A new puppet show arrives from the creator of Thunderbirds, this is Gerry Anderson’s Firestorm
The MCM London Comic Con allowed us to watch the world premiere of a new series from Gerry Anderson, the man behind many puppet based shows including Joe 90, Fireball XL5, Captain Scarlett and most famously, Thunderbirds.
Firestorm was originally conceived by Gerry Anderson and his then business partner, John Needham. The concept was purchased by Japanese animation company, Enoki Films. The resulting television show wasn’t very well received and only lasted the one season of twenty-six episodes.
It was revealed that there were many production problems including Enoki Films refusing to take any input from Anderson along with budgeting problems. The final show used a combination of CGI to create vehicles whilst characters were animated using traditional cel animation.
The first episode of the anime version of Firestorm from 2003.
In 2014, Gerry’s son, Jamie, revealed on Facebook several teasing images of a new version of Firestorm. This was part of a reveal for a new Kickstarter project to create a new series.
The crowdfunding was a success and raised 180% of their required target. What followed was four years of hard work to bring this ten minute short, dubbed a “minisode”, to the screen.
During Saturday’s MCM London Comic Con we had the world premiere for this footage. Firstly we were treated to a presentation from Jamie Anderson, along with the director and special visual effects technician.
They were also joined by several of the voice artists. Firestorm’s Sam Scott is voiced by Gethin Anthony (Game of Thrones), whilst Nagisa Kisaragi voice is provided by Naoko Mori (Torchwood).
The whole presentation was moderated by Nicholas Briggs, most famously the voice of the Daleks and the Cyberman from BBC’s Doctor Who. He voices the Firestorm computer known as REMUS.
They also brought along the puppet of Sam Scott. As you probably aware, the puppets in the old 1960’s shows such as Thunderbirds were operated by just one or two puppeteers using a process dubbed Supermarionation.
The new puppets retain the same classic look but are now complex rod puppets. As demonstrated on stage, three operators control the puppet, one for each pair of legs, arms and the head. A fourth puppeteer uses radio control to operate the eyes and mouth. This rod puppet process has been labelled Ultramarionation.
When this team works together, it’s easy to forget they’re even there as you watch this puppet come to life. Whilst the final footage from the “minisode” is almost 100% practical, CGI has been used to combine different elements on the screen and obviously erase the rod puppeteers from the final shots.
Jamie revealed that although the Kickstarter fund was a huge success, it was still a very small budget. Almost all of the funds went into Firestorm’s production. Cast and crew worked on the production in their spare time with several favours being pulled to help bring the project to life, hence the four-year wait.
But what is Firestorm?
Set in 2202, the world has become a peaceful place with all environmental, social and humanitarian crises being a thing of the past. However, this isn’t going to last as a new threat emerges.
Terrorist activity has been slowly growing around the world but has been dealt with quietly and efficiently without any real public awareness. Unfortunately, the threat grows too large to be dealt with in this way.
The senates of the world join forces and fund Storm Force, an organisation to deal with this rising terrorist threat. Storm Force will initiate operation Firestorm to combat this new menace.
The plot of this short film is simple but leaves you wanting more. A space station orbiting Mars is falling out of orbit because its control signal from Earth has been blocked.
Storm Force has tracked the source of the blocking transmission and two agents, Sam and Nagisa, are sent to investigate. The episode is over before you know it but there’s action, humour and a plot thread that leaves you wanting more.
As a child of the 80’s, I used to watch many of Gerry Anderson’s shows which were always on repeat. I was a big fan of the miniature work used within those shows. The launch sequences of Thunderbird 1,2 and 3 are always a favourite moment for me.
I watched Firestorm with a huge grin on my face which only goes to show that the spirit of these puppet shows still lives on.
Hopefully, this ten-minute episode will prove this kind of show still has a place on our screens and someone will pick it up for a full series.
If you didn’t see the minisode at MCM London Comic Con, the short went live on YouTube shortly afterwards and can be seen below.