Gerry Anderson in front of Thunderbird 2
Gerry Anderson

We published an interview that I did with Gerry Anderson (who died today) in TV Zone magazine back in 2004. Here is a extract from that feature.

Gerry Anderson was ready to unleash an all-new Captain Scarlet. The godfather of Supermarionation, creator of Thunderbirds, looks back on the triumphs and frustrations of his career so far, telling us why he loathed working with puppets, and how CGI will make his dreams come true…

For a man whose name’s become synonymous with puppetry, Gerry Anderson has a low opinion of the art. “Nothing in my childhood influenced me to go into the film business and to make puppet films. The thought of making puppet films made me feel ill.

“What happened was that I started life in the film industry in the cutting room, and I suppose I must have been fairly ambitious because I wanted to start my own company. I got together with a friend, and we formed a little film company and waited for the telephone to ring… and of course it didn’t. Our money very quickly ran out, and we were about to shut up shop when a woman by the name of Roberta Leigh found where we were, came in and said ‘Would you like to make 52 15-minute films for children?’ We were so naïve that we said ‘Yes indeed,’ because we needed the money.” And then came the catch. “Then she said ‘That’s great, and we’ll start talking about a contract, but they’re to be made with puppets’. Well, I’d never seen a puppet in my life, and the thought of making puppet films made me feel ill,” Anderson reaffirms, “but as I say we needed the money.

We made this series, and I was determined to make them look as near to live action as possible, because I thought that the broadcasters would look at these puppet films and say ‘This guy’s wasting his time, he ought to be doing live action’. Instead of which they responded by saying ‘Great puppet films this guy makes, let’s commission more’. So the simple answer is I just fell into it.”

The next ingredient of Anderson’s unique mix came about just as unwittingly. Frustrated at his puppet stars’ inability to walk, Anderson decided to move them around in vehicles… and that led him accidentally into Science Fiction. “Yes, all of that’s correct.” Anderson affirms, when reminded of the usual account of events. “I won’t repeat what you just said because you’re dead right. The series was called Supercar, and it was a car that could travel on water like a boat, or underwater like a submarine, or on a road like a car – hence ‘Supercar’. We couldn’t make the puppets walk and I was aware that one should get as much movement as possible and yes, I thought that this would be a good way of getting some movement and action into the films, and so I made Supercar for that reason.

Cue the unexpected consequence. “When it went on air people went ‘Oh, I’ve seen your new show, Gerry, I see you’re in Science Fiction.’ And I remember saying ‘Am I?’ And in this business you very quickly get typecast, and that’s what happened to me.”