The iconic puppet series is to return to television screens on CITV in 2015, fifty years after its first debut on ITV.
Denise O Donoghue, Managing Director ITV Studios UK, says, “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 fifty years.”
Whether it remains to continue to be a respected brand once ITV have had their fingers all over it remains to be seen, the company hasn’t had a very good track record in remaking former ATV programmes with fellow puppet remake Captain Scarlet proving lackluster, drama The Prisoner’s reboot proving utterly forgettable and soap opera Crossroads failing to live up to the fanfare or ratings of the original.
There is hope however for Thunderbirds as ITV Studios are not attempting the classic revival alone. The production arm of ITV is to work with New Zealand based Pukeko Pictures who will also collaborate with Weta Workshop.
The new series is to be titled Thunderbirds are Go! and will see 26 half hour episodes produced.
This re-invention of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s iconic series will be produced using a unique mix of CGI animation and live-action model sets. Showcasing Pukeko Pictures’ and Weta Workshop’s ground-breaking creative and technical excellence, it will deliver a whole new level of action-adventure animation for today’s audience, whilst also affectionately paying tribute to the legacy of model locations from the classic series.
Thunderbirds are Go! is commissioned by Jamila Metran, Head of Programming for CITV, who says, “Thunderbirds Are Go! will be a hugely exciting new show for the CITV audience. We’re delighted to be working with ITV Studios and the talented teams at Pukeko Pictures and Weta Workshop, whose success and innovation is renowned across the film and television industry. Thunderbirds is a much-loved British institution with significant global recognition, and our audience will relish this timely opportunity to discover the new series fifty years on.”
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 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 when ATV boss Lord Lew Grade saw an edit of the first programme he 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 Thunderbirds 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.
The ridiculously named ‘ITV Studios Global Entertainment’ retains worldwide rights to the Thunderbirds brand following their acquisition, via Carlton International, of the ITC Entertainment programme library which originally was the sister company to ATV Network. Creator Gerry Anderson, who was critical of the outcome of the Captain Scarlet reboot, died last year aged 83.
[Reported by Mike Watkins]