LONDON – Gerry Anderson, puppetry pioneer and British creator of the sci-fi hit “Thunderbirds” TV show, has died. He was 83.
Anderson’s son Jamie said his father died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday at a nursing home near Oxfordshire, England, after being diagnosed with mixed dementia two years ago.
His condition had worsened dramatically over the past six months, his son said.
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, according to Jamie Anderson.
“He forever changed the direction of sci-fi entertainment,” Jamie told the Associated Press. “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 TV show was perhaps his father’s proudest achievement — along with the cross-generational appeal of his body of work, which also included TV shows “Stingray” and “Space: 1999,” among others.
“Most people know some aspect of one of his shows which is not something that many TV producers can say,” Jamie said. He noted that his father first broke ground with puppets in “Thunderbirds,” but was trying new techniques, like advanced computer-generated imagery, into his later years with projects such as 2005’s “New Captain Scarlet,” the re-imagining of his 1967 TV animation.
Anderson also worked as a consultant on a Hollywood remake of his 1969 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 would involve himself in every aspect of production.
“He wasn’t just someone who sat in a chair barking orders, he managed to bring together great teams of great people and between them with a like mindset produced some real gems.”
In recent years, Anderson and his son had become active supporters of Britain’s Alzheimer’s Society.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of society, said Anderson tirelessly attended events to raise awareness and raise money for a cure.
“He was determined, despite his own recent diagnosis, to spend the last year of his life speaking out for others living with dementia to ensure their voices were heard and their lives improved,” Hughes said.
Anderson is survived by his wife, Mary, and four children.