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 Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Thu 27 Dec 2012, 13:18

Five! ...
Four! ...
Three! ...
Two! ...
One! ...
Thunderbirds Are ...

... gone.



In 1957 a struggling young film producer with ambitions to emulate Cecil B de Mille was however only too grateful to settle for an offer from the Rediffusion TV Channel to make a proposed 52 episode British children's series "The Adventures of Twizzle", only to be further dismayed when he learnt that it was to be done not with actors but with puppets. To his own surprise however his hastily assembled production team managed to create an early TV success, which led to them embarking on a more ambitious product - "Torchy the Battery Boy" (best moment in the first episode; when kindly old Mr Bumbledrop sat Torchy on his knee and said "I've always wanted my own toy-boy"). Torchy and the puppet western "Four Feather Falls" however led to Gerry Anderson being recruited by Lew Grade to embark on an even more ambitious project still, the futuristic "Supercar", the programme that was to introduce Anderson's output to American audiences and set the tone for all that was to follow.

And just what followed! "Fireball XL5" led on to "Stingray" which in turn led to what must be considered Anderson's lasting legacy - at least to anyone fortunate enough to have been a child at the time whose head was turning in the direction of the universe and what was still referred to as the "conquest" of space - "Thunderbirds". What boy (or indeed girl) did not dream of being one of the Tracy siblings, or that their father might be as rich as Jeff Tracy and buy his own island from which each of his offspring could take off in their allotted Thunderbird to save the world at least once a week. Personally I was Thunderbird 3, the one that got to go into space. My brother - the steadfast one - was Thunderbird 2, the haulage vehicle, while my sister was Thunderbird 1, first on the scene at every calamity and whose cool commander Scott Tracy oversaw each International Rescue mission on location (in her more feminine moments she reverted to Lady Penelope mode).

Later productions such as "Captain Scarlet" and "Joe 90", though successful, failed to capture quite the excitement and (literally) explosive impact of the Tracy family, though Anderson's first venture into "real actor" dramas such as "UFO" and "Space 1999" set benchmarks for special effects which George Lucas and others were forced to follow in later big budget movies, often employing personnel from Anderson's burgeoning troop of SFX graduates from his "Supermarionation" studios (in the Slough Trading Estate).

It is hard at this remove in time to explain why a mixture of wooden dolls and controlled explosives should have so effectively seized upon the imaginations of so many young minds or why this memory has become so indelible to those smitten. Perhaps it was the subtle and self-deprecatory humour which Anderson injected into each episode, perhaps it was the sheer innovation (mobile phones, space shuttles, tele-conferencing and indeed Armstrong's first step on the moon were all pre-empted by Anderson's stringed marionettes), or perhaps it was just that elusive but tangible quality of being "of its time" that has led to the undeniable impact of Gerry Anderson's output, one which far exceeds any trite analysis of its nature or cause.

Farewell so to Mike Mercury, Steve Zodiac, Troy Tempest, and all the Tracys. And most of all farewell to Gerry Anderson - your impassioned plea at the start of every Stingray episode that we "Stand By For Action!" was never met with disappointment. The ten year old in me assumed that stance, as requested, faithfully for years. It is with heavy heart that he at last must stand down.




Gerry Anderson died December 26th 2012


Last edited by nordmann on Thu 27 Dec 2012, 13:49; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Thu 27 Dec 2012, 13:24

it's so sad as one's youth drifts off into the void. Being all girly back then, this what I remember most vividly.



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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Thu 27 Dec 2012, 16:40

I really must have missed something with the Thunderbirds, those odd little puppet things used to give me the creeps as a child. Always avoided watching that show, they were scary! affraid
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Thu 27 Dec 2012, 17:12

I'm a bit the same. I'm of the right age for Thunderbirds, and I'm a boy to boot, but they just rather passed me by. Some of my school friends were big fans of Thunderbirds and of Captain Scarlet as well ... they had the Dinky Toy/Matchbox metal models and all ... but it all sort of washed over me.

Maybe it's because my sister and I were not allowed to watch TV when we got home from school. But I don't really think so. Frankly I think that is irrelevant ... as I recall all I usually wanted to do was play in the street/gardens/fields with all the other neighbourhood kids. And then after going to senior school, aged eleven/twelve, there was usually three hours of homework to do before 10 o'clock bedtime so no time for TV.

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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Thu 27 Dec 2012, 17:32

I missed a lot of the output by being at boarding school, but the theme tunes still take me back to those days - almost as much as the original version of the Dr Who music does (and, from a later era, the title music from HHGG)
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Thu 27 Dec 2012, 18:57

Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
... from a later era, the title music from HHGG

How many realised at the time that they were listening to an Eagles number, I wonder ...

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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Thu 27 Dec 2012, 19:34

Yes, Auntie used to give the title / artists of title music but stopped quite a while ago.
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Fri 28 Dec 2012, 09:30

Lady Penelope was a real pain in the backside. Furs 'n' fags aside, giving us young girls the idea that you had to be an elegant, chic, posh supermodel whilst also being a tough, intelligent and resourceful Supreme Commander of the Federal Agents' Bureau was all a bit much. But then, if you wanted a job with International Rescue you did have to make a bit of an effort.

Many of us discovered quite early on that a squirt of Soupcon de Peril and beautifully cut Penelon jeans weren't quite enough; and even a Regency teapot didn't help much.

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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Fri 28 Dec 2012, 11:38

Penelope was complex (or else had one, I could never figure that one out). For all her rich and powerful suitors the only constant man in her life was an alcoholic ex-con from the East End without whom she couldn't function at all. But then none of them were exactly role models - even the Tracys had one sibling, John, who was consigned to live in isolation in an orbiting listening station - Thunderbird 5 - and never have direct human contact with anyone except his brother Alan who brought him his monthly supplies. Even as a kid that lad gave me the shivers. He seemed to actually enjoy spending his prime years absolutely alone in a vacuum-surrounded prison from which there was no voluntary escape, spending every waking minute listening to other peoples' conversations and never having one of his own except when he rang his father once a week to say that his estranged brothers should go out and fix something.

And then there was the Asian girl who hung around Tracy Island all the time, doing little of any importance besides lounging around in most episodes, and who everyone referred to as Tin-Tin (Japanese for "phallus-phallus"). On Japanese TV they changed her name to Min-Min.

Did you know all five of the Tracy sons were called after the original Mercury Space Programme astronauts?
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Mon 31 Dec 2012, 20:20

I can just recall Fireball XL5 but would never miss Thunderbirds.

I must have been a weird kid as my favourite was always Parker - I thought the rest were a bit sanctimonious.
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Mon 23 Jun 2014, 15:39

Killing time between world cup games, I started viewing UFO, GA's live action/model tv series, the dvd's have been sitting unwatched for ages.

The thing is this series is quite adult in nature. Barely 20 seconds into the first episode and a young woman gets machine gunned. The second episode deals with an inter-racial relationship.

It seems a bit advanced for children's TV, yet the model machines and landscapes don't sit well as an adult programme. ( still, I find it quite entertaining)


When faced with alien intruders, put on a purple wig;

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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Tue 24 Jun 2014, 12:16

When it came out first it was considered so unsuitable for young audiences that it was shown at 11pm on ITV channels.

Unlike most space invasion plot-lines at the time Gerry Anderson's UFO aliens didn't want to take over the world, I remember. They just wanted to harvest our organs. Now THAT was genius!
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Wed 09 Jul 2014, 14:27

nordmann wrote:
 though Anderson's first venture into "real actor" dramas such as "UFO" and "Space 1999" set benchmarks for special effects which George Lucas and others were forced to follow in later big budget movies, often employing personnel from Anderson's burgeoning troop of SFX graduates from his "Supermarionation" studios (in the Slough Trading Estate).


 
almost finished watching the UFO series* and reading the credits noticed that one of the artists Anderson employed was Mike Trim. Checked it out and sure enough it was the same man who did the artwork for Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds;



* have prepared for the inevitable by getting series 1 of the original Star Trek (digitally remastered)
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Wed 09 Jul 2014, 14:37

One unhailed genius behind Anderson's success was a guy called Derek Meddings. Meddings designed and built almost every single model used in Supermarionation/21st Century Fox productions from Stingray right up to Space 1999. He then branched into films, especially the James Bond movies starring Roger Moore.

His best known design from Bond was this one (that starts as a "normal" Lotus Esprit) ...

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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Sat 19 Jul 2014, 10:53

I wasn't a "Thunderbirds" fan for the most shallow of reasons - if my little brother liked it I was duty bound to hate it.  In retrospect, seeing that Gerry Anderson did so much with really very small resources I can admire how very capable he and his team were.  I didn't know that Tin-Tin had a saucy meaning in Japanese.  I did wonder if the character was thus named as a homage to Herge's boy reporter who was similarly named.  Regarding Lady Penelope, I guess when "Thunderbirds" came out there was still a fashion for models and actresses to be blonde haired (there were exceptions e.g. Sarah Miles).  It was probably a hangover from the 1950s where natural brunettes such as Marilyn Monroe and Diana Dors "went blonde".  In the old film of "A Kid for Two Farthings" a character said something like ever since Marilyn Monroe blonde had broken out like a rash - can't remember the exact quote.  I'm not anti-blonde (except where they cast blondes to play characters in adaptations where I have really liked the dark-haired characters in the original book), though I was dark-haired before the grey encroached.
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Tue 22 Jul 2014, 16:17

For flying aircraft carriers, nothing can quite match Spectrum's Cloudbase;

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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Wed 23 Jul 2014, 08:38

Now those Spectrum dolls were HOT!

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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Sat 26 Jul 2014, 15:29

Stamp collectors might be interested in (or already know about) a 2011 collection issued by the Royal Mail commemorating the Supermarionation puppets of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.



The Royal Mail Supermarionette Collection
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Mon 28 Jul 2014, 10:05

Don't know whether to post this here or in the James Garner RIP thread but this was something I genuinely had never copped at all until I read it yesterday in an interview with Gerry Anderson - namely that many of the puppets were modelled on genuine TV and movie stars of the period.


James Garner (aka Troy Tempest)


Sean Connery (aka Scott Tracy)


Lorne Greene (aka Jeff Tracy)
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Tue 08 Sep 2015, 12:16

Trike, if you're still in the land of the living you might like this. I actually have the old edition.

Haynes Manuals: Thunderbirds 50th anniversary edition











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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Tue 08 Sep 2015, 16:08

The middle spectrum doll looks a bit like Fenella Fielding in her "Carry On" days.  No insult, she was very glamorous in her time was Ms Fielding (well she's still in the land of the living to the best of my knowledge).
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Wed 09 Sep 2015, 14:08

nordmann wrote:
Trike, if you're still in the land of the living you might like this. I actually have the old edition.

Haynes Manuals: Thunderbirds 50th anniversary edition




I used to watch the programmes, but never bought any of the merchandising.

The revamped series started earlier this year. The pilot was shown on a Saturday Evening, it was actually quite good, then it was moved to the Children's programming in the morning, so I've never seen it since;

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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Wed 09 Sep 2015, 17:27

I know this won't be as interesting to the boys as their toys and the illustrations of the Thunderbird machines but thinking about Nordmann's mention that the original puppets were based on film stars of the time I wonder if Lady Penelope was based in part on Lady Antonia Fraser - who was at one time married to the (then) MP for my hometown.  She (Lady A not Lady P) used to pop up on TV quite often in the sixties.  I know she was hardly from a poor background but I think she had some brain - when I did A level History at evening classes a couple of her non-fiction books were suggested as background reading.
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Thu 10 Sep 2015, 20:19

Triceratops wrote:
nordmann wrote:
Trike, if you're still in the land of the living you might like this. I actually have the old edition.

Haynes Manuals: Thunderbirds 50th anniversary edition




I used to watch the programmes, but never bought any of the merchandising.

The revamped series started earlier this year. The pilot was shown on a Saturday Evening, it was actually quite good, then it was moved to the Children's programming in the morning, so I've never seen it since;



Triceratops, happy to see you once back overhere. Saw you yesterday on Historum too.

Your Belgian friend Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Fri 11 Sep 2015, 15:24

^^^^^^

Paul,

Yes, over on Historum the threads on the migrant crisis have got somewhat heated, fascinating but heated.
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Wed 30 Sep 2015, 15:50

50 years ago today the first Thunderbirds episode, "Trapped in the Sky" aired;

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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Wed 16 Mar 2016, 10:05

Sylvia Anderson has died aged 88;

Sylvia Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Gerry Anderson - The FAB But Reluctant Genius   Wed 16 Mar 2016, 10:10

I heard that on the news this morning, right enough. And the first face that popped into my mind was of course:

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