Captain Scarlet
& the Mysterons

main models

Marc J. Frattasio

captain Scarlet marked an important transition point in Supermarionation history. The Andersons had always been dissatisfied with the unrealistic proportions of their puppet characters. The large cartoonish heads and small bodies of the puppets used in Fireball XL5 and Thunderbirds had been dictated by the size of the solenoids used to actuate the puppet's movable lower lips. By 1967 solenoids became available which were small enough to be mounted within the puppet's bodies instead of within their heads. These new solenoids made it possible for the sculptors to reduce the size of the puppet's heads to proper human proportions.

Although the new proportions provided a more visually believable puppet character, some new problems cropped up. The new human proportioned puppets were more delicate and weighed less than the older puppets. Consequently, they were not as easy to operate on strings. The puppeteers got around this problem by holding the puppets stationary as much as possible or by manipulating them from below. Because of this, the puppets in Captain Scarlet rarely move more than their arms and heads in most shots! The new realistically proportioned puppets also required a much higher standard of miniature costumes, props, sets, and vehicles. Fewer things could be recycled from the older Supermarionation programs for reuse in Captain Scarlet and everything used in the production had to look as realistic as possible. Consequently, Captain Scarlet achieved a sense of realism which the Supermarionation programs that came before it never quite had and paved the way for the Andersons' next venture, Joe90

The writers put together some gripping, realistic scripts to complement the realistic puppets and miniature environments created for Captain Scarlet. Unfortunately, the plot lines of many episodes proved to be too realistic for broadcasters who felt that the program was not really suitable for children. Thus, the series was denied the kind of exposure that it deserved.

Many of the model vehicles featured in Captain Scarlet were duplicated in a number of different sizes to accommodate various filming requirements. Large, highly detailed models and puppet sized vehicle sections were built for close-up scenes. Smaller, less detailed models were used for long shots. Occasionally, models of different scales were combined in the same shot to force more perspective across a relatively narrow depth of field.

One-off models were often hand made from Jelutong or Balsa wood. Models which required many duplicates, such as the Spectrum vehicles, were usually made from thin-shell fiberglass castings pulled from plaster molds. Some models were made entirely from modified plastic kits. Captain Scarlet is loaded with 1/25th scale automobile kits made by AMT, Revell, and Monogram!

Models were often simple shapes which were detailed with parts taken from plastic kits or toys. Tracked vehicle models were usually built on top of battery operated toy tanks or tractors. Wheeled vehicle models used rubber slot car wheels, radio controlled airplane wheels, or wheels taken from toys.

Cellulose automobile paints were used on wooden or fiberglass models as this type of paint dries quickly and can be sanded down very easily. Trim lines were usually put on with colored automobile striping tape and panel lines were made with pen or pencil. Kit decals and Letraset dry transfer lettering were used for markings. Models were always 'weathered' to provide a proper scale appearance using combinations of powdered paints, chalks, and thinned paint washes.

Model road vehicles were usually fitted with a foam rubber suspension system. Some of these models were also fitted with an apparatus that forced the hood down to simulate the appearance of hard braking. Model road vehicles were often fitted with Jetex pyrotechnic motors on the underside, which disturbed a thin layer of Fuller's Earth deposited on the model roadway in such a way as to simulate road dust or exhaust smoke.

Model road vehicles were operated on the famous rolling roadway or were pulled by wire across miniature sets. Often, model road vehicles were controlled from underneath the set by means of a slot cut in the middle of the miniature roadway. Model aircraft were suspended by wires and manipulated in front of a rolling sky or stationary sky backdrop as required. Model aircraft were also frequently attached to horizontal wires and pulled across the camera's field of view. Some models were actually filmed upside down! This was often done when characters ejected from aircraft and when rockets were launched so that the the ejection seat would shoot 'upwards' and the rocket exhaust would extend straight 'downwards' in the completed scene.

It was not unusual for at least two examples to be made of any given miniature vehicle as a kind of insurance policy to protect against the intentional or accidental destruction of the model before filming was accomplished. This was particularly true of 'important' models that were scheduled to be destroyed on camera. In such cases, the film crew would want to have another model available in the event the first crash, fire, or explosion turned out badly.

Let's take a look at the models of Captain Scarlet:

Many plastic model kit versions of the most popular vehicles from Captain Scarlet were produced over the years around the world. Imai in Japan produced model kits of Cloudbase, the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle, the Maximum Security Vehicle, the Spectrum Patrol Car, the Spectrum Helicopter, the Angel Jet, the Spectrum Passenger Jet and the Spectrum Swift Removals van. Many of these subjects were made by Imai in more than one size. With a few exceptions, the Imai Captain Scarlet model kits have been available from 1967 right up to the present day. Some of Imai's Captain Scarlet model kits were reboxed in English language packaging and sold in North America during the late 1960s and early 1970s under the Paramount label. Many of these same model kits were reboxed in English language packaging and sold in England by Amarang during the early 1990s. Airfix of England produced an excellent 1/72nd scale model kit of the Angel Jet which was available from 1967 up to the early 1980s. For more information on past and present Captain Scarlet model kits and other merchandising, check out Dennis Nicholson's Gerry Anderson collectibles site.

Some of the best photographic resources for the actual Captain Scarlet studio models are the old hardcover Captain Scarlet Annuals which were published in England by Cities Magazines Limited in 1967 and 1968. Other useful photographs and cutaway drawings can be found in the more recent Fleetways Captain Scarlet comic books that were done around 1993 and the two Ravette Captain Scarlet comic compilation books. Probably the best overall English language photographic reference to Captain Scarlet is Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons by Chris Drake and David Rogers (ISBN 1-85283-403-X) which was published by Boxtree books in 1993. The full text of this book was reprinted in Boxtree's compilation, The Supermarionation Classics a year or two later. Other Captain Scarlet studio model photographs can be found in various Japanese photographic reference books on Supermarionation which have been published over the years. These other English language technical references to Supermarionation may be useful to the Captain Scarlet modeler too.

This page published originally at the Supermarionation sfx WebSite
text ©1996 Marc J. Frattasio; not for reproduction for profit without his express permission