He wasn’t an animator – he was a pioneering television puppeteer – but he influenced everyone who grew up watching his unique TV productions. Gerry Anderson passed away yesterday at the age of 83.

Anderson was the creator of numerous hit sci-fi marionette-puppet shows including Supercar, Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, not to mention the entirely live action series Space 1999 with Martin Landau.

Anderson began his career as a photographer, but apparently lucked into British children’s TV production which was emerging in 1956. His first puppet show was The Adventures of Twizzle in 1957. Twizzle was a little boy doll, who could stretch to great lengths to save the day.

Beginning with Supercar in 1961, Anderson’s “Supermarionation” sci-fi shows continued pratically into the 1980s without stop. Personally, I loved these shows as a kid. The opening titles and their jazzy soundtracks were cool. Usually they were syndicated to local channels in the US, but Fireball XL5 was telecast on NBC Saturday Mornings in 1963-65 – the only Anderson show to do so. I loved that show.

Anderson’s puppets were the inspiration for Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police (2004). Below is an excellent British documentary (from 2000) about Anderson’s career with some great clips from his various series:

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