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'Inspirational' creator of Thunderbirds Gerry Anderson dies aged 83 after long Alzheimer's battle
Father of four created classic sci-fi series but had been battling dementia One of Britain's leading creative brains over six-decade production career
Family is 'touched by the outpouring of gratitude for what dad did for TV'
00:48 GMT, 27 December 2012
Gerry Anderson, the creator of classic TV series Thunderbirds and Stingray, has died aged 83.
The father of four, of Nuffield, Oxfordshire, who also created the Captain Scarlet and Joe 90 shows – had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for almost three years and died peacefully in his sleep.
Mr Anderson began his TV career in the 1950s and established himself as one of Britain's leading creative brains over a six-decade career, but his condition deteriorated rapidly in the last six months.
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F-A-B: Gerry Anderson, holding Thunderbird 1, was the man behind the famous puppet series Thunderbirds
Happy man: Gerry Anderson holds Thunderbird 2 on the 40th anniversary of Thunderbirds in January 2005
His son Jamie Anderson told Sky News yesterday evening: 'We've been really touched by the outpouring of gratitude for what dad did for TV in this country. It's been very heartwarming.
'Every time the show has been repeated it picks up a whole new generation of followers. There are even now kids who are six and seven years old that appreciate a show that was made in the Sixties.'
Mr Anderson's most famous creation was the 1960s TV show Thunderbirds. The series – which used a form of marionette puppetry dubbed 'supermarionation' – became hugely popular around the world.
Chairman of the Fanderson fan club Nick
Williams said: 'To those who met him Gerry was a quiet, unassuming but
'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.
Proud creation: Mr Anderson (centre) with wife Sylvia (left) and puppet Troy Tempest from 'Stingray' in 1966
Family man: Gerry Anderson (left) poses with Thunderbirds characters (left-to-right) Alan, Scott and Virgil at Hamley's toy store in central London in 2000; while he is pictured in September with his son Jamie (right)
'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.'
'Every time the show has been repeated it picks up a whole new generation of followers. There are even now kids who are six and seven years old that appreciate a show that was made in the Sixties'
Jamie Anderson, son of Gerry Anderson
Writing on his blog, Jamie
Anderson said: 'I’m very sad to announce the death of my father. He
died peacefully in his sleep at midday today (Boxing Day),
having suffered with mixed dementia for the past few years.'
Mr Anderson's inspiration for Thunderbirds came from a mining disaster in West Germany in October 1963 that gave him the idea of forming a show about a rescue organisation.
After much convincing, Mr Anderson agreed to let his wife Sylvia performed the voice of Lady Penelope, one of Thunderbirds' most famous characters. The series followed the efforts of International Rescue and the Tracy family.
Century 21 Productions was so sure of the series success they proposed a feature-film version before the pilot had even aired.
Thunderbirds are Go: Master producer Mr Anderson poses with Thunderbird 2, one of his many creations
Extraordinarily skilled: Mr Anderson used a form of marionette puppetry dubbed 'supermarionation'
The 32-episode series was not initially
successful in the U.S. because it was only given a limited
release – but it was a major hit with young audiences in the UK, Australia
and other countries.
F-A-B: THUNDERBIRDS IN PROFILE
Mr Anderson had the idea for Thunderbirds in 1963 after hearing about a unique drill that had to be transported across Germany to rescue miners stuck underground.
Two years on he tasked the Tracy family of puppets with manning the Thunderbirds craft, including a hypersonic rocket plane and a heavy-duty transporter aircraft.
The British children’s series is known for its ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ introduction, which had a voiceover set to pictures of the craft and finished with Thunderbird 1 blasting off.
It is also famous for the phrase ‘F-A-B’, which was used as a radio code between the Thunderbird pilots to indicate a message was received and understood.
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.
Mr Anderson, who has an MBE and was born in north London, revealed earlier this year he was suffering from
dementia and spoke of his problems with the disease in a bid to
He said he
realised something was wrong when he got lost and spent six hours
trying to get home to Oxfordshire from Pinewood
Studios in Buckinghamshire – a journey that should take an hour.
said at the time: 'I was upset when I found out I had dementia but I
try to stay positive and enjoy every day. My dementia hasn’t just
affected me; it’s affected my friends and family too.'
His son Jamie invited fans to make a donation to the Azheimer's Society in his memory.
already decided with his family on a care home for himself earlier this
year, Mr Anderson moved in there in October,' he continued on his blog.
Puppets: Mr Anderson had revealed he was battling dementia and spoke of his frustrations with the disease
Remembered: Gerry Anderson launches Royal Mail's first stamp issue of '2011, FAB: The Genius of Gerry Anderson', which went on sale in January 2011
'Until very recently remained interested and involved in the film industry, keen to re-visit some of his earlier successes using the latest technology available.
Announcement: Jamie Anderson posted the news of his father's death on his blog yesterday afternoon
'His last producer credit came in 2005 on New Captain Scarlet, a CGI-animated re-imagining of his 1967 Supermarionation series, which premiered on ITV in the UK.
'Most recently he worked as a consultant on a Hollywood remake of his 1969 series UFO, directed by Matthew Gratzner.
'He also worked as a celebrity ambassador for The Alzheimer’s Society, helping to raise awareness of the disease and much-needed funds for the society.'
Having been diagnosed with mixed dementia at the age of 81, he and his son Jamie became active supporters of Alzheimer's Society, recently taking part in its flagship fundraiser Memory Walk.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer's Society, said: ‘Gerry Anderson has been an outstanding supporter of Alzheimer's Society and campaigner 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.
‘With the support of his family, Gerry tirelessly attended events around the country to raise awareness of the condition and to raise funds for a cure.
‘The last time I saw Gerry was at the start of our annual Memory Walk in September where he was our guest of honour and star starter alongside Carey Mulligan.
Friends: Mr Anderson will be remembered worldwide for his astonishing contribution to children's TV
'Yes m'lady': Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson with two of his most famous puppets, Lady Penelope and Parker at Planet Hollywood in London in 2001
Famous character: Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons was created by Mr Anderson and also became a massive hit
‘Gerry, accompanied and supported by his
son Jamie, stayed to speak to the crowds, wave off the walkers and
shake hands with the many friends and fans who had come to meet him.
ANDERSON INSISTED HE WASN'T AFRAID OF FORGETTING CAREER
Just months before his death Gerry Anderson spoke of his passion to continue writing despite suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
in June at his home in Nuffield, near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, he
said: 'I'm not worried about forgetting my career. It's an odd thing
this, losing one's memory.
everybody is affected in the same way and it's no good going around
everyday worrying about it. I can remember clearly things that happened
60 or 70 years ago.
remember conversations with friends and the actual words we used. My
career is like an encyclopaedia. I made so many shows, worked with so
many crew members that I cannot pick out specific memories.
can still write stories though – I can continue. So many people have
told me that my work is instantly recognisable because within three
seconds I've blown a city apart.’
‘Gerry Anderson will be missed not only
by the worldwide fans of his TV shows, but by all of us at Alzheimer's
Society who he has inspired to continue in our work to ultimately defeat
‘Our sincere condolences go out to his wife Mary, son Jamie and all the Anderson family.’
is a physical disease attacking the brain, with symptoms including
memory loss and mood changes, and it affects almost 500,000 people in
Mr Anderson leaves three children from former marriages, Joy, Linda and Gerry Junior, his son Jamie and widow Mary.
Celebrities and fans paid tribute to the late creator on Jamie Anderson's blog.
David Thomas wrote: 'Very saddened at
the news. Mr Anderson provided a rich adventure backdrop to my
childhood and alerted me to the endless possibility of tomorrows
Ian Benney said: 'Thank you to a man that made my childhood cool and amazing.'
Len Northfield said: 'Sincere
condolences, Jamie. Your father’s shows played an enormous part in my
childhood. He will be long remembered by many.'
presenter Jonathan Ross said on Twitter: 'Sad news. Gerry Anderson RIP.
For men of my age his work made childhood an incredible place to be.'
Eddie Izzard added: 'Sad news – Gerry Anderson dies. But what a great
creation Thunderbirds was, as it fuelled the imagination of a
In reply to the tweets, Jamie Anderson said: 'We're so touched by all the messages and kind
words that we are receiving – thank you everyone. Dad would be
overwhelmed by the response.'
DIY: Konnie Huq of Blue Peter makes a new version of Thunderbirds' Tracy Island in September 2000
Also a favourite: Another one of Mr Anderson's most famous creations was nine-year-old boy Joe 90 (pictured)
Famous craft: Mr Anderson's show Stingray was set in 2065 and featured the World Aquanaut Security Patrol preserving world peace in the oceans
Steve Begg, who has worked on visual and special effects for some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters including Skyfall, Casino Royale and Batman Begins, was given his first job in the industry by Mr Anderson almost 30 years ago.
Mr Begg paid tribute to his mentor,
saying: ‘He gave me my first big break, which has led me to work on
Skyfall, the latest James Bond film, as well as Casino Royale.
'He inspired a lot of people to go on and win Academy awards. He was very supportive, he would talent-spot and encourage people. He effectively built a film school for that sort of work, an unofficial school'
Steve Begg, a special effects producer given his first break by Gerry Anderson
‘As a kid I was always very inspired by his work such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. It helped me get the courage to show him my amateur stuff in the 1980s and I subsequently got a job with him on Terrahawks in the early 1980s.
‘He inspired a lot of people to go on and win Academy awards in films such as Alien and Superman. He was very supportive, he would talent-spot and encourage people. He effectively built a film school for that sort of work, an unofficial school.’
Mr Begg continued: ‘He was very charismatic, the hub or centre of creativity of any film he was working on.
‘He will leave behind a massive legacy. There are a lot of people who wouldn't be around in this industry if it wasn't for him – and that is on a worldwide scale.’
VIDEO Thunderbirds are Go! Gerry's most beloved creation…
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