David Mitton, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, died May 16, at the age of 69.
David Mitton was born February 27, 1939 near Edinburgh. After attending Strathallan School in Perth he joined the Royal Air Force. In the early Sixties he joined Gerry Anderson's AP Films where he worked on special effects for Anderson's supermarionation series. He worked on the smash hit Thunderbirds, as well as Captain Scarlet and the Mysterions, and Joe 90. The cause was a heart attack.
It was in the Eighties that Mitton joined forces with Ken Turner, one of the directors Anderson's supermarionation shows, to form Clearwater Films. Clearwater Films made a name for itself making stop-motion adverts. It was these commercials that brought Clearwater Films to the attention of writer and producer Britt Allcroft, who had acquired the rights to Rev. Wilbert Vere Awdry's Thomas the Tank Engine Stories. She approached Mitton about developing a TV series based on the stories. Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends debuted in 1984 and became an immediate hit. It would eventually make its way to the United States,initially as Shining Time Station, where it repeated its success. In 1989 the success of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends led to a similar series produced by David Mitton, Tugs, about competing tug boat fleets.
I must confess that I have spent time watching many of Gerry Anderson's supermarionation shows. And while I was well into my adult years by the time Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends made its way to the United States, I must admit that it is one of the few recent children's shows that is actually viewable by adults and being enjoyed. With Britt Allcroft, David Mitton made quite an achievement. He created a children's show that teaches life lessons and values without being overly preachy, while still being enjoyable for any adults who happen to watc it was well.