‘Thunderbirds’ Creator Gerry Anderson Dies at 83

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British puppetry pioneer Gerry Anderson died peacefully at a nursing home near Oxfordshire, England this Wednesday (December 25). The creator of the sci-fi hit Thunderbirds died at 83 after being diagnosed with mixed dementia two years ago. His son Jamie said his condition had deteriorated dramatically over the past six months. He requested that any fans wishing to make donations in honor of his father should contribute to the Alzheimer’s Society.

Gerald Alexander Anderson – famous for the use of “Supermarionation,” or the use of modified puppets – was born in 1929 in Hampstead, north London, and began his career as a film trainee at the Ministry of Information before starting work at Gainsborough Pictures. He later set up AP Films with some friends.

Filmed on the Slough Trading Estate in Berkshire, Thunderbirds launched his career in 1965. With the catchphrase “Thunderbirds are go!”, the series revolved around International Rescue, a secret emergency service run by the Tracy family aided by London agent Lady Penelope and her butler, Parker. In 1966, the franchise was made into a feature film for United Artists titled Thunderbirds Are Go, which was followed by a sequel, Thunderbirds 6.

In the 1970s, Anderson moved into the world of live-action, producing the influential TV series Space: 1999. His other popular puppet shows included Captain Scarlet and Joe 90. A CG-version of Captain Scarlet premiered on ITV in the UK in 2005.

Anderson also worked as an ambassador for The Alzheimer’s Society, to raise awareness and money for the treatment of the disease. Gerry Anderson leaves three children from former marriages, Joy, Linda and Gerry Junior, his son Jamie and widow Mary.

“He was very much a perfectionist and was never happy with any of the end products although he may have been happy with the responses,” Jamie said, describing how his father would involve himself in every aspect of production. “He wasn’t just someone who sat in a chair barking orders, he managed to bring together great teams of great people and between them with a like mindset produced some real gems.”

Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson

  • Cc

    I loved all of the Andersons’ shows–made me a fan of sci-fi before I was old enough to know what it was.  I also remember the marionation series “Terra Hawks”, around the 1980′s (?). I think that might have been Anderson’s last Supermarionation show seen on US TVs.

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  • http://twitter.com/JimWickey Jim Wickey

    Thunderbirds exploded onto our tiny black and white television screen in 1967, via local channel WSBK-TV38 Boston, and my world would never be the same. From an early age I wanted to be an animator, and I studied cartoons, sketching Bugs Bunny with my crayons, but here was something different. These were marrionettes, but more important to me were the miniatures. Futuristic aircraft made to look oily and used. Rockets that belched real smoke and flame, and a soundtrack that rumbled the Zenith’s tiny speakers. I built my first Thunderbird 2 out of red Play Dough. When the new color set arrived one Christmas, I found that TB2 was in fact green! Glorious green, for this was filmed in VIDECOLOR! Yes, Gerry Anderson introduced us to this new marvel, as well as SUPERMARIONATION, all brought to you from CENTURY 21 PRODUCTIONS. Thunderbirds, and later Captain Scarlet, UFO, Space 1999, were all the product of AP Films, a little shop of wonders in Slough England. The studios were once a plastic company, converted to Television production by Mr. Anderson and his wife Sylvia. Derek Meddings (soon to be recruited by 007) blew up the models while Mike Trim’s glue and paint were still wet. Barry Gray scored the kettledrums and brass for the larger than life soundtrack and Lew Grade’s ITC distributed it to the world. And so I became an animator who also made miniatures. God, I would love to be the producer of a new Thunderbirds. As a designer, how would I rework and update the lines of Thunderbird 2, Fab 1, the Jet Mole and Tracy Island?… I wouldn’t change a bloody thing. Thank you Gerry Anderson. You may be gone, but Thunderbirds are GO! – Jim Wickey, Vistavox Entertainment

  • http://twitter.com/JimWickey Jim Wickey

    A tribute to Gerry Anderson.