It is a great honor for me to receive this Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's International Film & Television Showcase, it only saddens me that my husband, Tony Blanco, cannot be with me to share this moment, as he would be as honored and proud as I am.
I congratulate you on the beautiful initiative to support and celebrate the dedication, passion and integrity of women in film everywhere, and I thank TheWIFTS Board for considering me worthy of this precious award. I am very sorry to be unable to receive it in person. Thank you!
THE WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL FILM & TELEVISION SHOWCASE
DEC 5th 2015 WEST HOLLYWOOD
Passion & Integrity Commerce & Creativity Equality Not Hierarchy
Britt Allcroft -
UK - USA
The Television Pioneer Award
Britt Allcroft Writer - Producer - Entrepreneur
For pioneering and creating Thomas the Tank Engine from a book into a worldwide phenomenal success encompassing film, television and merchandising of the brand cherished from generation to generation, Britt Allcroft is the recipient of TheWIFTS Television Pioneer Award 2015.
Britt Allcroft is the multi award winning creator of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (aka Thomas & Friends, Shining Time Station and Britt Allcroft's Magic Adventures of Mumfie (Mumfie), a trio of enduring children's entertainment with world wide appeal.
Allcroft started writing her own stories when she was 7 years old. Entering her teens, she got in touch with BBC Radio and was invited to meet the producer of a weekly teenage chat show, which turned out to be her first broadcast gig whilst still at school. Her part-time career morphed into full time when she got the job of hosting a weekly teen British TV show featuring all the top Rock Bands of the '60s including the Rolling Stones, Eric Burden and The Animals, and dozens more. Britt's big break into British mainstream TV came in the late '60s when she was 19 and selected to join BBC TV on the production team of the popular kids show Blue Peter. Recognizing her creative writing skills, the BBC picked up 2 shows she created: Moon Clue Game and Get It, Got It, Good for nationwide broadcast.
Ready to spread her wings beyond TV, she produced major musical theatre shows at The London Palladium and Drury Lane and, for TV, Dance Crazy, Keepsakes and Mothers by Daughters – the latter receiving excellent reviews and was picked up by PBS in the States. In 1979 whilst making a short film about British railways and their trains, during her research she happened on a set of books called The Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry, which had a small but loyal following in the UK but, other than Japan, were unknown in the rest of the world.
Britt fell in love with the beautiful water colour illustration of trains with expressive faces and so began the journey that would not only change her life but, through the ensuing years, have a positive impact on the lives of generations of children all over the world. Britt knew how she wanted to bring the Thomas world to life also how she wanted the TV series to sound with its blend of intimate story-telling, music, songs and sound effects. It would be a world that children could believe they could really step into.
There were many who doubted her and didn't believe children would be interested in steam trains. Many turned her down with a 'no' to funding the first series. Those that believed in her concept included David Mitton, the visual director who got Britt's vision, Ringo Starr, Thomas's first storyteller, Mike O' Donnell and Junior Campbell who composed the music and songs, the local bank manager who took a second mortgage on the family home to provide the money, Lewis Rudd of ITV who arranged a network slot and Con Conrad of Merit Toys who had the experience and connections to get the first line of Thomas toys into retail nationwide.
Magic, Respect and Responsibility were the three words at the heart of Britt's passion for Thomas and shared her beliefs with the growing team of partners in broadcast and retail all over the world.
The magic made on the screen had to be the best quality for the best – children everywhere whatever their location, race and social/ economic situation. Likewise, the off screen entertainment had to be of equal quality and sold at a fair price for the Thomas fans. Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends premiered on British TV in October 1984 and was an instant smash hit. Soon Britt and her team were pioneering the way for Thomas in Australia, Japan and in the US armed with the same passion and commitment to kids everywhere.
Together with her US production partner Rick Siggelkow they created the PBS TV show Shining Time Station first starring Ringo Starr and then George Carlin as the magic Mr. Conductor and, of course, Thomas. Shining Time too became an immediate hit and won numerous awards. Allcroft says: "I believe that I was given a gift to be able to connect with children through storytelling and that I must use that gift to help nourish, comfort and inspire children in the early years of their lives." Britt is particularly glad that Thomas has proved to be such a help to children on the autism spectrum. Those who watched Thomas when they were little now write to her in their teens and twenties and in a way that constantly touches her deeply.
In the '90s Britt extended her mission by creating the TV series Mumfie. This too was a big success with fans and critically acclaimed when broadcast in many parts of the world. Mumfie is brought to life through classical animation with a score of 22 original songs.
In 1996 her privately owned company went public on the London Stock Exchange, which proved to be several unhappy years for Britt. The time involved in working her craft on 3 simultaneous productions, travelling the world keeping up staff morale in the various offices, being vice-chairman of a publically owned company and internal company problems led to Britt's departure from The Britt Allcroft Company PLC. After Britt's departure in 2000, the company was bought and sold several times. In 2007 she re-established her privately owned Britt Allcroft Productions, and in 2008 Britt set about re-acquiring the whole Mumfie library from Hit Entertainment and all its assets. She mortgaged her home just like she did with Thomas. Partnered by her daughter Holly Wright, they set about the important task of preparing Mumfie for a whole new life in the second decade of the 21st Century.
Lionsgate partnered with Britt Allcroft Productions to distribute the existing library Mumfie's Quest, Mumfie's White Christmas and Series 1 and 2 on DVD and digital download, and the Amazon reviews are demonstrating that the magic of Mumfie is just as powerful as ever. It has just been announced that Britt Allcroft Productions has signed a deal with the prestigious Zodiak Media Group to produce new Mumfie production for worldwide distribution.
Thomas remains deeply important to Britt through her connection to the fans; in 2007 fans discovered her shooting script for the movie Thomas and The Magic Railroad, which was released in 2000. The film that Britt wrote and shot was not the film that went into the cinemas but a heavily cut version of it, against her wishes. Fans continue to hope that some version of the Director's Cut may still be available for them to see one day, a hope also harboured by Britt.
Britt currently lives and works out of Ojai, California. She is working on the new Mumfie production plans, another new children's project, and a musical stage play.