|Created by||Gerry Anderson|
Tracy family, Brains,|
Kyrano, Tin-Tin Kyrano
|First appearance||"Trapped in the Sky"|
Tracy Island is the home of the Tracy family in the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson 1960s television series Thunderbirds. Located in the South Pacific Ocean, the heavily camouflaged island's ulterior function is to serve as the secret base of the International Rescue organisation.
Thunderbird 1 is launched from a hangar underneath the island's retractable swimming pool, at the foot of the main Tracy Villa. The entrance to the Thunderbird 2 hangar is concealed by a false rock-face and leads onto the island's runway. On exiting the hangar, the palm trees lining the runway swing outwards to accommodate the wingspan of Thunderbird 2. After taxiing along the runway, Thunderbird 2 takes off from a hydraulic launch platform. Thunderbird 3 is launched from underneath the Round House. Features such as the outside staircase descending to water, the large windows, and the prominent stone chimney, suggest that the design was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater House. In the 2004 live-action film, a projection of the flightpath from Tracy Island to London clearly shows the former as being located in the Atlantic Ocean, whereas in the original TV series the island was located in the Pacific.
Although the security of the island is stated to be assured by jamming equipment, it proves to be somewhat vulnerable in the comic strips of TV Century 21 due to the machinations of The Hood. Learning everything about the island by brainwashing the technically minded Brains and extracting all of his knowledge concerning the island, the Hood launches his strongest attack yet on IR, destroying several Thunderbird craft and many of their hangars, with the exception of Thunderbirds 1 and 4. (The canonicity of the Thunderbirds comics adventures is open to interpretation.)
Derek Meddings, special effects director for the original TV series, described his excitement in designing Tracy Island as "one of those feelings you get when you're a kid, imagining that you're Robinson Crusoe living on a lovely island."
For the 2004 live-action film, North Island, in the Seychelles, served as the primary filming location for the Tracy Island exteriors. Co-producer Mark Huffam described the fictional island as "the most idyllic ... imaginable, with crystal clear waters, tropical jungle and mountainous peaks", adding that it was "fantastic" that North Island comprised "all these essential elements". Vallée de Mai preserve, Anse Lazio beach and other locations on the island of Praslin were also used.
The buildings of the re-imagined Tracy Island, added using computer animation, were purposely given a "retro-futuristic" appearance, described by production designer John Beard as "based in the '60s and '70s, which is similar to what we were doing for Brazil." Further inspiration was drawn from the works of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, among others.
Merchandise and Blue Peter
In 1992 in the UK, a BBC2 re-run of Thunderbirds resulted in a shortage of Tracy Island toy playsets in the run-up to Christmas. The story was reported in the national news and is cited as the archetypal mistake to be avoided by the toy industry in general during the Christmas shopping season. The children's programme Blue Peter responded to the stock shortage by demonstrating how to build a home-made version; the BBC was then, in turn, overwhelmed by viewers' requests for copies of an instruction sheet for making the model.
The BBC's re-launch of Thunderbirds in the early 2000s prompted a resurgence of consumer and press interest in Tracy Island and a second Blue Peter island-building demonstration. Vivid Imaginations' playset was ranked among the British Association of Toy Retailers' Top 10 toy products; it went on to become the best-selling toy of 2000, with demand estimated to be up to ten times greater than supply.
Rob McLaughlin of the entertainment website Den of Geek names Tracy Island the seventh best secret base in film and television, albeit questioning the practicality of one design aspect: "There's the small matter of the ever-present risk of a great big rocket ship appearing out the bottom of [the swimming pool] and squashing you." According to Tim Bevan, producer of the live-action film, the island was "one of the main characters of the original Thunderbirds series".
In a publicity exercise, Ford Motor Company, which built the re-imagined FAB 1 for the 2004 film, commissioned a Thunderbirds-themed live event and interactive experience for that year's British International Motor Show, hosted at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre. The 7,400-square-metre (1.8-acre) stand, constructed by design company Imagination, was conceived as a replica of Tracy Island, complete with a beach, a lake, an aircraft hangar and an overhead model of Thunderbird 2. Branded "Thunderbirds Powered By Ford", it was one of the largest exhibits to be undertaken by Imagination and was a critical success, attracting between 250,000 and 300,000 visitors and receiving a certificate of "High Commendation" at the 2004 Marketing Brand Design Awards.
In popular culture
- Tracy Island and Thunderbirds are referenced in the Arctic Monkeys' song "R U Mine?" in the lines "I'm a puppet on a string / Tracy Island, time-travelling diamond".
- Archer, Simon; Hearn, Marcus (2002). What Made Thunderbirds Go! The Authorised Biography of Gerry Anderson. London: BBC Books. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-563-53481-5.
- "Thunderbirds Are Go!". Seychelles Nation. Seychelles National Information Services Agency. 24 July 2004. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- "Retro-futuristic". Coventry Evening Telegraph. Trinity Mirror Midlands. 2004. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- "Blue Peter to be shown on CBBC before BBC One". BBC News.
- Purdom, Nick (19 January 2001). "Kids PR – Norton spins Tracy Island into Success". PRWeek. Haymarket Media Group. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- McLaughlin, Rob (30 July 2008). "The Top 10 Secret Hideouts". Den of Geek. Dennis Publishing. Archived from the original on 30 June 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- Bowdin, Glenn A. J.; Allen, Johnny; O'Toole, William; Harris, Robert; McDonnell, Ian (2011) . Events Management. Events Management Series (3rd ed.). Elsevier. pp. 414–15. ISBN 978-1-856178-18-1.