The classic International Rescue raygun from Thunderbirds is an iconic prop and one that fans have been wanting to get their hands on for over 50 years. Well, the wait is finally over, as Planet Replicas have unveiled this breathtaking replica of the classic prop that no well-dressed Tracy brother or Thunderbirds fan should be without!
As if this wonderful image isn’t striking enough, we decided to track down the man behind the prop and ask him how the replica of this legendary raygun came into existence. Just who is the mysterious Mr X behind this remarkable product? None other than Daniel Carey-George at Planet Replicas!
Hello Daniel, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and Planet Replicas?
I started as a model-maker for advertising back in around 1995/96, I helped make Album covers for Pink Floyd, The Clash, adverts for lagers, Coca Cola etc . I liked to make prop replicas in my free time, and always wanted to end up working in the business in some way.
Planet Replicas started up mainly as a result of a fan film I worked on called Judge Minty, which was based around an old Judge Dredd storyline. I made the props and Judge costumes for it – again for fun, really – but 2000AD were impressed enough to keep me on their books until a licensing opportunity became available in 2011, just before the DREDD movie with Karl Urban came out. 2000AD asked me if I wanted a license, naturally I said yes, and it went from there!
Were you a fan of Thunderbirds when you were growing up?
Although I was born in 1973 I never really saw the show until much, much later on – certainly long after Star Wars etc, anyway! I never got to see repeats on any west country TV, or any episodes on VHS either (I can only just remember Space: 1999…)
However, my older brother had a 12″ vinyl recording of Thunderbirds – the flip side was Captain Scarlet. The Thunderbirds episode was ‘Trapped In the Sky’ (although it had Thunderbird 3 on the front cover). The episode was just genius story writing, and Scott’s voice was incredibly powerful to the 9 year old me. I loved it.
My interest in ‘making cool stuff’ meant I read a lot of books and magazines on the subject and Derek Meddings work was often featured in them, so I was aware of these incredible looking model effects, but rarely got to see them in context till much later in life. It was also interesting to see how many of his team went on to have careers in SFX in their own right. Given the technology and timescales they were working against, those effects still look amazing today.
The raygun has been a firm favourite with Thunderbirds fans for years, can you give us a few details about the product?
The ray gun was one of a few products I pitched to ITV once I knew they were interested in Planet Replicas. I was surprised it hadn’t been done before – which was one of the reasons I chose to submit the idea. I was wary of going over old ground, and wanted to take a fresh look at what could be done with the property for collectibles.
The raygun is ‘life size’ so to speak, and due to its simplicity, its actually taken quite a bit of work to get to the final product stage. It comes with a stand, but the stand is removable. Being a collector myself I am always wary of stands – they can add extra material cost and shipping weight, so I tried to design a simple stand that would hold the raygun nicely without overly complicating the overall look, or adding extra costs. I’m pleased with how its turned out !
What were the main stages in making the raygun concept a reality?
The raygun was the second product I worked on- the first being Brains’ watch. I had already made a few Computer-Aided Design (CAD) models of the raygun, and was using a few reference pictures I had uncovered in my Googling. I’d seen the full scale insert model, but was uncomfortable with using that as the main reference as truthfully – I found it a little ugly! The puppet sized gun was much cooler looking too…
About this time, it was announced that three of the original 1960’s audio stories were going to be made into all new episodes, and I had already backed the project on Kickstarter.
I got in touch with the team and through Pod 4 films I chatted to Justin T Lee, who had already completed a 3D model of the raygun, which he had sent to WETA to be made into props for the production by Dave Tremont.
For a small extra donation to their project, Justin shared the file with me. I combined my existing work with his, making a number of slight changes to help keep the details I wanted and also aid in production techniques. The main bonus that Justin’s file had was that at the time I’d taken the silver rings on the raygun to be wire wrapped around a cone, but it wasn’t until Justin’s file and a really nice screen cap from the Thunderbirds movie that I could see this wasn’t the case.
However, one thing I did add back in was the small ‘pip’ detail you can see running around the full size insert model. I kept these as they add a bit of extra interest, plus you could argue that they are on the puppet size gun, but just too small to have been worth putting in at that scale!
Producing the item is always stressful as the project moves from making a piece of art to becoming someones manufacturing sample. Factories try and make their lives easier, so you have to stick to your guns (pun intended!). You end up making sure Pantone Colours are just right, and triple checking box designs knowing that you really do eventually have to admit its ‘finished’! Then it’s a waiting game for delivery etc, quality checking again – literally my work on the project is only finished when it’s in the customers hands!
There’s a huge market for replica props and collectibles, what do you think it is about these products that appeals to consumers?
For me, there are two things – Nostalgia, and being ‘hands on’. I am only interested in producing product that I am personally interested in – you need a passion for an item when it takes many hours work, effort and stress to get right. It’s that passion that makes a better product – but also a passion that can be shared with a consumer once they get to hold it.
I think prop replicas and collectibles also have a desirability based on ownership – if something is ‘cool’ enough, we’d love to have one for ourselves, and if it’s nostalgic as well, then it’s a way to scratch that itch of wanting something you couldn’t have when you were much younger.
Planet Replicas have previously released a limited edition ‘Hackenbacker’ wristwatch replica from Day of Disaster. Can fans expect more Gerry Anderson replicas in the future?
Definitely – I have actually just secured a second Gerry Anderson deal through ITV, and am working on the viability of a third. I was also lucky and honoured to be able to meet Jamie Anderson a few months back for an early discussion on upcoming work which I am incredibly excited for – what I saw in the meeting was one of the best things I’ve seen in years, so I am really looking forward to the call to say its going ahead!
Our thanks to Daniel for a most insightful look into the production of a hotly anticipated Thunderbirds raygun prop replica, and of course we look forward to seeing what is in store next!
It really couldn’t be simpler to order one of these simply FAB replicas, but we advise you to hurry as they are strictly limited to a run of 350! Grab your Thunderbirds gun replica now!