America has its genre visionaries: Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation), Irwin Allen (Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), Chris Carter (The X-Files), Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery)all of these guys at most produced a handful of television shows that syndicated reruns have turned into a legion of episodes, any one of which is running somewhere in the world at any given time.
Britain has Space: 1999 and the cult favorite UFO, but he's still probably best known for a series of shows including Supercar, Thunderbirds, Joe 90 and Captain Scarlet which featured sophisticated marionettes instead of human characters.
That's not how Anderson had it planned.
"I wanted to be a Steven Spielberg," Anderson says, noting that he started his first puppet-based show, The Adventures of Twizzle, out of sheer desperation. When the production company he had started with some associates failed to obtain any projects, a writer of children's books offered them 52 15-minute scripts to be made as a television show. "We didn't even pretend to think about itwe just said 'yes.' Then she said it's got to be made using puppets. I'd never seen a puppet in my life and what I had seen on television I hated. So that's how it started. I was terribly distressed at what I was doing."
To Anderson, that sounded like a recipe to keep him exactly where he was, so he quickly began applying every technique he knew for live action filming to the puppet shows. "As each series came on we introduced all kinds of innovations. We introduced automatic mouth movement which was really a forerunner of Disco Lights, in Fireball XL-5. Interestingly, in order to put the mechanics in the head so that the mouths would react to the prerecorded dialogue when it was played, we had to make the heads large. Years later everybody thought that we did that because we wanted to create fantasy characters. It was just that we had no alternative. All this took place over five or six yearswe replaced the strings with very fine wire which was only 5/1000 of an inch think, but the wire glinted in the light so we painted the wires black, and the paint made them thick again, but we eventually were able to get black wire."
Be sure to check back for the second part of our exclusive interview with Gerry Anderson.