RIP Gerry Anderson, creator of ‘Thunderbirds’

Thunderbirds

Although he was largely a cult figure in the United States, one of Britain’s top creators of imaginative children’s shows has died.

Gerry Anderson, creator of such fun and, frankly, offbeat shows in the 1960s and 1970s as “Thunderbirds,” “UFO” and “Space: 1999,” has died in his native England, He was 83.

Anderson might be an unfamiliar name to some in the U.S. but his work is instantly recognizable.

Look at the promotional photo above for his groundbreaking 1965 series “Thunderbirds.” Remember the odd but fascinating show about marionettes piloting rescue planes and space ships? The family of puppets who dropped down conveyor belts and into their ships just in time to jet off to handle some far-flung disaster.

gerry anderson

Gerry Anderson.

I can’t say too much about how much Gerry Anderson’s shows sparked my imagination as a child. I had toy versions of Thunderbird 2 and 3. I played with them over endless hours.

thunderbird 2

That’s Thunderbird 2.

Thunderbird 3

And that’s Thunderbird 3.

I’m not sure when I originally saw “Thunderbirds” – early in its U.S. syndication, I’m sure – but I remembered Anderson’s name and while I saw only random episodes of his other puppet series, like “Stingray,” I made sure to check out his later, live-action creations. More on those below.

So RIP Gerry Anderson. Your imaginative work was a big part of my childhood.

Random Gerry Anderson facts:

“Team America:” The goofy puppet movie from the “South Park” guys was inspired by Anderson’s work.

Derek Meddings. The designer of Anderson’s intricate miniature worlds went on to design the look of some of the grandest special effects from the James Bond movies.

gerry anderson ufo babe

“UFO.” In 1970, the first live-action Gerry Anderson series that I ever saw, “UFO,” aired around the world. About a government organization that battled an alien invasion, “UFO” was groovy in an “Austin Powers” kind of way, with British babes in wild purple wigs.

“Space: 1999” and the end of the world. “Space: 1999” was probably the best-known of Anderson’s live-action series, running for a couple of seasons beginning in 1975. Martin Landau and Barbara Bain starred in the series about what would happen if nuclear waste on the moon exploded and pushed the moon out of Earth’s orbit.

RIP Gerry Anderson.

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