|Who is it?||Writer, Producer, Director|
|Birth Day||April 14, 1929|
|Birth Place||West Hampstead, London, England, United Kingdom|
|Age||91 YEARS OLD|
|Died On||26 December 2012(2012-12-26) (aged 83)\nOxfordshire, England|
|Cause of death||Alzheimer's disease|
|Occupation||Film producer, television producer, writer, director, voice artist|
|Employer||Lew Grade (1961–1976)|
|Organization||AP Films, Century 21, Group Three, Anderson Burr, Gerry Anderson Productions, Anderson Entertainment|
|Known for||Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, UFO, Space: 1999, Terrahawks, Joe 90|
|Home town||Kilburn and Neasden, London|
|Spouse(s)||Betty Wrightman (m. 1952; div. 1960) Sylvia Anderson (m. 1960; div. 1980) Mary Louise Robins (m. 1981; his death 2012)|
|Parent(s)||Joseph Abrahams (later Anderson) Deborah Abrahams (later Anderson; née Leonoff)|
Gerry Anderson began his career in photography, earning a traineeship with the British Colonial Film Unit after the war. He developed an interest in film editing and moved on to Gainsborough Pictures, where he gained further experience. In 1947 he was conscripted for national Service with the Royal Air Force. He was based at RAF Manston, an airfield near Margate, and served part of his time in air traffic control. On one occasion, a Spitfire was coming in to land. It was only about 50 feet above the ground before the runway controller alerted the pilot to the fact the plane's undercarriage hadn't lowered. The pilot opened up the throttle and climbed away. As this was a moment Anderson always remembered, he found it all too easy to write about aircraft when he devised stories for Thunderbirds. After completing his military Service, he returned to Gainsborough, where he worked until the studio was closed in 1950. He then worked freelance on a series of feature films.
In the mid-1950s, Anderson joined the independent television production company Polytechnic Studios as a Director, where he met cameraman Arthur Provis. After Polytechnic collapsed, Anderson, Provis, Reg Hill and John Read formed Pentagon Films in 1955. Pentagon was wound up soon after and Anderson and Provis formed a new company, AP Films, for Anderson-Provis Films, with Hill and Read as their partners. Anderson continued his freelance directing work to obtain funds to maintain the fledgling company.
On 16 October 1952, Anderson married Betty Wrightman (b. 1929). They had two daughters, Linda (b. 1954) and Joy (b. 1957).
AP Films' first television venture was produced for Granada Television. Created by Roberta Leigh, The Adventures of Twizzle (1957–1958) was a series for young children about a doll with the ability to 'twizzle' his arms and legs to greater lengths. It was Anderson's first work with puppets, and the start of his long and successful collaborations with Puppeteer Christine Glanville, special effects technician Derek Meddings and composer/arranger Barry Gray. It was Anderson's Desire to move into live-action television.
The Adventures of Twizzle was followed by another low-budget puppet series with Leigh, Torchy the Battery Boy (1958–1959). Although the APF puppet productions made the Andersons world-famous, Gerry Anderson was always unhappy about working with puppets. He used them primarily to get attention from and a good reputation with TV networks, hoping to have them serve as a stepping stone to his goal of making live-action film and TV drama.
AP Films' third series was the children's western fantasy-adventure series Four Feather Falls (1959–60). Provis left the partnership, but the company retained the name AP Films for several more years. Four Feather Falls was the first Anderson series to use an early version of the so-called Supermarionation process, though this term had yet to be used.
Over the years, various British comics have featured strips based on Anderson's creations. These started with TV Comic during the early 1960s, followed by TV Century 21 and its various sister publications: Lady Penelope, TV Tornado, Solo and Joe 90. In the 1970s there was Countdown (later renamed TV Action). There were also tie-in annuals that were produced each year featuring Anderson's TV productions.
The next series by APF was the Futuristic space adventure Fireball XL5 (1962). At the time it was the company's biggest success, garnering the honour of being the first Anderson series sold to an American TV network, NBC-TV. Around this time, Anderson also saw his Supermarionation style attract imitators—most notably Space Patrol, which used similar techniques and was made by several former employees and associates of Anderson, including Arthur Provis and Roberta Leigh.
APF's next project for ATV was inspired by a mining disaster that occurred in West Germany in October 1963. This real-life drama inspired Anderson to create a new programme format about a rescue organisation, which eventually became his most famous and popular series, Thunderbirds (1964–1966). The dramatic title was inspired by the letter Anderson's older brother Lionel had written to his family during World War II.
Shortly after the buy-out, APF began production on a new marionette series, Stingray (1964), the first British children's TV series to be filmed in colour. For the new production APF moved to new studios in Slough, Buckinghamshire. The new and bigger facilities allowed them to make major improvements in special effects, notably in the underwater sequences, as well as advances in marionette Technology, with the use of a variety of interchangeable heads for each character to convey different expressions.
By that time, production had started on a new series, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967), which saw the advent of more realistic marionette characters which, thanks to improvements in electronics which allowed miniaturisation of the lip-sync mechanisms, could now be built closer to normal human proportions.
Century 21's return to television was the abortive series The Secret Service, which this time mixed live action with Supermarionation. The series was inspired by Anderson's love of British Comedian Stanley Unwin, who was known for his nonsense language, 'Unwinese', which he created and used on radio, in film and most famously on the 1968 Small Faces LP Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake. Despite Anderson's track record and Unwin's popularity, the series was cancelled before its first screening; Lew Grade considered that it would be incomprehensible to American audiences, and thus unsellable.
In 1969 the Andersons began production of a new TV series, UFO, Century 21's first full live-action television series. This sci-fi action-adventure series starred American-born actor Ed Bishop (who had also provided the voice of Captain Blue in Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons) as Commander Edward Straker, head of the secret defence organisation SHADO, set up to counter an alien invasion. UFO was more adult in tone than any of Anderson's puppet series, and mixed Century 21's signature Futuristic action-adventure and special effects with serious dramatic elements. UFO was the last series made under the Century 21 Productions banner.
By the late 1970s, Anderson's life and career were at a low point: he was in financial difficulty, found it hard to get work, and he experienced family difficulties.
During production of UFO, Gerry Anderson was approached directly by Harry Saltzman (at the time co-producer of the James Bond film series with Albert "Cubby" Broccoli), and was invited to write and produce the next film in the series, which was to be Moonraker. Collaborating with Tony Barwick to provide the characterisation, whilst he himself focused on the action sequences, Anderson wrote and delivered a treatment to Saltzman. Nothing ultimately came of it, and Broccoli and Saltzman proceeded to make Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Live and Let Die (1973) and, after co-producing 1974's Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun, the Saltzman-Broccoli partnership dissolved. Offered £20,000 for the treatment, Anderson refused, fearing that if he accepted he would not be at the helm when it was made; the next Bond film to be made was 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me. (This film used only the title of the actual Ian Fleming novel.) Anderson started legal proceedings against Broccoli for plagiarism of story elements but withdrew the action shortly after, nervous of the legal might lined up against him. He relinquished the treatment, and received £3,000 in compensation. A film version of Moonraker was eventually produced in 1979, but did not involve any of Anderson's material.
In the early 1980s, Anderson formed a new partnership, Anderson Burr Pictures Ltd, with businessman Christopher Burr. The new company's first production was based on an unrealised concept devised by Anderson in the late 1970s for a Japanese cartoon series. Terrahawks marked Anderson's return to working with puppets, but rather than marionettes this series used a new system dubbed 'Supermacromation' which used highly sophisticated glove puppets—an approach inspired by the advances in this form of marionation made by Jim Henson and his colleagues.
Between making the two series of Space: 1999, Anderson produced a one-off television special, The Day After Tomorrow (also known as Into Infinity), about two spacefaring families en route to Alpha Centauri, for an NBC series of programmes illustrating current scientific theory for popular consumption. While making this project, Anderson met Mary Robins (b. 1949), a secretary working at the studios; they began a relationship and were married on 11 April 1981.
It featured another reuse of the Captain Scarlet/UFO formula of a secret organisation defending against aliens. Terrahawks ran successfully from 1983 to 1986 in the UK but fell short of a four-year American syndication deal by one season when the show was cancelled. Terrahawks retains a cult following to this day. Anderson has claimed on record that he would rather forget the show.
The cult appeal of Thunderbirds and the other Supermarionation series grew steadily over the years and was celebrated by comedy and stage productions such as the hit two-man stage revue Thunderbirds FAB. In the early 1990s, ITC began releasing home video versions of the Supermarionation shows, and the profile of the shows was further enhanced by productions such as the Dire Straits music video for their single "Calling Elvis", which was made as an affectionate Thunderbirds pastiche (with Anderson co-producing), and by Lady Penelope and Parker appearing in a successful series of UK advertisements for Swinton Insurance.
In 1991 Gerry asked Journalist and author Simon Archer to write his biography, following an interview by the latter for a series of articles for Century 21 magazine. In September that year in the UK, BBC2 began a repeat showing of Thunderbirds, which rivalled the success of its original run a generation before. This was also surprisingly the series' network television premiere, having never been shown nationally by ITV. It became so popular in Britain that toy manufacturers Matchbox were unable to keep up with the demand for the Tracy Island playset, leading children's show Blue Peter to broadcast a segment showing children how to construct their own. The fan base for the Anderson shows was now worldwide and growing steadily, and Anderson found himself in demand for personal and media appearances.
In response to this greater demand Anderson performed a successful one-man show in 1992, which Archer had written and constructed. Entitled An Evening with Gerry Anderson, it took the form of an illustrated lecture in which he talked about his career, and his most popular shows. He also made numerous media and personal appearances to tie in with revivals and video cassette releases of Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90.
By 1993 Archer published the trivia book Gerry Anderson's FAB Facts. Archer was killed in a car crash on London's orbital M25 motorway on his way to the publishers to collect one of the first print run to present to Anderson, and the book later had to be withdrawn from sale and thousands of copies destroyed as a result of a copyright dispute with ITC America.
The renewed interest enabled Anderson to return to television production, but several projects including GFI (an animated update of Thunderbirds) did not make it into production. Finally, in 1994, Anderson was able to get Space Precinct into production. It was followed by Lavender Castle, a children's sci-fi fantasy series combining stop-motion animation and computer-generated imagery.
Anderson hoped to continue his renewed success with a series called Space Police, a new show mixing live action and puppets. The Space Police name had already been registered by another company, so Anderson's programme eventually emerged in 1995 as Space Precinct. A pilot film had previously been made with Shane Rimmer, but it took almost ten years to get the concept to the screen. In the meantime, Anderson and Burr produced the cult stop-motion animated series Dick Spanner, which enjoyed many showings on the British Channel 4 in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was the final project completed by Anderson Burr. Anderson then joined the Moving Picture Company as a commercials Director, and provided special effects direction for the musical comedy Return to the Forbidden Planet.
Anderson was originally approached to be involved in a live-action feature film adaptation of Thunderbirds as far back as 1996, but he was actually turned away by the producers of the 2004 film Thunderbirds, which was directed by Jonathan Frakes, after first being invited to meet with them. He distanced himself overtly from the project, later turning down an offer of $750,000 simply to write an endorsement of the film shortly before its release; Sylvia Anderson served as a consultant on the project and received a "special thanks" credit in the film. The film received poor critical reviews and was unsuccessful at the US box-office. Anderson disliked the film, describing it as "the biggest load of crap I have ever seen in my life".
Tributes from across the world of television and radio poured in, among them TV presenter Jonathan Ross, DJ Chris Evans, Comedian Eddie Izzard and actors Brian Blessed and John Barrowman. Ross tweeted "For men of my age his work made childhood an incredible place to be." Blessed, who worked with Anderson on Space 1999 and The Day After Tomorrow said, "I think a light has gone out in the universe. 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."
Anderson was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2001.
Along with his then Business partner John Needham, Anderson created another new series entitled Firestorm, financed by Japanese Investors and featured anime style animation. Other planned shows with other Japanese backers, including Eternity failed to come to fruition. Firestorm sold throughout S.E.Asia. Anderson and Needham parted company in 2003.
2005 also saw the 40th Anniversary of Thunderbirds, and a wide range of merchandise was produced to celebrate the event. In 2006, ITV re-ran the entire series on its fledgling CITV channel, a digital Service available on cable, satellite and the Freeview Service. ITV4, another digital channel, also ran repeats of UFO and Space: 1999 up until the end of 2009.
In March 2011, Anderson was working with Daniel Pickering and Annix Studios on a new project named Christmas Miracle, a children's CGI animated feature.
Anderson died in his sleep on 26 December 2012 at the age of 83 after a diagnosis of dementia. The news was announced on his son Jamie's website, who wrote, "I'm very sad to announce the death of my father, Thunderbirds creator, Gerry Anderson. He died peacefully in his sleep at midday today (26th December 2012), having suffered with mixed dementia for the past few years. He was 83."
On 25 March 2013, in an announcement on the official Gerry Anderson website, Anderson's younger son Jamie announced that a number of projects that Anderson had been unable to finish during his lifetime were being developed by his company Anderson Entertainment and would be financed primarily through Kickstarter crowdfunding. On 27 July 2013 the name of the first Gerry Anderson legacy project was announced on the official Gerry Anderson website as Gemini Force One.