||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2010)|
|Born||Hilary Mary Allcroft
Worthing, England, United Kingdom
|Occupation||Television producer, writer and director
Hilary Britt Allcroft is a British born film, television and live theater producer, writer and director. She is the creator of the children's television series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (later re-titled Thomas & Friends), Shining Time Station (with Rick Siggelkow) and Magic Adventures of Mumfie. She wrote, co-produced and directed the film Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000).
Life and career
She was born Hilary Mary Allcroft in Worthing, England. At the age of 16, she changed her first name to Britt as her career in British radio and TV gained momentum. She went on to create a succession of programmes for the BBC and ITV during the 1970s and 1980s, including Moon Clue Game, Dance Crazy and Keepsakes. Mothers By Daughters, produced for Channel Four, was broadcast by PBS in the United States. She also worked in theatre, staging shows at the London Palladium and Drury Lane Theatres.
In 1979, while making a documentary about British steam trains, Allcroft met the Reverend Wilbert Awdry, author of The Railway Series of children's books. She said, "It really didn't take me long to become intrigued by the characters, the relationships between them and the nostalgia they invoked." She told him that she wanted to bring these stories to life and made an arrangement to secure certain rights through the then publishers Kaye & Ward.
In 1980, she co-founded Britt Allcroft Railway Productions with her husband, TV producer Angus Wright. It took Allcroft four years to raise the funding for, and create, a first series of films in collaboration with director David Mitton. The first episode of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, shot on 35 mm film with narration by Ringo Starr and music by Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell, was aired for the first time on British TV in September 1984.
The series' success in the UK, and the merchandising campaign that Allcroft had been organising since 1983, soon led to further success in other parts of the world. In 1985, she and American producer Rick Siggelkow created Shining Time Station, a live-action children's sitcom fronted by the magical character of the miniature Mr. Conductor, who introduced two Thomas stories in each half-hour programme. Shining Time Station won a number of awards and significantly increased the popularity of the Thomas media franchise in the US.
Allcroft followed Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and Shining Time Station with the cartoon-animated Magic Adventures of Mumfie in collaboration with director John Collins. This production received critical acclaim and was seen in many parts of the world. In 2008, several years after she left her original company, Allcroft bought back the Mumfie library.
Allcroft wrote and directed Thomas and the Magic Railroad, a film based on the Thomas franchise that was released in 2000. She also provided the voice of the character Lady. The film was not a critical success, and Allcroft resigned from The Britt Allcroft Company in September 2000, after which the company's name was changed to "Gullane Entertainment". In 2007, her original screenplay surfaced on the World Wide Web. This confirmed that, against Britt's wishes, the film shown in the cinema was severely cut from the original version as shot. In 2003, Gullane was acquired by Hit Entertainment, which was itself taken over by Apax Partners in 2005. In 2012, Apax sold HIT to American toy company Mattel.
Allcroft currently lives and works in Santa Monica, California. Her pursuits are writing, the rebirth of the Magic Adventures of Mumfie both in publishing and on screen, and her work in live theatre. She sits on the advisory council of the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund.
- Magic Adventures of Mumfie as The Queen of the Night (1994–1999)
- Thomas and the Magic Railroad as Lady (2000)
- Sibley, Brian (1995). The Thomas the Tank Engine Man. Heinemann. p. 291. ISBN 0-434-96909-5.
- "The Magic Adventures of Mumfie". Retrieved 30 September 2012.
- Jim Gratton; Ryan Healy. "Magic Railroad Characters". Sodor Island Forums – Magic Railroad Mini-Website. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- Gibson, Owen (6 October 2003). "Thomas the Tank Engine Fuels HIT Profits Hike". MediaGuardian (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 10 April 2008.
- Britt Allcroft at the Internet Movie Database
- Britt Allcroft Productions at the Wayback Machine (archived 28 December 2008)
- Article on Allcroft and Gullane/HIT
- Random House – About The Authors – Britt Allcroft at the Wayback Machine (archived 5 November 2011)