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Gerry Anderson, Creator of Thunderbirds, UFO, Space 1999, Dead at 83

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Gerry Anderson, British creator of Thunderbirds, dies at 83

'He forever changed the direction of sci-fi entertainment,' says Anderson's son

The Associated Press

Posted: Dec 26, 2012 2:34 PM ET

Last Updated: Dec 26, 2012 4:39 PM ET

li-gerry-anderson-dies-40th.jpgGerry Anderson is seen here in 2005 on the 40th anniversary of the Thunderbirds first broadcast. Anderson, the British creator of the hit TV show, died Wednesday at age 83..

Gerry Anderson, puppetry pioneer and British creator of the sci-fi hit Thunderbirds TV show, has died. He was 83.

Anderson's son Jamie said his father died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday at a nursing home near Oxfordshire, England, after being diagnosed with mixed dementia two years ago.

His condition had worsened dramatically over the past six months, his son said.

Anderson's television career launched in the 1950s. Once Thunderbirds aired in the 1960s, "Thunderbirds are go!" became a catchphrase for generations. It also introduced the use of "supermarionation" — a puppetry technique using thin wires to control marionettes — and made sci-fi mainstream, according to Jamie Anderson.

'Lots of animation and films that have been made in the past 20 or 30 years have been inspired by the work that he did'
—Jamie Anderson

"He forever changed the direction of sci-fi entertainment," Jamie said. "Lots of animation and films that have been made in the past 20 or 30 years have been inspired by the work that he did."

He said the TV show was perhaps his father's proudest achievement — along with the cross-generational appeal of his body of work, which also included TV shows Stingray and Space: 1999, among others.

"Most people know some aspect of one of his shows which is not something that many TV producers can say," Jamie said. He noted that his father first broke ground with puppets in Thunderbirds, but was trying new techniques, like advanced computer-generated imagery, during his later years with projects such as 2005's New Captain Scarlet, the re-imagining of his 1967 TV animation.

Anderson also worked as a consultant on a Hollywood remake of his 1969 series UFO.

"He was very much a perfectionist and was never happy with any of the end products although he may have been happy with the responses," Jamie said, describing how his father would involve himself in every aspect of production.ii-gerry-anderson-thunderbirds-puppet.jpgGerry Anderson poses with the original Parker and Lady Penelope puppets from his hit 1960s television series Thunderbirds. (Kieran Doherty/Reuters, file)

"He wasn't just someone who sat in a chair barking orders, he managed to bring together great teams of great people and between them with a like mindset produced some real gems."

In recent years, Anderson and his son had become active supporters of Britain's Alzheimer's Society.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of society, said Anderson tirelessly attended events to raise awareness and raise money for a cure.

"He was determined, despite his own recent diagnosis, to spend the last year of his life speaking out for others living with dementia to ensure their voices were heard and their lives improved," Hughes said.

Anderson is survived by his wife, Mary, and four children.

© The Associated Press, 2012


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