Thunderbirds Revival Brings Puppets Back To TV

Classic British sci-fi show Thunderbirds, a show which took on a rarely-seen offshoot of puppetry (a patented technique called ‘supermarionation’), is set to take on a more technology-assisted revamp, with ITV taking on the show for a local revival.

ThunderbirdsFor the project, which is being given a 26-episode run on ITV (and children’s channel CITV) to air in 2015 (celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original show, which ran for 64 half-hour episodes between 1965-66), will be in very strong hands for its planned CGI sequences, as ITV announced that they will be working alongside New Zealand-based company Weta Workshop.

Weta are a special effects company who have worked on movies including Lord of the Rings and Avatar, and will over the next few years add the working title of Thunderbirds are Go! to their credits slate, even if they are technically working on a children’s show for the channel.

The original series followed the adventures of an ‘international rescue organization’ in the year 2065, who battle evil with their ‘technically advanced equipment and machinery’ sent from their secret island base.

Denise O’Donoghue, the ‘UK managing director’ of ITV Studios, said of their upcoming content: “Thunderbirds is a highly respected brand that continues to hold recognition around the world. This cult series is often credited as changing the history of animation and action-adventure, and we look forward to taking the show to another level while retaining the much-loved heritage that has endured over the past 50 years.”

Richard Taylor, the chief executive of Weta Workshop (and of Pukeko Pictures, who have been signed as co-producers with ITV Studios), claimed that he was most looking forward to enabling a ‘new generation’ of viewers experience the format, stating: “Thunderbirds was a hugely influential television series in my childhood. Having watched it originally in black and white, it was only years later that I discovered full and rich world that Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and their team created.”

Despite the name Thunderbirds and the images it instantly provides, the revitalised series is set to use no puppetry whatsoever, instead applying a combination of live action and CGI (computer generated imagery), with the show meant more as a ‘tribute’ to the original puppet format.

However, the last time that Thunderbirds attempted live-action (in the form of a 2004 movie that was ironically released at a similar time to unofficial marionette-based comedy tribute Team America: World Police, clips of both can be seen below), original series creator Gerry Anderson (who last month passed away aged 83) described the poorly-recieved movie as: “the biggest load of crap I have ever seen in my life”. Will he be spinning in his grave at the latest incarnation of his franchise?

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