After the Party’s Over: Gerry Anderson 1929-2012

Gerry Anderson Producer of 'Captain Scarlet and the Spectrum', 1967
I celebrate my birthday on December 26th and this year I woke up to the sad news that the man who was responsible for some of my favorite childhood memories had passed away on the same day that I was born. It’s not the kind of news you want to hear when you’re trying to celebrate your birthday but instead of becoming melancholy about Gerry Anderson’s death I became nostalgic about my childhood and increasingly grateful for the various opportunities I had thanks to being born and (mostly) raised in the Bay Area.

During the ‘70s there were only about 8 or 9 television channels in Northern California that regularly beamed programs and movies into my home. One of them was our local KTVU Channel 2 that featured two programs I would watch religiously; Dialing For Dollars, which was a sort of early game show hosted by Pat McCormick that often aired classic films, and the late night horror movie program Creature Features hosted by local legend Bob Wilkins. I got my film education early on through these two programs, particularly Creature Features, which regularly featured interviews with actors, directors and various crew members who would discuss their craft in terms that any kid could understand. Following the huge success of STAR WARS in 1977, Bob Wilkins launched a second television program on KTVU called Captain Cosmic, which aired science fiction such as the original FLASH GORDON serial and many terrific Japanese shows including SPACE GIANTS, JOHNNY SOKKO & HIS FLYING ROBOT, ULTRAMAN, SPECTREMAN and STARBLAZERS. Captain Cosmic also introduced me to the wonderful world of Gerry Anderson when it aired THUNDERBIRDS and CAPTAIN SCARLET AND THE MYSTERONS.

At the time marionette programs aimed at children were commonly seen on television but nothing had prepared me for Gerry Anderson’s high-tech (at the time) puppet shows. Gerry Anderson, along with his talented crew, were responsible for creating a technique Anderson called ‘Supermarionation’ that used thin wires to control the puppet’s movements and voice synchronized motors placed in the puppet heads made them appear as if they were actually talking. The detailed set designs for THUNDERBIRDS and CAPTAIN SCARLET were innovative and incredibly detailed, and the action-packed storylines were often surprisingly adult in nature. Like a lot of other kids and adults I became mesmerized by these Supermarionation shows. They sent my 10-year-old mind reeling and seemed to unlock some deep recesses of my imagination. In retrospect, watching these pioneering puppet shows was a lot like seeing your toy box come to life. Suddenly stagnant rocket ships were able to launch themselves into space and the dolls and action figures that I loved playing with were now able to move and talk on their own without any help from me.

cscarlet

penelope

space1999

My favorite Gerry Anderson program was the widely popular THUNDERBIRDS, which originally aired on British television between 1965 and 1966. This groundbreaking show depicted the adventures of International Rescue, a super secret organization run by an ex-astronaut called Jeff Tracy and his 5 sons, John, Scott, Virgil, Alan and Gordon who were all named after the history making Mercury Seven astronauts. With the help of other characters including Brains, Tin Tin Kyrano and my favorite Thunderbird, the James Bond-like Lady Penelope (who was designed and voiced by Anderson’s second wife & creative partner, Sylvia Anderson), the Thunderbirds averted disasters and saved the world from evildoers. Anderson made two films based on his popular marionette programs (THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO and THUNDERBIRD 6)  and in 2004 THUNDERBIRDS was turned into a live-action film starring Bill Paxton, Anthony Edwards, Sophia Myles and Ben Kingsley but I haven’t seen it. I have no idea if it’s anywhere near as fun or inventive as Gerry Anderson’s original show but I suspect that like many live-action movies based on popular television programs from the ‘60s and ‘70s, it probably wouldn’t hold my attention for too long.

Besides creating many thrill-filled puppet shows aimed at kids, Gerry Anderson also created successful live action science fiction programs for adults including UFO, SPACE: 1999 and SPACE PRECINCT. The fantasy worlds that Anderson helped bring to life have influenced generations of filmmakers and animators and made him thousands – possibly even millions – of fans around the world. Andersom’s shows could be enjoyed by the whole family and they often persuaded kids to become interested in space exploration at an early age. Television needed Gerry Anderson and I’m grateful that he shared his limitless imagination with us.

Gerry Anderson passed away at the age of 83 due to complications from Alzheimer’s. When the news was announced voice actor Matt Zimmerman, who played Alan Tracy as well as other characters in THUNDERBIRDS, told the BBC News that the show was “a big part of peoples lives” and mentioned that “people speak of the shows with such affection, and I held Gerry with that kind of affection as well.” Anderson is survived by his current wife Mary and four children, including his youngest son, Jaimie, who wrote briefly about his father’s passing on his website saying that, “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.” After the public’s reaction he added, “I just wanted to thank everyone for their incredibly kind messages of support, and for sharing their happy childhood memories – inspired by Dad’s work. I know Dad would have been blown away by the support, positivity, and kind words. I think the saddest thing would have been if he had passed without being noticed, but the response has been the total opposite. Thank you.”

ganderson

Further reading:
- Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson dies aged 83
- Gerry Anderson obituary
- Gerry Anderson, Thunderbirds creator, dies

28 Responses After the Party’s Over: Gerry Anderson 1929-2012
Posted By Jack Favell : January 3, 2013 7:04 pm

“only 8 or 9 channels”

Sheesh. I feel old.

Posted By Jack Favell : January 3, 2013 7:04 pm

“only 8 or 9 channels”

Sheesh. I feel old.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : January 3, 2013 7:16 pm

If it makes you feel any better most of them were locally owned & managed. One of the many benefits of growing up in the Bay Area.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : January 3, 2013 7:16 pm

If it makes you feel any better most of them were locally owned & managed. One of the many benefits of growing up in the Bay Area.

Posted By Doug : January 4, 2013 2:10 am

Having grown up in what was basically Siberia (TV-wise), my first taste of Gerry Anderson’s work was “Space-1999″ which was fun and a nice replacement for the departed Star Trek.
Which reminds me-I loved Star Trek, and hated that it went off the air. In the late 1960′s my family were visiting relatives who lived in the real world…and Star Trek was on TV!
That was how I found out about syndication, how shows could live on. I had thought it was gone forever!
Back to “Space 1999″ the big draw for me was hearing that Barbara Bain and Martin Landau from “Mission Impossible” were now doing a sci-fi show, living on the Moon. I loved Mission Impossible as much as Star Trek back then. Might have been a Desilu thing.

Posted By Doug : January 4, 2013 2:10 am

Having grown up in what was basically Siberia (TV-wise), my first taste of Gerry Anderson’s work was “Space-1999″ which was fun and a nice replacement for the departed Star Trek.
Which reminds me-I loved Star Trek, and hated that it went off the air. In the late 1960′s my family were visiting relatives who lived in the real world…and Star Trek was on TV!
That was how I found out about syndication, how shows could live on. I had thought it was gone forever!
Back to “Space 1999″ the big draw for me was hearing that Barbara Bain and Martin Landau from “Mission Impossible” were now doing a sci-fi show, living on the Moon. I loved Mission Impossible as much as Star Trek back then. Might have been a Desilu thing.

Posted By MDR : January 4, 2013 10:31 am

Thanks for this on Gerry Anderson; his Thunderbirds TV series is one of those pleasant childhood memories that my younger brother and I shared. In the early days of the Internet, I came across some GIFs of the spaceships (we had different favorites; they each had a number) and a music file (midi or aud, can’t remember) of the theme song which I forwarded to him, and we both relived our childhood for a few moments. I’ve seen the Bill Paxton movie which isn’t bad, but certainly didn’t prompt the same kind of nostalgic reflection that finding those GIFs of the original series did.

Posted By MDR : January 4, 2013 10:31 am

Thanks for this on Gerry Anderson; his Thunderbirds TV series is one of those pleasant childhood memories that my younger brother and I shared. In the early days of the Internet, I came across some GIFs of the spaceships (we had different favorites; they each had a number) and a music file (midi or aud, can’t remember) of the theme song which I forwarded to him, and we both relived our childhood for a few moments. I’ve seen the Bill Paxton movie which isn’t bad, but certainly didn’t prompt the same kind of nostalgic reflection that finding those GIFs of the original series did.

Posted By Jeb : January 4, 2013 12:33 pm

I watched one of his “marionation” shows when I was a kid in the late 60s, but cannot remember which one. I have a vague recollection of pilots having to sit backwards to fly one of the spaceships/planes. Am I remembering this incorrectly? Anyone know? Could be a distorted childhood memory :)

Posted By Jeb : January 4, 2013 12:33 pm

I watched one of his “marionation” shows when I was a kid in the late 60s, but cannot remember which one. I have a vague recollection of pilots having to sit backwards to fly one of the spaceships/planes. Am I remembering this incorrectly? Anyone know? Could be a distorted childhood memory :)

Posted By jim` : January 4, 2013 4:48 pm

Thanks for the eulogy. I enjoyed his shows too, esp. [b]Stingray[/b]. And don’t get me started on Bob Wilkins! He was such a dear. The silly theme to Creature Features still runs through my head sometimes. My mom used to call it stripper music, and she was right!

BTW, I thought the 2004 movie was fun, even though it took a horrible bashing on IMDB and elsewhere. Being an odd sort of Trekkie, if I ever met Jonathan Frakes the first thing I’d ask is about that movie.

Posted By jim` : January 4, 2013 4:48 pm

Thanks for the eulogy. I enjoyed his shows too, esp. [b]Stingray[/b]. And don’t get me started on Bob Wilkins! He was such a dear. The silly theme to Creature Features still runs through my head sometimes. My mom used to call it stripper music, and she was right!

BTW, I thought the 2004 movie was fun, even though it took a horrible bashing on IMDB and elsewhere. Being an odd sort of Trekkie, if I ever met Jonathan Frakes the first thing I’d ask is about that movie.

Posted By Richard B : January 4, 2013 8:07 pm

The highlight of the entire “Absolutely Fabulous” series was, of course, the cameo by Lady Penelope in Eddie’s dream sequence.

Film buffs might have noticed Charles Crichton taking directing work on “Space: 1999″ in between Ealing’s glory years and “A Fish Named Wanda.”

Posted By Richard B : January 4, 2013 8:07 pm

The highlight of the entire “Absolutely Fabulous” series was, of course, the cameo by Lady Penelope in Eddie’s dream sequence.

Film buffs might have noticed Charles Crichton taking directing work on “Space: 1999″ in between Ealing’s glory years and “A Fish Named Wanda.”

Posted By m_Erocrush : January 4, 2013 11:33 pm

My introduction to Gerry (and Sylvia) was UFO…which I still consider one of the best SciFi series ever. Every episode was tense, grown-up, intelligent AND had great special effects. My local station didn’t have it on for long, but it made a huge impression on me. I’ve read that Gerry didn’t like to rehash his old shows, but I hope he had some idea what an impact he’s had on a couple of generations of SciFi fans.

Posted By m_Erocrush : January 4, 2013 11:33 pm

My introduction to Gerry (and Sylvia) was UFO…which I still consider one of the best SciFi series ever. Every episode was tense, grown-up, intelligent AND had great special effects. My local station didn’t have it on for long, but it made a huge impression on me. I’ve read that Gerry didn’t like to rehash his old shows, but I hope he had some idea what an impact he’s had on a couple of generations of SciFi fans.

Posted By Lamar : January 5, 2013 9:35 am

No mention of “Fireball XL5″ with Colonel Steve Zodiac? That one ran on NBC from 1963 to 1965. I had the lunchbox. These shows are still entertaining.

Posted By Lamar : January 5, 2013 9:35 am

No mention of “Fireball XL5″ with Colonel Steve Zodiac? That one ran on NBC from 1963 to 1965. I had the lunchbox. These shows are still entertaining.

Posted By swac44 : January 5, 2013 6:00 pm

When I was very young, 4 years old or so, I remember coming across Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons on TV and being somewhat disturbed by the whole thing. The puppets were so lifelike I wasn’t really sure if they were real people or not (the fact that the show would often use closeups of real human hands only helped to confuse me even further). I wonder if others felt the same way, it might explain why later shows like Thunderbirds featured marionettes that were more cartoony looking. (Oops, I see that Captain Scarlet came after Thunderbirds, so I guess the opposite was true, he was trying for more realism as time went by, which might explain the switch to live action with UFO and Space 1999.)

Eventually I warmed up to the ways of Supermarionation, and enjoyed Thunderbirds and the handful of other Gerry & Sylvia shows I was able to watch (I vaguely recall watching a few episodes of Joe 90, probably on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which showed a lot of British programming when I was very young), although there was a long period of time where the shows didn’t seem to be airing anywhere, until a revival of sorts in the ’90s, including replicas of the original toys becoming available (I was jealous of a neighbour of mine who moved to Canada from England, and brought along his original Thunderbirds toys, which I had never seen before). I didn’t even realize for many years that the man behind Space 1999 was also responsible for those amazing sci-fi puppet shows I’d loved as a kid.

This has to be my favourite moment in the entirety of the Supermarionation oeuvre, “Cliff Richard Jr.” and the Shadows performing Shooting Star in Thunderbirds Are Go!:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5zVq0wTNfM

And of course this great parody, Superthunderstingcar, by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmvrFg-EhmI

Posted By swac44 : January 5, 2013 6:00 pm

When I was very young, 4 years old or so, I remember coming across Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons on TV and being somewhat disturbed by the whole thing. The puppets were so lifelike I wasn’t really sure if they were real people or not (the fact that the show would often use closeups of real human hands only helped to confuse me even further). I wonder if others felt the same way, it might explain why later shows like Thunderbirds featured marionettes that were more cartoony looking. (Oops, I see that Captain Scarlet came after Thunderbirds, so I guess the opposite was true, he was trying for more realism as time went by, which might explain the switch to live action with UFO and Space 1999.)

Eventually I warmed up to the ways of Supermarionation, and enjoyed Thunderbirds and the handful of other Gerry & Sylvia shows I was able to watch (I vaguely recall watching a few episodes of Joe 90, probably on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which showed a lot of British programming when I was very young), although there was a long period of time where the shows didn’t seem to be airing anywhere, until a revival of sorts in the ’90s, including replicas of the original toys becoming available (I was jealous of a neighbour of mine who moved to Canada from England, and brought along his original Thunderbirds toys, which I had never seen before). I didn’t even realize for many years that the man behind Space 1999 was also responsible for those amazing sci-fi puppet shows I’d loved as a kid.

This has to be my favourite moment in the entirety of the Supermarionation oeuvre, “Cliff Richard Jr.” and the Shadows performing Shooting Star in Thunderbirds Are Go!:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5zVq0wTNfM

And of course this great parody, Superthunderstingcar, by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmvrFg-EhmI

Posted By swac44 : January 5, 2013 6:06 pm

But wait, there’s more! Stingray makes an appearance on The Des O’Connor Show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pmJlHxfGSE

The Les Dennis Laughter Show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88AV8JQxrA4

Morecambe & Wise:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yyk74cn5Y-s

And Australia’s D-Generation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZC4frcXimz4

Posted By swac44 : January 5, 2013 6:06 pm

But wait, there’s more! Stingray makes an appearance on The Des O’Connor Show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pmJlHxfGSE

The Les Dennis Laughter Show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88AV8JQxrA4

Morecambe & Wise:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yyk74cn5Y-s

And Australia’s D-Generation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZC4frcXimz4

Posted By Doug : January 6, 2013 8:49 pm

So yesterday I’m perusing a used video store and I find “Thunderbird 6″ from 1968.
It was fun, but, as noted by swac44, the human hand closeups are a bit weird. Also-puppets shooting and killing each other is disconcerting-it would be like Yogi and Booboo ripping Ranger Smith to pieces.
swac44-thanks for adding the videos-Cook and Moore were especially entertaining; do you think that possibly Elton John modeled his 1970′s look on Brains?

Posted By Doug : January 6, 2013 8:49 pm

So yesterday I’m perusing a used video store and I find “Thunderbird 6″ from 1968.
It was fun, but, as noted by swac44, the human hand closeups are a bit weird. Also-puppets shooting and killing each other is disconcerting-it would be like Yogi and Booboo ripping Ranger Smith to pieces.
swac44-thanks for adding the videos-Cook and Moore were especially entertaining; do you think that possibly Elton John modeled his 1970′s look on Brains?

Posted By swac44 : January 7, 2013 8:44 am

I think there actually is a cartoon out there of Yogi & Boo-Boo tearing Ranger Smith to pieces, but I believe it’s from the mind of Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi and not vintage Hanna-Barbera. I like the Elton John/Brains connection, I’m sure he watched the early Anderson productions as a youngster. Looking up Supermarionation online, I see the process even predate’s 1961′s Supercar with handful of other shows, including a cowboy series called Four Feather Falls, which is apparently out on DVD in the UK.

Posted By swac44 : January 7, 2013 8:44 am

I think there actually is a cartoon out there of Yogi & Boo-Boo tearing Ranger Smith to pieces, but I believe it’s from the mind of Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi and not vintage Hanna-Barbera. I like the Elton John/Brains connection, I’m sure he watched the early Anderson productions as a youngster. Looking up Supermarionation online, I see the process even predate’s 1961′s Supercar with handful of other shows, including a cowboy series called Four Feather Falls, which is apparently out on DVD in the UK.

Posted By Fred : January 11, 2013 10:47 am

You didn’t mention it in your article, but Gerry Anderson was behind a wonderful sci-fi film from the late 60s, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (aka Doppelganger). It starred Roy Thinnes and Herbert Lom, and dealt with a parallel Earth in a very literate and thought provoking film with, of course, some wonderful special effects.

Posted By Fred : January 11, 2013 10:47 am

You didn’t mention it in your article, but Gerry Anderson was behind a wonderful sci-fi film from the late 60s, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (aka Doppelganger). It starred Roy Thinnes and Herbert Lom, and dealt with a parallel Earth in a very literate and thought provoking film with, of course, some wonderful special effects.

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *

MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D  Action Films  Actors  Actors' Endorsements  Actresses  animal stars  Animation  Anime  Anthology Films  Art Direction  Art in Movies  Australian CInema  Autobiography  Avant-Garde  Aviation  Awards  B-movies  Beer in Film  Behind the Scenes  Best of the Year lists  Biography  Biopics  Black Film  Blu-Ray  Books on Film  Boxing films  British Cinema  Canadian Cinema  Character Actors  Chicago Film History  Cinematography  Classic Films  College Life on Film  Comedy  Comic Book Movies  Crime  Czech Film  Dance on Film  Digital Cinema  Directors  Disaster Films  Documentary  Drama  DVD  Early Talkies  Editing  Educational Films  European Influence on American Cinema  Experimental  Exploitation  Fairy Tales on Film  Faith or Christian-based Films  Family Films  Film Composers  Film Criticism  film festivals  Film History in Florida  Film Noir  Film Scholars  Film titles  Filmmaking Techniques  Films About Gambling  Films of the 1960s  Films of the 1980s  Food in Film  Foreign Film  French Film  Gangster films  Genre  Genre spoofs  HD & Blu-Ray  Holiday Movies  Hollywood history  Hollywood lifestyles  Horror  Horror Movies  Icons  independent film  Italian Film  Japanese Film  Korean Film  Literary Adaptations  Martial Arts  Melodramas  Method Acting  Mexican Cinema  Moguls  Monster Movies  Movie Books  Movie Costumes  movie flops  Movie locations  Movie lovers  Movie Reviewers  Movie settings  Movie Stars  Movie titles  Movies about movies  Music in Film  Musicals  Outdoor Cinema  Paranoid Thrillers  Parenting on film  Pirate movies  Polish film industry  political thrillers  Politics in Film  Pornography  Pre-Code  Producers  Race in American Film  Remakes  Revenge  Road Movies  Romance  Romantic Comedies  Satire  Scandals  Science Fiction  Screenwriters  Semi-documentaries  Serials  Short Films  Silent Film  silent films  Social Problem Film  Sports  Sports on Film  Stereotypes  Straight-to-DVD  Studio Politics  Stunts and stuntmen  Suspense thriller  Swashbucklers  TCM Classic Film Festival  TCM Underground  Television  The British in Hollywood  The Germans in Hollywood  The Hungarians in Hollywood  The Irish in Hollywood  Theaters  Thriller  Trains in movies  Underground Cinema  VOD  War film  Westerns  Women in the Film Industry  Women's Weepies