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
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick