Thomas & Friends (franchise)

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Thomas and Friends was created by the Rev. W Awdry.

Origins of Thomas & Friends[edit]

Main article: The Railway Series

Television Series[edit]

Main article: Thomas & Friends

Direct-to-video specials[edit]

Name Year Note
Thomas & the Magic Railroad 2000 Theatrically-released feature film
Calling All Engines! 2005 Feature-length direct-to-video special
On Site with Thomas 2006 13-episode direct-to-video miniseries
Engines and Escapades 2007 6-episode direct-to-video miniseries
The Great Discovery 2008 Feature-length special. Limited theatrical release
Hero of the Rails 2009 Feature-length special. Limited theatrical release
Misty Island Rescue 2010 Feature-length special. Limited theatrical release
Day of the Diesels 2011 Feature-length special. Limited theatrical release
Blue Mountain Mystery 2012 Feature-length special. Limited theatrical release[1]
King of the Railway[2] 2013 Feature-length special. Limited theatrical release
Tale of the Brave[3] 2014 Feature-length special

Films[edit]

The series has been seen in two films, one in 2000 and then next due to be released in the near future.[citation needed]

New film[edit]

HIT also revealed that its theatrical division would be piloted by a "Thomas" film. Originally targeted for late-2010 release,[4] in September 2009 this was revised to "Spring 2011".[5] As of January 2011, the release date had been pushed back further to 2012 and the name of the production had still not been announced. The initial draft of the script was written by Josh Klausner (screenwriter for Shrek Forever After), who has also said that the film will be set around the times of World War II, Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi also helped write the script. [6] On 8 June 2011, Deadline announced that 9 director Shane Acker will direct the live-action adaptation of Thomas the Tank Engine, with Weta Digital designing the film's visual effects.[7]

Commercialisation[edit]

Day out with Thomas[edit]

Thomas, Henry and Duck look-
alikes on the Severn Valley Railway
Main article: Day out with Thomas

"Day out with Thomas", is a marketing name used by HiT Entertainment for special events held at heritage railways in the UK. The characteristic features of these events include locomotives wearing 'faces' to resemble 'Thomas' characters, and a "Fat Controller" character, usually performed by one of the railway's volunteers. The general idea is that the public have the chance to ride in a train pulled by 'Thomas' or one of his friends.

In the US the name also refers to "Come Ride the Rails with Thomas"[8] which is a US tour by real trains modelled after Thomas the Tank Engine. The Thomas engine visits various historic railroads across the United States allowing visitors to play games, meet Sir Topham Hatt and to ride on a passenger car pulled by the engine. HIT Entertainment sponsors the event to promote the Thomas and Friends brand.

In the Netherlands is also a "Day out with Thomas", Een dag uit met Thomas, and is held at the South Limburg Railway Compagny a heritage railway in Simpelveld in the South of the Netherlands in the province of Limburg. The Thomas locomotive is shipped from the UK. The South Limburg Railway Compagny has its own Diesel locomotive.

Amusement parks[edit]

In 2007, Drusilla's Park near Alfriston, Sussex, England opened a railway ride featuring Thomas, Annie and Clarabel. The track runs through the Zoo Park and also features James, Diesel, Cranky and the Fat Controller.

Since 2007, several Six Flags amusement parks in the US have included Thomas and Friends -themed attractions: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Six Flags New England, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Six Flags Over Georgia and Six Flags America. Several of these attractions have since been renamed and re-themed.[9]

On 15 March 2008, Drayton Manor in the UK opened their own Thomas Land just like Japan's Amusement Park which attracts 1.7 million fans every year. Thomas Land at Drayton Manor is on the site of what was formerly Robinsons Land.

For the 2008 & 2009 Season, Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA, featured a 'Thomas and Friends Live' production.

Merchandise[edit]

A wide range of merchandise has been manufactured to cash in on the success of the series. The most popular and wide-ranging items of merchandise are the models of the characters, which have been produced in many different ranges, some including accompanying railway systems. Other popular products include videos, books and magazines, and computer games. Thomas merchandise has also included such items as audiobooks, annuals, colouring and activity books, jigsaws, board games, stationery, photo notebooks, clothing, cutlery, household items such as curtains, duvet covers and lampshades, and even soft drinks and spaghetti shapes.

Toys[edit]

Thomas as a 'promo gadget' for the single Train (1990) of the British band Red Box.

With the popularity of the Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends TV series among children, Thomas-based merchandise has proven very lucrative. At least five different categories of trains and tracks exist: "Take Along Thomas" with grey tracks; Trackmaster battery-operated engines with brown tracks (previously Tomy with blue track); Brio-type wooden engines with wooden rails and roads (by ELC and others); electric model railway (produced in OO gauge by Hornby and Bachmann, N gauge by Tomix, O gauge by Lionel, and (from 2010) G-scale from Bachmann); and Lego engines and tracks. Merit Toys also produced some larger scale battery-powered engines with carriages and wagons in the 1980s, which ran on red tracks. Complementary videos, DVDs, books, games, puzzles, stationery, clothing and household items have also been produced.

In January 1987 A number of Thomas toys were recalled after test found lead content in the paint was up to 90s time the legally permitted level. The Toys were imported by ERTL (UK) From China.[10]

Heritage railways[edit]

Main article: Day out with Thomas

HiT Entertainment, which acquired Gullane Entertainment, formerly the Britt Allcroft Company, licenses "Day out with Thomas" events all over the world, at which visitors to heritage railways can meet and ride on a train hauled by a replica "Thomas".

As none of the E2 Class survived, various other classes have been adapted to resemble Thomas. Replicas are based on alternative 0-6-0 format engines such as Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST number 3781, which was converted from a saddle-tank to a side-tank design[11] by fabricators of the Mid-Hants Railway to create No. 1 "Thomas" in 1994. The Strasburg Rail Road in Lancaster, PA (USA) built and featured their No. 1 "Thomas" since 1999 in the US and announced their introduction of "Percy, the Small Engine" at the "Day Out With Thomas" event on September 13, 2014.[12]

Due to the increasing licensing fees and many other restrictions imposed by HiT Entertainment, including the need for "Sir Topham Hatts" to have auditions and the requirement for intensive CRB checking, many heritage railways in the UK and overseas have reluctantly decided to withdraw from running "Thomas" days, thus reducing the income stream to these organisations.[13][14]

An international tour featuring Thomas and his driver was completed in 2005 in honour of the 60th anniversary of the original stories. Former US President George H.W. Bush dedicated the Presidential Train during a ceremony in 2005.[citation needed]

A "real" Thomas was used in a special play, The Queen's Handbag, staged to celebrate the 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, starring well-loved characters from children's literature. In the play the near life-sized Thomas carried Sophie Dahl to the stage to meet Sir Topham Hatt (Jonathan Ross) at the beginning of the show.

Reception[edit]

Popularity with autistic audience[edit]

In June and July 2001, the National Autistic Society conducted a survey of 81 parents of children with autism and Asperger syndrome to investigate their putative 'special relationship' with Thomas the Tank Engine. The survey confirmed the organisation's assumption from anecdotal evidence that children with autism spectrum disorders associate far more strongly with Thomas the Tank Engine than with other children's characters.[15]

In the National Autistic Society's April 2007 survey, conducted with 748 UK parents of children under 10 with autism, 58% of parents reported Thomas was the first children's character their children enjoyed, with about one-third of parents reporting their children were able to learn basic facial expressions from the characters, as all of Thomas's friends have easy-to-read expressions. 54% of parents reported that the stories contributed to their child's sense of security.[16]

Thomas and Friends '​ autistic audience is referenced in a 2012 article in the satirical newspaper The Onion, "Thomas The Tank Engine A Little Uneasy With His Broad Autistic Following."[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Thomas & Friends: Blue Mountain Mystery : Vue Cinemas
  2. ^ "King of the Railway (Thomas and Friends)". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  3. ^ October 3rd 2013 "Tale of the Brave (Thomas and Friends)". 
  4. ^ Hayes, Dade (3 March 2009). "Hit Entertainment gets into movie biz". Variety. 
  5. ^ "Hit Entertainment's Hit Movies Division Begins Development Of First Feature Film Based on the Adventures of Thomas and Friends". HIT Entertainment. 30 September 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  6. ^ "Thomas Theatrical Film Pushed Back AGAIN!". (Thomas news). Sodor Island. 5 January 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  7. ^ Fleming, Mike. "'9' Helmer Shane Acker Boards Feature Based on the Thomas The Tank Engine Toys". Deadline.com. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  8. ^ "Map for Come Ride the Rails with Thomas". Comeridetherails.com. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  9. ^ MacDonald, Brady (25 November 2010). "Six Flags amusement parks prepare for thematic makeovers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  10. ^ Thomas the Tank toy firm is fined £4,000. The Times, Thursday, January 22, 1987; pg. 3
  11. ^ Mid-Hants Railway in colour. Alan C Butcher. 1996. ISBN 0-7110-2465-0
  12. ^ "Thomas the Tank Engine bringing Percy to Strasburg tour stop". Lancaster Online. 10 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  13. ^ R. Jones: Major lines pull out of Thomas. Heritage Railway magazine, Issue 106, Dec. 2007, page 26
  14. ^ Manchester Evening News -- "Thomas The Tank Engine Derailed"(accessed 2009-09-08)
  15. ^ "Children with autism and Thomas the Tank Engine". autism.org.uk. 1 November 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  16. ^ CBC Arts (27 July 2007). "Autism group probes why children love Thomas the Tank Engine". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  17. ^ "Thomas The Tank Engine A Little Uneasy With His Broad Autistic Following". The Onion. 25 May 2012. Retrieved 25 May 2012. 

External links[edit]

Official websites[edit]

Other sites[edit]