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Thun­der­birds Are Go in our hot news sec­tion!

SFX - - Contents - edited by Richard Ed­wards

Weta Work­shop wouldn’t have ex­isted if Thun­der­birds hadn’t ex­isted,” says Sir Richard Tay­lor, ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of ITV’s up­com­ing Thun­der­birds Are Go! TV se­ries. It turns out that the Os­car- win­ning boss of one of the big­gest visual ef­fects and make- up out­fits in the world – the pow­er­house team re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing Mid­dle- earth and Pan­dora – is some­thing of a fan.

“I was born in the UK and en­joyed the show on my black- and- white TV there un­til I was four years old, then we moved to New Zealand. Thank­fully, the one chan­nel in New Zealand still showed Thun­der­birds. So it felt like it came with me,” he re­calls.

“It was the fact that you could live in a model- made world that was the big thrill for me.

“The first thing you en­counter walk­ing into Weta Work­shop is a shrine to the

Thun­der­birds,” he con­tin­ues, “and you have to bow to the shrine!” he laughs. In­deed, there’s a large dis­play of Thun­der­birds minia­tures in the work­shop, crafted by Weta’s head model maker David Tre­mont.

The jour­ney to remaking Thun­der­birds was a long one. Tay­lor first en­ter­tained the idea while in the UK for the premiere of The Fel­low­ship Of The Ring, and made en­quiries with then- rights holder Carl­ton. A year later, Tay­lor met with Gerry An­der­son as he pre­pared New Cap­tain Scar­let for broad­cast, and ob­tained his bless­ing to try a re­make of Thun­der­birds. A suc­cess­ful pro­posal was made to Carl­ton, but within a month the company had been bought and ev­ery­one in­volved had been let go by new own­ers ITV.

The rights were sold to Work­ing Ti­tle films for their 2004 live- ac­tion movie, and re­mained un­avail­able for sev­eral years. Tay­lor and his old chum Peter Jack­son, him­self a mas­sive fan of the orig­i­nal se­ries, con­tin­ued to make oc­ca­sional en­quiries, go­ing as far as mak­ing a CGI character test to show ITV.

In the mean­time, Jack­son even­tu­ally agreed to di­rect the three movies in the Hob­bit cy­cle, re­duc­ing his avail­abil­ity for Thun­der­birds to zero. Tay­lor had started Pukeko Pic­tures with

“I’m a fan of the orig­i­nal show. I felt a real de­sire to have young chil­dren see the show again”

chil­dren’s au­thor Martin Bayn­ton to de­velop Bayn­ton’s book, Jane And The Dragon, for tele­vi­sion. The se­ries was suc­cess­ful and led to another project, The Wot Wots. This put Tay­lor and Pukeko Pic­tures in a unique po­si­tion to ac­quire the rights to An­der­son’s most popular se­ries when the rights re­verted to ITV and pro­ducer Giles Read ap­proached them to cre­ate a new se­ries.

Why make a new se­ries and face harsh com­par­i­son with the well- loved orig­i­nal?

“I have mixed emo­tions about it, be­ing such a fan of the orig­i­nal show,” he says. “I felt a real de­sire to have young chil­dren see the show again. I had no abil­ity to get the orig­i­nal show in front of chil­dren; I don’t own it, I can’t dis­trib­ute it. The only way I could have chil­dren im­pacted by this world was to make another se­ries.”

So what will be dif­fer­ent about the new ver­sion of Thun­der­birds? No pup­pets. While the ships and en­vi­ron­ments are be­ing made with real mod­els, the Tracy clan and other char­ac­ters will be com­puter gen­er­ated. The use of stringed mar­i­onettes was fi­nan­cially im­prac­ti­cal, and wouldn’t re­sult in enough us­able footage to be shot on a daily ba­sis.

“We found that chil­dren to­day just wouldn’t en­gage with char­ac­ters that didn’t have com­plex fa­cial ex­pres­sions,” Tay­lor says. “Our show is com­pet­ing with the Star Wars an­i­mated se­ries, Ben 10, Max Steel and other pro­gram­ming that fea­tures more so­phis­ti­cated per­for­mances than mar­i­onettes could give.”

Will the iconic theme mu­sic re­main the same? Almost, ac­cord­ing to Tay­lor. Ben Foster, mu­sic or­ches­tra­tor for Doc­tor Who, is scor­ing the new se­ries and is very heav­ily in­flu­enced by Barry Gray’s orig­i­nal mu­sic.

Thun­der­birds Are Go! will con­sist of 26 half- hour episodes, in con­trast to the hour- long episodes of the orig­i­nal se­ries. Again, the decision was made to con­form to mod­ern chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion for­mats of half- hour seg­ments in or­der to keep the ac­tion mov­ing quickly for younger view­ers.

In ad­di­tion, the Tracy clan is a bit younger in the new se­ries, an ef­fort to ap­peal to that younger crowd of view­ers. And of course, no one will be smoking cig­a­rettes on­screen, as in the clas­sic show. Tay­lor hopes to send a more pos­i­tive mes­sage to the kids watch­ing.

“I hope that young peo­ple re­con­nect with the as­pi­ra­tion of res­cue, of peo­ple self­lessly putting them­selves at risk to help oth­ers. It’s cool that in the show, they don’t get a medal for do­ing it, they don’t wave to the crowd, they dis­ap­pear again, and it’s un­cel­e­brated hero­ism. I hope that theme is res­o­nant and cre­ates a spark in our view­ers.”

Thun­der­birds Are Go! comes to ITV in 2015.

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