ABC Films has confirmed it has acquired all Australian and New Zealand rights to the US$20m family film Thomas And The Magic Railroad which director Britt Allcroft has adapted from the Thomas The Tank Engine hit television series she also created.

To avoid Olympics fever, which will take over Australia in the lead up to September, ABC Films will launch the film in December 2000, about six months after the US and UK release.

The film began shooting on the Isle of Man in August last year and stars Alec Baldwin as Mr Conductor, Mara Wilson as Lily, and Peta Fonda as Grandpa Burnett Stone. It chronicles the adventures of 10-year-old Lily who meets Thomas The Tank Engine on the way to visit her lonely grandfather.

ABC Films is the theatrical distribution arm of the national broadcaster the ABC, but the only other film it has released - and had considerable success with - is Mrs Brown.