Farewell to puppet master who defined childhood for a generation: Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson dies

Tributes paid to Anderson, who said Thunderbirds and co were a ‘pain in the arse’

He was Britain’s master of puppets, the creator of much-loved television shows including Thunderbirds and Stingray, whose groundbreaking use of marionettes was a source of wonder to generations of children.

Gerry Anderson, whose science fiction programmes won him legions of fans all over the world, died today aged 83. His son, Jamie, said he passed away at a care home at midday. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s since 2010 and the disease had worsened in recent months.

A producer, director and writer, Anderson worked in television for more than 60 years and as recently as six months ago had hoped to work on a new series of Thunderbirds, the show which brought him global fame.

“I think a light has gone out in the universe,” actor Brian Blessed, who worked with Anderson on shows including The Day After Tomorrow and Space: 1999, told the BBC. “He had a great sense of humour. He wasn’t childish but child-like 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 galvanised and full of energy.”

Broadcaster Jonathan Ross also paid tribute, writing: “For men of my age his work made childhood an incredible place to be.” While comedian Eddie Izzard added: “What a great creation Thunderbirds was, as it fuelled the imagination of a generation.”

Anderson became a household name in Britain after the success of Thunderbirds, which brought the puppets of Jeff Tracy, Brains and Lady Penelope into the nation’s living rooms and popularised the catchphrases “Thunderbirds are go!” and “FAB”.

Anderson, who was born in Hampstead in North London, was initially going to become an architect until he discovered he was allergic to plaster. Instead, he began work in a photographic studio and was soon attracted to films, setting up AP Films with colleagues from Polytechnic Studios and producing puppet series The Adventures of Twizzle.

In the early 1960s, backed by Lew Grade at British broadcasters ATV, Anderson created shows including Fireball XL5, Stingray and then Thunderbirds. The latter was so successful it was made into a film, Thunderbirds Are Go, in 1966, with a sequel the following year. This was followed by Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, and Space: 1999.

Every time Thunderbirds was repeated, Anderson would receive sacks of mail, his son Jamie said, and he would often be recognised in the street. “The stories were charming, and the formula just worked. The rockets and the gadgets were always fun for kids as well.”

However, Jamie also recalled that his father “hated the puppets” as they were a “pain in the arse”, and sometimes felt he had been pigeon-holed into being a marionette director, when he felt he could also work in live action.

Thunderbirds was turned into a live action movie in 2004, which had no involvement from Anderson. “He was very upset by that movie,” his son said. He leaves three children from former marriages Joy, Linda and Gerry Junior, as well as Jamie and his widow, Mary.

Nick Williams, chairman of Fanderson, the official appreciation society for Anderson, said: “To those who met him, Gerry was a quiet, unassuming but determined man. Gerry’s legacy is that he inspired so many people and continues to bring so much joy to so many millions around the world.”

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?