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An appreciation of Geerry & Sylvia Anderson's Supermarionation Ouvre


During the 1960s, British and American children's television was enhanced by a series of "puppet" or "marionette" shows, filmed in Supermarionation - a process by which the lips of the puppets were made to move in synchonization with speech, so they looked more realistic than ever. Of course the wires that moved the marionettes were always visible, but that just adds to the charm! The Thunder Child
Gerry & Sylvia Anderson Sourcebook

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I was born in 1961, so when I was growing up I got to see all the cartoons and kid shows that are considered classics today, from my all-time favorite Johnny Quest, to the early Scooby Doos, to the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson show Thunderbirds (not to mention their UFO, albeit that was live-action.

These shows were fun, they were exciting, and they didn't cater to the lowest common denominator. By that I mean, there was not a fart joke or a loud burp to be heard - unlike practically every cartoon or children's movie made in the last ten years. (For all the eating Scooby and Shaggy did in those early cartoons I don't recall a single burp out of either of 'em.)

An amusing 7-minute spoof called "Superthunderstingcar," starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

The Supermarionation Shows
Fireball XL5
Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons
Joe 90
The Secret Service
(1983-1984, 1986)
I saw Thunderbirds as a child and enjoyed it, but while I must have seen Stingray I didn't remember much about it, except that I liked it. But then, I've always had a fascination for underwater cities and civilizations. And I must have seen Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons as well, but again, I don't remember it. It's just the name is so distinctive!

I know I've never seen the early Anderson work - the black & white Supercar or Fireball XL5, and Joe 90, The Secret Service, and The Terrahawks were totally unknown to me.

But, thanks to the wonders of modern life, I have been able to not only re-acquaint myself with the nostalgic shows of my childhood, but also the shows I've never seen, for all of the Anderson's Supermarionation work is available on DVD here in the States (and some of them for very low prices.)

It's not neccessary to remain in ignorance of any of these shows, frankly, because thanks to Youtube you can see excerpts from them all.

I particularly enjoyed the excerpt from Fireball XL5 - the Fireball is an interplanetary spaceship, part of Space Patrol, with handsome Steve Zodiac as the captain and Doctor Venus -- a character that looks remarkably like Honor Blackman (Cathy Gale in The Avengers), although she was voiced by Gerry Anderson's then wife, Sylvia.

"The Mysteron Rap" - a remix of Captain Scarlet and the Mysteronsopening theme, an excellent introduction.
Within the last week I have acquired the complete set of Stingray, and am enjoying it immensely. The first Anderson program filmed in color, the first with interchangeable heads so that facial expressions could change, as well as the lips timed to move with the dialog.

Troy Tempest and "Phones" are the crew of the Stingray, the flagship submarine of WASP (World Aquanaut Security Patrol), and are given their orders from Marineville, and in particular the wheelchair-bound Commander Sam Shore and his daughter Atlanta.

In the first episode they meet Marina, a mute woman who can breathe both air and water, who becomes a member of the crew - and unlike Atlanta, she gets to go along on missions and sometimes saves the day.

While these shows are over 40 years old, they all have thousands of loyal fans. Below are a few websites devoted to them.

  • Fanderson: The Official Gerry Anderson website
  • Supercar site
  • Fireball XL5
  • BBC's Stingray website
  • Stingray models
  • Official Shane Rimmer website
  • Thunderbirds FAB
  • BBC's Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
  • The Big Rat: Joe 90 website
  • Terrahawks
  • Go To The Television Index
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