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'Firestorm' aims to be 21st century 'Thunderbirds' with next-gen puppets

"Thunderbirds" creator Gerry Anderson's son Jamie is asking for your help to turn "Supermarionation" into next-generation "Ultramarionation".

firestorm-poster-by-eric-chu.jpg
Firestorm

As "Thunderbirds" are set to go once again, Gerry Anderson's son is backing a new sci-fi series based on a concept from the "Captain Scarlet" and "Space: 1999" creator -- and they need your help to bring the classic puppets into the 21st century.

"Firestorm", produced by Jamie Anderson, is seeking donations on crowd-funding site Kickstarter to create a pilot based on one of Gerry Anderson's last concepts. The story is set in the 22nd century, when wars and environmental crises are a thing of the past -- until a sinister threat known as Black Orchid emerges. Storm Force is formed to take on the terror, only for our heroes Sam Scott, Nagisa Kisaragi and Drew McAllister to discover Black Orchid is only the start of the world's problems... Take a look at the gallery below to get a taste of the show.

The production will include practical effects -- real explosions! -- combining detailed physical sets and puppets -- real hair! -- that will develop Anderson's "Supermarionation" processes into next-generation "Ultramarionation". Cor!

The goal of the Kickstarter campaign is to raise £49,000 to pay for the models, sets, and puppets that will appear in a 5-minute minisode introducing "Firestorm". If enough further money is raised, that will expand to a longer 22- or 45-minute pilot.

Incentives to back the project include models of the ships and puppets, and having your face appear onscreen as a baddie. If you pledge £5,000 you can be immortalised in Ultramarionation form as one of the main characters. Here's a teaser trailer, from the point of view of one of the puppets:

The "Firestorm" team includes Steve Begg, a long-time Gerry Anderson collaborator and BAFTA-award winning effects supervisor known for his work on "Skyfall", "Casino Royale" and "Goldeneye" among many other productions. Concept design is by Eric Chu, who redesigned the spaceships and Cylons in the rebooted "Battlestar Galactica", while model effects are handled by Mike Tucker, who worked on "Red Dwarf" and the 50th anniversary episode of "Doctor Who". Also on board as visual consultant is Michael Okuda, the man who imagined the look of the "Star Trek" universe from "The Next Generation" onwards.

Pulling the strings on the puppets themselves are the Mackinnon & Saunders team behind Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride" and Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr Fox".

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Return to Tracy Island with "Thunderbirds are Go", a new CGI version of the classic 1990s TV show from the mind of Gerry Anderson. ITV

Meanwhile, Anderson's biggest hit is currently being reinvented in CGI form by Peter Jackson's WETA effects gurus in the form of "Thunderbirds are Go", coming to ITV next year. The first teaser image, above, shows the Tracy boys of International Rescue lining up to save the world once again.

Gerry Anderson, who died in 2012, is synonymous both with puppets and innovative, thrilling children's television. His team of talented puppeteers, effects experts and voice actors breathed life into the iconic puppets seen in such classics as "Supercar", "Fireball XL5", "Stingray", "Thunderbirds", "Captain Scarlet" and "Joe 90", many of which delighted generations of little'uns even decades after they were first broadcast. They also inspired the wickedly subversive "Team America: World Police", which definitely is not for nippers.

Anderson later produced live-action shows including "Space: 1999" and "UFO". His original 2001 concept for Firestorm was called "Storm Force" and was adapted into a Japanese anime series in 2003.