LONDON: Gerry Anderson, the British director and creator of the cult sci-fi animation series “Thunderbirds”, died on Wednesday aged 83, his son announced.
Anderson had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease since 2010 and his health had deteriorated in the past six months, causing him to be moved into a care home in October, Jamie Anderson said. The animator created “Joe 90”, “Stingray” and “Captain Scarlet”, but he was best known for “Thunderbirds”, which used a form of marionette puppetry dubbed “Supermarionation”. The series, first shown in Britain in 1965, followed the adventures of a highly secretive organisation whose mission was to help those in peril using spacecraft and a range of high-tech vehicles operating from a Pacific Island. The characters' catchphrases, such as “Thunderbirds are go!” and “FAB”, were incorporated into the vocabularies of a generation of young fans.
“I'm very sad to announce the death of my father, 'Thunderbirds' creator, Gerry Anderson,” his son announced on his personal website. “He died peacefully in his sleep at midday today having suffered with mixed dementia for the past few years.”Earlier this year, Anderson himself described how he became aware of his illness. “I don't think I realised at all. 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,” he told the BBC. At a charity event for the Alzheimer's Society in July, Anderson said that although he tried to stay positive “and enjoy every day”, dementia was a debilitating illness that affected not just him but also his family.
He said that not being able to drive was “the bitterest blow”, adding: “That virtually took away my freedom. “It meant that I couldn't go to Pinewood Studios where I worked, and this depressed me enormously because my film work was my life. Suddenly my life was cut off.”Anderson began his career studying fibrous plastering, the technique used to make mouldings, but he suffered from dermatitis and had to switch to work as a photographer. He also briefly earned a living as an air traffic controller before setting up a film company with friends.
His first commission was a children's puppet series called “The Adventures of Twizzle”, which allowed him to perfect the technique of Supermarionation. It first involved recording the soundtrack for the voices. Then when the puppets were being filmed, the electric signal from the taped dialogue was transmitted to sensors in the puppets' heads. That meant that the marionettes' lips were synchronised with the soundtrack, which after being perfected in “Fireball XL5” and “Stingray” was ready for the launch of “Thunderbirds”. Anderson came up with the idea for “Thunderbirds” in 1963 while listening to a radio report about a revolutionary machine being transported across Germany to rescue miners trapped deep in a mine. He developed the concept with his second wife, TV and film producer Sylvia Anderson, to whom he was married from 1960 to 1981. First shown on Britain's ITV network, the series was set 100 years in the future, but despite its glamorous concept, it was filmed in the drab surroundings of a trading estate in Slough to the west of London. The plot revolved around International Rescue, manned by the Tracy family, often assisted by the glamorous Lady Penelope - voiced by Sylvia Anderson - and her butler, Parker. Anderson remained involved in the film industry until relatively recently, working on a CGI-animated television version of “Captain Scarlet”, and as consultant on a Hollywood remake of his 1969 series “UFO”. Anderson leaves behind his widow Mary and their son Jamie, and three children from his previous marriages, Joy, Linda and Gerry Junior.