To stay in the loop with the latest features, news and interviews from the creative community around licensing, sign up to our weekly newsletter here
Jamie Anderson discusses extension plans for some all-time classic brands.
Jamie, welcome back! How’s the year been for you?
Thanks for having me again. It’s really nice to be back! Where did 2021 go?! Although… I’m sure lots of us are glad to see the back of it. It’s time to look ahead to 2022!
It was interesting to hear how quickly some of your ideas have progressed since last we spoke… Is that speed typical?
We do move fast, yes; something which is very important to me. If I like the sound of a project and early scoping out goes well, then I want to just get on with it!
“We’re very lucky to have a dedicated and incredibly hard working team…”
We’re very lucky to have a dedicated and incredibly hard working team, who are all extremely passionate about all things Anderson. I think that passion and authenticity goes a long way in terms of bringing together projects and products. I think it’s that mixture of passionate and talented team members, combined with moving quickly, which helps bring things to fruition. I’ve been really thrilled by the response from the fans and wider public too…
Let’s talk about some of those things… What’s taken off?
Quite a bit! Our two major hardback releases – our first two of this type as a direct to consumer publisher – have flown off the shelves… So much so that we’ve actually had a tricky time keeping up with demand. Obviously that’s a real champagne problem, but thankfully we have Tim Collins working with us who’s worked to make sure things have been top notch in terms of quality and delivery. He’s a great sounding board and a very important member of the team in terms of ideas, development and delivery.
One of the new hardback books is part of your Space 1999 IP: The Moonbase Alpha Technical Manual… How did that come about? Who approached whom? What were the greatest challenges?
Yes. This has been a real runaway success… Or should I say breakaway?! Either way, this has been an amazing project. When we renewed our deal with ITV Studios, one of the many components was republishing rights. As well as a range of 1960’s John Theydon novels and comic strips, I had the original 1970’s technical notebook in mind for an overhaul.
So it’s an expansion of original material?
Yes. And David Hirsch, the New York based author and editor of the original version, is a longtime family friend and colleague. I asked him for his blessing, which – being the way he is; collaborative and positive – he instantly gave. I then spoke to Chris Thompson on our team who is not only a big fan of the original show, but also a top notch designer and CG whizz. He really took the project and ran with it – creating over 200 brand new CGI images from scratch.
I can tell you’re wildly enthusiastic about this!
Absolutely! Chris has gone above and beyond with the project: boy, has he overdelivered! We worked with Amazing15 – who certainly lived up to their name – and editor Steve White to make sure the book was presented in the best ‘retro futuristic’ way. The whole team absolutely knocked it out of the park, and I think it’s a project we can all be extremely proud of.
It looks fantastic! You also did the book as part of a limited edition set… It came in a flight case with an Identity Card, Travel map, radiation detector, anti-radiation pills – or mints, I’m assuming – and numbered letter serving as a certificate of authenticity. Popular?
This was great fun to build, but goodness me, yes – it was popular. We issued 311 of these, individually numbered with ‘in universe’ certificates of authenticity. When pre-order launched we had hundreds of customers waiting on the store, and this premium version sold out in under two hours. We were blown away by the response, and it’s been a real joy seeing fans sharing their limited edition sets all over social media!
“We thought it was a great way to help people to strengthen their connection to the series.”
Why only 311?
Well, there were 311 people manning Moonbase Alpha when the moon blew out of Earth’s orbit back on 13th September 1999. So this felt like the only appropriate number. Owners of these cases can imagine that they were one of those original Alphans. We thought it was a great way to help people to strengthen their connection to the series.
Got it! I’m glad I asked; I figured it would be a little nugget like that. And why does that IP endure, do you think?
Well, if we genuinely knew the formula we’d be a billion dollar company! I don’t think anyone really does, but there’s a lot to love about Space:1999. It’s beautifully made, thoughtful and philosophical, and stunning to look at. And of course Brian Johnson’s Eagle design has never really been bettered – that has certainly kept fans of sci-fi hardware hooked for all these years. But there’s such an amazing scope for exploration and different stories, it feels like the possible future for Space:1999 is fairly limitless despite it’s time-locked name!
This is true… It’s a universe that still has a lot of potential. Not to be outdone, though, you’ve also launched volume 1 of UFO Comic Strips. For those unfamiliar with UFO, where does it fit in the Anderson universe?
This is the pre-Space:1999 offering. In fact, Space:1999 was born out of a failed second series of UFO – we include some nods to that in the Technical Operations Manual. It was Dad’s first foray into live action, and is set in the futuristic year 1980…
Futuristic because this was first televised in 1970… So, for those that don’t know it, what’s the gist?
A secret defence force, SHADO, operates from beneath a film studio in England, protecting the planet from alien incursions by a little-understood, faster-than-light-travelling, green-skinned and liquid-breathing extraterrestrial race.
And there’s something quite paradoxical about the original TV show. It has a very distinct look, with the purple wigs, for example… But it’s actually quite sober – dark, even – in tone. Does that make it an easier brand to extend? Or harder?
I think heightened visuals, overcomplexity and a very contiguous in-show style is part of pretty much every Anderson show. You might not have the purple wigs, but each show has its special visual look and feel. I think the dark tone keeps the show connected to the fans who are now grown up.
Right. And this is an anthology of the original comic strips, is it?
Yes, an anthology of the comics that originally featured in Countdown, and ran for a just over a year before the comic transitioned to become TV Action. It then ceased publication a year or so later. Many see the strips as an extension of the original series, with a lot of weird, wonderful and wacky series.
Where, ideally, would you take UFO next?
Well, there’s a second volume of the anthology to come as well as lots of other potential comic art collections. For UFO in particular, we’re working on a few projects that will certainly make fans of the series happy!
As we head into the New Year, what’s coming up?
I’m very excited about the release of our upcoming documentary about Dad’s life – Gerry Anderson: A Life Uncharted.
Oh, yes! This is the documentary… I’ve read the synopsis. So this is a Britbox original, produced by The Format Factory with Anderson Entertainment, with worldwide distribution by Abacus Media Rights. It looks very personal…
Exactly right. I think it’s going to change the way a lot of people view him, and give them a new lens through which they can watch and enjoy his shows. That will coincide with this year’s Gerry Anderson Day, which I’m sure will deliver a whole host of content, product and celebration.
And Gerry Anderson Day is April the…
April 14th – chosen in honour of dad’s birthday… We’ll also be continuing our novel re-releases, developing new audio material, and heading into production with our next TV projects. Watch this space. But most exciting of all, I think, is our Gerry Anderson concert, Stand by for Action.
And when is that?
It’s happening April 16th at the Birmingham Symphony Hall. All the Anderson tunes in one night, with a full concert orchestra. It’s going to be quite something!
Sounds terrific! Has a live concert of music from Anderson shows been done before?
The closest thing was Barry Gray’s centenary concert, which was fantastic – but only featured Barry’s themes. This new concert covers all six decades of dad’s shows, and will be an experience like no other. Prepare to turn nostalgia up to 11!
Up to 11! Nice. And as a concert, what would that be likely to include?
Every theme, plus lots of incidental music, video content, and a few surprises along the way. We’re working with the marvellous Carrot Productions, whose previous work includes Wallace and Gromit and The Snowman. They’re brilliant.
And again, how’s that come about? How do you start turning all that IP into an experience of that calibre?
With all of the frustrations of the last couple of years, I wanted to find a way for us to get fans together for something really special. With the documentary coming out and Gerry Anderson Day on 14th April, I wanted to put on something really special. The concert felt like a really good way to do that, and the perfect way to get back out to live events. And the great thing is, with the amazing music from the Anderson shows, it’s relatively easy to create a very special programme for the evening. Every theme is great, pumped-full of nostalgia, and begging for live orchestral performance.
You’re not wrong! So where can people get tickets? Don’t be bashful; we’ll put in a live link…
Thank you! You can get tickets at: andr.sn/tickets
Well, thank you for joining me again, Jamie. Terrific, as I say, to hear how things have been progressing. Finally, then… What’s the one question I should have asked you but didn’t? And what’s the answer?
Where else will we be this year?
Go for it!
Well, we’re getting out and about again. It’s time to see fans face to face, so we’ll be at a range of events throughout the year… We’re really looking forward to connecting with fans at conventions and comic cons throughout 2022 and beyond!
F.A.B., Jamie – let us know how things go; a pleasure to catch up.
Enter your details to receive Brands Untapped updates & news.