R.I.P. Gerry Anderson, retro-futurist of our childhood

For many of my generation (and older), Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation programs are a touchstone for their youth. Remembered for his Thunderbirds, Stingray and the like, Gerry Anderson is an outstanding filmmaker who used the most amazing techniques to produce children’s programs that made an explosive impact on the viewing public and even hold up today.

Of course I am also a big fan of his live action series UFO and Space: 1999 where Anderson proved that he could take the same level of professionalism to the small screen with liver actors.

Gerry Anderson will always be an ambassador to my childhood and one who I will never forget. Raise a glass for the master, chaps.

Gerry Anderson With Troy Tempest From '' Stingray'' in 1966
(via Guardian.uk)
Gerry Anderson, best known as the creator of Thunderbirds, has died at the age of 83. The film and television producer, whose credits also included the puppet shows Captain Scarlet and Joe 90 had suffered for several years with mixed dementia and died in his sleep, his son announced on Wednesday.

The news was announced on his son Jamie Anderson’s website. He wrote: “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 2013), having suffered with mixed dementia for the past few years. He was 83.”

He requested that any fans wishing to make donations in honour of his father should contribute to the Alzheimer’s Society.

His website also included a tribute written by his fan club, known as Fanderson. Nick Williams, chairman of the club, said: “To those who met him Gerry was a quiet, unassuming but determined man. His desire to make the best films he could drove him and his talented teams to innovate, take risks, and do everything necessary to produce quite inspirational works. Gerry’s legacy is that he inspired so many people and continues to bring so much joy to so many millions of people around the world.”

Gerald Alexander Anderson – famous for the use of “Supermarionation”, or the use of modified puppets – was born in 1929 in Hampstead, north London, and began his career as a film trainee at the Ministry of Information before starting work at Gainsborough Pictures. He later set up AP Films with some friends.

With commissions thin on the ground Anderson and his team were eager to produce their first puppet show The Adventures Of Twizzle. Others including Torchy The Battery Boy, and Supercar followed. Success continued with Fireball XL5 and Stingray. But it was Thunderbirds, filmed on the Slough Trading Estate in Berkshire and first broadcast in 1965 that made his name. With the catchphrase “Thunderbirds are go!”, the programme revolved around International Rescue, a secret emergency service run by the Tracy family aided by London agent Lady Penelope and her butler, Parker.

In 1966, Thunderbirds was made into a major feature film for United Artists, Thunderbirds Are Go, which was followed by a sequel, Thunderbird 6.

Anderson moved towards live action productions in the 1970s, producing Space: 1999. In the 1980s, a burst of nostalgia for his Supermarionation series led to the commission of new productions, including a remake of Captain Scarlet. New Captain Scarlet, a CGI-animated reimagining of the 1967 series, premiered on ITV in the UK in 2005. He also worked as a consultant on a Hollywood remake of his 1969 series UFO, directed by Matthew Gratzner.

Anderson was a one-of-a kind film and television producer, who had far-reaching influence, according to his fan club dedication. “Anderson’s unique style of filmmaking influenced the imaginations and careers of countless creatives that succeeded him, and his productions continue to be shown around the world to new generations of fans,” it read.

Television presenter Jonathan Ross praised his work, tweeting: “Sad news. Gerry Anderson RIP. For men of my age his work made childhood an incredible place to be.”

The producer was diagnosed with mixed dementia two years ago and his condition had deteriorated over the past six months and he had moved into a care home in October. He also worked as an ambassador for The Alzheimer’s Society, to raise awareness and money for the treatment of the disease. Gerry Anderson leaves three children from former marriages, Joy, Linda and Gerry Junior, his son Jamie and widow Mary.

There is a great site Just Giving that has set up a special page where fans of Gerry Anderson can make donations in his honor.

One thought on “R.I.P. Gerry Anderson, retro-futurist of our childhood

  1. I was going to mention this to you, poor old Gerry. Suffering from damned dementia too. Sad.
    I well remember watching Stingray (“Stand By For Action!”, Jim Garner lookalike Troy Tempest, “Phones”, Atalanta, Triton, Aquaphibians), Thunderbirds (“Yes, Milady”, those ships, Brains, the Hood etc.), Fireball XL5, and Space 1999 as a child and really enjoying them. My favourites, though, were and are Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (that opening sequence!, the concept!, the theme song : “they smash him/and his body may burn/but they know he’ll return – To Live Again!/ In-dest-ructible CAPTAIN SCARLET!”. Great) and weirdo UFO (ambiguous “heroes”, silver spinning UFOs, organ-snatching aliens, purple wigs! Surprisingly adult and creepy stories). I even liked Terrahawks (“wunn-DER-FULLL!”, “Expect the Unexpected”). It’s a pity that he became so bitter in later years and dismissive of his ex-wife Sylvia, but his entertaining work deserves to live on.
    Also, RIP Jack Klugman, tho’ best known for the very funny Odd Couple (with Tony Randall) and enjoyable Quincy M.E., his guest-starring roles on The Twilight Zone should be remembered as well. Finally, Rest in Peace Charles Durning a memorable actor whose turns in The Muppet Movie, Brian De Palma’s The Fury, and The Hudsucker Proxy are of especial interest to fans of the offbeat.


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