With a new series of Thunderbirds being made co-produced by New Zealand company, Pokeko Pictures and visual effects and props company Weta Workshop, I thought I’d take cursory glance at the Japanese TV series from the eighties that hi-jacked the name from the classic TV show.
Like the original series, the International Rescue team operate from a remote island in the Pacific, a vast complex called Arcology which is staffed by over fifty five thousand people. The commander of International Rescue is ex-astronaut, Dr. Warren Simpson, and his chief pilot is 28 year old Dylan Beyda who flies Thunderbird 1.
In the series there are no less than 17 Thunderbird craft, each capable of different functions.
Thunderbird 1 is an advanced space shuttle. Thunderbird 2, like the original series is the transporter. Thunderbird 3 is a mobile laboratory which looks like a tank. Thunderbird 4 is a large submarine, while Thunderbird 5 is a ’Special Ground Operations Vehicle’ . Thunderbird 6 is the space station which has docking facilities for TB1, TB2 and TB3.
Thunderbird 15 is a mobile computer. Thunderbird 16 is The Mole, and finally Thunderbird 17 is a long range space probe.
Apart from Dr Simpson and Dylan Beyda, there are seven other recurring characters, including ‘Skipper’ Simpson, Commander Simpson’s 7 year old nephew.
Including Dylan Beyda there are five ‘Thnderbirds’ pilots, which in spite of International Rescue being staffed by thousands are the only characters to carry out rescues. They are referred to in the opening titles as Cadets, although they all hold the rank of Captain.
Jesse Rigel and Johnathan Jordan, Jr. are both the pilots of TB 2. Gran Hanson pilots TB 3 and finally, the young girl on the team is Kallan James who pilots TB 4. They all share pilot duties on the remaining Thunderbird craft.
Another point of interest is the occasional use of incidental music during the action taken from other Gerry Anderson shows like Stingray and Fireball XL5.
Judging by this ad I found on the net it looks like there were toys released although I've never come across them.
I have no idea how successful this series was at the time but being a children’s anime cartoon and being fairly indistinguishable from any other children’s anime cartoon of the time I’d imagine it made it’s money, helped to some degree by tagging the Thunderbirds name to it!