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Toonhound presents...






It's A Puppet!


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   Thunderbirds    (1964-1966)
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  producers: AP Films for ITC Worldwide
       puppets: Supermarionation / string and 
                      radio-controlled puppets
     episodes: 32 x 60 mins

Thunderbirds are go!"

    It's 2026, and from their top secret island base, somewhere in the Pacific,
    billionaire Jeff Tracy and his sons Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John adopt the
    guise of International Rescue and utilize five extraordinary rescue and surveillance
    machines to monitor and traverse the world and divert disasters. They are aided by
    their undercover agent in Britain, Lady Penelope and her chauffeur Parker, who take
    to their extraordinary pink Rolls Royce - FAB 1 - when required. Jeff Tracy's extended
    entourage includes the Thunderbirds engineer and all-round technical boffin, Brains,
    the manservant Kyrano, and his beautiful daughter Tin-Tin who is Alan Tracy's
    girlfriend. Grandma Tracy also pops up from time to time.

    The Tracys must keep on their toes at all times, ready to tackle trouble where
    ever it strikes. Often times that maniacal villain The Hood is behind all the trouble
    This enigmatic enemy is skilled in black magic and he regularly outwits the team
    in his quest to steal their technical secrets, but fortunately for the world, he just
    as regularly comes unstuck...

     Scott Tracy   Brains

    What can one say about this series? - Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's production
    is a tv triumph. In the UK, it's a legendary production, loved by many, adored by
    more, and obsessed upon by far too many others. And it's easy to see why.
    "Thunderbirds" has fantastic machines, fantastic locations, fantastic puppets,
    fantastic action, fantastic explosions and destruction - it's a fan-boy's dream, really.
    There's little point detailing the history of this top creation, when so many other
    sites on the great www explore the minutiae of the show. Suffice it to say, whatever
    aspect of this series interests you, you can bet there's a web site out there which
    covers it.
    It's interesting to note the series was original conceived as a half-hour format, but
    impresario producer Lew Grade had so much enthusiasm for the pilot episode
    he decided the filmmakers should extend the running time, to a full hour per episode.     This decision was made after nine half-hour episodes had already been filmed and
    several more were too far down the production process to scrap. The extra
    footage had to be shoehorned in, and several models had to be specially rebuilt
    for the additional scenes.

    "Thunderbirds" success spawned two spin-off feature films, Thunderbirds Are
    Go (1966) and Thundebird 6 (1968), and a later animated series from Japan
    called "Thunderbirds 2086" utilized the franchise name, if not the content.
    In August 2002, film producers Working Title put to bed years of speculation
    when they announced a live-action feature film version of the series. The
    movie was directed by Jonathan Frakes and released in July 2004, but
    alas too much tinkering with the concept caused the project to misfire
    with critics and fans and the box office return was poor. What a shame
    that rights holders Carlton haven't developed their plans for an all-new
    puppet series. Just before the film got its greenlight, they put together
    terrific footage fearturing new puppets and model ships with some
    CGI assistance, serving as a trailer for a potential new series. But
    alas, nothing further developed.
    Still, we have the original series to savour. And one that continues to air,
    forty years on from its original broadcast. "Thunderbirds" is still indisputably,


    The Thunderbirds

    Thunderbird 1 - piloted by Scott Tracy
    This is a silver rocket ship of superior speed, regularly first on the scene to help.
    It is launched from beneath the Tracy Island swimming pool, which slides back
    to reveal the ship below. Thunderbird 1 has movable wings, enabling greater
    in-flight stability and vertical landings, as required.

    Thunderbird 2 - piloted by Virgil Tracy 
    A huge green utilitarian craft; a transporter with interchangeable pods. These
    numbered pods contain an array of smaller machines and, most famously,
    Thunderbird 4. Thunderbird 2 is located in a hidden hangar. A rockface slides
    down and the ship emerges on to a section of road. Palm trees swing out of the
    way and the road elevates in to a ramp to enable blast-off. Machines in the
    other pods include:

                     The Mole - a machine for boring, drilling and tunneling
                        Domo 1 - a demoltion vehicle
                   The Firefly - a fire extinguisher
                     IR3 Truck - a dish-bearing transmitter truck
          The Thunderiser - a giant blaster gun
               Elevator Cars - mobile support platforms, operated by remote control
        The Mobile Crane - a mobile crane with a huge telescopic arm
       Recovery Vehicles - various vehicles used for rescues

    Thunderbird 3 - piloted by Alan Tracy
    A red rocket ship, used primarily to get the brothers into space, and to the orbiting
    space station Thunderbird 5. This vehicle blasts off via the Round House on Tracy

    Thunderbird 4 - piloted by Gordon Tracy
    A yellow aquatic vehicle, used for underwater missions. Thunderbird 4 is held
    in Pod 4 (of course). On occasion, the ship launches directly from Tracy Island,
    either by slipway or jetty.

    Thunderbird 5 - manned by JohnTracy
    Not a ship as such, rather, it's an orbiting space station with a docking facility
    for Thunderbird 3.
    International Rescue logo


    Thunderbirds episodes

    1. Trapped In The sky            17. Desperate Intruder
    2. Pit Of Peril                        18. 30 Minutes After Noon
    3. City Of Fire                       19. The Imposters
    4. Sun Probe                         20. The Man From MI5
    5. The Uninvited                    21. Cry Wolf
    6. The Mighty Atom                22. Danger At Ocean Deep
    7. Vault Of Death                   23. The Duchess Assignment
    8. Operation Crash Dive           24. Attack Of The Alligators
    9. Move And You're Dead         25. The Cham Cham
    10. Martian Invasion               26. Security Hazard
    11. Brink Of Disaster               27. Atlantic Inferno
    12. The Perils Of Penelope       28. Path Of Destruction
    13. Terror In New York City      29. Alias Mr Hackenbacker
    14. End Of The Road               30. Lord Parker's 'Oliday
    15. Day Of Disaster                31. Ricochet
    16. The Edge Of Impact          32. Give Or Take A Million


     In the news

     The Hound: September 2005
     CGI Thunderbirds...?


     See also

     Thunderbirds Are Go
     Thunderbird 6


     Further reading

     The Complete Book of Thunderbirds
     by Chris Bentley (Carlton Books 2000) 

     The Complete Gerry Anderson
     by Chris Bentley (Reynolds & Hearn 2003)

     Thunderbirds Are Go!
     by John Marriott (Boxtree 1992)


     Thunderbirds on DVD

     UK DVD Thunderbirds series discs and box sets
                Over the years Carlton Intl have released all of the Thunderbirds
                episodes on DVD in different formats, with plenty of extras
                and additions for fans...
  USA DVD Thunderbirds series discs and box sets
                And here's what the USA has to offer, including the
                FAB-ulous 12-disc Thunderbirds Megaset..


    created by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson

    exec prod:         Gerry Anderson
    producer:          Reg Hill

    writers:             Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson, Alan Fennell,
                            Dennis Spooner, Martin Clump, Donald Robertson,
                            Alan Pattillo
    directors:          Alan Pattillo, Desmond Saunders, David Elliott,
                            David Lane, Brian Burgess
    music & fx:        Barry Gray
    spfx sup:           Derek Meddings
    visualisation:     Sylvia Anderson
    art director:       Bob Bell
    sup sculptor:     John Brown
    charac ops:       Christine Granville, Mary Turner
    voices:              Peter Dyneley (Jeff Tracy)
                            Shane Rimmer (Scott Tracy)
                            David Holliday (Virgil Tracy / episodes 1 - 26)
                            Jeremy Wilkin (Virgil Tracy / episodes 27 - 32)
                            Matt Zimmerman (Alan Tracy)
                            David Graham (Gordon / Brains / Parker / Kyrano)
                            Ray Barrett (John Tracy / The Hood)
      Sylvia Anderson (Lady Penelope)
                            Christine Finn (Tin-Tin / Grandma)


     On the web


      The place to go for all-things Anderson...

      The Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History

      Shaqui's excellent Adnerson site features all those amazing
      comic strips based on the various Supermarionation series,
      with Thunderbirds up there with the best of them...

      Paul Jasper

      Clean, clear and efficient. Paul Jasper's pages take the uninitiated
      on a three page introduction to the series.Yes, yes, there's not much
      to it. But it's uncluttered and informative....


      A single page from Trekker fills you in on the basics, the characters and
      episodes with a smattering of pics for good measure...

      Dr Bob 

      Now this is cool. Dr Bob's Thunderbirds Archives feature five pages of
      superb scanned pictures, taken from back volumes of "TV2000" and three
      "Thunderbirds Extra" albums...

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© Carlton Intl Media Ltd / F2012