THE creator of the hit TV series Thunderbirds has died, aged 83.
Gerry Anderson, who lived in Nuffield, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease since 2010 and his condition had deteriorated in the past six months.
His son Jamie posted an announcement on his website, saying his father had died peacefully in his sleep at noon on Boxing Day.
He said: “Gerry was diagnosed with mixed dementia two years ago and his condition worsened quite dramatically over the past six months. Having already decided with his family on a care home for himself earlier this year, he moved there in October.”
Mr Anderson spoke publicly about his condition in June.
He said: “I don’t think I realised at all. It was my wife Mary who began to notice that I would do something quite daft like putting the kettle in the sink and waiting for it to boil.”
Mr Anderson was also responsible for Stingray, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Joe 90.
His son said: “I just wanted to thank everyone for their incredibly kind messages of support and for sharing their happy childhood memories — inspired by Dad’s work.
“I know Dad would have been blown away by the support, positivity and kind words. I think the saddest thing would have been if he had passed without being noticed but the response has been the total opposite.”
Mr Anderson coined a new style of puppetry called Supermarionation, a style which the purists hated for its absence of any action, such as nodding heads or swivelling eye movements.
The puppets were made from fibreglass and strung with invisible tungsten steel thread.
Mr Anderson had a warehouse in Slough which was sound-proofed with 1,500 egg boxes nailed to the walls.
He ordered his team of 12 puppeteers and model-makers to fashion the heads to look like film stars.
Troy Tempest, of Stingray, was modelled on James Garner and Scott Tracy on Sean Connery.
With the success of Thunderbirds, Mr Anderson could afford to refine the puppets which meant shrinking the size of the heads to make them more realistic and getting a dentist in Maidenhead to make teeth for them.
Mr Anderson fell into the business by accident in the late Fifties.
Having formed a production company called AP Films with Arthur Provis, he was struggling to find work until the children’s writer and animator Roberta Leigh, who was pitching ideas to ITV, asked him to make The Adventures of Twizzle, about a toy who gathers and befriends other unwanted toys.
It was in 2001 that Mr Anderson revealed that not only did he never want to work with puppets but he had really wanted to work with Steven Spielberg.
“It’s surprising what you’ll do when you’re on the breadline,” he recalled. “I’d never seen a puppet in my life, and grew to hate them very quickly.”
Mr Anderson remained interested and involved in the film industry until recently and was keen to re-visit some of his earlier successes using the latest technology available. His last producer credit came in 2005 on New Captain Scarlet, a CGI-animated re-imagining of his 1967 Supermarionation series, which was shown on ITV.
Most recently he worked as a consultant on a Hollywood remake of his 1969 series UFO, directed by Matthew Gratzner. He also worked as a celebrity ambassador for The Alzheimer’s Society, helping to raise awareness of the disease and funds for the society.
Mr Anderson took an active role on the local community. He opened Nuffield’s first fete in 2010 and campaigned against the introduction of wheelie bins in 2009.
He even volunteered to give a talk about his work to demonstrators if it encouraged more of them to join a march on Henley town hall.
Mr Anderson married Betty Wrightman in 1952, with whom he had two daughters Joy and Linda. His second marriage, in 1961, was to Sylvia Thamm, with whom he had son Gerry junior, but ended in divorce. In 1981, he married Mary Robins, with whom he had second son Jamie.