mcmLDN18: Gerry Anderson’s FIRESTORM panel (MCM Comic Con London, Saturday 27th October)

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Whether you were a fan of it or not, everybody knows the work of Gerry AndersonTHUNDERBIRDS, CAPTAIN SCARLET, FIREBALL XL5. These and many more are some of the most iconic TV shows ever.

Now, for the first time since 2005 there is a new Anderson Productions TV show on the horizon. GERRY ANDERSON’S FIRESTORM will premiere in 2019 with 26 episodes of 22 minutes each. It is a show that has long been talked about and finally thanks to backing from a recent Kickstarter campaign it has now become reality. It is a show about a group of heroes who use modern technology to avert major disasters and battle villains from the mysterious (are they aliens?) Black Orchid.

The first footage, called a “minisode”, premiered at MCM Comic Con in London. On hand to talk about the show were producer (and son of Gerry Anderson) Jamie Anderson, head of explosions and models Mike Tucker and director Steve Begg. Here are just a few of the highlights from the panel.

Firestorm panel - MCM Comic Con - Sam Payne Picture 9
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Conversations about creating a new show called FIRESTORM began in 1989 between Gerry Anderson and Steven Begg. At the time it was going to be CGI and not puppets. It eventually got made as an Anime series, which included designs from Begg: “I did some designs for that show. But it is really weird for me to see them realised, so spectacularly, almost two decades later. It was a shock, but a pleasant shock to see it come together this way.”

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Anderson decided to return to the original idea that his father had twenty years previous and re-design it from the ground up: “What is the best possible way of doing it in a Gerry Anderson style? Well, it’s obviously puppets. But these had to be the best puppets you had ever seen. And that was the goal we set ourselves. Also, to do it with practical effects. Making everything as real as possible.”

Tucker: “One of the big things we had to get involved with was the Black Orchid island. It’s what they call ‘kit-bashing’. It’s a classic Gerry Anderson way of doing a show. Lots of bit parts. But also bringing a modern sensibility to it as we are building the models bigger. We want to get that scale and that detail in. It was shot against blue screen then Steven could mix in background. So, it is mixing both sides of the industry. The traditional style and the new. It is using all the techniques available to us.”

Begg: “I’m a big believer in mixing techniques. I’m a fan of the old tricks and technology. I like to bring the new technology – blue screen, green screen, CGI – and augment those practical effects with that technique. So, you get the best of both worlds. The great thing is that they look like they exist in the same world.”

Anderson:“It’s great when you have a director who is already on-board with the way you are doing it then it makes everyone’s life easier. Not easy but easier.”

Naoko Mori and Gethin Anthony voice the central characters of Nagisa Kisaragi and Sam Scott respectively. Anthony comments “The think I love about Sam is he is this fantastic American adventurer type guy. I sort of get the feeling he might not always get things right [laughs]. He is very confident.”

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Andrew Spooner demonstrated how the puppeteers operate the puppets: “We have an articulated mouth. A blink on the eyes and a left & right. We also have eyebrows that go up & down. On the mouth there is an under bite and an over bite, so we can make certain vow sounds. They are capable of the most amazing range of emotions.”

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“The big thing with a character like this [Sam Scott] is that you’ve got three puppeteers on the body and one doing the facial animation. It’s about taking all of these people and converging it on the puppet and making it one performance. Making it feel like it is a single character.”

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The technique used for the puppets is now called Ultramarionation. “The first difference is there is no strings. So, he can walk through doors. The obvious difference is it is not a marionette. It is essentially a rod puppet. The difference now is because of all the modern techniques when we shoot on the set we can dress up our puppeteers up in green and then remove them from the shot. So we can do walking shots, running shots, jumping shots. All the stuff that Gerry wanted to do initially but was limited because of the marionette. We can do all of that now because of computers.”

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Anthony: “It is so much fun. Hopefully, you can hear that in my voice [in the show]. I am having the time of my life working on this.”

Kisaragi: “I do a lot of voice stuff for video games and Torchwood. But this is completely on a different level. What’s great is the details.”

Begg: “What I am looking forward to doing with the series is bringing the work of Century 21 – which is the company that made Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90 and all the shows that inspired us – into the 21st Century with new tricks and technologies.”

Tucker: “I’ve been waiting for a show like this to drop into my lap ever since I was about six years old watching things like Thunderbirds. I had so much fun on the pilot. If we can have half as much fun turning this into a series in terms of us making it and you watching it I will be a very, very happy person.”

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Anderson: “For me this is a culmination of four years work. It has been a long time coming. It has been very hard. We have made it with endless restrictions in terms of budget, people’s time and people have done us huge amounts of favours. It is a very proud moment for me to show it to the world. I also think that everybody has done dad proud.”

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