Thunderbirds (TV series)

Thunderbirds (TV series)

Infobox ITC
show_name = Thunderbirds

caption =
format = Supermarionation
Science Fiction
runtime = 50 minutes
creator = Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
starring = Peter Dyneley
Shane Rimmer
Sylvia Anderson
country = UK
network = ATV
first_aired = September 30, 1965
last_aired = December 25, 1966
num_episodes = 32 (64 in 30 min. "cliffhanger" format) (List of episodes)

prod_co = AP Films

"Thunderbirds" is a British mid-1960s television show devised by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and made by AP Films using a form of puppetry dubbed "Supermarionation". The series followed the adventures of International Rescue, an organisation created to help those in grave danger using technically advanced equipment and machinery. The series focused on the head of the organisation, ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy, and his five sons who piloted the "Thunderbird" machines. A popular show, the series is still shown today and has inspired a number of subsequent television programmes and films.


"Thunderbirds" was the fifth Supermarionation children's series made by Gerry Anderson's AP Films (later Century 21 Productions). The logo of Supermarionation had previously been seen in the shows "Supercar", "Fireball XL5", and "Stingray". Gerry Anderson came up with the concept for the series after hearing about a German mine disaster in 1963. The heavy equipment needed to rescue the miners was located far away - transportation time was a major hindrance in ensuring the survival of the miners. The "race against time" element is one of the recurring themes in "Thunderbirds". The show's title derived from a letter written to his family by Anderson's older brother, while he was serving in the United States during World War II. In the letter, he referred to an American Air Force base called "Thunderbird Field".

Many of the crew came directly from APF's previous production "Stingray", but for "Thunderbirds" the crew was expanded, and was shot at A.P. Films' ever growing studio at Stirling Road, Slough, Buckinghamshire (now Berkshire). It was APF's first one-hour series. "Thunderbirds" had been in production for several months when ITC Entertainment boss Lew Grade was shown the completed pilot episode, "Trapped in the Sky", and he was reportedly so excited with the result that he immediately instructed Anderson and his team to expand all the episodes from 25 minutes to 50 minutes. This initially proved to be a headache as nine episodes had already been completed.

Production commenced in 1964 and the show premiered on British television on 30 September 1965 in the ATV Midlands region. Other ITV regions followed, including London on 25 December 1965. Two series were produced, comprising thirty-two episodes in total.


Set in the 21st century. The actual year remains a hot topic amongst fans, due to contradictory dates seen on newspapers and calendars in different episodes ranging from 1964 to 2026. Gerry Anderson stated in a Sci-Fi interview that it was set in 2065 as per the weekly comic strip in TV Century 21. The only date clearly intended to be seen in the TV series is 2026 which appears on a calendar in the episode 'Give or Take a Million'. 1998 vintage champagne is mentioned in the episode 'Danger at Ocean Deep' (and 1993 vintage in 'Alias Mr. Hackenbacker') which would tend to support the argument for a 2026 setting. The show depicts the adventures of the Tracy family, which consists of millionaire former astronaut Jeff Tracy (who was one of the first men to land on the Moon - again adding weight to the 2026 argument) and his five sons: Scott (pilot of Thunderbird 1 and principal rescue co-ordinator), Virgil (pilot of Thunderbird 2), Alan (astronaut in Thunderbird 3), Gordon (aquanaut in Thunderbird 4) and John (principal duty astronaut on the space station Thunderbird 5) - each named after a Mercury astronaut - Scott Carpenter, [Marriot, p.18] Virgil Grissom, [Marriot, p.20] Alan Shepard, [Mariott, p.23] Gordon Cooper [Marriot, p.22] and John Glenn, [Mariott, p.21] respectively (two of the Mercury Seven, Wally Schirra and Deke Slayton, do not have characters named for them (Slayton did not fly as part of the Mercury program due to being grounded from flight status by a heart condition, although he later flew as docking module pilot on ASTP)). Together with Jeff's elderly mother called Grandma Tracy, the scientific genius and engineer "Brains", the family's manservant Kyrano and his daughter Tin-Tin, the Tracy family live on a remote, uncharted Pacific island (Tracy Island). They are, in secret, the members of International Rescue, a private and highly-advanced emergency response organization, which covers the globe and even reaches into space, rescuing people with their futuristic vehicles, the Thunderbirds.

Some of the disasters attended by International Rescue are often the result of accident or misadventure, but on occasion involve deliberate sabotage. A recurring villain, "The Hood" (actually never named in the series, but given this name in the comics, tie-in books and other spin-off media), frequently causes major accidents in order to lure International Rescue's vehicles to the scene and spy on or steal them. Another complication is that The Hood's half brother, Kyrano, is the Tracy's servant, and because The Hood has some degree of psychic power over Kyrano, he is able to compel him to sabotage the Thunderbirds. Kyrano's daughter Tin-Tin is romantically linked with Alan Tracy, as well as participating in many IR missions.

International Rescue's London agent, international socialite Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, and her Cockney butler/chauffeur Aloysius "Nosey" Parker, are often seen chasing The Hood and other villains in the pink, amphibious Rolls-Royce FAB1, which is equipped with "James Bond"-style gadgets. (Rolls-Royce actually provided an authentic radiator grille to the production company for closeups of FAB-1, such as when the retractable machine gun was fired) Lady Penelope's yacht was called FAB-2. Although credited as "London-based Agent", Lady Penelope lives in a mansion in Kent, which is actually a miniature copy of real life Stourhead House in Wiltshire.

The characters use the radio sign-off "F.A.B." rather than "Roger" or "Out". Anderson was often asked what F.A.B. stood for, but stated it in fact simply stood for "fab" (short for "fabulous"), a 1960s catchphrase.


All the Thunderbird pilots wear a common mid blue uniform consisting of a polo-neck tunic, trousers, boots, and a simplified glengarry cap. Each uniform is accented by a baldric uniquely coloured specific to the wearer and bearing the International Rescue insignia, which carries a sidearm and two pouches, and similarly coloured cuffs to the boots: [Marriot, p. 81]

* Scott – pale blue
* Virgil – pale yellow
* Alan – white
* Gordon – orange
* John – lilac

Occasionally other members of the organisation are depicted in similar uniforms:

* Brains – brown leather (as seen in "Thunderbird 6")
* Jeff – metallic gold (only seen in publicity photographs in books [Marriot, p.16] and the DVD boxset. This sash actually carries a logo badge for the Dr. Barnardo's children's charity.)
* Tin-Tin sometimes wears a similar blue uniform with a pale blue belt but no baldric.


Each episode featured fantastic vehicles and machines primarily designed by special effects director Derek Meddings. In particular, the five Thunderbird craft used by International Rescue, were arguably the series' real stars.
*Thunderbird 1Hypersonic variable geometry rocket plane used for fast response, rescue zone reconnaissance, and as a mobile control base.
*Thunderbird 2 – Heavy supersonic VTOL carrier lifting body aircraft used for the transport of major rescue equipment and vehicles.
*Thunderbird 3 – Reusable, vertically launched SSTO (Single Stage To Orbit) spaceship used for space rescue and maintenance of Thunderbird 5.
*Thunderbird 4 – Small utility submarine for underwater rescue.
*Thunderbird 5 – Earth-orbiting space station which monitors all broadcasts around the globe for calls for help and also manages communications within International Rescue.
*Thunderbird 6 – Primitive biplane used once when the usual vehicles proved too heavy for the job. The title "Thunderbird 6" is mostly honorary.


Voice cast

The voice cast were all experienced character actors and several were already (or became) regular Anderson performers. David Holliday (the original voice of Virgil in Series I) was the only American cast in any voice role in the series; all the others were British, Australian or Canadian.

Versatile Australian actor Ray Barrett provided the voices of John Tracy and The Hood, as well as many other one-off characters. He had worked for Anderson before, voicing both Commander Shore and Titan in his previous series, "Stingray". Thanks to his extensive experience in live radio back in Australia, he was adept at rapid changes from one voice to another and he could also perform both English and American accents convincingly. By the time "Thunderbirds" began, Barrett was already a minor star on British TV, and since his return to Australia in the Seventies he has become one of the nation's senior film and TV actors. Although Sylvia Anderson or Christine Finn usually took responsibility for female guest characters, Barrett made an exception when he voiced the elderly Duchess of Royston in "The Duchess Assignment", to the hilarity of the other cast and crew.

Veteran Canadian actor Shane Rimmer (Scott) went on to appear in — and occasionally write scripts for — many subsequent Anderson productions. Rimmer has an extensive list of prominent TV and movie credits, but he is probably best known for his appearances in several James Bond films, and for his role as Captain G.A. 'Ace' Owens in Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove". Rimmer has appeared in many action, thriller and science fiction films, including "" and "Superman II", and is often cast in military or political roles.

David Graham, one of Anderson's longest serving voice actors, had previously worked on "Four Feather Falls", "Supercar", "Fireball XL5" and "Stingray" and was also one of the original voices of the Daleks in "Doctor Who" in 1963. Graham supplied no fewer than four of the main characters' voices - Parker, Gordon Tracy, Brains, and Kyrano.

Voice cast
* Peter Dyneley .... Jeff Tracy / various characters
* Sylvia Anderson .... Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward / various characters
* Shane Rimmer .... Scott Tracy / various characters
* David Holliday .... Virgil Tracy (1965) / various characters
* Jeremy Wilkin .... Virgil Tracy (1966) / various characters
* Matt Zimmerman .... Alan Tracy / various characters
* David Graham .... Gordon Tracy / Brains / Parker / Kyrano / various characters
* Ray Barrett .... John Tracy / The Hood / various characters
* Christine Finn .... Tin-Tin / Grandma / various characters
* John Tate .... Various Characters
* Charles Tingwell .... Various Characters (1966)
* Paul Maxwell .... Various Characters (1966)

(Paul Maxwell, Charles Tingwell and John Tate were not credited on-screen in either series, though Maxwell and Tingwell received credits in the two movies. The first film, "Thunderbirds Are GO" (1966), also featured two early voice-only appearances by popular entertainer Bob Monkhouse.).

It has also long been rumoured that the opening "5 4 3 2 1 Thunderbirds Are Go!" voiceover was provided by Brian Cobby who went on for many years to be the voice of the British speaking clock. While Cobby himself has long maintained this and has even received repeat-fee royalties from the BBC, this assertion has never been confirmed by the cast and Gerry Anderson himself stated that the voice was actually that of Peter Dyneley, also the original voice of Jeff Tracy. The general consensus is that Cobby probably provided the voice for one or more of the original toys and now has a clouded recollection of events, but the rumour remains in general circulation.

pecial effects

The programme was notable for the high quality of its miniature special effects. The effects supervisor on all of Anderson's shows from "Supercar" to "UFO" was Derek Meddings, who went on to produce special effects for the James Bond and Superman movies (Meddings won an Oscar for the first Superman film).

One of Meddings' most famous and ingenious creations was the so-called "rolling road" and "rolling sky" system. The "Thunderbirds" storylines called for a large number of scenes showing the Thunderbirds and other aircraft flying through the air, landing or taking off along runways, or motor vehicles travelling along roads. Meddings' team quickly discovered that the old method — pulling or pushing models across a static base or against a static background — produced very unconvincing results. Meddings came up with a novel solution to the problem, which he first used in the premiere episode, "Trapped in the Sky". For the famous crash-landing sequence (which so impressed Lew Grade), the Thunderbirds' remotely operated "elevator cars" had to be shown being maneuvered into position on the runway beneath the stricken Fireflash aircraft as it came in to land, so that the aircraft could touch down without extending its landing gear, which would have triggered a bomb hidden there by IR's nemesis, The Hood.

Meddings' solution was to construct a belt of canvas, stretched over rollers and driven by an electric motor. The miniature elevator cars were then fixed in position by fine wires on this "rolling road". The Fireflash model was suspended from wires above the elevator cars and it could be lowered onto the runway, creating a smooth and remarkably convincing descent effect. A similar roller system, painted with a sky background was built at right angles to the runway, and both roller motors were synchronised to provide a matching speed for both elements. When the lights and cameras were set up in the right position and the rollers were activated, the rolling road system created a very convincing illusion of movement. It also proved extremely helpful for the lighting and camera crews, since the miniature models did not move and were therefore much easier to light and shoot. The 'rolling sky' system proved equally effective for shots of flying aircraft. The illusion was enhanced by blowing smoke across the miniatures with a fan to simulate passing through cloud, and by joining the canvas belt at an angle to hide what would otherwise have been a visible seam. Unlike modern special effects, the model was still actually in front of the backdrop — at the time, this produced a more convincing (and far cheaper) effect than bluescreen technology. The 'rolling road' system was later used on several James Bond movies.

The team also quickly mastered the art of creating extremely convincing miniature explosions using materials including petroleum and fuller's earth. These were filmed at high speed, and when slowed down to normal speed they produced spectacular results. The team also became expert at creating a convincing illusion for rocket take-offs and landings. After an exhaustive search, they found a British firm that could make special thrustless solid-fuelled rocket canisters in different sizes, which burned for about ten seconds and which could be fitted inside the various miniatures to provide convincing rocket exhaust effects.

The show was justly praised for the exceptional quality of its miniature vehicles and sets. Some of the main Thunderbird vehicles were built by a professional model-making firm, but many others were custom-made by Meddings and his team from commercial radio-controlled motorised vehicle kits. Joining Meddings' team was Michael Trim, who became Medding's assistant to help design the fantastic craft and buildings of Thunderbirds. Meddings and Trim also pioneered the technique of 'customising' models and miniature vehicles by applying pieces taken from commercial model kits, to add convincing surface detail, for example the giant air conditioning silos either side of Thunderbird 1 in the launch bay beneath the swimming pool were actually a 1960's periscope toy manufactured by Merit.

The "Thunderbirds" miniatures were also 'aged' with paint and dust to create the convincing illusion that they were real, well-used vehicles. These techniques became standard practice in the special effects trade and were used to great effect in the building of the miniature spaceships and other vehicles for the first three "Star Wars" films.

Many of the effects team including Meddings and Brian Johnson became respected specialists in the film industry. Impressed by their work on the TV series, director Stanley Kubrick poached several of the Anderson effects team to work on his science fiction masterpiece "".


A crucial element of the show's success was its thrilling music score, composed and conducted by Barry Gray, who provided all the music for the Anderson series up to and including "" series one. His instantly recognisable "Thunderbirds March" is one of the best-known of all TV themes and has become a perennial favourite with brass and military bands around the world. Gray's original master recordings for the Anderson series were rediscovered in a storage facility in Chelsea, London in 1993.

The "Thunderbirds March" and the 5-4-3-2-1 countdown from the top of the show, were adopted by the British band Level 42 for its live shows, as captured in the video release of its 1987 performance at Wembley Stadium in London. An updated version, blended with the opening fanfare to the band's own hit "Heaven In My Hands," kicks off L42's concert gigs to this day. Similarly, the 5-4-3-2-1 countdown has been used by the Beastie Boys for its subsequent live shows; one instance of this is the Live Earth concert in London in 2007.

Gray composed a theme song with lyrics, performed by Gary Miller, for the series that was never used. The song, which had been intended to feature on the closing titles, was scrapped in favour of the "Thunderbirds March" just weeks before broadcast. However, the song was used in a slightly modified form ("Flying High") in the closing scenes of the episode, "Ricochet".

Original broadcast

A total of 32 episodes of "Thunderbirds" were made between 1965 and 1966 (although production began in 1964, as indicated by the show's copyright date) for the British production company ITC Entertainment, and first broadcast on ATV.

"Thunderbirds" ceased production very suddenly in the Autumn of 1966, six episodes into the second series. This was a decision made by Lew Grade after an unsuccessful trip to the U.S. to sell the programme. According to published reports of the incident, the three major television networks CBS, NBC, and ABC were all bidding on the series, and Grade felt he could play them against each other to gain a higher price. Unfortunately, when one dropped out, the others immediately followed. Although it was a genuine hit by that time, Grade still felt that the programme was too expensive to continue without the US market. The programme was instead shown in the US in television syndication with reasonable success.

Episode list

Thunderbirds films

The popularity of the series led to the production of two full length feature films, with financial backing by United Artists. During the early 1980s, several "Thunderbirds" episodes were combined to create three "Thunderbirds" television films. In 2004, a live action adaptation of the series was released, almost 40 years after the original series first aired.

Thunderbirds Are Go

Thunderbird 6

upermarionation Sci-Fi Theatre

In 1981, many of Gerry Anderson's series were being re-edited into TV movies in North America. These were aired on TV under the series title "Supermarionation Sci-Fi Theatre". Among these was "Thunderbirds", with three TV films airing on American television in 1981. These haven't been seen on TV since.

* "Countdown to Disaster" (featuring the episodes "Terror in New York City" and "Atlantic Inferno")
* "Thunderbirds in Outer Space" (featuring the episodes "Sun Probe" and "Ricochet")
*"Thunderbirds to the Rescue" (featuring the episodes "Trapped in the Sky" and "Operation Crash-Dive")

Thunderbirds (2004 live action film)

A live action feature film, also called "Thunderbirds", and directed by Jonathan Frakes premiered on July 24, 2004. All the Thunderbird craft seen in the live action film were based upon the original designs, but with modern refinements, although a modified Ford Thunderbird was used as FAB1 due to Rolls-Royce's refusal to give permission for the use of their name and grille. The live-action film had been planned as far back as the early 1990s, with the Baldwin brothers as four of the Tracy brothers and Rowan Atkinson as Brains.

The plot sidelined the main series characters in favour of Alan, Tin-Tin, and a new character, Brains' son Fermat, who have to rescue the adults from the evil Hood. Coincidentally, both plots of the Supermarionation films "Thunderbirds Are Go" (1966) and "Thunderbird 6" (1968) also focused on Alan, the youngest Tracy brother. The 2004 film was poorly received, both by critics and at the box office, with the film opening in 11th place in North America. A North American DVD was released in late 2004.


Several companies, including Matchbox and Dinky were licensed to produced die-cast metal and plastic toys based on the Thunderbird vehicles. They proved hugely popular and were one of the best selling merchandising lines of the decade. Original Thunderbirds toys are now expensive and highly sought after collectors' items. Many toys were made by Matchbox in the 90s to coincide with a revival of the TV series, including a Tracy Island playset and also the new movie, though they were generally marketed outside the US and in Canada. The Tracy Island set was particularly popular in the UK, and was in such demand on the year of its release that the children's television show Blue Peter instructed children in constructing their own from household materials. Remarkably, the free "fact sheet" detailing this process was so sought-after that it also became difficult to obtain.

Toy company Ban Dai produced toys to coincide with the release of the 2004 live action movie in the UK. As of 2007, Japanese companies such as Konami and Takara were still producing new "Thunderbirds" toys based on the original series vehicles, including a very expensive Thunderbird 2 model with lights and working motorised legs which lift the fuselage, exposing the cargo pod. Also to be noted is that Blast Entertainment is releasing a Thunderbirds game for the Playstation 2, for release in Europe due for July 2007. [ [ review of PS/2 Thunderbirds game] (Dutch)] [ [ Blast Entertainment page on PS/2 Thunderbirds game] ]

Original novels

A number of novels were published based upon the television series, most during 1966:

* "Thunderbirds", John Theydon (pseudonym for John W. Jennison), 1966
* "Calling Thunderbirds", Theydon, 1966
* "Ring of Fire", Theydon, 1966
* "Thunderbirds Are Go", Angus P. Allan, 1966 (film novelization)
* "Operation Asteroids", John W. Jennison, 1966
* "Lost World", Jennison, 1966

In 1992 Corgi Books published four episode novelizations for children based upon the teleplays "The Uninvited", "Brink of Disaster", "Sun Probe", and "Atlantic Inferno".

The character of Lady Penelope was also featured in her own series of novels:

* "A Gallery of Thieves", Kevin McGarry, 1966
* "Cool for Danger", McGarry, 1966
* "The Albanian Affair", John Theydon, 1967

In 2008, FTL Publications began a new series of Thunderbirds novels based on the original series, written by Joan Marie Verba with art by noted Thunderbirds fan favorite, Steve Kyte. This is the first license granted to a publisher in the United States for Thunderbirds books and are the first new official series of novels written since 1967. "Countdown To Action," published in June 2008, encapsulates the formation of International Rescue, exploring the creation of the team and their fabulous equipment. The books to follow will highlight the individual Tracy brothers, with the first of those being focused upon eldest brother, Scott, in the second novel, "Action Alert."

Current broadcast

Today, the series is frequently repeated on BBC Two in the UK and RTÉ Two in Ireland (when the series was broadcast on BBC Two in 1991–92, this was actually the first nationwide screening, since British television was much more heavily regionalised in the 1960s, and ATV only operated in certain areas). "Thunderbirds" is also quite popular in Japan, where it was first broadcast in 1966 by NHK. For approximately three years (2000–2003) the satellite channel Boomerang UK broadcast uncut episodes daily, meaning that the complete run of 32 episodes was screened about 34 times. "Thunderbirds" was also syndicated on the now defunct US cable television network TechTV from August 5, 2002 through June 20, 2004. The Tech TV broadcast, however, split episodes into 30-minute portions, and were filled with on-screen "pop up trivia" and arrows pointing at spots on the screen. In Australia, the Channel 9 Network screened the series many times over from the 1970s until as recently as 2007 during the Saturday morning timeslot, and on weekdays during school holiday periods. The original (uncut) series was also re-broadcast several times on the Australasian Foxtel cable network in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Australasian Foxtel cable network now plays "Thunderbirds" on the new Sci-Fi Network on weekdays. It is currently shown in the US in High Definition on Family Room, one of the VOOM television networks.

Modernising attempts

During the 1980s, there was a Japanese anime series, "Scientific Rescue Team TechnoVoyager", which was released in English as Thunderbirds 2086, rewritten to be based on the Thunderbirds, with a more technologically intense feel. International Rescue was based in a large arcology on a Pacific island. This series was non-canon.

Some versions screened on the Fox Network and in US syndication in the 1990s used re-recorded voices and music, and had their running time reduced to fit a half-hour slot with commercials, much to the annoyance of long-time fans. Even more widely disliked was "Turbocharged Thunderbirds", a revamped version of the show which briefly aired in syndication from late 1994 to mid-1995, which replaced the original dialogue with "ironic post-modern" jokes, and live action introductions suggesting the events of the series take place on some strange alien "Thunder world" (with the two teenaged "hosts", the so-called "Hack Masters", controlling the action from a studio set resembling the interior of Thunderbird 5 and referring to Jeff Tracy as "Mr. T"). Gerry Anderson was reportedly furious at what FOX had done to"Thunderbirds", and the new version of the series quickly disappeared.

In 2000, the series was remastered with Dolby Surround sound for DVD release. Gerry Anderson, who had not received any royalties on the show since signing away the rights in the late 1960s, was employed as a "remastering consultant". The DVD's were released in the UK, US and Australia in 2002.

A new series?

In September 2005, a QuickTime video file titled " [ Thunderbirds IR] " was released on several P2P networks. It opens with music by Barry Gray and a few clips of the classic Thunderbirds 1 through 4 launching, then shows several scenes from an intended new "Thunderbirds" series from Carlton Television. The trailer made with a combination of computer-generated imagery and puppetry depicts scenes including internal sets, external settings, and a sleekly-redesigned Thunderbird 1, Scott Tracy, The Hood, and the rescue of a falling lighthousekeeper. Scott Tracy is seen to walk, and perform a backflip (making the tongue-in-cheek remark "Look, no strings!").

The trailer stated that a new "Thunderbirds" series would be coming in 2005 from Carlton Television and displays a phone number. The series was developed by Carlton with David Freedman as executive producer and David Mercer who was heading the Children's Department at Carlton at the time. Greg Johnson and Bob Forward were lead writers and Asylum did all the set builds and puppet work. Tim Field was line producer. Dave Throssel and a small team from The Mill TV Dept did the CG work. Steve Clarke directed the short. Gerry Anderson met the Carlton team in the early days of development and gave his full blessing. However, when Granada and Carlton merged, the series was shelved until further notice.cite web
title=Thunderbirds Are Still Not Go.
author=David Freedman

On August 29th 2008, it was announced by "The Sun" newspaper that Gerry Anderson is planning a new computer generated series of "Thunderbirds". Gerry Anderson is in talks with ITV for the rights to the original series. [Collin Robertson, " [ Thunderbirds are back!] " in "The Sun", 29th August 2008] While Anderson believes a new series will eventually be made with his involvement, on that occasion ITV refused to return the rights. [cite news|author=Talking Shop: Gerry Anderson|work=BBC News Online|date=2008-10-07|url=|accessdate=2008-10-07]

References, parodies and imitations

Not Only... But Also a popular 1960s BBC British television series starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore performed a sketch "Superthunderstingcar" (a parody of Thunderbirds and other Sylvia and Gerry Anderson puppet shows)

In 1984 mime artists Andrew Dawson and Gavin Robertson (co-founders of and performers in The Mime Theatre Project) devised and presented a hit mime stage show called "Thunderbirds FAB" at the Apollo Theatre in London. The show was very popular and was still occasionally being revived for the next 20 years (possibly longer). The show also featured Captain Scarlet. From a 2001 tour flyer, Andrew Dawson is quoted as saying "Every time Thunderbirds returns [to UK TV] people call us up and ask us if we are still doing the show. We try to recreate everything that everyone loves about Thunderbirds in a live show - the noises, the funny puppet walk. Anyone who has ever seen Thunderbirds - and there can't be many people who haven't - will enjoy the show"

In 1990, Swinton Car Insurance made a Thunderbirds advert called "Parker's Day Off", where Lady Penelope drives recklessly in FAB1 before Parker comes to her rescue in Thunderbird 2.

In 1992, the first series of the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous featured a Lady Penelope marionette version of Patsy in one of Edina's dreams.

In 1993, the Kit Kat candy bar company made an American Thunderbirds-themed advertisement. It features the original 5-4-3-2-1 countdown (re-recorded by a new voice actor) and all ships taking off, except Thunderbird 1. Scott, who pilots the ship, is seen relaxing and " [Having] a break", as the commercial encourages. Meanwhile, a frantic Jeff Tracy tries to coerce Scott into launching the ship: "Thunderbirds! GO!" At the same time in the Thunderbirds' homeland, the UK, a Pizza Hut commercial featuring the Thunderbirds was made, with the characters "hitting the hut", as was the company's slogan at the time.

In 1995, The Wallace and Gromit film "A Close Shave" by Aardman Animations. When Wallace receives a call for window-cleaning service, his method of getting to his motorbike and out onto the road is a direct homage to the Thunderbirds TV series (specifically, the way Virgil Tracy gets to Thunderbird 2 and into the air). Pastiche music in the style of Barry Gray's Thunderbirds' music supports this spoof.

In 2001, the DVLA used Thunderbirds in one of their commercials reminding people to pay their road tax where Lady Penelope cuts Parker's strings for accidentally allowing FAB1 to be clamped.

In 2003, the Orbitz company saired a series of commercials with Supermarionation puppets, not unlike those used on Thunderbirds.

In 2004, "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker produced a full length feature film ' (2004) which lampooned the original series. "Team Americas marionette humour drew heavily for its inspiration on the quirks and foibles of Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation techniques, whilst managing the significant task of paying respect to the original. Stone and Parker have stated they were not fans of the show or the stories, but have expressed admiration for the visual style and puppetry: "what’s made it last is the time and care that the people who did that show put into the marionettes". [cite news | title = Trey Parker and Matt Stone talk Team America: World Police | publisher = Movieweb | date = 2004-10-04 | url = | accessdate=2008-01-19]

In 2005, the 10th anniversary special of the BBC sitcom The Vicar of Dibley featured a drunk Geraldine lapsing into the opening countdown while drunk in the pulpit, then shouting "Thunderbirds are GO!" as part of her homily.

Australian band TISM released a single called "Thunderbirds are Coming Out". The lyrics with a troubled teenager who rebels against his (or her) parents and "sit [s] for hours all alone, without an opinion to call my own". Eventually the teenager sees The Thunderbirds on television and is impressed. The teen is inspired by their appearance, stating "there's less to them than meets the eye" and from there joins various social cliques and adheres to norms of teenage life - in a sense giving up individuality, but yet transcending to the next level of teenage life.

In 2008, UK retailer Specsavers released an advertisement utilising Virgil Tracy and The Hood to promote their Reaction lenses. It was produced by Tandem Films in London using the same production techniques used by the original series. The video was published on the official Specsavers YouTube web site and screened on commercial TV networks in the UK.

The mini adventure sees Virgil pursued by his arch-enemy, the villainous Hood, through snow-capped mountains. Virgil comes out of a tunnel into the glare of the sun and his Specsavers lenses immediately darken to protect his vision. The Hood is not so lucky and, blinded by the bright light, he crashes into a mountain. The chase is over and Virgil escapes again, thanks to modern technology, and to the relief of his father, Jeff.

Another recent advert, released by Britvic to advertise their line of 'Drench' water, features Brains dancing to the 90s' hit Rhythm Is a Dancer. Halfway through, he takes a seat and drinks some Drench before resuming the dance. The advert ends with the slogan "Brains perform best when they're hydrated". The official Stay Drenched website featured a making of video which revealed Brains' moves were a combination of live action puppeteering, motion capture and CGI. []

In the last episode of the Channel 4 sitcom "Spaced," Mike convinces Brian to help him convince Marsha not to sell the house by playing a cassette tape with the Thunderbirds theme.

UK train operator Virgin Trains employs a set of 16 class 57/3 diesel locomotives primarily for 'rescue' duties, towing its electric Pendolino trains in the event of breakdowns or unexpected detours to non-electrified lines. All 16 are named after Thunderbirds characters or machines.

ee also

* "Thunderbirds 2086" — a Japanese anime sequel series which aired in 1982.
* International Rescue Corps, an organisation inspired by the show's premise.



*cite book | last = Bentley | first = Chris | title = The Complete Book of Thunderbirds | publisher = Carlton | date = 2005 | location = London | isbn = 1-84442-454-5
*cite book | title=Thunderbirds ARE GO! | author=Marriot, John | coauthors=Anderson, Gerry (foreword) | id=ISBN 1-85283-164-2 | publisher=Boxtree |date=1992 | location=London

External links

* [ Thunderbirds] at [ BFI Screenonline]
* Carlton TV's "Thunderbirds" Online site waybackdate|site=|date=20060831204806
* []
* [ Thunderbirds] at BBCi
* [ Life sized replica of original FAB1 Car]
* [ Specsavers 2008 Thunderbirds advertisement]
* [ Article on the making of the Thunderbirds Specsavers advertisement]

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