Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 14:48 UK

Talking Shop: Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson
Anderson became famous for his use of marionettes

Gerry Anderson became famous for his futuristic TV shows using marionettes, including Captain Scarlet and Stingray.

But he is best known for creating the classic 1960s adventure series Thunderbirds, following the Tracy family's International Rescue team - complete with their visible puppet strings.

Anderson's last project was a new CGI Captain Scarlet series. Broadcast in 2005 at a cost of 23m, it was the most expensive children's programme ever made in the UK.

The entire Thunderbirds series has now been released on high-definition DVD format Blu-ray.

How do you feel about Thunderbirds being released on Blu-ray?

I have been saying to people that I'm very much against Blu-ray because it produces such superb pictures that people can see the wires that I tried for so many years to get rid of. Now they're going to sing out like mad!

But I'm very proud that a programme made 40 years ago has been chosen to be one of the first shows to be put out on Blu-ray.

Why do you think the show had such a wide appeal?

It was made with loving care, but also the basis was saving human life. It was a way of presenting extreme jeopardy and danger without spoiling the message, that is was to help people.

It's surprising that only 32 episodes were ever made.

Thirty-two one-hours were made. But when our distributors in New York said they couldn't place it in an hour's slot, I was asked to break them down into 64 half-hours.

Do you know, to this day, not one broadcast anywhere in the world has ever transmitted it as a half-hour!

Only 32 episodes of Thunderbirds were ever made

What are your favourite memories of working on the show?

I wrote an episode about a crazy scientist who developed a drug that would make cattle grow to an enormous size but accidentally tipped it down the sink into the Everglades and then giant crocodiles appeared.

Whilst in production, I had a call saying the RSPCA was here because they had a call saying we were giving the animals electric shocks. The inspector came onto the set and suddenly pointed and said: "Is that Lady Penelope and Parker over there? This is my favourite show!"

So we took him around the studio and then he said: "About these electric shocks - what voltage are you giving them?" And we said only 12 volts. Then the inspector said: "12 volts? Do you realise these animals have very, very thick skins? Try 20 volts!"

You were reportedly unhappy with the Thunderbirds film that was released in 2004. How do you feel about it now?

I was bitterly upset about that because I had been invited by the producer to discuss the possibility of acting as a consultant. But a few days later I had a letter saying: "I'm terribly sorry but we've got enough creative people on the payroll so we can't offer you anything."

Four weeks before the premiere I got a call from Universal Pictures saying they would pay me $750,000 (432,000) for me to attend and I turned it down. I could've done with that, but I couldn't bring myself to accept it and make false reports about it.

I didn't go to see it, but about three months after somebody gave me a DVD and I watched it on my own. I thought it was disgraceful that such a huge amount of money was spent with people who had no idea what Thunderbirds was about and what made it tick.

Captain Scarlet
Captain Scarlet was made into a CGI series broadcast in 2005

You made a new CGI Captain Scarlet. Did you ever dream such technology might ever exist?

I've always been at the cutting edge of technology and always want to go one better. We made the new Captain Scarlet using CGI and Dolby 5.1 so it was in high definition and had cinema sound.

Unfortunately Granada put the show on Saturday morning children's programme Ministry of Mayhem (MOM).

They took my half-hour show, cut the titles off and cut it in half. It wasn't even listed so people who watched MOM had to wait and watch all the nonsense going on before the first half. When it finished they didn't say there was a second half or when it was going to start.

After they had shown all the episodes, legally it had to be cited as a repeat so it never had a premiere. It just broke my heart.

It's been reported you are making a new CGI Thunderbirds and are in negotiations to buy the rights back from ITV.

I have be careful about this, but I think there will be a new series and I will be involved. I tried to buy the rights back but I got a letter back with a flat refusal.

Thunderbirds' Lady Penelope was voiced by Anderson's then-wife Sylvia

Would you ever go back to working with marionettes or puppets again?

No, I'd rather have a life sentence!

Team America: World Police was made in homage to Thunderbirds. Did you see it?

I was supposed to meet Trey Parker before he made the film. But I think someone must've told him I wouldn't be interested once I knew about the language they use - and they were right!

I have seen it and there are good, fun parts. But the language wasn't to my liking.

What did you think of the recent advert for a spring water brand that had Thunderbirds character Brains dancing?

Absolutely brilliant. The byline was great - 'Good for Brains.' The copywriter should get an award.

Thunderbirds is now available on Blu Ray. Gerry Anderson was talking to BBC entertainment reporter Genevieve Hassan.

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