So back in 1964, ITV created a science fiction series known as Thunderbirds, which featured a "cast" of marionette puppets and their scale model vehicles. The Thunderbirds were actually the vehicles used by a humanitarian group known as International Rescue (IR), largely staffed by the Tracy family and their allies and backers. The show was novel since the marionette process was obviously intricate and the practical effects, even if just using scale models, certainly helped the show appear more impressive onscreen. Over the years I had managed to catch the show on re-runs on cable TV here and there and admittedly I was pretty fascinated. Sure, I wished that the vehicles did more than just operate in their specialized environments, but then I was a Transformers kid after all.
Even I was surprised to find out that ITV had decided to go with a Thunderbirds reboot known as Thunderbirds Are Go. I was rather skeptical about this show (like many other fans of the original show) since it was going to be done in CGI and we all know how bad the 2004 remake was and therefore, it was doomed to failure. It's not much of an equation nor is that assumption logical in any way but it's pretty much what a lot of us have been thinking.
But the show came out and I took a gamble on the two-episode pilot and I was impressed. But first I was really surprised. Initially I was expecting a pure CGI series (since like any fan slated to hate a series, I didn't read up on it) and thus was confused by the quality of the animation. Sure, it's obvious the characters were given big doe eyes to make them look a little like the original marionettes. But then some of the movements seemed weird and jerky and I first thought that they had dropped the frame rate or something in an attempt to make it look rougher.
But then I did my research and found out that they had decide to use practical effects and scale model sets whenever possible but relied on CGI for the characters and most of the vehicle shots. This blending of old and new techniques resulted in a show that actually looked pretty great and I am very hopeful for this show. After all, the original Thunderbirds was really a serious science fiction series with the flavor of a spy thriller of sorts, as was popular at the time. This new series captures that with a lot of the powerful, sweeping music and dramatic camera shots. It nicely homages the original series while still breaking new ground. At this point, I'm on board to see where this show will go.
Practical effects are awesome. I wish movies and TV shows didn't rely so much on CGI since it always looks at least a little fake. But practical effects, even when using scale models, can make a tremendous impact on your TV show or movie. It just looks so much better.