Published on 26 Dec 2012 Sections

Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson dies aged 83

Gerry Anderson, the man behind the hit TV shows Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Stingray dies aged 83.

Gerry Anderson’s science fiction-inspired puppet shows captured the imagination of a generation of British children in the 1960s.

Among his creations were the popular characters Lady Penelope, Brains and Joe 90, as well as the catch phrase “Thunderbirds are go”. The producer helped pioneer “supermarionation” in the 1960s – a puppetry technique using thin wires to control marionettes.

Mr Anderson was diagnosed with mixed dementia in 2012, and his condition had deteriorated in the past six months, said his son Jamie. “He died peacefully in his sleep at midday today having suffered with mixed dementia for the past few years,” he wrote on his website.

Mr Anderson began his television career in the 1950s and established himself as one of Britain’s leading creative brains over a career spanning nearly six decades.

He collaborated on many of his cult programmes with his previous wife Sylvia, including Captain Scarlet and Stingray. But they were both best known for their work as producers of Thunderbirds.

The series followed the efforts of International Rescue and the Tracy family. It enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the 1990s and the Tracy family home – Tracy Island – became one of the most famous ever “makes” on BBC children’s programme Blue Peter.

Despite being best known for his work with puppets, the film producer reportedly hated puppets and was said to be embarrassed to be associated so closely with them.

‘Unassuming, but determined’

After his diagnosis, Mr Anderson and his son Jamie became active supporters of Alzheimer’s Society, recently taking part in the society’s flagship fundraiser Memory Walk.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Society, praised Mr Anderson’s support for the charity and his campaigning on behalf of people with dementia. “He was determined, despite his own recent diagnosis, to spend the last year of his life speaking out for others living with dementia to ensure their voices were heard and their lives improved,” said Mr Hughes.

Mr Anderson, who has an MBE, was born in north London, and lived with his wife, Mary, near Henley-on-Thames, until he moved to a care home in October.

Nick Williams, chairman of Fanderson, the Gerry Anderson appreciation society, paid tribute to him.

“To those who met him, Gerry was a quiet, unassuming but determined man,” he said. “His desire to make the best films he could drove him and his talented teams to innovate, take risks, and do everything necessary to produce quite inspirational works.

“Gerry’s legacy is that he inspired so many people and continues to bring so much joy to so many millions of people around the world.”

His last producer credit came in 2005 on New Captain Scarlet, a CGI-animated re-imagining of his 1967 TV animation.
Most recently, he worked as a consultant on a Hollywood remake of his 1969 series UFO.

As well as Jamie, Mr Anderson leaves children Joy, Linda, Gerry Junior and his widow Mary.