What Makes ‘Thunderbirds Are Go!’ a Practically Perfect Reboot?

I would start this post by telling you when the release date for the second half of Series 1 of ‘Thunderbirds Are Go!’ is, except ITV seem to be keeping it a tightly graded secret. They’ve said it’s supposed to be sometime this month, yet exactly when this month they plan to release it is a mystery.

Nevertheless, there’s never a bad time to tell my watchers just how good this show is, especially since it’s one of my favourite shows. It shouldn’t be long before they announce the release date, so let’s take an in-depth look at what makes this show F.A.B.

It Knows What to Update…

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As with any adaptation, there are countless changes which need to me made. One of the most notable updates in ‘Thunderbirds Are Go!’ is that there are far more stronger female characters than before. The original did have the smart and elegant Lady Penelope, but it also had Tin Tin. Although far from a bad character, in the end, she was little more than a damsel in distress. She’s since been replaced by Kayo, whose got 100 times more spirit than her predecessor, as well as a genuinely interesting back-story relating to the shows main villain, The Hood.

There are other things which have been updated too. The island looks a little less 60’s, the FaceTime screens have been replaced with holograms, the Thunderbirds themselves have updated looks and functionalities, and Brains has become British-Indian. All of these little changes help to not only make the show individual, but also make it better.

…But It Doesn’t Lose Its Nostalgia.

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There are some things from the original show which simply can’t be replaced (some would argue that puppets should have still been used, but we’ll get to that later). From the opening “5…4…3…2…1…” titles, to the enhanced launch sequences of each Thunderbird, to the catchphrases and technical jargon, just about everything which fans of the old show love shows up in some way, shape or fom in the reboot, as well as a few sneaky Easter eggs from other Gery Anderson productions (hence ‘Stingray’ being John’s favourite TV show).

The writers clearly did their homework on the old series too. They might have made some changes to the plot, the most notable one being Jeff Tracy being a missing person instead of the leader of I.R. But, on the whole, the story, characters and format take clear influence from the original show. Perhaps the makers of ‘Catwoman’ (2004) should take notes.

It’s a Case-Study for When Practical and C.G.I. Effects Should be Used.

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It’s ironic that arguably the most iconic thing about the original series was the thing it’s creator hated the most; the puppets. Gery Anderson mastered the scale models with impressive designs and even more impressive destructions. When they were destroyed, they had a genuine impact on the sheer basis that you could feel the weight and scale of these explosions.

The same can’t really be said for the puppets, since Anderson himself hated how stiff and clumsily handled they were. That’s the advantage that C.G.I. has, especially when motion capture is used. Body parts which move more swiftly than before, faces with added emotion, and taking away the need to film real hands for close-up shots add life to the characters.

Furthermore, when you have Weta, the team behind the effects in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ franchise, taking charge if the effects, you can bet that the balance of practical and computer effects will be done to the highest possible standard. Seriously the characters look like puppets with added life!

It Takes a Few Risks.

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When a creative is willing to break a few rules, it makes their project far more exciting to create, purely because no one knows whether or not it would pay off. It was a risk for the crew to re-design all of the machines, especially Thunderbird 5 which looks practically nothing like the original. It was a risk for them to introduce Grandma Tracy, whose most memorable feature is being a dreadful cook. It was a risk for them to make Alan a 16-year-old who rides a space-board as opposed to your usual jet-pack.

Yet, if you ask me, all of these risks do in fact pay off. They give us viewers something new to chew on whilst watching the show, and make us look at the franchise in a different light. I adore the new look of T5, I find it hilarious how oblivious Grandma is to how terrible she actually is at cooking, and, good lord, I want to ride a surf-board in space!

It’s More Merchendisable Than Before.

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When I first saw the new logo, I practically fell in love with it! The diagonal type and enlarged ‘Thunderbirds’ felt reminiscent of the original logo, yet the sans-serif font and sneaky ligature which creates the ‘I.R.’ initials within the same logo made me know instantly that the adaptability of this logo was going to make way for great branding.

You have your classic costumes, figurines and model Tracy Island, but it’s the packaging design which is what makes these toys so inviting. The logo can be used on the packaging in a more vectorised way than in the opening titles, and yet still clearly represent the franchise. Plus, the bold colour palette of night blue and the 5 key colours of the Thunderbirds, as well as the more print-friendly profile images of the Tracy’s (as opposed to the seperstely illustrated profiles used in the 1960’s) make the brand look ready for the toy shop!

Isn’t There Anything Wrong With It?

If I did have to nit-pick, I would say that I’d prefer it if each episode was a tad longer. I think it was right for the team to shorten the episodes since the music is suspenseful and children generally enjoy shorter shows. Yet, at the same time, each episode does seem to go in the blink of an eye, and I find myself at the end of most episodes crying “is it over already?!” With that said, I suppose that’s a good complaint to have. It just shows you how much I enjoy the show whilst watching it!

Summary

On the whole, though, this show is a my prime example of how to make a reboot the right way. It’s got a style which brings in the best of both worlds, it keeps me on the edge of my seat from start to finish, and it’s genuinely well-written stories make me excited to tune in every morning for the next episode.

‘Thunderbirds Are Go!’? I couldn’t have put it better myself!

My Work Experience at ‘Elvet Woollen Mill’

Last week, I gave you a round-up of what it was like to complete my work experience at ‘Bay Studios’ in Swansea. Well, now that that’s ended, I’ve moved straight onto another round of work experience, this time travelling in the opposite direction.

What It’s Like

About half-an-hours bus ride from my home town, hidden behind some fields and forest in the middle of nowhere (otherwise known as Cynwyl Elfed) is ‘Elvet Woollen Mill’. It’s actually quite surprising to find this mill secluded amongst the trees and hedges. The owners, Alison Thomas and Mike Tolputt, told me that most of the villagers don’t even realise the mill is there, especially since it’s an old building at the end of a narrow lane which most probably wouldn’t realise is still manufacturing. Once, they even had some strangers turn up mistaking the place for a village museum!

Despite this, my time working there has been a pleasant time. Much like with my previous experience, I got to get a closer look at the manufacturing side of the business.

How It Works

There are a dozen or so machines which I need to remember how to use, of which rely on a system of transforming individual threads of wool to elaborate fabrics. After that, some of the giant rolls of fabric are taken to the finishers to make the fabrics soft and comfortable to use, whilst others are ready to use immediately.

Once they’ve returned, it’s a case of cutting the fabrics up and, if need be, sewing them into a variety of different woollen products. From coats to cushions, and from tapestries to teacosies, just about anything woollen can be made at this Mill. Oh, and we have to attach labels and package all of these products by hand too.

How’s This Related to Design?

I suppose what’s fascinated me most with this work experience is seeing how similar some of the criteria are in both creative industries. Many of the things which need to be considered when manufacturing woollen products also need to be considered when creating graphic products.

For example, I was shown how by adding a single colour to one of their patterns, the whole look of the fabric seems to completely change appeal. The same can be said in graphic design, as to how a single colour can make an entire brand feel different and give it a new appeal.

Furthermore, when looking at both fabrics from a distance, the colours merged together into a new, seemingly solid colour. This reminded me a lot of spot colour printing, a process commonly used in magazines where the four key colours, cyan, magneta, yellow and black, are printed with thousends of tiny dots. Once looked at from a distance, those dots blur together to create the illusion of a solid colour and shading.

There was even the fact that when these fabrics were sent to the finishers to be softened, the colours of the fabrics changed slightly upon return. The same can be said for graphic design, as colours generally darken when being transferred from digital to print (which is why a good designer will always test their designs in print as well as digitally), and change colour yet again when the printed material is finished in some way (e.g. glossing )

Summary

Once again, I suppose what you can learn from this is that just because your skills lie in one career, that doesn’t mean those skills can’t be adapted for something else. So long as you’re able to recognise the simularities of both industries, you can, with training, convert those skills to change from one industry to the next.

And I get to expand my skills further,this time around, because my work experience here is far from over!

Creativity & the Queen

Today, Queen Elizabeth II will surpass her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, as Britain’s longest reigning monarch. I, for one, am humbled that we, as a country, can witness an event as rare as this. Therefore, it only seemed right to take inspiration from Her Majesty to see how the Royal Family have helped to contribute to the worlds creative industry.

The Royal Collection

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By far the biggest contribution Her Majesty and her ancestors have made to the arts is the ‘Royal Collection’. One of the oldest and most historically important art collections in the world, it consists of paintings, sculptures, watercolours, sketches and jewels (including the ‘Crown Jewell’s’) that span an era of 500 years. With over 197,000 works to observe in 13 different regal locations, it’s a fascinating way to examine the tastes and ideas of our Royals, past and present.

A Family of Artists

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As well as owners of multiple pieces, the Royal Family are surprisingly good artists themselves. Many of their works, old and new, were shown in a 2013 documentary series, ‘Royal Paintbox’, as well as an exhibition of the same name. Arguably, the most artistic member of the Monarchy today is Prince Charles, as he was the one who examined the artwork of his ancestors on both the TV show and the exhibition. He even had some of his watercolours put on display.

Tourism & Merchandising

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One of the best things about Britain’s Monarchy is that their appeal generates bucket-loads for our tourism industry; £5million a year, to be precise. £2billion was made from the wedding of William and Kate alone! Fair to say, much of that comes through the royalty-themed merchandising. Some of it is posh, and some of it is goofy. Either way, there’s always plenty of money to be made in tourist shops all around London, and the many royal properties in the rest of the U.K.. So, go ahead and raise those Union Jacks!

The Royal Variety Performance

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It’s not just paintings and sculptures that qualify as art, you know! One of the greatest honours for a performer is to visit the U.K. and put on a show for either Her Majesty, or another member of the Royal Family. Variety shows are a rarity nowadays, so the fact that this one has continued for over 100 years (and yearly for 70 years) is nothing short of a marvel. I send my thanks to ‘Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent’, one of the many charities of which the Queen is a patron, for giving us the show that us creatives a chance to truly shine.

Stamps & the Royal Mint

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It’s fair to say that part of our culture is influenced by the very profile of Her Majesty, both in our wallets, and our letter boxes. Portraits of her are hand-drawn for British stamps and currency, by a variety of distinguished artists, all of which must have been approved by the Queen herself. Additionally, the constant influx of new designs for the tales-ends and special/commemorative stamps means that we can be guaranteed to always see a new miniature art-piece every few months.

So, what do you think? Does the Royal Family get your creative juices flowing in some way? If so, let me know how in the comments below. And, be sure to celebrate today’s event in style!