Gerry Anderson: Creator of ‘Thunderbirds’, ‘Captain Scarlet’ and ‘UFO’ has died

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Gerry Anderson the creator of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons, Stingray and Joe 90 has died at the age of 83.

The announcement of his death was made by Jamie Anderson, on his blog site:

I’m very sad to announce the death of my father, Thunderbirds creator, Gerry Anderson. He died peacefully in his sleep at midday today (26th December 2012), having suffered with mixed dementia for the past few years. He was 83.

Please make donations in his memory to the Alzheimer’s Society via this just giving link

Gerry Anderson was a major influence on generations of youngsters growing-up in Britain during the late 1950s to mid-1970s. His programs shaped play activities, games, toys and inspired imaginations. Anderson was as influential as Walt Disney, if not more so to young Brits.

Anderson was born Gerald Alexander Abrahams in Bloomsbury, London on April 14th, 1929. Anderson’s family were refugees from Eastern Europe, and his mother changed the family name by deed poll from Abrahms to Anderson in 1939.

His older brother Lionel joined the Royal Air Force at the start of the Second World War. He was transfered to the United States for training and wrote back of his training at Thunderbird Field - a name that was to prove highly significant to the Lionel’s younger brother.

Anderson began his career at the young age of 14 as a film trainee for the Ministry of Information, working for the British Colonial Film Unit as photographer and editor. After National Service, he returned to work at Gainsborough Pictures in 1947, slowly beginning his career as writer and director.

In the mid-1950s, Anderson set up a series of companies with his cameraman Arthur Provis, leading to the eventual formation AP Films, which produced the successful children’s puppet series The Adventures of Twizzle - about a boy who could stretch his limbs to any size. Anderson met and worked with puppeteer Christine Glanville, special FX technician Derek Meddings, composer Barry Gray and Sylvia Tham, a secretary who became his wife. Together this talented group would make Fireball XL5, Stingray, and Thunderbirds, amongst many others.

After the success of Twizzle, Anderson produced Torchy the Battery Boy, which though successful left Anderson frustrated by the problems of working with puppets. This changed in 1960, when Anderson devised Supercar with Reg Hill, which used an electronic system that made the puppets or marionettes respond in a more realistic fashion. This process was called Supermarionation and became one of the defining characteristics of Anderson’s best work.
 
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The 1960s was Anderson’s most prolific and imaginative phase to his career, with his involvement in creating and producing Fireball XL-5 (his first series to be sold to the USA), Stingray (which saw underwater filming, as well as the use of interchangeable heads for the marionettes), and Thunderbirds, which was inspired by a mining disaster in Germany.

Anderson had a simple policy to script-writing: introduce likable characters, place them in a dangerous and deadly situation, where they have to be rescued within a certain time. It was exciting drama set against the clock, and it worked every time. Thunderbirds also focused less on villains and more on natural disasters and accidents - this created an awareness of shared social responsibility within the audience.

Thunderbirds was followed by Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons, which centered on a strong-jawed Cary-Grant-hero (voiced by Francis Matthews), who was indestructible and could defy death, and then by Joe 90, about a child spy who could have his brain programed by computer with special knowledge to make him an expert at anything.

Anderson then moved from marionettes to live action with UFO, which starred Ed Bishop and George Sewell, and in 1975 with Space 1999, which starred Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. Live action marked a gradual decline in Anderson’s success and by the late 1970s, the glory days of his classic shows were over, and he was literally unemployable. A terrible situation for a man who had created and made some of TV’s greatest and most memorable science-fiction series.

The 1980s saw Anderson making Terrahwaks, with puppets made by Jim Henson of The Muppets, and the comic Chandleresque Dick Spanner P.I.. Anderson continued with various projects - including an animated version of Captain Scarlet, but was never able to achieve the success of his previous work.

However, his influence continued (including a homage from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone with their film Team America: World Police, and a resurgence of interest in his work led to repeats of Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet becoming a staple of day-time children’s television.

Gerry Anderson has left an incredible and brilliant legacy that will continue to be discovered and loved by succeeding generations.

R.I.P. Gerry Anderson 1929-2012
 

 

 

 

 
Read an excellent article about Gerry Anderson on George’s Journal.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher

 

 

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