Gerry Anderson, creator of UK television series Thunderbirds and other marionette and live-action shows, died today in a nursing home near Oxfordshire, England. Anderson had suffered from Alzheimer’s since 2010, and his condition had recently worsened significantly, his son Jamie wrote on his website. Anderson was 83. Although Thunderbirds aired for just two seasons on Britain’s ITV after debuting in 1965, it became an international sensation. In syndication, the high-tech tales of adventurers rocketing around the world to fight evil-doers became a staple of Saturday morning and weekday afternoon kids programming in the U.S. Anderson’s first work with puppets was Granada TV’s The Adventures of Twizzle, about a doll that could “twizzle” his arms and legs to greater lengths. Anderson and his associates developed a technique that became known as Supermarionation. The system used audio signals from recordings of the actors’ voices to trigger electronics in the puppets’ heads that enabled synchronization of dialogue with the puppets’ lip movements. Anderson’s other productions included Space: 1999, UFO, The Day After Tomorrow, Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons, Supercar and Fireball XL5, but he was best known for Thunderbirds. Its success led to two feature films, Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) and Thunderbirds 6 (1967). Anderson was not involved in the 2004 feature Thunderbirds although his ex-wife Sylvia Anderson served as a consultant. That same year, Anderson’s Thunderbirds also inspired South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Team America: World Police, which depicts a similar team’s efforts to quash terrorists. Celebrities paying tribute on Twitter included comedian Eddie Izzard, who wrote: “What great creation Thunderbirds was, as it fueled the imagination of a generation.”
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