I’m in the mood to post some pretty pictures, and I’m also feeling a little nostalgic, so in an attempt to scratch both itches at once I’m going to take a quick look at the movie poster artwork for Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds Are GO, from 1966 and Thunderbird 6, from 1968.
During a long and remarkable career Anderson created many beloved TV shows, including Stingray, Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons, Space 1999, UFO and Terrahawks, with most utilising his pioneering ‘Supermarionation’ technique of puppeteering. But it was his show starring the top-secret International Rescue organisation — Thunderbirds — that captivated audiences worldwide and for which is he most fondly remembered.
In the mid-1960’s children and adults alike thrilled to the weekly adventures of the Tracy family who, with the help of their five distinctive Thunderbird vehicles helped save victims of spectacular accidents, while fending off the machinations of the fiendish Hood. The series hit a chord with viewers who responded enthusiastically to Thunderbirds’ high production values and action-orientated storylines — and it certainly didn’t hurt that the show featured one of the most distinctive and memorable opening title sequences in TV history.
Thunderbirds ran for 32 episodes between 1965 to 1966 before it was cancelled by the show’s financial backer Lew Grade — a rash decision he later regretted. Despite its short run Anderson was able to squeeze two theatrical movies from the TV show, both of which were filmed in tandem with the series. Both movies benefited from increased budgets that allowed for bigger special effects and better puppets.
Although Thunderbirds the TV series had proven hugely popular with British and European TV audiences the theatrical films fared surprisingly poorly at the box office. It turned out that audiences weren’t prepared to pay money to see on the big screen a TV show they could watch at home for free. Even the appearance of popular rock ‘n’ roll heart throb Cliff Richard couldn’t save the films from box office failure.
As a quick aside, I recently re-watched Thunderbirds courtesy of Shout! Factory’s excellent Region A (US) Blu-ray release. Unlike the Region B (UK) release from ITV DVD the Shout! version reproduces each episode in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. And jolly good it looks too. Picture quality and audio are of a very high standard, and it was a treat to see how well the show has held up since its creation over 40 years ago.
Below are some examples of the promotional material released to support Thunderbird Are GO and Thunderbird 6’s theatrical releases. I don’t know who the artist was for the Thunderbirds Are GO US poster but the artwork is suitably bombastic and over the top, which gives the poster a wonderful 1950s B-movie feel. The UK poster is no less dramatic but instead invoked the look and feel of the television series (I love the addition of the ‘cast’ at the bottom). I’ve also included the French version where the film was renamed The Odyssey of the Cosmos.
The Thunderbirds 6 poster was illustrated by renowned British comic book artist Frank Bellamy, who also drew the Thunderbirds strip in the weekly TV Century 21 comic. And a great good job he did too: the poster is not only dramatic but it has a terrific design feel to it with great use of white space. Also included here is the wonderful, and somewhat rare, Japanese poster for the film.
Lastly I’ve added some pages from United Artist’s pressbook for Thunderbirds Are GO, which gives cinema distributers a guide to various promotional tools, such as print adverts, lobby cards and standees. FAB!