Gerry Anderson, the creator of marionette-based TV sci-fi series “Thunderbirds,” died Wednesday at a nursing home near Oxfordshire, England.
He was 83 and had suffered from Alzheimer’s since 2010.
Anderson, working alongside his second wife Sylvia Thamm Anderson, also created “Space: 1999,” “Stingray” and “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.”
Anderson’s television career launched in the 1950s. After “Thunderbirds” aired in the 1960s, “Thunderbirds are go!” became a catchphrase for generations. The series also introduced the use of “supermarionation” — a system that deployed marionettes controlled by thin wires and electronic motors to achieve a basic form of lip-sync.
“Thunderbirds,” which centered on the Tracy family and their emergency service, International Rescue, was first broadcast on U.K. commercial web ITV in 1965. It was adapted as a feature film, “Thunderbirds Are Go,” for United Artists in 1966, which was followed by sequel “Thunderbird 6.”
Working Title Films adapted “Thunderbirds” as a feature film in 2005, but it flopped at the box office.
Son Jamie Anderson told the AP that while his father first broke ground with puppets in “Thunderbirds,” he was trying new techniques, like advanced computer-generated imagery, in his later years with projects such as 2005’s “New Captain Scarlet,” the reimagining of his 1967 TV animation.
Anderson, who was born in Feltham, southern England, started out as a film trainee at Colonial Films, before joining Gainsborough Pictures.
He formed AP Films with Arthur Provis in 1956, producing puppet series “The Adventures of Twizzle” with writer and animator Roberta Leigh that year.
Anderson followed with fantasy puppet shows “Supercar,” “Fireball XL5″ and “Stingray” in the early 1960s.
Anderson then set up production company
Century 21, which produced two other sci-fi marionette shows, “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” in 1967 and “Joe 90″ in 1968.
Many of his shows were produced in partnership with ITC owner Lew Grade.
Anderson produced his first sci-fi feature, “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun,” which starred Ian Hendry and Patrick Wymark, in 1969, and his first all-live action series for television, “UFO,” the same year. Most recently he worked as a consultant on Matthew Gratzner’s feature film adaptation of “UFO.”
In the 1970s, he produced other live-action series, such as Robert Vaughn starrer “The Protectors,” about an international crime-fighting agency, and sci-fi adventure “Space: 1999,” which starred Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.
He produced puppet series “Terrahawks” in 1982.
In recent years, Anderson and his son had become active supporters of Britain’s Alzheimer’s Society.
Anderson is survived by his third wife, Mary, and four children.
(Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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