Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Gerry Anderson working on new THUNDERBIRDS TV series

Gerry Anderson confirmed yesterday on the BBC News that he is now working on a new TV series based on his classic 1960s children's show Thunderbirds. Anderson successfully brought back Captain Scarlet as an animated CGI series for a two-season run a few years back, so I assume he'll be pursuing the same sort of format for Thunderbirds.

Thunderbirds ran for two seasons in 1965-66 and was a huge success. Set in the late 21st Century, the series depicted the adventures of International Rescue, run by the fabulously wealthy Tracey family. Using several large vehicles known as 'Thunderbirds', the Tracey boys helped resolve disasters and accidents around the world, sometimes ones caused by natural disasters and others caused by villainous interventions. Their principal foe was a strange, mystical enemy known as 'The Hood', who coveted the technology used to build the Thunderbird craft. Whilst the action was filmed with puppets, the series became infamous for the quality of its miniatures work and special effects, which were light-years beyond anything else on British TV at the time (its famed special effects maestro Derek Meddings, known for his ability to make something explode twenty-three times, later went on to work in Hollywood, most notably on the Tim Burton Batman).

After the original series ended, it became an immense hit in Japan, where an anime series influenced by the original was released in the 1980s (and was dubbed into English directly as Thunderbirds 2086, although this was not authorised by Gerry Anderson). However, later attempts to resurrect the show were stalled by rights issues and disputes. A 2004 live-action film directed by Jonathan Frakes flopped and was a critical failure (Anderson: "The biggest load of crap I have ever seen in my life,").

Whilst I'm broadly sceptical of remakes, there are a few properties that seem to be very suitable for it: Thunderbirds, Blake's 7 and UFO (another Gerry Anderson production which later inspired the X-Com PC game franchise) are actually my top three choices, so this is promising news. Anderson's new Captain Scarlet, with CGI graphics provided by Ron Thornton (the pioneer behind Babylon 5's groundbreaking effects), also seems to have been reasonably well-received, though it was shunted around the schedules disgracefully by ITV. Hopefully that won't happen again.

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