REVIEW: Filmed in Supermarionation (5 out of 5)

Thunderbirds - the height of Supermarionation
Thunderbirds - the height of Supermarionation

One name stands out in the history of children’s TV more than any other. That person is Gerry Anderson.

Supported by a loyal team of experts, he created iconic series such as Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet during the 1960s.

More importantly, American audiences also thoroughly enjoyed these action-packed adventures which encouraged TV mogul Sir Lew Grade to keep faith with them.

While the many past books and programmes have looked at individual series or Anderson’s career, this latest excellent documentary hones in on the ‘Supermarionation’ era and the many people involved.

Supermarionation (a play on ‘super’, ‘marionettes’ and animation) was created by AP Films (Anderson Provis Films) as a puppetry technique, using long wires with the puppeteers high above on a gantry.

This allowed the ‘characters’ to be put in front of backgrounds or within models of rooms and landscapes.

It all began with Four Feather Falls in 1960 after the team had cut their teeth on The Adventures of Twizzle and Torchy the Battery Boy.

The documentary follows in detail the thought processes behind creating all the series, interviewing directors, puppeteers, special effects people and those who supplied the voices.

We follow a small group of former employees as they visit the various buildings where the programmes were made and hear their anecdotes.

The overwhelming feeling that comes across is the sheer joy and love of working on the various projects and the sadness when Lew Grade pulled the plug after The Secret Service, starring Stanley Unwin, failed to impress.

Other documentaries have included the series that followed as the new Anderson company Century 21 moved on to live action with Space 1999, UFO and Terrahawks.

But ‘Filmed in Supermarionation’ ends at a natural break after two hours of superb nostalgia.

As this period slots in with my own early TV viewing, for me it is quite simply as good as it gets.

I had a model of Fireball XL5, a Thunderbirds Scott Tracy action figure, a Dinky Toys Captain Scarlet Spectrum Pursuit Vehicles and I still have a small action figure of Captain Scarlet and various books on related subjects.

I also saw the late Gerry Anderson on one of his theatre tours, talking enthusiastically about his creations.

So I would recommend this documentary to anyone who has seen any of the programmes. It also stands as a fitting tribute to a talented group of people who laid the foundations of modern children’s TV.

FILMED IN SUPERMARIONATION is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Limited Edition Box Set from October 20.