International Thunderbirds Day
Also known as
annually on September 30th (since 2017)
ITV Studios on August 16th, 2017
Film & Television
Today we celebrate Thunderbirds, the British television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, which ran for two seasons with 32 hour-long episodes in 1965 and 1966, and which inspired cinematic adaptations and another television series. Popular with both adults and children, it is set in 2065 (or possibly in 2026) and focuses on characters who are part of a rescue organization, International Rescue, that protects and helps those around the world who are in need. The head of the organization is Jeff Tracy, a millionaire and former astronaut, and the other main members are his sons Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon, and Alan. The sons were named after some of the Mercury Seven astronauts, such as John Glenn and Alan Shepard. The sons travel by land, sea, air, and space using vehicles—or "crafts"—called Thunderbirds, which are almost like characters in their own right: Thunderbird 1 is a rocket-like plane, Thunderbird 2 is a large cargo plane, Thunderbird 3 is a space rocket, Thunderbird 4 is similar to a submarine, and Thunderbird 5 is a space station.
Some of the other characters are Brains, a scientific genius who made the Thunderbird crafts, Lady Penelope, an agent, and Parker, her butler. To make the characters, the Andersons used Supermarionation, which they came up with in 1960 and used in shows before and after Thunderbirds. A portmanteau of "super," "marionette," and "animation," Supermarionation uses marionette puppetry and special effects. The characters' voices were pre-recorded and filters that changed the dialogue into pulses were placed in the puppet heads. The pulses were sent to solenoids in their lips, causing their mouths to move with the speech. The facial features of the characters were inspired by famous actors of the era, such as Sean Connery, Charlton Heston, and Anthony Perkins.
The inspiration to create a show based on rescue came to Gerry Anderson after he heard about the rescue crews that responded to Wunder von Lengede, a mining disaster that took place in West Germany in 1963. The show originally was to be called International Rescue, with the crafts being named Rescues, but Anderson changed the name after reading a letter from his brother Lionel, who had been an RAF flight sergeant during World War II, which brought up Thunderbird Field, a United States Army Air Forces base.
Although Thunderbirds was a British show, it was closely tied to America. Not only did it take its name from an American base, but it was also written in American English, and its scripts had a transatlantic focus. The Andersons had originally hoped to sell the program to a television network in the United States but were not successful. It was, however, distributed all around the world. It was permeated by what was going on during the Atomic Age, and its biggest contributions were its impact on pop culture and its influence on science fiction and animation.
Following it came the 1966 film, Thunderbirds Are Go, the 1968 film, Thunderbird 6, and a widely-panned 2004 live-action film. In 2015, the 50th anniversary year of Thunderbirds, the CGI-animated television revival Thunderbirds Are Go premiered in the United Kingdom. The original series has been adapted to and represented by many other mediums and branded items throughout the years. There have been action figures, scale models, playsets, video games, lunchboxes, radio dramas, comic strips, and audiobooks.
Thunderbirds Day, also known as International Thunderbirds Day, takes place on the anniversary of when the first Thunderbirds episode premiered in 1965. The day was started by ITV Studios and was first held on September 30, 2017. On that day, at 52 Vue Cinemas locations in the United Kingdom—marking the 52 years since the show's debut—a never-before-seen episode made in the original style and using audio recordings of the original cast was screened, as were two new episodes from Thunderbirds Are Go. Those attending were encouraged to dress as their favorite character and could post photos of themselves online to win prizes. In the second year of celebration, Shout! Factory TV and ITV Studios put out a 34-hour marathon, which included a stream of all 32 original episodes and three new episodes made in the style of the originals. In the third year of celebration, Century 21 Films debuted three episodes based on the original series, which used voice tracks from the 1960s.
How to Observe International Thunderbirds Day
The day could be observed in some of the following ways:
- Check for an official event or screenings taking place on the day. A good place to look is the Thunderbirds website, where other recent Thunderbirds news can also be found.
- Play some Thunderbirds games.
- Learn more about the Thunderbirds characters and their vehicles.
- Download items related to Thunderbirds.
- Dress up as Thunderbirds characters.
- Watch the opening title sequence of the original series.
- Watch episodes of Thunderbirds or Thunderbirds Are Go.
- Watch the movies Thunderbirds Are Go, Thunderbird 6, or Thunderbirds.
- Pick up some Thunderbirds products at the official Gerry Anderson store.