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

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
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.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before