Gerry Anderson, the creator of the TV series Thunderbirds has died. He was 83. Those shows were famous for Supermarionation: everything was done with puppets. He created several supermarionation shows including Fireball XL-5 and Stingray, and worked on shows with humans, including Space 1999 and UFO..
Here is his obituary, which includes a wonderful quote from Brian Blessed: "I think a light has gone out in the universe."
Here are remembrances from some friends of ours:
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It’s hard to imagine a world without Thunderbirds. XL5 and Stingray were brilliant, but nothing compared to the large step up, to the magic and inspiration that Thunderbirds gave me. The mid 60s, everything changed. I was definitely overwhelmed with a sense of excitement. At first, I only saw it in black and white and it was the Dinky catalogs that gave me any clue and then the annuals. Wow!
That really blew my mind and then to see pictures of people building the models. That was moving beyond excitement. When it first aired, our house didn’t receive the TV signal from Sydney, but my friends down the road did. So it was race home, throw my bag inside, then continue on down the road for the best show ever. Then long discussions about the rescue and machines. At school, a group of us would pore over the latest magazines and books and plan our own secret rescue operation.
When Thunderbirds Are Go made it to the local cinema, I was allowed to go, so off I set with coins in my pocket to watch the film. It was a very hot day and when it finished, I ran home as fast as I could . . . over a mile. I was ready to collapse from heat and exhaustion. I was ten and this was now the very best thing in the world. And in colour. And a clear picture. When I got home I just exploded at my dad with a barrage of excitement and wanting him to build me models.
It was a direct result of watching Thunderbirds and watching my dad build those wooden models, which inspired me to become a model maker.
Right from the start, I was aware I was watching models going across the screen and that decided my future. All I wanted to do was build models, “just like those.”
We eventually put up a better aerial so we could finally watch Sydney TV and not the one channel that came down from up the coast. For years, Thunderbirds played at 6 am every day and so, for most of those days, I was up watching them. I have seen the series through more times than I can remember.
I am also a fan of all the other shows, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, UFO and on and on but none of them have such a hold on me as Thunderbirds continues to have. I guess that someone could write a book on why a TV show could do that. Even the old Dinky catalogs and annuals still hold a sense of magic.
At first, it was the show. Then I learned the name Gerry and Silvia Anderson. It was those names that were on all things magic in this world.
As I got older and learned more about the special effects industry, I learned about Derek Meddings and how it was him that created the images of Gerry’s vision. I was very fortunate to meet Derek and we talked for two hours about the models of Thunderbirds. It was a great loss to the industry when he died, but there were others to carry on and be inspired by his work.
But now that Gerry has gone, there is an empty void that can never be filled again. I feel loss, emptiness at his passing but I still have the DVDs, the books, the models I love to make, the friends that share my love of Thunderbirds. There will be others, but Gerry, and what he created, was unique.
Gerry will be missed, but the legacy he created inspired many young people who grew up to be the next special effects technicians. He also will inspire a sense of magic and inspiration with every new generation of children. I encourage everyone to get out an episode of Thunderbirds and watch it through the eyes of a child, then watch Captain Scarlet, then Joe 90, then Stingray, then UFO, Think about how important all that Gerry created is to our culture and how much it is part of it. Not many others can compare. -- David Tremont, senior model maker, Weta Workshop.
Wood models made by David Tremont's father, 45 years ago.
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A lot of my love for science fiction can be attributed to growing up with Gerry Anderson and his many TV series with my personal favourites being Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Space 1999. I would still give anything to be an Eagle pilot.
But his greatest effect on me as a boy was helping to make it cool to have to wear glasses with his school boy spy Joe 90. Thank you, Gerry, for the memories and the beautiful space ships. -- Wesley Kerr, The Culture
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The second time I met Gerry Anderson was in 2006 at the Sector 25 Convention near London. I was there promoting the book I had written with Mike Trim, one of the model makers and designers on Thunderbirds. I told Gerry about the book and thanked him for creating the series, as well as UFO, Space: 1999 and the rest of the Supermarionation TV shows.
I told him how much they'd meant to me when I was young, and how happy I was to have even a small part in celebrating them through my work on the book. He looked at me for a moment, then thanked me in return.
"For what?", I asked. He'd seen I was very serious in my praise. "For not having me on," he replied.
So many years later, he was still wary that the shows had been made on very tight budgets for kids, and that all the strings were visible on the puppets. I hope that in the end, he stopped worrying about the strings and saw what we, the fans saw: the care and love that he and his team put into the shows. Anthony Taylor, writer and producer, The Future Was FAB