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Resurrecting Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Classic 'Thunderbirds' using original voice tracks and retro filmmaking techniques
Resurrecting Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Classic 'Thunderbirds' using original voice tracks and retro filmmaking techniques
3,378 backers pledged £218,412 to help bring this project to life.

Savers Are GO!

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Four months after our last update we're back again with another update - as we know that not all of our backers use social media!

Many of you, especially those in the UK, may have noticed that Thunderbirds is all across the country following the launch of Halifax's ad campaign. And, as you may have guessed, we were heavily involved - using the Supermarionation techniques we picked up during the making of the three new episodes in 2015.

For those of you who haven't seen the main advert, you can see the full length version here:

Just prior to the screening of the episodes at the British Film Institute last year, we were invited by ITV to meet with advertising agency Adam&EveDDB to discuss the possibility of helping them make a Thunderbirds advert that they had written. And so, only a few weeks after we left Stirling Road, Slough... we found ourselves back there working on Thunderbirds again!

We are continuing to investigate the possibilities of keeping Supermarionation / Thunderbirds alive in puppet form and so we immediately recognised the potential of this campaign to elevate the profile of the puppets in the public consciousness. Whilst Thunderbirds 1965 had been a big success - with worldwide coverage - there's nothing quite like an ad campaign to make something inescapable. 

Parker raises a glass on the enormous puppet beach set (image www.keyline.tv)
Parker raises a glass on the enormous puppet beach set (image www.keyline.tv)

The advert was produced by production company Outsider and our job at Century 21 Films Ltd was to produce and advise on all Supermarionation related elements. We built the puppets, sets and models, as well as advised on how to film the advert correctly. For the parts of the advert that were achieved using CGI, we were on hand to make sure that everything that didn't really exist looked and behaved as though it did (although the credit for the excellent work rests with The Mill). 

Recreation challenges for this advert included rebuilding Lady Penelope's drawing room - something that had proved too complex in the timescale for The Stately Homes Robberies - but thanks to Hilton Fitzsimmons was possible for this project. Complete with many of the correct dressings used on the original set! 

Lady Penelope's Drawing Room Rebuilt by Hilton Fitzsimmons
Lady Penelope's Drawing Room Rebuilt by Hilton Fitzsimmons

Meanwhile, David Tremont in New Zealand was tasked with the challenge of building the exterior of Penelope's mansion. In less than 3 weeks he produced this exquisite miniature, which is as far as possible, identical to the original model. To aid accuracy we were able to use original 1960s special effects rushes.

 

 

Other challenges included the 30 ft deep, forced perspective beach set complete with water tank, devised by Richard Gregory with Hilton Fitzsimmons and Toby Chamberlain, and new female puppets sculpted by Lady Penelope's creator Mary Turner, and Stephen Mansfield (who made Gallup Din, Dawkins and Mr Charles for us previously). The miniature costumes were made for us, once again, by Liz Comstock-Smith and Carl Stirling-Stewart. 

Strangest of all the items we had to produce though was a large scale Lady Penelope hand to enable the character to look into her compact. For this Puppettry Supervisor Géraldine Donaldson took a break from her duties to allow a cast of her hand to be made!

 

Gèraldine and Elliot Pavelin were responsible for running and maintaining the puppet department, whilst Barry Davies once again produced the characters and refurbished the Thunderbirds 1965 puppets.  Stephen La Rivière and Andrew T. Smith produced as well as puppeteered.

Once everything had been built at Stirling Road it was all shipped off to Black Island Studios to shoot the main advert. This took place over five days in October - after which we brought everything home to begin work on the next stage of the campaign. The following month, we produced 5 short films with Brains entitled Savers Are Go! Unlike the advert, this was produced entirely in-house which meant we were reunited with our cinematographers David Hicks and Boyd Skinner - which was great for us as unlike the main ad crew, we're all used by now to how to film the puppets which meant we were able to shoot everything in a day. 

 

For these shorts we shot on vintage film equipment using 35mm film - and for extra authenticity - used a very poor quality black and white video assist system! In addition to these Brains segments, we also shot a series of silly Parker-being-interviewed shorts.

The final job for the campaign was the shooting of the elements for the main poster campaign. The ad agency assembled at Stirling Road to take pictures of the main Thunderbird craft, and the puppets. 

We understand that the campaign has been a big success for the Halifax and, in turn, it's done wonders for raising the profile of Thunderbirds as we had hoped it would. Further evidence that Supermarionation has a future.

 

Sadly, there is no future for the puppets on Stirling Road as the buildings have reached the end of their lives and are set to be demolished. We packed up in December and vacated the premises permanently. But not before we asked David Elliott and Mary Turner if they'd briefly come back to work again on the old series 1 stages... We'll tell you more about that soon.

That's all for now. For those of you who do use social media, you can follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/thunderbirds65/, or on Twitter @Thunderbirds65. And, for those of you who don't like social media, you can still follow our progress on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMQv_O7i_iXMFBSbtolnpjA

And finally, we have our own website for our company Century 21 Films Ltd: https://www.century21films.co.uk where you can read about past and present projects.

On a final note, we continue to be asked about the future of the 3 episodes we released last year. Well, lots of work is going on, but we hope these will be more widely available soon. This whole Supermarionation revival lark is a slow business... but bit by bit things are happening :-)

Team Thunderbirds 1965

Richard Gregory assists Parker on the beach set (www.keyline.tv)
Richard Gregory assists Parker on the beach set (www.keyline.tv)

 

Dan Cooper, Andrew Hyde, and 81 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Matthew Atkinson on April 21, 2017

      Well done one and all! I'm certainly up for buying the three episodes when they get re-issued.

    2. Missing avatar

      Arthur Chim on April 20, 2017

      Wonderful stuff, you guys are FAB. Being in Australia I was totally surprised about the advertising campaign involving Lady Penelope and Parker. Long live Thunderbirds.
      BTW, who was the voice artist for Lady Penelope?

    3. Missing avatar

      Duncan Moss on April 20, 2017

      Fantastic news. Absolutely delighted for you all and very proud of you as well. Gerry Anderson puppetry definitely has a future using modern and traditional techniques. We as a country can embrace the Gerry Anderson characters with the same pride America does with the Disney and Hanna Barbara characters.

    4. Missing avatar

      Jon Bedet on April 19, 2017

      I've been following this closely. This is great news! :D
      If there's anything we fans can do to help this whole Supermarionation revival, please let us know.
      Lovely!

    5. Stephen La Rivière Creator on April 19, 2017

      To answer Lucius - the original show didn't always use real hands for close ups. They also used puppet hands. And, more pertinently, the compact close up depicts a large scale fake hand. So we were maintaining authenticity :)

    6. Missing avatar

      dennis on April 19, 2017

      Wow! Thunderbirds 1965 is still alive and kicking! Great News. Keep it going for as long as you can. I love the update. Dennis F. U.S.A.

    7. Christopher Bate on April 19, 2017

      The more publicity the better... Well done guys :)

    8. Lucius Voltaic on April 19, 2017

      I'm surprised you needed to make a large-scale puppet hand. Didn't the original show just use real hands for close-up shots?

    9. René van den Abeelen on April 19, 2017

      Very, VERY well done! Hats off!