Thunderbirds is a British science-fiction television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, made by their production company AP Films, and distributed by ITC Entertainment. Filmed between 1964 and 1966, it was produced using marionette puppetry combined with scale-model special effects sequences in a hybrid filming technique dubbed "Supermarionation". Two series and thirty-two 50-minute episodes were filmed; production ended after the Andersons' financial backer, Lew Grade, failed in his bid to sell the programme to American network television.
A follow-up to the earlier Supermarionation productions Four Feather Falls, Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray, Thunderbirds is set in 2065. It concerns the exploits of International Rescue (IR), a life-saving organisation aided in its humanitarian mission by technologically advanced land, sea, air and space rescue vehicles; these are led by the Thunderbird machines and launched from a secret base - Tracy Island - in the South Pacific Ocean. The main characters are IR's founder, the ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy, and his five adult sons, who pilot the Thunderbird machines.
Thunderbirds debuted in the UK on ATV's franchises in 1965, and has since been broadcast in at least 66 other countries. Periodically repeated by the BBC and other networks, the series was adapted for radio in the early 1990s and has influenced numerous TV programmes (including a Japanese remake) and other media. It has also entailed several merchandising campaigns, and has been followed by three feature-length films and a mimed stage adaptation. A volunteer organisation, the International Rescue Corps, takes its name from the series.
Widely considered the most popular and commercially successful series created by the Andersons, Thunderbirds has been particularly highly praised for its effects (directed by Derek Meddings) and musical score (composed by Barry Gray). The series is also well remembered for its title sequence, which opens with an often-quoted countdown by voice actor Peter Dyneley: "5, 4, 3, 2, 1: Thunderbirds Are Go!" A part-live action, part-CGI remake, Thunderbirds Are Go!, will be broadcast on CITV in 2015, the 50th anniversary year of the original.
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