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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Puppet Master Cuts His Strings

The puppet master is in town. Gerry Anderson, British creator of the perennially cool kid's series "Thunderbirds", is paying his second visit to Moscow, to oversee work on his latest, Russian-British project.


The "Thunderbirds" puppet patrollers, noted for their jerky movements, have gotten a new lease on life recently with the revival on television of their original series in Britain, dating back to 1966. and they still have phenomenal ratings.


At the Moscow preview of the first completed episode of "G-Force International", Anderson's latest creation, there was a distinct lack of puppets. This was a cartoon, pure and simple; the first time that Anderson has cut the puppeteers strings and let himself roam free. Why ditch a winning formula?


"I hate puppets", says Anderson. "I only agreed to do 'Thunderbird's because it was a great opportunity for me at the time. The last thing I'd want to do now is make another series with marionettes".


Never work with animals or children they say. Anderson, a man who has spent much of his life working with puppets and special effects has his own motto: Never work with puppets and special effects.


So what about Russians? Anderson is very positive. He has dearly been charmed by the team of Russian cartoonists at Videofilm's studios, who have spent the last year working on the "G-Force International" stories. Although the scripts and storyboards are drawn up in England, Anderson explains, the Russian team does the actual animation.


"We had horrendous problems when we first started", Anderson says. "Distance, language barriers and cultural differences. But we've mostly overcome these and I think that because of these difficulties this will be a special project".


Phil Littler, the serie's director, agrees that the Russians are "first class animators", although he, too, points to the cultural chasm between the two countries. "If I said 'I want a setting a bit like the one in "Alien'", I'd get blank faces. 'How about "Bladerunner? "' More blank faces. Luckily, one or two of the Russians had heard of "Star Wars", but it wasn't easy".


Anderson was introduced to Videofilm by Adam Shaw, who originally came to Moscow as the late Jim Henson's envoy, trying to sell the Muppets to Russia. He liked the work of Videofilm and put Anderson together with Alexander Gotlib, a suave and enthusiastic member of the company's directorial board. About a year ago, work on the first of 13 initial half-hour episodes of "G-Force International" started in earnest.


So what is Andersen's first venture into cartoons actually like? After last week's preview showing and press conference, Russian reaction seemed positive. "It's beautiful", beamed Irina Mayorova of Pravda. The assembled cartoonists of Videofilm, seeing their work on the big screen for the first time, seemed to agree.


But the heroic feets of the G-Force crew of James Gee, his children Wun Gee and Tu Gee and the aliens D'or and Argent, didn't win over everyone. "Well, I still think Russian cartoons are best", said a patriotic Katya Lavrintova of "Deloviye Lyudi".


The add test, however, was passed with flying colors. The kids who were present at the screening clearly loved every moment. When one young fellow was asked why he enjoyed the show, he looked indignant. "It's obvious", he said, "It's like asking why twice two is four! "


Kids of all ages shouldn't be too impatient, however, because the current, tentative plan envisages release in the West in late 1994 and Russian release some time later.