So, we know what the Thunderbird machines are going to look like, but what of their pilots/astronauts/aquanauts? Being computer generated characters animated with the help of some motion capture magic, it’s fair to expect a bit more “animation” (if you’ll forgive the pun) from the cast. Indeed, I would be most surprised if there isn’t a bit of self indulgent somersaulting and running from the cast as if to say, “Look father, no strings!” And this is all well and good, but what about the fixed neutral facial expressions of the original International Rescue team? Will Scott retain the famous dimples and nose of Sir Sean Connery? Will Gordon still be the unconventionally attractive one? Will Brains’s egghead make a return? Or Parker’s heavy lidded eyes and huge lips? Read on and discover the wonders with your very own eyes!
From the few still images that have been released, I can certainly say things are looking fairly positive. Here are the Tracy boys – the key quintet of International Rescue’s vast worldwide network.
Check out their amazing new utility sashes, and spandex! Facially, they’re more or less the same as the old gang, though a little less heavy in the eyebrow department. Their uniforms appear to be more than mere clothes, and it’ll be interesting to see what uses they fulfil. My main concern is that Alan looks like someone who will say, “Totally awesome!” and “It’s time to Thunderbird!” or something else immaturely asinine, but that’s okay because it means fans will be able to carry over their hatred of the original character to the new. According to the profiles on thunderbirds.com, the team retain their roles from the original series (Scott leads, Virgil is the diplomat, Alan is the young immature one, Gordon’s the joker, and John’s boring), though they’re spelled out in a way which almost guarantees there’s going to be frustrating moralising in this new program. Ah well. As long as there’s cool explosions and some wit, I’m sure it’ll be fine.
Others living on Tracy Island with the bros in the old show and who may/will appear in the new include:
- their father Jeff (mentioned in publicity but has no picture yet available, assuming he’s in the show at all),
- his mother, Grandma (who’s been cast, but has no picture yet available)
- his manservant Kyrano (no indication of his inclusion),
- best friend and target of Alan’s affections, TinTin. No, not the boy reporter. Kyrano’s daughter, and;
- Super genius and professional stutterer, Brains.
TinTin Kyrano, as was her full name, is an interesting element. According to IMDb, she’s been renamed Tanusha “Kayo” Kyrano, and will be a more important part of the team if her thunderbirds.com profile is anything to go by. Her job is classified as “covert ops”, she is a kung fu expert (expect to see more strings-free action here) and she has the responsibility for the new and mysterious, yet-to-be-unveiled Shadow craft. This is all a very far cry from “Grandma’s Apple Pie Baking Assistant”, and a very positive one at that. In a show which was always devoid of strong female characters, it’s pleasing to see one of the existing lineup elevated to a position she could always have occupied.
Brains, rather like Q in Skyfall, has had a major overhaul from daggy boffin to sexy man of science. He still has a large forehead, but his head as a whole is not the shape of a potato. It’ll be interesting to see if he retains his character’s famous stutter. He’ll likely still be the go-to guy for all science in the show, but I’m sure there will be many more plausible explanations thanks to the accessibility of modern science to a general audience – so don’t expect to be hearing about computers sensitive to “ultrasonic harmonics and microtones!”
Lady Penelope and Parker were for all intents and purposes the London bureau of International Rescue, though their popularity with fans led to their international focus, heading to such exotic locales as Monte Carlo, and the Generic American Hillbilly County. As the only non-Tracy Island character to appear in the opening titles of the original, Lady Penelope was always going to be an important character, and that seems set to continue with the new series.
Lady Penelope, as ever, is a youthful lady of action, though she seems to have acquired a pet. Not Parker, no – a sweater-wearing pug. Why? Sigh. Anyway. That hand-on-hip pose suggests she’ll be dishing out some classy sass given the opportunity, and may well not be as stiff upper lip as her puppet predecessor. Which is kind of the point of animating the characters, really. Parker looks rather like some sort of villainous London crime boss, as befits his history of professional safecracking. The designers owe Guy Ritchie a lot.
The standout character in that picture is, of course, FAB1, Lady Penelope’s incredible car. Further research informs me that it’s not going to be a Rolls Royce, and the ubiquitous Rolls Royce Spirit Of Ecstasy hood ornament has been replaced by a rocket. It’s a bit of a shame, really, as the whole reason I came to know and love Rolls Royces was the original series – the product placement gift that keeps on giving as far as RR should be, but apparently are not, concerned. But hell, as long as the car is laden with harpoons, smokescreens, hydrofoils, and machine guns, then it will live up to its predecessor nicely. It’s a shame they’ve chosen to go speculatively futuristic with its design, mind you – retro-futurism would have been a more refreshing take. But you can’t win them all!
The Hood was a recurring villain in the original series. Notable for his mastery of disguise and hypnosis, he tried and failed a number of times to obtain the secrets of International Rescue’s operations through his dastardly designed diabolical disasters! Obviously he’s going to be involved here too, and hopefully there’s a little more resolution to his tale of villainy than his maybe, maybe not death at the end of the second act of 1968 movie, Thunderbird 6 (for anyone who cares, and given my readership figures, I suspect not, but shout out to you if you do – I’m subscribing to the lesser agreed theory that the villain of that obscure film was the Hood in a wig). In any case, I hope his evil laugh gets better.
As for the voices, notable cast members include Thomas Brodie Sangster (Liam Neeson’s precocious son from Love Actually), Rosamund Pike (most recently of Gone Girl fame), and David Graham (Anderson voice acting veteran and the original voice of Gordon Tracy, Brains, and, of course, Parker!). The characterisation approach taken by all the voice actors will be a highlight, I’m sure.
If I have one criticism of these new characters, it’s that their hair is not even close to realistic, whereas the original puppets were always meant to be as real as possible. I very much hope this doesn’t represent too much of a shift towards a kids’ animation focus, because if The Adventures of TinTin (2011) showed us anything, it’s that Thunderbirds Are Go production company Weta Workshop can make photorealistic motion captured human beings. But, they’ve excelled themselves at world design, as we shall discover next time. Until then, observe radio silence!