Memories of David Mitton

A Tribute Page to David Mitton
Compiled in his memory by Ryan

David Mitton really became a hero of mine when we began talking to one another back in November 2006.  I'll always treasure the e-mails he sent to me, the open-ness of his manner and the way in which, regardless of the projects he was dealing with or the difficulties he was encountering - he would always make a point of making time for getting back to the litany of questions I had submitted to him.  Granted, I never really pushed for him to answer them all right away, which worked in my favour - creating a bit more of a cordial relationship whereby I would consider David to have been a friend - and I hope he felt the same way.

Born David Nelson Godfrey Mitton on February 27th 1939, just outside Edinburgh, he was ever the creative character and began writing at the age of 16 years old, and later, had a brief stint at Art School prior to joining the Royal Air Force, serving in Aden as part of the Air-Sea Rescue team.

Upon his return to the UK, he began a career with Gerry Anderson's company, APF, working as a technician on Stage 5 at the Slough-based studio where many prolific puppet animation series were made, working under Derek Meddings.  David's first series was the much loved Thunderbirds, where he met David Lane, who would become both a lifelong friend and in future, a collaborator and business partner in his final venture - Adventures on Orsum Island - through their company, Pineapple Squared Entertainment.  David served many happy years with Gerry Anderson's company, until the point when Lew Grade announced that there would be no future in Special Effects, and therefore, no need for the company producing the Gerry Anderson works to exist.  David, along with a number of others in the SFX crew were made redundant and forced to find other work.

From there, David began working on other projects and steadily gaining more and more insight and experience into the industry.  Later, he would set up the Clearwater Film Co. with fellow Gerry Anderson techo, Ken Turner, and go on to produce a number of advertisements for a number of well known and globally recognised brands, which included Lego, Rolo, Michellin Tyres and Ski Yoghurt, as well as producing a number of TV and film projects in their own right.

In the 1980s, David and Robert Cardona partnered up with Britt Allcroft company to produce the first two series of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.  With David's technical and creative input complimenting Britt's, they brought the Reverend Awdry's characters to life for a modern day audience, whilst still embracing the spirit of the way the stories were written back in their own day.  The Live Action Model Animation sequences made by David captured the imagination of children across the globe and have had the same lasting impact as those David helped to produce back in the 1960s heyday of Gerry Anderson's Century 21st and APF Productions, with a continual embrace by children across the world and transcending across generational barriers.

Not wishing to rest upon their laurels, David and Robert went on to create a brand new children's TV Series all of their own, TUGS, which launched in 1989 after a year of painstaking work.  David was immensely proud of TUGS and one of his more profound statements to me personally was - "TUGS has my soul", which clearly sums up his view and love for the series as a whole.  However, it did not end well with TUGS, problems with TVS - a partner in the TUGS Ltd company - going bankrupt, meant that the planned follow-up series was scrapped owing to difficulties with the rights.  In the end, David went back to work with The Britt Allcroft Company to produce the next series of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, this time putting in a great deal more creative effort in order to boost the series and help the effort to further excell it's progression within the US and other markets.

David and Britt later furthered this by making Series 5 a collection of their own material, which was intended as a showcase for the forthcoming movie due to launch in 2000, for which David directed the model unit, maintaining the high standards of film work, whilst Britt concentrated upon working with the live action actors.

David carried on for two more series of Thomas before leaving after the final Gullane produced series, after which HIT Entertainment's takeover would have an effect on the series.  Despite moving on from the Thomas set, David remained proud of his achievements there and retained a love for the characters he had worked with for 20 years - and wholly approved of his crew staying on to maintain the standards he had set in that time!

In 2005, David, along with partners David Lane and Michelle Fabian Jones set up a new company - Pineapple Squared Entertainment - in order to produce a new venture, Adventures on Orsum Island, based on the Monty Dragon stories.  It was a year after this, when Orsum was in pre-production that SiF finally caught up with David at long last, whereby I posted him a letter and a set of questions.  It was the beginning of a very nice friendship between fan and hero, where David would enlighten us to behind the scenes secrets which had previously not graced the outside world.

Our final correspondence took place in late April, when David made mention that he said goodbye to the Thomas crew for the final time and revealing that the series would no longer be shot in the traditional format, and would be moving to a new CGI medium as a result of cost-cutting, "bringing an end to 25 years of quality film work."

On May 28th 2008, an e-mail came through from Britt Allcroft.  She had received a telephone call from Steve Asquith, who told her of David's passing, and she felt it only right to pass on word to me on his behalf.  Sodor Island Fansite and Forums became the first places online to announce the news of David's passing, hours ahead of official sources and we are very proud to have that honour.

David Mitton touched the lives of millions of children across the globe, and held a great affection and love of his characters and his work.  I am privilliged to regard myself as one of his friends, and his loss has impacted a great deal on the lives of his fans, family, co-workers, friends as well as children across the globe who grew up with Thomas the Tank Engine in their lives.  He was an exceptional talent and a dedicated individual, who was recalled with great affection by dozens of people we have spoken to who worked alongside him.  None of them had a negative word for David and hailed his creative input into making Thomas the roaring success he is today.

On a personal note, it meant a lot to me to speak with David prior to his passing.  He was a lovely man and I take great pride in calling him my friend.  In the time we were in correspondence, I was able to look at the credits on the screen and say in jest, "That's a friend of mine".  In effect, he became much more to me than the words on the screen he had been in my earlier years, he had become a hero among men; someone who had almost as much of an impact upon Thomas as the Awdry family or Britt Allcroft herself - and therefore a largely unsung hero of the Thomas world, until we all discovered what an impact and legacy he had left behind.

David's memory will live on through the work he has accomplished and the generations of children who will undoubtedly view his work in years to come.  And keeping with Britt Allcroft's sentiments to the great man, as David would say in his signing off to me, playing on the enthusiasm and love I had for his series...
 
Keep on Tugging,
Ryan :)

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In Loving Memory Of
David Godfrey Nelson Mitton
27th of February 1939 to the 16th of May 2008
~ With the gratitude of the generations of children you entertained and inspired ~
 
~ Rest In Peace ~