‘Thunderbird’ creator Gerry Anderson Passes Away At Age 83

Posted Thursday, December 27th, 2012 10:32 am GMT -4 by

Gerry Anderson, the creator of such classic sci-fi television shows such as ‘Thunderbirds,’ ‘Space 1999,’ and ‘Captain Scarlett,’ has passed away at the age of 83 on Wednesday, December 26th.

Jamie Anderson, son of the famed puppetry pioneer, announced his father’s passing on his blog saying, “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 [from] mixed dementia for the past few years.”

Anderson didn’t start off wanting a career in television. He initially was going to be an architect and had developed an aptitude in plaster modeling before finding out he was allergic to the plaster. He soon began working in the film industry after a friend invited him to the Pathe laboratories at Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.

One of Anderson’s earliest and well-known works was the 1964 masterpiece ‘Thunderbirds.’ Aimed at a US market, ‘Thunderbirds’ focused on the marionette family of the Tracy brothers, whose first names were borrowed from the US astronauts Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Gordon Cooper – the men who at the time had ‘The Right Stuff.’ The ‘Thunderbirds’ ran the International Rescue, a secretive organization created to help those in grave danger using technologically advanced equipment. Other members of the team included manservant Kyrano and Lady Penelope (a character based on Anderson’s then wife Sylvia).

The marketing promotion for that the show was that it was filmed in Supermarionation which Anderson described was merely something that combined the words ‘super,’ ‘marionette,’ and ‘animation.’   “It didn’t mean anything other than that,” he revealed.

‘Thunderbirds’ became so successful it spawned a film ‘Thunderbirds are Go’ and the sequel ‘Thunderbirds 6.’ ‘Thunderbirds’ was turned into a live action movie in 2004 starring Bill Paxton, Sophia Myles and Vanessa Hudgens and directed by Jonathan Frakes, but unfortunately, Anderson had no part in this project. “He was very upset by that movie,” his son had said.

Anderson became a household name in Britain after the success of ‘Thunderbirds’ and went on to create more iconic sci-fi marionette shows like ‘Captain Scarlett and the Mysterons,’ ‘Joe 90’ and ‘Terrahawks.’ He also created the live action sci-fi series ‘Space Precinct,’ ‘UFO,’ ‘The Protectors’ and the ever popular ‘Space 1999.’

Speaking to the Associated Press, Jamie Anderson said of his dad,” He forever changed the direction of sci-fi entertainment. Lots of animation and films that have been made in the past 20 or 30 years have been inspired by the work that he did.”

Upon hearing of Anderson’s passing, many celebrities expressed their sympathies and paid tribute to the man who was a part of so many childhoods:

Actor Brian Blessed (‘Wizard vs. Aliens,’ ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,’ ‘Doctor Who’) told the BBC, “I think a light has gone out in the universe. He had a great sense of humor. He wasn’t childish but child-like and he had a tremendous love of the universe and astronomy and scientists. He got their latest theories, which he would expand on. He was always galvanized and full of energy.”

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Anderson has inspired so many people and his shows continue to bring joy to millions of people around the world. As a film and TV producer, director and writer, Anderson has done much to help bring the sci-fi genre to the mainstream. The world has truly lost a pioneer in the genre and he will surely be remembered in the history of science fiction.

Anderson’s son has asked for donations in his father’s memory be made to the Alzheimer’s Society.

  • Bob G.

    I was sad to learn of Gerry’s passing. I have been a life long fan of another of his series that isn’t mentioned – Supercar. I watched episodes of Supercar when they originally aired here in the USA. Gerry Anderson’s works influenced many people around the world.