Thunderbirds Creator Gerry Anderson Dead at 83

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Gerry Anderson

Gerry Ander­son

Gerry Ander­son, the cre­ator of such British marionette-animated hit shows as Thun­der­birds, Stingray and Joe 90, died peace­fully in his sleep at noon Wednes­day, son Jamie announced on his own Web site. He was 83.

Ander­son had Alzheimer’s since 2010. Hav­ing already decided with his fam­ily on a care home for him­self near Oxford­shire, Eng­land ear­lier this year, he moved in there in October.

Gerry was diag­nosed with mixed demen­tia two years ago, and his con­di­tion wors­ened quite dra­mat­i­cally over the past six months,” Jamie Ander­son wrote.

Gerry Anderson’s most famous series — science-fiction series Thun­der­birds, about a space res­cue squad — ran from 1965 to 1966. It had two movie spin-offs, Thun­der­birds are Go (1966) and Thun­der­bird Six (1967).

His other ani­mated series included Cap­tain Scar­let and the Mys­terons (1967–68) and Ter­ra­hawks (1983–84). There were also unre­leased projects, such as the series The Inves­ti­ga­tor (1972) and Space Police Star Laws (1986).

As well, the res­i­dent of Henley-on-Thames, Oxford­shire cre­ated UFO, Space: 1999, Super­car and Fire­ball XL5.

I think a light has gone out in the uni­verse,” said actor Brian Blessed, who worked with Ander­son on such shows as The Day After Tomor­row and Space 1999, told BBC News:

He had a great sense of humor,” he told British Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion News. “He wasn’t child­ish but child­like, 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.”

Come­dian Eddie Izzard wrote on Twit­ter: “What great cre­ation Thun­der­birds was, as it fuelled the imag­i­na­tion of a gen­er­a­tion.” Added TV host Jonathan Ross wrote: “For men of my age, his work made child­hood an incred­i­ble place to be.”

Ander­son was born Ger­ald Alexan­der Abra­hams in London’s Blooms­bury dis­trict on April 14, 1929. He started study­ing fibrous plas­ter­ing, but it gave him der­mati­tis and he had to stop.

For a while, he did pho­to­graphic por­traits. Ander­son also worked at Gains­bor­ough Films and as an air traf­fic controller.

With friends, he founded AP Films. But with few com­mis­sions, he jumped at the chance of mak­ing the pup­pet series The Adven­tures of Twiz­zle in 1956.

Then came his career high point, Thun­der­birds, which aired on Britain’s ITV.

Filmed on Slough Trad­ing Estate in Berk­shire, the series told of emer­gency ser­vice Inter­na­tional Res­cue, oper­ated by the Tracy fam­ily. It was often aided by Lady Pene­lope (voiced by Gerry Anderson’s wife Sylvia) and Parker, her but­ler. The Ander­sons had used Fire­ball XL5 and Stingray to per­fect their “super­mar­i­on­a­tion” technique.

Thun­der­birds are go!” was the show’s catchphrase.

In June this year, Ander­son talked about get­ting dementia.

I don’t think I real­ized at all,” he said on BBC Berk­shire. “It was my wife Mary who began to notice that I would do some­thing quite daft like putting the ket­tle in the sink and wait­ing for it to boil.”

Until very recently, Ander­son remained inter­ested and involved in the film indus­try, keen to revisit some of his ear­lier suc­cesses using the lat­est tech­nol­ogy avail­able. His last pro­ducer credit came in 2005 on New Cap­tain Scar­let, a CGI-animated reimag­in­ing of his 1967 Super­mar­i­on­a­tion series, which pre­miered on ITV. Most recently, he worked as a con­sul­tant on a Hol­ly­wood remake of his 1969 series UFO, directed by Matthew Gratzner.

He was “a quiet, unas­sum­ing but deter­mined man,” said Nick Williams, chair­man of Fan­der­son, the offi­cial Gerry Ander­son fan club.

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,” he said. “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.”

He also worked as a celebrity ambas­sador for The Alzheimer’s Soci­ety, help­ing to raise aware­ness of the dis­ease and much-needed funds for the society.

Harry Oakes, the cin­e­matog­ra­pher for Thun­der­birds and sev­eral other Ander­son series, died Decem­ber 11 this year.

Gerry Ander­son was mar­ried to Betty Wright­man from 1952 until their divorce in 1960. That year, he mar­ried Sylvia Thamm; they divorced in 1980. In 1981, he mar­ried Mary Robins.

Besides his wife and son Jamie, he is sur­vived by three chil­dren from for­mer mar­riages, Joy, Linda and Gerry Junior.

Fan­der­son will pay a full trib­ute to Gerry Ander­son in FAB 74, due next March.

Dona­tions in his mem­ory to the Alzheimer’s Soci­ety were requested via www.justgiving.com/RememberingGerryAnderson.

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