The Paul Travers puppet replica

and other stuff auctioned at Christies

in mid 2003, I received a mail alerting me to the fact that Christies was auctioning off a number of Supermarionation related items and that they had put up pictures of some of them. I visited their site and not only found the following illustrations but also a nice description of the production process of the Paul Travers puppet as well as a short bio of its creator, Terry Curtis. As I didn't expect the pictures to be there for long, I took the liberty of saving them to my harddisk so I can offer them here. The following text originated at the Christies site and has not been edited in any way apart from a few typos.

Lot Description

A modern working replica puppet of Captain Paul Travers from Thunderbirds are Go made by Terry Curtis, one of limited edition of six, with functioning components, jointed body and poseable, flexible hands, in powder blue Zero X space pilot's uniform and orange polo neck jersey, character's appearance originally modelled on Sean Connery — 53cm. high, with display stand with brass plate 'Capt. Paul Travers by Terry Curtis'.

Lot Notes

Terry Curtis' Paul Travers puppet
Terry Curtis' Paul Travers puppet this illustration has a larger version

The Captain Paul Travers puppet is a complete replica of the original puppet made by Terry Curtis for the 1966 feature film Thunderbirds are Go. The original puppet is in the possession of Terry Curtis and there are no other copies available, other than those recreated by him. This is an exclusive edition, each puppet being microchipped and authenticated to discourage further copying.

To give some idea of the time involved in recreating one of these puppets – which are fully working – the head is probably the most time consuming part of the operation; this takes between 70 and 80 hours. It is made from fibreglass (as were the originals), it is then trimmed, the eyes and mouth and lip section cut out, the back of the eyes are ground, eye sockets made, the neck mechanism is fitted, the lip mechanism fitted with flexible leather insert and false teeth. (All these mechanisms are hand made by Terry Curtis to the original specification). The head is sanded to remove any imperfections from the casting and the chin and leather section is blended in. The head is then painted with several coats of undercoat – again re-sanded – painted with top coat and all skin textures. The puppet is then wigged (in the case of Paul Travers with real hair, which takes two days) eyebrows and false eyelashes fashioned, after which the eyes – again recreated by Terry Curtis – are fitted.

All body parts, the torso, arms, hips, legs and feet are from castings of the original. The hands have been recreated in a flexible material for the first time in 35 years — wired to enable positioning of fingers as they were originally. Just recreating the hands and finding a suitable material took 51 hours to get the first pair perfected. Overall, the body parts and mechanisms take approximately the same time as the head to produce. The only part not recreated by Terry Curtis himself is the Paul Travers' costume — this is made to an even higher standard than the original and takes a seamstress approximately two days to produce. The jumper has been recreated in pure lambswool, and dyed to match the original. All badges have been especially made for the uniform. All buttons, buckles and braiding are finished by hand and are, again, as per original. All in all, it takes in excess of 170 hours to reproduce just one puppet.

Terry Curtis

Born and educated in North Devon, he left the North Devon Art College having studied art and sculpture. Owing to the scarcity of such work in Devon he went to Berkshire and obtained work at AP Films in Slough (later to become Century 21) in 1964 as an Assistant in the Art Department. After approximately six weeks a post became vacant in the sculpture department with John Blundall and John Brown. By this time the fifth episode of Thunderbirds was in production and his work was mainly concerned with re-making supporting characters, that is, plasticine sculpted over a polystyrene shell, painted and wigged.

The first feature film Thunderbirds Are Go was when Terry Curtis created Paul Travers, Greg Martin, the Controller of the Zero-X Mission, and Hank Marvin from The Shadows. These puppets were all cast as the main characters were – in fibreglass – as they needed to be more durable, considering the length and complexity of the feature film compared with a normal television episode.

Then followed the Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons series, when he was responsible for sculpting Captains Blue, Ochre, Grey and Destiny Angel, plus many other supporting characters. Following this he did the second feature film Thunderbird 6, the Joe 90 series and, finally, The Secret Service. He then moved on to Century 21 Super Film Props — then A.T.V. Birmingham, finally coming down to the West Country to join Westward Television (later to become TSW) in 1976. He still works in films and television, based in the West Country as a freelance Floor Manager for Carlton TV and BBC Plymouth.

The following pictures were to be found at Christies' website at the time. They represent other lots that were offered for auction together with Terry Curtis' puppet replica. It looks like the separate heads were combined with the stock body dressed in the Paul Travers Zero-X costume for these pictures.

Alan's suit
white suit worn by Alan this illustration has a larger version
Zero-X crew uniforms
uniforms for the Zero-X crew this illustration has a larger version
Cass Carnaby's outfit
costume worn by Cass Carnaby
in The Cham-Cham this illustration has a larger version
Thunderbird 6 Virgil's head
Virgil from Thunderbird 6 this illustration has a larger version
Thunderbirds Are GO! president's head
the World President from
Thunderbirds Are GO! this illustration has a larger version
Thunderbird 6 John's head
John from Thunderbird 6 this illustration has a larger version
Thunderbird 6 New World Aircraft Corporation board member
New World Aircraft Corp. boardmember from Thunderbird 6 this illustration has a larger version
Thunderbird 6 Kyrano's head
Kyrano from Thunderbird 6 this illustration has a larger version
The Cham-Cham colonel
Air Force colonel from The Cham-Cham this illustration has a larger version
Harman Dept. Store Santa Claus
Harman Dept. Store's Santa Claus
from Give or Take a Million this illustration has a larger version
Lane Skyship One crew head
Skyship One crewmember Lane from Thunderbird 6 this illustration has a larger version
assorted hands and feet
assorted hands and feet this illustration has a larger version
Thunderbirds Are GO! stock body
Thunderbirds Are GO! stock body this illustration has a larger version
assortment of IR caps
assortment of International Rescue caps and a gun this illustration has a larger version