Wednesday, December 26, 2012

RIP Gerry Anderson


He wasn’t just an ordinary animator – he was a pioneering television puppeteer who influenced everyone who grew up watching his unique TV productions. Gerry Anderson passed away yesterday at the age of 83.


One of the great things about Canadian TV was that we were able to see all the great puppet-based adventure series that Anderson created because of all the British TV we were lucky enough to get on our stations. I specifically remember getting up early Saturday morning to watch Captain Scarlet (my favorite of all his stuff) and no Sunday was complete without a dose of Space 1999 or his other live action TV show - UFO.


Anderson was the creator of numerous hit sci-fi marionette-puppet shows including Supercar, Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, not to mention the entirely live action series Space 1999 with Martin Landau.
Anderson began his career as a photographer, but apparently lucked into British children’s TV production which was emerging in 1956. His first puppet show was The Adventures of Twizzle in 1957. Twizzle was a little boy doll, who could stretch to great lengths to save the day.

Beginning with Supercar in 1961, Anderson’s “Supermarionation” sci-fi shows continued
pratically into the 1980s without stop. Personally, I loved these shows as a kid. The opening titles and their jazzy soundtracks were cool. Usually they were syndicated to local channels in the US, but Fireball XL5 was telecast on NBC Saturday Mornings in 1963-65 – the only Anderson show to do so. I loved that show.

Anderson’s puppets were the inspiration for Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police (2004). Below is an excellent British documentary (from 2000) about Anderson’s career with some great clips from his various series:

Every kid I knew wanted to have the Thunderbird toys and vehicles. They were made out of metal and you could fit the smaller machines into the larger ones for play in the sand, air, or water. They were never easy to find but one you did get one you hung onto it like grim death.

In the 70s several episodes of the TV show were edited into movies that played well at our local Saturday Matinee. For some reason seeing the strings on the puppets never mattered when there was such cool toys to oogle over, especially when they were in action. Seeing those tiny sets made me want to be in that line of work when I got older because I was such a fan of model building.

One of the highlights of any Anderson production (aside from the characters, vehicles, and sets was the music. I still remember the powerful theme song from Space 1999 and can recite the Captain Scarlet theme from memory. No part of the production was even just 'phoned in'. Anderson was a true artists in the part of television that he chose to excel in.
Which one was your favorite?

I am so glad we live in an age when I can just go to You Tube whenever I need to be reminded of how terrific these shows were and I still enjoy them as much as I ever did. They were created with love and attention to detail and that was all Gerry Anderson and his vision. We will never see his like come this way again but he left a legacy of adventure that will never die. These British released stamps show the kind of mark that his programs had a home. For a certain generation of children this stuff was GOLDEN.
In 2005, Captain Scarlet returned in CGI form. I enjoyed the show but for some reason it never caught on with the public but it's worth your time if you ever come across it.

Follow the link below to find out more about the man and his creations.


david_b said...

Thank you, sir for quite the memorial for Mr. Anderson. I pray he sleeps well and peacefully, knowing how well he entertained generations of fans young and old.

Love UFO, but 'Space:1999' will always feel like 'my show'. I heard it coming, was glued to my seat when it premiered, followed it faithfully, sadly watched it's demise. I've been lucky enough to meet a few of the cast (including Barry Morse). Will always remain my all-time favorite show.

Will always dream of living on Moonbase Alpha.

DrGoat said...

Space 1999 was a great show. We used to all watch Fireball XL5 back in the old days. A great requiem for a talented guy.

Kal said...

He did shows with action figures moving around and having adventures - how could I hate anything like that?

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I loved Thunderbirds when I was a kid!