50 years of the Thunderbirds

The Thunderbirds Classic 50th Anniversary DVD is to be launched.
The Thunderbirds Classic 50th Anniversary DVD is to be launched.
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There are some TV shows with everlasting appeal.

And 50 years after it first aired on TV, Thunderbirds is still going strong.

Whatever your age, you’ll have your own Thunderbirds memories...from the visible string on the early shows, Blue Peter showing us how to create our own Tracy Island when the real thing sold out pre-Christmas 1991 or even the new CGI versions.

So to celebrate, here are eight things you (probably) didn’t know about Thunderbirds...

• Fenella Fielding was Gerry Anderson’s first choice for the voice of Lady Penelope. In the end, the role went to his then wife, Sylvia.

• Thunderbirds and Gerry Anderson’s other puppet series were credited to AP Films. The initials stood for the surnames of Anderson and his former partner, cameraman Arthur Provis, who had collaborated with him on several earlier series.

Picture of a homemade Tracy Island, sent in by the Cunnington family from Lancashire.

Picture of a homemade Tracy Island, sent in by the Cunnington family from Lancashire.

• Thunderbirds was preceded by similar science fiction adventures Stingray and Fireball XL5, and by Anderson’s cowboy puppet series Four Feather Falls.

• Thunderbirds was shot on cinema-quality 35mm colour film, four years before ITV transferred from black-and-white. The far-sighted investment guaranteed the show an after-life in repeats for decades to come.

• Gerry Anderson said the character of Thunderbird 5 captain John Tracy was exiled permanently to outer space because the puppet was “too ugly”.

• The puppet stages used in filming were only one-fifth the size of those used in live-action productions, with the puppets themselves being made up of more than 30 individual components.

Gerry Anderson and his wife Sylvia at the Dorchester Hotel, London, in 1966.

Gerry Anderson and his wife Sylvia at the Dorchester Hotel, London, in 1966.

• Before its UK debut, Thunderbirds was distributed to 30 other countries including the US, Canada, Australia and Japan.

• In 2015 Thunderbirds Are Go brought the original, and now computer generated characters back to our screens.

The Thunderbirds Classic 50th Anniversary DVD is to be launched.

The Thunderbirds Classic 50th Anniversary DVD is to be launched.