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December 26, 2012

‘Thunderbirds’ creator Gerry Anderson dies at 83

Posted in: Animation,TV

Gerry Anderson, creator of "Thunderbirds" and many other TV series, in 2005. (Hugo Philpot / AP)

Gerry Anderson, creator of “Thunderbirds” and many other TV series, in 2005. (Hugo Philpot / Associated Press)

Gerry Anderson, the British creator of the TV series “Thunderbirds” renowned for his original and influential use of marionettes on TV, has died following a lengthy battle with mixed dementia. He was 83.

Anderson’s adult son Jamie made the announcement, according to the Associated Press. He said that his father died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday at a nursing home in Oxfordshire, England.

A sjpt from 'Thunderbirds' in 1965. (Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

“Thunderbirds.” (Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Anderson was widely known for his “supermarionation” technique, which uses marionettes controlled by ultra-thin wires. He developed the technique for a number of British TV series in the 1960s, including “Thunderbirds,” about ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his sons combating evil with advanced technology and the Thunderbird planes. Other series Anderson created using the technique included “Supercar” and “Fireball XL5.”

The technique proved to have a lasting influence, as demonstrated by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who made their 2004 film “Team America: World Police” using a very similar marionette style.

With his success in children’s programming, Anderson created several fully live-action series aimed at an adult audience, including “UFO ” and “Space: 1999,” which premiered in 1975 and was the most expensive British TV show up to that time.

Anderson continued to create TV programs into old age, his most recent being “Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet” in 2005, which used computer animation.

A big-screen version of “Thunderbirds” was produced by Hollywood in 2004, however real actors replaced the marionettes and Anderson had nothing to do with the film.

“He was very much a perfectionist and was never happy with any of the end products although he may have been happy with the responses,” his son Jamie told the Associated Press.

Following a diagnosis that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease two years ago, Anderson became an outspoken supporter of Britain’s Alzheimer’s Society.

He is survived by his third wife, Mary, and four children.

— Patrick Kevin Day

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