Gerry Anderson, master of Supermarionation, dies

Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson (1929-2012)


Gerry Anderson, the master of the Supermarionation universe of puppets and elaborate miniature flying (or submerged) vehicles, died Dec. 26 at the age of 83. His Supermarionation programs as well as some of his live-action television shows crossed paths from time to time with James Bond.

Anderson’s children programs were produced in the U.K. and found their way to the U.S., often syndicated to local television stations. The specific situations varied but the likes of Supercar, Fireball XL-5, Stingray and Thunderbirds, among others, featured heroic characters with unusual names such as Mike Mercury, Steve Zodiac and Troy Tempest do battle with menaces of all kinds, whether they be on the surface of the Earth, under the oceans of Earth or in outer space.

One of Anderson’s frequent collaborators was Derek Meddings, who provided the miniatures that were an important part of the Anderson shows, which frequently found their way into toy stores. When Meddings did the elaborate miniatures for 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me and 1979’s Moonraker, Meddings was an old hand at providing an elaborate product on a budget.

Anderson used actors with ties to the 007 film series to voice characters, including Lois Maxwell on Stringray (as Atlanta Shore, who pined for hero Troy Tempest, not unlike her Moneypenny role in the Bond films) and Shane Rimmer as one of the intrepid Tracy family that ran and operation International Rescue on Thunderbirds.

What’s more, Anderson’s live action syndication UFO series starred Ed Bishop, who, like Rimmer, had small roles in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. UFO, while a science fiction show, had a touch of 1960s TV spy programs. It featured an organization called SHADO, whose mission was to combat invading hostile aliens. SHADO’s secret headquarters was underneath a movie studio. The SHADO logo evoked the logo of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Anderson also had a personal experience with the Bond films. This is how Anderson told the story in a 2009 interview with the DEN OF GEEK Web site:

Could I ask you about your ‘lost’ version of Moonraker, which you lost through no fault of your own when Saltzman split with Broccoli? What was your vision for that film compared to what hit the screen in 1979?

I never got to actually having a vision! What happened was that Harry Saltzman phoned me and said ‘Can you pop in? I’d like to see you’. I went in and he said ‘Gerry, I want you to produce the next Bond picture, Moonraker – here’s the book’. I nearly took off and went into orbit [laughs]! I just thought it was a marvellous, marvellous break.

I read the book, which frankly wasn’t very exciting, and terribly out-of-date, as one would expect. I was initially trying to cement the deal, and at that time I would have put my thoughts together. What happened was that Tony Barwick – the late Tony Barwick, one of my favourite writers – and myself had written a synopsis. Harry had seen the synopsis and that was the reason he called me – he was fired by it.

But a few weeks went by and then…just the worst bit of luck in my life, I think! It was announced that Harry Saltzman was parting company with Cubby Broccoli. And so the thing went down the tubes.

According to ANDERSON’s BIOGRAPHY on Wikipedia.org, the Supermarionation producer started a Moonraker lawsuit but settled for 3,000 British pounds.

To read more about Anderson, you can view his obituaries ON THE BBC’S WEB SITE and at THE DAILY MIRROR’S WEB SITE. Also, you can view THE ASSOCIATED PRESS’S OBIT VIA THE HUFFINGTON POST.

UPDATE (Dec. 28). The Spy Vibe blog has a Gerry Anderson article that includes details about an episode of Thunderbirds very much inspired by 007. To read it, CLICK HERE.

007 ties to Gerry Anderson’s world of Supermarionation

For people of a certain age, memories of shows filmed in “Supermarionation” — elaborate puppet shows produced by Gerry Anderson — still bring a smile. The various programs, which include Supercar, Fireball XL-5, Stingray and Thunderbirds — had science fiction plotlines and lots of vehicles, from flying cars to rocket ships of all sorts to fast-moving submarines.

The man who made those vehicles move was Derek Meddings, Anderson’s special-effects guru. The Supermarionation shows gave Meddings more than ample opportunity to indulge his love of miniatures — and build up a body of work that spurred Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to bring him aboard on the Bond films, starting with Live And Let Die. Meddings’s work would get more sophisticated later on, but the opening to 1964’s Stingray shows how important the special effects man was to the show:

Meanwhile, somebody has to provide the voices for the puppets. On Stingray, one of them was none other than Lois Maxwell, Miss Moneypenny on the first 14 Bond movies. She voiced Atlanta Shore, an officer in the World Acqanaut Security Patrol and daughter of WASP’s bossman. This is a clip from something called The Incredible Voyage of Stingray, which was a compiliation of episodes. Maxwell’s character shows up a little after the 2:00 mark:

An even bigger success for Anderson, Meddings & Co. was 1965’s Thunderbirds, featuring the adventures of International Rescue, a mysterious outfit run by the (apparently very rich) Tracy family. Shane Rimmer, who appeared in three Bond films, including a decent-sized role as the captain of a U.S. submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me, was the voice of Scott Tracy, the pilot of Thunderbird 1.

Here’s a clip where Thunderbird 1 launches, with a little bit of dialogue for Rimmer: