding the look of it - from some angles it looks great but from others I always thought it look very ungainly.
This is the version that followed the destruction of the 1701-D. In my opinion it's ugly as sin and I believe that it is supposed to be even larger than the already huge "D."
Finally, here is the prime example of a new take on what is supposed to be a ship built 100 years before the NCC-1701:
Long time Trek fans went nuts when they first saw this design for the TV show Star Trek: Enterprise. It was obviously based on a flipped over version of an Akira-class ship from the Next Generation era of Star Trek, therefore looking much more advanced than the original Enterprise. This, despite the fact that it was supposed to have been built and designed 100 years before the NCC-1701.
Now granted, there is a brand new production team working on the new film. As far as I know no one associated with the old production is on this including any of the art/design team that defined the look of Star Trek for so long. Still, I think they may go a little bit overboard on the Enterprise redesign in order to make it more suitable for the big screen. I would have been ok with them using the same ship as the frame but adding a bit more detail to the exterior, but I get the feeling that they're going to fiddle with the core look of the ship.
It will be interesting to finally see what they come up with, but personally I'm nervous about it. Star Trek is almost as much about the Enterprise as it is about it's crew.
[UPDATE: Here it is, the brand new USS Enterprise]
Oh, and finally... here is one fan's interpretation of what a redesigned NCC-1701 should look like (I think I would have preferred this over what they came up with):