ITV have released more details on their Thunderbirds revival, which sees the classic children’s series of the sixties reworked for a new generation of viewers.
“Whenever disaster strikes, International Rescue answers the call. From their hidden island base in the south Pacific, the five Tracy Brothers pilot remarkable, cutting-edge Thunderbird vehicles from the depths of the oceans to the highest reaches of space – all for one purpose: to help others in need. Even the devious schemes of mysterious international criminal ‘The Hood’ can’t weaken their resolve, or stop them from battling the dangers of the year 2060. Supported by mechanical genius Brains, stealthy operative Kayo, their jet-setting London agent Lady Penelope and her loyal driver Parker, Scott, Gordon, Virgil, John and Alan Tracy live for these three words: Thunderbirds Are Go!” – ITV
The original format idea began in 1964 when plans by ATV were kicked off to create a series around an ‘international rescue’ organisation. The result was Thunderbirds by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson – airing from 1965 to 1966 with two series and a total of 32 fifty minute editions. Originally planned to be only half an hour long things changed when ATV boss Lord Lew Grade saw an edit of the first programme and was so impressed he extended the slot.
The classic series continues to prove popular with repeats and it even spawned somewhat unsuccessful movie versions in the sixties and an equally unpopular 1982 Japanese ‘version’. In 2004 Carlton International promoted a ‘new’ series of the show which centered on original characters such as Lady Penelope, Brains and Jeff Tracy and his family – that remake, made in the same puppet format as the original, didn’t go beyond a promo trailer. In the same year there was a ‘live action’ big budget Universal movie version which was panned, including by Gerry Anderson.
Now five decades on from its first television debut, ITV Studios and New Zealand based Pukeko Pictures have re-invented the classic Thunderbirds series in collaboration with world-famous Weta Workshop (Avatar, King Kong, The Lord of the Rings). The 26 half hour episodes, entitled Thunderbirds are Go!, now using a mix of CGI animation and live-action model sets, air on CITV and ITV later this spring.
“Featuring the world’s most famous family of heroes, the series stars Rosamund Pike as Lady Penelope, original cast member David Graham who reprises his role as Parker, Kayvan Novak as inventor Brains and Thomas Brodie-Sangster voicing John Tracy. Sylvia Anderson, the original voice of Lady Penelope will also guest star in an episode as Great Aunt Sylvia.” – ITV
Before an episode has aired ITV have already commissioned a second series and the forthcoming first outing of episodes has already been sold to a number of broadcasters in countries including TVNZ in New Zealand, Australia’s Nine Network, Noga in Israel and pan-Arab broadcaster MBC.
“There’s nothing a seven year old boy wants more than to be a hero – in sports, in school, at home, wherever – and the great joy of Thunderbirds is that it’s all about heroism. I don’t think that desire has changed in the last fifty years. It’s in the name, International Rescue, which means that someone, somewhere, needs saving and this young team are going to save them. Pure, unalloyed, selfless heroism, with no grey areas, no complex moral issues – just people in danger. The Thunderbirds are here to save the world, and every boy and girl wants to be a part of that gang.
“These aren’t superheroes that can just do anything because they have some mysterious gift that allows them to do it – there’s no gadget or button where a computer solves the problem. You want it to be because you did something brilliant and that is the genius of Thunderbirds Are Go – each rescue is affected because of the skill or daring of our characters. Or put more specifically, the humanity of our characters’ heroism.” – Giles Ridge – Executive Producer
Giles also notes the new episodes also, with the model sets, reflect the care and attention creators Gerry and Sylvia put into the original Thunderbirds noting how their intent was to create absolute reality, filming on miniature sets in a way that made them look photographic.
“When the show was broadcast to it’s original audience, it looked completely believable. The series is still fascinating to watch today but if you now watch it closely, it doesn’t look real anymore – in fact quite the opposite, it almost looks handcrafted; you can see the love and workmanship and attention to detail in the models, and so when we were thinking of a style that would be distinctive amongst the market of very clean looking CG animation shows today, we thought rather than follow the crowd, let’s play tribute to the original show and offer today’s audience something completely different by incorporating that same love and attention to detail by building with models. So whilst the show has CG craft and characters, the majority of the backgrounds are miniatures, achieved in the same way as the original series.”
Pictured top: Thunderbirds Are Go! the new ITV series for 2015. Pictured bottom, the original Thunderbirds of 1965.