New Zealand production company Pukeko Pictures is hoping its new series Thunderbirds Are Go will propel it into the stratosphere of global children’s television.
Pukeko chief executive Andrew Smith was in London yesterday preparing for the MipCom markets, where the show’s owner ITV will launch the new series.
Pukeko – which has common ownership with Sir Richard Taylor and Sir Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop – has been in the children’s TV business for 10 years and won praise for successful series such as Jane and the Dragon.
But Smith said the Thunderbirds Are Go launch was big for the company.
Certainly, the 1960s show has a big brand, which has been maintained over the years through reruns and franchising rights to toys. Revival of the show has been a labour of love for several years for Taylor.
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He has said watching Thunderbirds as a kid led him into his life in film and ventures such as Weta.
Smith said Pukeko had been lobbying for years for ITV to update the show. The idea had developed through changes in the associated company that owned intellectual property relating to Thunderbirds. Originally it was owned by British company Carlton, then Granada, then went to ITV.
David Graham – the original voice of Hiram K. Hackenbacker, better known as Brains – is still alive and will return for the new show.
The new series, set to launch in Britain next year, will be produced using a unique mix of CGI animation and live-action model sets. Thunderbirds Are Go has been welcomed by British media, though the Daily Mail newspaper lame
nted that Pukeko’s updated animation would not have the endearingly clunky puppet characters – such a feature of the “Supermarionation” technique developed by the show’s founders, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.
But as Smith says, it’s a show for a new generation of viewers, not just for its 40-something and 50-something cult fans. However he said the show’s non-violent family values remained strong and it was true to the original story.
“What I can say is that people associated with the original series have had a tear in their eye watching it,” he said.
Pukeko has been making the show since June last year and has half the 26 episodes in the can.