Thunderbirds is a 1960s British science-fiction television series, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, made by their production company AP Films, and distributed by ITC Entertainment. Filmed between 1964 and 1966, it was produced usingmarionette puppetry combined with scale-model special effects sequences in a mixed filming technique dubbed "Supermarionation". Two series and thirty-two 50-minute episodes were filmed; production closed after the Andersons' financial backer, Lew Grade, failed in his bid to sell the programme to American network television.
Succeeding the previous Supermarionation productions Four Feather Falls, Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray,Thunderbirds is set in 2065. It follows the exploits of International Rescue, a secret organisation established to save people who are in mortal danger with the aid of technologically advanced land-, sea-, air- and space-rescue vehicles and equipment, headed by the Thunderbird fleet and launched from a hidden island base in the South Pacific Ocean. The main characters are ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy (the founder of IR) and his five adult sons, who pilot the Thunderbird machines.
Thunderbirds premiered in the UK on ATV's franchises in 1965, and has since been broadcast in at least 66 other countries. Periodically repeated since its original 1965–66 broadcast by the BBC and on other channels, the series was adapted for radio in the early 1990s, and has influenced numerous other TV programmes (including a Japanese remake), films and other media. It has entailed various merchandising campaigns, and has been followed by three feature-length films and a mimed stage adaptation.
Widely considered the most popular and commercially successful series created by the Andersons or produced by AP Films, Thunderbirds has attracted particular praise for its effects (directed by Derek Meddings) and musical score (composed by Barry Gray). The series is also well remembered for its opening title sequence, which starts with an often-quoted countdown by voice actor Peter Dyneley: "5, 4, 3, 2, 1: Thunderbirds Are Go!" The affirmative radio code used by the main characters, "F.A.B.", has been defined in the Collins English Dictionary. A part-CGI remake, Thunderbirds Are Go!, will be broadcast in 2015 on CITV, 50 years after the original.