Gerry and Sylvia Anderson/AP Films

  • Sector: Film production
  • Region: UK

Capturing children's imaginations in the Sixties

Among the most popular and iconic of children's television programmes in the 1960's were the various action-adventure puppet series developed by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. These were produced by the British independent company AP Films, which would later become Century 21 Productions. The individual series included Four Feather Falls, Fireball XL5, Stingray, and most notably, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

Thunderbirds Puppets in action
Thunderbirds Puppets

The application

All of the series featured the Andersons' trademark synchronised 'Supermarionation' technique. At the time, this was a major technical advance in puppetry in that the thin wires controlling the marionettes also carried electronic signals to control head and mouth movements. But the wire had to be thin enough to not be too obviously visible on film.

The Ormiston solution

Ormiston was approached early on to help solve the technical issues in filming the marionettes. What was required was a very thin yet durable metal wire filament to manipulate the puppets. But the wire had also to be darkened so there would be no reflection, making it as invisible as possible. We developed, manufactured and supplied a 0.125mm diameter wire which was then chemically treated to darken it.

The outcome

This innovative wire solution was successfully used throughout the lifespan of each of these series until the Andersons eventually moved into live-action productions at the start of the Seventies.

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