The Century 21 (A.P. Films) Studio
Simon Atkinson was approached in 2018 with a proposal for the production of a unique 1:25th scale model of the defunct AP Films /Century 21 Productions studios in Slough, near London.
The studios were the base for TV producers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson where iconic Sc -Fi puppet series such as Stingray, Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet were created.
In his capacity as Course Organiser and Lecturer on the City of Glasgow College HND Modelmaking for the Creative Industries Course, Simon recognised that the model could offer his 2nd year students the opportunity to contribute to the production of a significant model project with a live client the following year.
Due to the requirement for a high quality professional display the model was ultimately designed and built by Simon with the assistance of 2nd year students during 2019.
With a student team including Charlie Morrison, Chris Miller, Kirsten Stewart, Sarah Wylie, Megan Coady, James Rusk, Kirsteen O’Donnell and Blair Sleigh the model was produced using a combination of laser cutting technology and traditional Model making techniques while experiencing the numerous challenges of working for a live client.
With no building plans surviving the model makers utilised survey information taken from client site visits prior to the demolition of the building and numerous photographs taken of the studio activities throughout the 1960’s. In many cases proportions and sizes of building details had to be calculated from photographs from which brick courses could be scaled!
The model features full interior detail including a representation of the Tracy Island Lounge puppet set from Thunderbirds and the full layout of the building including rushes theatre, offices and workshops – all visible via a lift off roof.
Surviving former staff and crew of AP Films, including Production Designer Mike Trim and Model maker Alan Shubrook were also on hand to provide memories of the studio layout.
The model - commissioned by Gerry Anderson author and enthusiast Sam Denham - will be utilised for fan conventions and in the production of a documentary on the operation of the Studio in 2020
Alan Shubrook, SFX Modelmaker at AP Films made this comment on the completed model;
“This is an excellent model, certainly the most accurate and impressive that I have ever seen of the studios. You must congratulate your team on their brilliant work, which is of the highest standard indeed. Once again well done on producing a truly great model of the iconic studios in Slough. Best wishes. Alan.”
Charlie Morrison (right) working with Simon Atkinson on the final stages of the project. The completed model is modular to enable easy transportation and assembly/disassembly.
The modular design enables ease of transportation and assembly. The building breaks down into 10 units ( 3 office sections/ 2 studio sections / 5 roof sections) The surrounding landscape consists of 5 pieces which interlock .
The model utilises laser etched and cut acrylic sheet extensively - artwork created on CAD and Coreldraw. This is the view into one of the two puppet stages through the main sliding doors.
The Tracy Island Lounge Set is reproduced here with puppeteers gantry. These details were made by students Kirsten Stewart, Sarah Wylie and Charlie Morrison.
Thunderbird 2 Launch ramp miniature set recreated in 1:25 scale by student Chris Miller - Thunderbird 2 has obviously already departed.
Model Design & Construction
An extensive selection of site survey sketches and graph paper floor plans were supplied by Sam Denham, who was able to document the structure prior to demolition. The building had undergone numerous layout changes but combined with memories of the studio supplied by Mike Trim, Alan Shubrook and others, we were able to piece together the correct layout. Inevitably memories were often varied so a good deal of redrawing and updates were required as new information came to light.
The master drawing on Coreldraw became a monster as the various components destined for laser cutting were drawn up and corrected for errors.
An enlargement of the offices section showing the front elevation and floor plan working drawings
Project stage 1: Elevations test laser cut in card.
First laser etched and cut acrylic walling, with a glazing layer sandwiched between.
Studio walls assembled to floor units, office walls under construction.
Front offices section under construction.
Students Matthew Perham, Megan Coady and Blair Sleigh working on the roof girders while Kirsten Stewart photobombs while taking a break from Tracy Island set construction.
Rushes theatre detailing by student Kirsteen O'Donnell, Amada MacRaild and Andy Watson.
Office partitions under construction.
Building walls in white primer and roadway sections in grey primer. The surrounding landscape and roadway sections were built by students Jim Rusk, Reece Harvie and Toby Maher.
Modelmaking Charlie Morrison on masking duties!
Basic brick colour is applied.
Simon And Charlie applying white filler to the embossed brickwork to give a white mortar effect to the walls.
The end result with gutter/downpipe and window frames applied. Through the doors is puppet stage No 1 and through the window the doors separating the link corridor between the offices and the studio section. On the other side of the corridor is the SFX miniature stage where Thunderbird 2's launch sequence was filmed.
The interior of the left hand studio building - Puppet workshop room straight ahead - store area to the left. Editing rooms on the right and payroll and the rushes theatre against the far wall.
The 'staff' entrance with clocking in machine - the payroll office is behind the wall. Model detail by Charlie Morrison.
Simon building the roof sections. These are removable to allow access to the interiors. Sheet acrylic is used with the rooflight window sections masked out.
Corrugated styrene cladding supplied by 4D Modelshop applied to roof sheets along with laser cut window frames.
Roof sections completed.
The completed model
The front offices section of the studio building. The first office on the left was occupied by Gerry Anderson, the next Gerry's secretary, then Sylvia Anderson's office. The main entrance was in the centre of the building.
FANDERSON 2019 Event.
Photographs courtesy of Chris Potter and Sam Denham. Vehicles supplied by Sam Denham
AP Films/ Century 21 SFX guru Brian Johnson ( 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien , Empire Strikes Back ) describing the laypout and function of the studio during an impromptu talk.
AP Films/Century 21 Designer and Concept Artists Mike Trim with project client Sam Denham
Assistant projectionist and lip-sync operator Peter Hitchcock who recognized every detail, confirming that our layout was correct.