In 1969, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson began production of a new TV series, UFO, Century 21's first full live-action television series. This sci-fi action-adventure series starred American-born actor Ed Bishop (who had also provided the voice of Captain Blue in Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons) as Commander Edward Straker, head of the secret defence organisation S.H.A.D.O., set up to counter an alien invasion. UFO was more adult in tone than any of Anderson's puppet series, and mixed Century 21's signature futuristic action-adventure and special effects with serious dramatic elements. UFO was the last series made under the Century 21 Productions banner.
By the time UFO concluded, the relationship between Gerry and Sylvia had deteriorated. Although produced under the aegis of a new company, Group Three Productions (the three being both of the Andersons and Reg Hill), Gerry decided not to work with his wife on his next project, the ITC action series The Protectors.
The Andersons had previously made many successful children's science fiction programmes, such as Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90 and The Secret Service. The Andersons' live-action science fiction movie, Doppelgänger (also known as Journey to the Far Side of the Sun) is considered an immediate precursor to UFO , which was their first live-action TV series.
UFO was first broadcast in the UK and Canada in 1970, and in US syndication over the next two years. A single season of 26 episodes (including the pilot) were filmed over the course of more than a year; a five month production break was caused by the closure of the MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, where the show was initially made. Following syndication in the US and initial favourable ratings, a possible second series was scoped; initially entitled UFO 1999, this eventually became Space: 1999.
In 1954, while working as an artist at Pentagon Films, Reg Hill met the animator Gerry Anderson, who had just formed, in partnership with Arthur Provis, the production company Anderson-Provis (AP) Films. Reg Hill became the company's production designer.
In 1962, AP Films was bought by Associated Television director Lew Grade, and in 1966 was renamed "Century 21 Productions". It would subsequently become "Group 3 Productions" in 1972, and "Gerry Anderson Productions" in 1975. Grade's purchase of AP Films was immediately followed by Supercar, for which Reg designed the characters, vehicles, and sets, and also wrote a number of episodes. A line of successful puppet and live-action TV series followed: Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Joe 90, The Secret Service, UFO, The Protectors and Space: 1999. During this time, whilst taking on various roles as art director, producer and executive producer, Reg continued to be involved in series concepts and vehicle, character and set design.
In 1956, Barry Gray joined Gerry Anderson's AP Films and composed its first marionette puppet television series, The Adventures of Twizzle. This was followed by Torchy The Battery Boy and Four Feather Falls. Although best known for his score to Thunderbirds. Barry's work also included the themes to all the other "Supermarionation" productions, including Fireball XL5, Stingray, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Joe 90 and The Secret Service. Additionally, Barry is known as the composer for the Anderson live-action series of the 1970s, such as UFO and Space: 1999. Barry Gray's music made extensive use of leitmotifs, i.e. each machine in Thunderbirds having its own theme and the eponymous title character of Joe 90 being accompanied on-screen by a wordless representation of his name.
In 1970, Barry and his family moved from Esher to St Peter Port, Guernsey. Later, after his retirement, he served as resident pianist at the Old Government House Hotel. Barry Gray passed away in Guernsey on the 26th of April 1984.
Please CLICK HERE to visit the official Barry Gray website.
Derek joined the staff at AP Films in the earliest days as a special effects assistant, painting miniatures on scenery, but ultimately became the department's director, developing significant advances in miniature effects technology. Derek learned his trade working with Gerry Anderson on many of his best-known TV programmes, such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and UFO. His innovative work with models has since become the industry standard.
Derek moved into film, and worked on a number of blockbusters, including Superman, Batman and several James Bond films. His work on Superman won him a Special Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the Michael Balcon Award from BAFTA. He was also nominated for an Oscar for Moonraker, and for BAFTA awards for Batman and Goldeneye.
In 1964, a young Mike Trim answered a newspaper advertisement seeking modelmakers for a film production crew and began an odyssey that would last for more than 40 years. Beginning in the final days of Stingray, Mike would work as a modelmaker and designer for Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's television series Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, The Secret Service, and UFO, as well as their feature films Thunderbirds are Go, Thunderbird 6, and Doppleganger. Mike eventually became Special Effects director Derek Meddings' assistant in designing the fabulous futuristic vehicles, buildings, and look of the Andersons' imaginitive series. Eventually, he would take on the bulk of design work for the series as Meddings became more involved in feature films.
Mike created the iconic cover painting for one of the best selling albums of all time; Jeff Wayne's musical version of "The War Of The Worlds." in 1978.
Bob Bell (March 21st, 1918 - June 6th, 2009) was the art director and supervising art director on Thunderbirds season 1 and 2 respectively. The same goes for the two feature films Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird 6. Other work includes Supercar, Fireball XL5, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, UFO, and The Protectors.
Bob gave invaluable help with research for 21st Century Visions and was interviewed for Mr. Thunderbird: The Gerry Anderson Story. Additionally Bell - with the help of assistants Bill James, Mark Harris, and Mark Woollard - reconstructed the interior of Thunderbird 1 for the Thunderbirds Kit Kat advert..
Gerry Anderson quote: "Here's this set . . . filled with all kinds of computers and what was then futuristic equipment. What we did was we had our company which used to build all this gear. The Managing Director was a man by the name of Don Fagan, and the wonderful thing was whatever props he made were all electrically operated and they always worked perfectly, which was marvelous! . . . Here again are a row of Don Fagan's electronic props all behaving themselves as usual. You can imagine if these things had gone wrong during shooting and production would have been held up: it would have been a very costly problem. But, they always worked as did Derek Medding's UFO going through the shot there!"
Other notable people behind UFO
Norman Foster - Production Supervisor
Des Saunders - Assistant to Producer
Brendan Stafford - Lighting Cameraman
Tony Barwick - Script Editor
Bill Camp - Visual Effects Director
Alan Perry - Director
...more details to come: please watch this space!