Gerry Anderson, 83, creator of ‘Thunderbirds’ sci-fi television series

Gerry Anderson with a Thunderbird 2 on the show’s 40th anniversary in 2005.
Hugo Philpot/Press Association
Gerry Anderson with a Thunderbird 2 on the show’s 40th anniversary in 2005.

LONDON — Gerry Anderson, puppetry pioneer and British creator of the sci-fi hit ‘‘Thunderbirds’’ television show, has died. He was 83.

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

His condition had worsened the past six months, he said.


Mr. 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, said Jamie Anderson.

“Thunderbirds” introduced ‘‘supermarionation’’ — a puppetry technique using thin wires to control the marionettes.
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‘‘He forever changed the direction of sci-fi,’’ 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 television show was perhaps his father’s proudest achievement — along with the cross-generational appeal of his body of work, which also included television shows ‘‘Stingray’’ and ‘‘Space: 1999.”

‘‘Most people know some aspect of one of his shows, which is not something that many television producers can say,’’ Jamie said. He said his father first broke ground with puppets in ‘‘Thunderbirds,’’ but was trying new techniques, such as advanced computer-generated imagery, into his later years.

Mr. Anderson also worked as a consultant on a Hollywood remake of his 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 involved himself in every aspect of production.

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

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