Thunderbirds are go!
Today’s kids would probably laugh now to see the original Thunderbirds. Now we have CGI, puppets on strings probably wouldn’t have quite the same impact as they did back in the late sixties when Thunderbird’s was made. Yes, you could see the strings and you knew it wasn’t real, but back then, it was gripping, state of the art stuff!
Thunderbirds was produced by the husband and wife team, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, and there were 32 episodes made between 1964 and 1966. It was first shown on British TV in 1965 and the reruns were shown for many years after.
Today, children are being treated to new kind of Thunderbirds, but here are ten facts about the original ‘Supermarionation’ , Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, original Thunderbirds.
1. The Tracy brothers were named after astronauts
The Tracy brothers who manned the International rescue vehicles were all named after astronauts from NASA’s early Mercury manned spaceflight program. They were known as the Mercury seven and the astronauts that leant their names to Thunderbirds characters were: Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Gordon Cooper and Alan Shepard.
|Thunderbird 1 and Thunderbird 2|
2. Thunderbirds was the first hour long Brutish children’s TV show
Thunderbirds was originally conceived as a half hour children’s TV show but, when Lew Grade, head of the media company ITC, saw the pilot episode, he was so impressed that he told the Andersons to make the episodes an hour long. Eight episodes had already been filmed, though, so new scripts had to be rewritten to fill up the extra time and more footage shot.
3. The voice of Brains was also the voice of the Daleks
The voices of Brains, Gordon Tracy, Parker and Kyrano were all supplied by the English Character actor David Graham, who also supplied the voice of the Daleks in early Doctor Who episodes. It is David Graham who still provides the voice for Parker in the latest re-vamped version of Thunderbirds.
|Cliff Richard in Thunderbirds|
4. Cliff Richard was in Thunderbird’s
Sir Cliff Richard made a guest appearance in the full length feature film of the original Thunderbird’s, Thunderbirds are Go, which was released in 1966. The puppet versions of Cliff Richard and the Shadows appear in a dream sequence in the movie. Cliff also recorded a Thunderbird’s song called Shooting Star.
5. Bob Monkhouse was in Thunderbirds too
TV presenter Bob Monkhouse provided the voice of two characters in Thunderbirds. He was the voice of The Swing Star announcer in the Thunderbirds Are Go film and he was also the voice of space navigator Brad Newman on the Zero-X spacecraft. Monkhouse landed the role after a chance meeting with Gerry Anderson.
6. The original Thunderbirds was targeted at both children and adults
Gerry Anderson wanted to pitch the show for broadcast on primetime TV, so the storylines were targeted at both adults and children. Some scenes did indeed have adult themes including the hero’s nearly dying of thirst in a desert and sinking in quicksand. Sylvia Anderson called Thunderbirds a 'kidult' show.
7. There was an official study into the smoking on Thunderbirds
Characters in Thunderbirds, especially Lady Penelope, were often seen smoking and, in 2002, a study into the subject of making in Thunderbirds was published in the medical journal Tobacco Control. There were calls for all smoking to be digitally erased from reruns of the show, but the BBC kept it in on the grounds that it didn’t glorify smoking and that it was incidental to the plot.
8. Some of the rocket engine sounds were provided by The Red Arrows
A lot of the engine sounds of the rockets and flying craft were taken from sound archives, but some of the exhaust sounds came from recordings of a Red Arrows display at RAF Little Rissington in Gloucestershire.
|Gerry Anderson with Thunderbirds Puppets|
9. The Thunderbirds Puppets were 1/3rd scale
The Thunderbirds puppets were larger than you may have realised. They were approximately 22 inches tall, which is about 1/3rd adult human height. They also had disproportionately large heads and hands.
10. The faces of Thunderbirds characters were based on living celebrities
The faces of many of the Thunderbirds characters were inspired by living celebrities of the time. Jeff Tracy was based on Lorne Green, John Tracey was a caricature of Adam Faith and Charlton Heston, and Brains’ features were based on Anthony Perkins.
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