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Fireball XL5 (1962 - 1963)
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Galactic Ambassador

Joined: 27 Sep 2014
Posts: 3519
Location: New York

PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In order to cut down the long shooting schedule, Gerry Anderson set up 2 full-time puppet units with 2 directors all working simultaneously.

Fireball XL5 became the first television series to use front screen projection via the brand new Alexan-Gerard Axial Projection system.

Reg Hill designed the Fireball XL5 space craft.

A seven-foot model was constructed to be used in close-up shots and most of the scenes involving Fireball Junior.

A 24-inch model was utilized for scenes requiring launching, flying and landing of the ship.

And a five-inch model for space scenes using rear screen projection.

Production of the series was at AP Film Studios in Ipswich Road, Slough.

Last edited by Pow on Sat Nov 20, 2021 2:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eadie wrote:
Krel wrote:
I got the lunch box with the Wally Wood art in first grade (maybe kindergarten), and carried it all through grade school. I wish I could remember what happened to it.


This one?:

Yes, that's the one. Isn't it a beauty? It's a real shame that kids can't have lunch boxes like that anymore. Sadly, schools consider them bo be weapons.

The things children miss out on in current times. Just sad.

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Galactic Ambassador

Joined: 27 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gerry Anderson originally had 2 different concepts for what would be come his series "Fireball XL5."

The first format was very close to the show that came into being.
"Century 21"was going to be the title of the show and the space vessel. The show was to be set a thousand years into the future in the year 2962.

The main characters were members of the United States Space Patrol.

The second concept for the show was different.

It was going to be a combination of live-action & Supermarionation.

The live-action segments would be about a young boy named Little Joe who is an American kid who dreams about being heroic space pilot Joe 90.

The Supermarionation scenes would be about Little Joe's adventures as the pilot of Space Patrol Vehicle 1 Zero.

His crew would consist of : sister Debbie,brother-in-law Gary,niece Cindy Lou and navigator Professor Matthew Matic.

Century 21 would be the name of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's production company starting with "Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons."

"Joe 90''would be the title for another Anderson puppet TV series which ran for 30 episodes from 1968~1969.

Eventually the Anderson's would revive their concept of doing a TV series that was a mix of Supermarionation as well as live-action.

"The Secret Service"would run from September to December of 1969 for 13 episodes.
By filming some scenes in live-action the show could utilize real life locations since the series was set in the present day.

Long shots of real actors solved the problem of making the puppets walk in a realistic manner which was something that had always bothered Gerry Anderson on all his puppet television shows.

Live-action also allowed real car chases for the show.
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Gord Green
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2020 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My interest in puppet oriented shows kind of died after BEANY AND CEICIL, HOWDY DOODY and ROOTIE KAZOOTIE, so most of these Anderson/British shows had little interest to me by age 12!

It was not until SPACE 1999 that the Anderson shows really made a impact. ( UFO was being shown on our local PBS and did pique my interest , but the availability of the programming was so sporadic I hardly had the opportunity to become a fan!).

Looking back via YouTube has been a fun experience! So....What else did I miss???

There comes a time, thief, when gold loses its lustre, and the gems cease to sparkle, and the throne room becomes a prison; and all that is left is a father's love for his child.
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Quantum Engineer

Joined: 17 Jul 2015
Posts: 350

PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2020 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gord Green wrote:

Thanks for those great pictures, Gord. I had not seen them before. I tried visiting the source of the pictures (, but to no avail. I guess the company no longer exists.

There's another British robot that was also available as a kit, I think. Do you remember MARVIN, from the BBC TV series (not the later movie) "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"? Although I can't find that model either, I have found a few songs sung by Marv, which were popular record releases in UK in the early 80's. They're on Youtube at:

Marvin, the Paranoid Android - Marvin

Marvin, the Paranoid Android - Metal Man

Marvin the Paranoid Android - Reasons to be Miserable

Marvin the Paranoid Android - I Love You
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Galactic Ambassador

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2021 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent fan made FXL5 CGI episode is now on Youtube. Terrific design work. made
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Captain Starlight
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2022 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I never could get excited about shows like this. I love stop motion animation, but the puppets reminded me of Howdy Doody. And yet the designs of the things they showed are great.
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Galactic Ambassador

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2022 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know just what you mean, Captain Starlight.

The Gerry & Sylvia Anderson' marionette science fiction television shows were aimed, primarily, at kids. So the scripting wasn't intended to be sophisticated adult entertainment dealing with topical issues. Add to that the childlike humor, you just aren't going to be drawn to those aspects of the earlier puppet TV shows produced by Gerry & Sylvia.

The thing I view these shows for is the superb models and special effects by the legendary Derek Meddings and his superb team of craftsmen. Their designs remain impressive and captivating to this day.

Meddings would go on to be the Special Effects Supervisor for the Anderson's 2 Thunderbirds feature films and their movie Journey to the Far Side of the Sun. He would also create the marvelous models and visuals for Gerry & Sylvia's live action SF TV series UFO.

Later on he would create incredible visuals for a number of the James Bond films.

As time did go on, the puppet TV shows did "grow up" to a degree along the way.

I'm currently watching the Joe 90 puppet series. Mainly for Meddings' excellent work. However, I did notice that the
serious and complex plots for Joe 90 were similar to Mission: Impossible (1966~1973). The stories were more like compelling real world espionage capers and possessed suspense and intensity. The lame, groan-inducing humor was seriously reduced. The villains were not over-the-top & clownish anymore.

As the times changed so did the Anderson's desire to appeal to more than just children with their shows. They realized that they had teen and adult fans who were tuning in to see the amazing visuals, even if the writing would make them do an eye-roll at times.

Gerry & Sylvia were now approaching their later puppet shows to be able to entertain both kids and adults. Never an easy tightrope to walk. Gene Roddenberry and his writers did much the same thing with the animated Star Trek TV show. It was vital that both children and adults be drawn to the material. Challenging to say the least.

Like many TV shows of the 1960's & 1970's we can look back at Gerry & Sylvia's puppet shows as reflecting a more quaint and innocent time. At least as far as television was concerned. We can marvel at the imagination and visuals involved in the production while still not being "into" the marionettes themselves, or the simple plotting and unsophisticated humor.

If you compare the storytelling from Supercar all the way to The Secret Service, you can see that these puppet productions did evolve, not only technologically over time, but in adopting more grown up tales that would draw in adults and kids at the same time. Even if this didn't work all the time.

Gerry said in an interview that he was thrilled when he and his wife, Sylvia, were able to move on to producing live action TV series instead of puppets. With puppets you were always terribly limited with their movements. You could not make them run, fight, & have them perform all the action types of scenes as you can with living people. Tailoring the plots around such limitations could be most frustrating.

Then again, he laughingly stated that when he was working with difficult & ego-driven actors, he fantasized he could turn them into cooperative marionettes that wouldn't and couldn't make a move of any kind without him.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2022 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Mike, that is a very interesting and well written post! Thanks for sharing such a wealth of info! Cool

Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)
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Galactic Ambassador

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2024 11:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Technical Operations Manual for Fireball XL5 will be the next upcoming book in the Technical Operations Manual series. So far, they've produced TOM for UFO, Joe 90, and Space: 1999. They are splendid books that delve into all of the fictional details regarding each show. They are very detailed and cover information I never knew about each series. This is accompanied by marvelous original pictures created just for these books.
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Space Cadet

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 10, 2024 2:38 am    Post subject: Fireball Memories Reply with quote

Fireball XL5 was a great show for kids. It was a favorite of mine, and kind of a private or secret place for me (oddly, since I usually shared my TV enthusiasms with friends, but was sort of "protective" of this one). It struck me as both wonderful and surreal at the same time. For me, the opening music kicked major arse. I just loved it.

It wasn't clear to me where the show came from. I had no idea that it was British. There may have been a British accent here and there, but you could find that in a lot of U.S.-made shows, too; also, American Anglophilia was on the rise in the Kennedy years; and when he died, it didn't fade so much as transfer, from Peter Sellers to David Frost; William Holden to Sean Connery; and, needless to say, the British Invasion in rock and roll, which blew away much of the middle of the road Lite Rock that had come to dominate here after 1960 or thereabouts.

Anyway, back to Fireball. I suppose it was, especially in the States, an aberration. It seemed smarter and sharper than the Irwin Allen produced sci-fi films from about the same period; and it seemed to come from another galaxy than the one we inhabit. Yes, it was a kid show, aiming for young viewers, and yet, having watched a few episodes a couple of years ago, on-line, it struck me as far better than that. At a technical level alone it was a marvel. The gadgetry stuff and obvious models must look Stone Age to Millennial viewers, if there are any. Still, for me, it was a joy all the same.

Thanks for bringing this funky, imaginative, still wondrous old TV show back to life, of a sort, on-line. I've enjoy reading, thinking and writing about it. Keep up the good work, guys!
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