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19th July 2004
Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson
Gerry's not happy about the movie but has his eye on the future

The new Thunderbirds movie has just come out, but the Thunderbirds creator had nothing to do with it.

We spoke to Gerry Anderson about Thunderbirds and his plans for the future.


Supermarionation in Berkshire


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It's 9am, and Gerry Anderson is getting itchy. "Normally I'm at work by now" he explains. Not bad for a sprightly 75-year-old. He is excited about his new project, a remake of Captain Scarlet. He says he has a lot of interest from major corporations in the UK and America, as well as all the toy companies.

He's not discouraged by last night's premiere of the Thunderbirds movie (which he didn't attend) despite the fact that it has strayed a long way from his original vision. It has been branded with "dreary dialogue, a tedious story, and acting often as wooden as the original's puppets" (BBC Films).

What inspired the original Thunderbirds story?
There was a terrible mining accident in Germany. Miners were trapped hundreds of feet below ground. They were up their waist in freezing water in the pitch black. The story went for about two weeks and they eventually got them out, but the thing that interested me was that they needed a drill one metre in diameter to get them out. They said that the drill would take eight ours to arrive by rail. That triggered the idea that you could have rescue equipment all in one place, ready to be rushed out round the world.

Did you ever think at the time that Thunderbirds would have such a lasting appeal?
When the last show went out, I remember thinking, "oh well, that's it. All that work and it's now finished". Repeats hadn't been invented then, you see. Now, triggered by the release of the film, the DVDs are selling more than ever before.

How do you feel about the new movie?
Terrible. I feel badly about it because the show is being made by Working Title, and they invited me to dinner. As I sat down, Tim Bevan looked at his watch and said "lovely to meet you Gerry, but I've got an appointment". He rushed off and left me with his producer and then-director, Peter Hewitt. We talked about the possibility of me being a consultant - I wouldn't have minded that. But now that I've seen the end product I'm very glad that I didn't. Three days later I got a letter saying that they'd got enough creative people on board and they didn't need my services. If anybody tried to insult me, they really succeeded.

I've had nothing to do with the show, except a couple of months ago, they suddenly realised that my name is synonymous with Thunderbirds. They offered me (wait for it!) $750,000 to sign my name and say how good the picture was. I hadn't seen it at that point so they said they'd email me a picture of Lady Penelope's Ford. It came and IU thought it was an absolute monstrosity. I thought that was an indication of what the film was going to be like, and I turned it down.

In ordinary circumstances this would really have got me down, but I'm involved in a remake of Captain Scarlet. It's costing 20 million. It's being made in CGI (computer-generated imagery). We've got the entire top floor of a studio at Pinewood and we've built a studio within a studio. We've got 150 animators working on it. The first two pictures are complete, and they've had a sensational reaction around the world. It's the finest series I've ever made and it's the best kids' show ever made!

Why do you think they've gone for a Ford for the new film?
I was told that the budget for the size of the film was fairly small and they needed all the support they could get. So companies like Ford come in to help. Ford own Jaguar and other companies so they could have made a really nice car, but I look at it like this: if you buy a Manet it doesn't mean you can paint as well as the original painter. I think that's what's happened with the Thunderbirds film.

Do you think it's the fantasy aspect that keeps the show popular?
My wife Mary came up with the best answer on this one. She said if you take all the shows all round the world, you wouldn't see a show like it. It was unique.

Why did you end up on Slough Trading Estate, of all places?
The dialogue was prerecorded, so we didn't need soundproofed studios, or the enormous height you need in a live action studio. So we took all these factories and turned them into super puppet studios.

Now you're using computers, though. Does that take some of the fun out of it?
Not at all. Sometimes it's hard to tell if the new Captain Scarlet characters we're using are computer-generated or live artists! The puppets were murder, though, I can tell you!

Before he leaves, Gerry is keen to make sure we mention one fact in particular. "One thing I do want to mention - you know one of the biggest fans of the show is Peter Jackson, who did Lord of the Rings. Whenever he's in this country he goes into all the memorabilia shops and buys whatever he finds! I met with him - a very nice person."


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