Amazon's 'Thunderbirds Are Go' Keeps Puppet Spirit In CGI [Wondercon]

Amazon brought their upcoming reboot Thunderbirds Are Go to Wondercon. The original 1965 children's show used marionettes to animate the Tracy family's sci-fi adventures. The new series uses a combination of computer animation and practical models. Old fans may notice that there is still a hint of the original style, as hovering spacecraft waver as if on strings, though they are entirely CGI.

"We're not going so far as to have that sort of puppetry really on the nose aspect of it, but we definitely didn't want to burnish away the style of the original," said head writer Rob Hoegee. "Sometimes you'll see when a ship comes in to land, while it's a CG ship, every once in a while there'll be a little bit of herky-jerkiness to it so it looks like it's a model on a string coming down to land in the dirt. There was definitely some specific intent when the characters were being designed to give them that constructed look." 

Some children will be seeing the Thunderbirds for the first time, particularly in the U.S. "I think we're kind of forging new territory here in the United States because it's not a brand that really has a lot of history here," Hoegee said. "So I'm really excited to introduce it to the new generation, but of course in places where the show's never gone away, like the U.K. for example, every kid knows about this show. It's as enduring to them as, say, Star Wars to a kid here in the United States."

The 2065 of Thunderbirds Are Go is speculative science fiction. In one episode a character notes that he hasn't seen paper since he was a child. Hoegee suggests they have better uses for trees in 2065, but have perfected technology that is only theoretical today. "Things like space elevators and hyperloops are commonplace in this world," Hoegee said.

The Tracy boys fly spaceships to perform repairs and rescue missions. In this iteration, their father is missing and they hope to find him. Nevertheless, the 26 episodes for Amazon are not serialized.

"In season one they're almost all standalone," Hoegee said. "There is a very sort of light series arc that threads through the first 26 episodes we've done, but they definitely can be seen in any order."

Since these episodes will be available on Amazon, little kids can get into the binge watching habit early. "I can tell you that mine certainly would if I'd let 'em," Hoegee said. "I say it's sort of like waffles for dinner. Have as much as you want until you get tired of them. We were lucky we got an order for 26 episodes to start out with so that's given us plenty of fantastic shows. I think we're only going to see 13 to start on but more to come, I'm sure."

There are five Thunderbird crafts, and they each get a chance to lead the mission in different episodes. "We try to do that," Hoegee said. "We tend to pair them up a lot, so in other words, Thunderbird 1 might go out with Thunderbird 2. Often if Thunderbird 4 is going to be in the mission, 99% of the time Thunderbird 2 is going to be in it because that's how it will get there."

David Menkin provides the voices of both Virgil and Gordon Tracy. Virgil may get more heroic moments, as Thunderbird 2 is often the one to save the day in other Tracy-led missions.

"What's better than having Thunderbird 2 rising from behind a cliff or through a cloud?" Menkin said. "That's the thing. The other guys have to use their ingenuity and they have to think of smart ways to do it. In the end, you find that what they do need is for someone just to come and grab the crap out of something and pull it away. That's Virgil's job. He's the heavy lifter."

Andres Williams plays the villain The Hood, and every time the Tracys foil his plan, he lets out a maniacal scream. "Actually, it's never just one take necessarily," Williams said. "So they go, 'Can we try it again but with a bit more? Now just imagine he's on fire.' So it can be quite taxing, to say the least, on the vocal folds. And they tend to happen at the end of the shows anyway. There have been the odd episode where I've come in just for that. I guess things aren't going so well with him."Thunderbirds Are Go premieres April 22 on Amazon.