Thomas and Friends
is a British children's television series,
first broadcast on the ITV network in September
Until Season 7, which premiered in 2003, it was named
Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends
series was shot on 35mm film. The first series was filmed in Battersea, London and
thereafter at Shepperton
It is based on The Railway
of books by the Reverend W. V. Awdry
. These books deal with the adventures of a
group of anthropomorphised
and road vehicles who live on the fictional Island of Sodor
. The books were
based on stories Awdry told to entertain his son Christopher
during his recovery from
. Many of the stories are based on
events from Awdry's personal experience.
The show has featured storytellers Ringo
(1991-1995), Alec Baldwin
(1998-2002), Michael Brandon
(2003-present), and Pierce Brosnan
Many businesses have been eager to cash in on the worldwide
popularity of the series. 'Thomas'-themed merchandise has appeared
in almost every form imaginable, from books and magazines, through
vast series of models, to duvet covers, cutlery, soft drinks and
even spaghetti shapes.
benefited from the series. "Day out
" events, in which passengers are given the chance
to ride in full-size coaches pulled by locomotives resembling
Thomas or his friends, provide a considerable source of income, and
attract those who might not otherwise visit the railway.
September 4, 2009 was the 25th anniversary of Thomas & Friends,
as the first ever
"Thomas and Gordon" aired exactly 25 years ago on
September 4th, 1984, on the British terrestrial channel ITV1
was originally produced with live action model animation at Shepperton Studios.
The use of moving models was seen at the
time of the show's conception as an effective method of animating
the stories. Locomotives and other vehicles were operated by radio,
while humans and animals were static figures. Stop-motion
was occasionally employed for
instances in which a human or animal character would move.
Hand-drawn animation was used in Season 3 to create bees.
Live action model animation would not deliver lip sync, but show
creator Britt Allcroft
director David Mitton
did not see this
as an inhibition. The show's later run, however, saw the
introduction of CGI
HIT Entertainment's subsidiary HOT Animation. At first this was
used to generate smoke and other effects, but later, HIT
(the new owners of Thomas
announced its intent to introduce a fully-CGI series in 2009. With
Series 12, CGI by Nitrogen Studios was used to animate characters'
faces and to make people and animals mobile within the stories. The
following series saw a transition to full CGI animation.
The original live action models were filmed on an extensive
layout built at the
studios. The models were built to the 1:32 scale, known in model
railway circles as "Gauge 1
locomotives used chassis made by Märklin
with specially-made bodies. Along with
the moving-eye mechanisms, these bodies also included smoke
generators. Coaches and trucks were made using Tenmille kits. Later
models were constructed entirely from scratch.
In Seasons 5 through 12, some larger-scale models were used for the
characters, to more
easily fit the complex mechanisms into them while retaining a
sufficient level of detail. In Season 6, the characters known as
"the Pack" (construction machines) were also constructed on a large
scale, and larger models of Thomas
were made to interact with
them. In the ninth season, another larger Thomas model was built to
the same scale as the narrow gauge engines to provide greater
possibilities for interaction. It was joined by a large version of
in the tenth
Before Series 13, narration and dialogue were performed by a single
storyteller. This was the choice of Allcroft, who wanted the
television stories to be an extension of the way they would be told
at home in a comforting environment. All character emotions would
come from the nuances of the storyteller's voice, in conjunction
with facial expressions, music, and actions on-screen.
The first 130 stories were written for television by Britt Allcroft
and David Mitton. For the first two seasons and the fourth season
the series was closely based on stories from the Railway Series
The producer is in charge of every aspect of the show for the
relevant series. The following people have been the series
Originally the series was produced by Britt Allcroft Productions
and Clearwater Features
and Robert D. Cardona
's company). Clearwater closed in
1990 and The Britt Allcroft Company (which changed to Gullane Entertainment
in 2000) was the
sole producer until 2002, when HiT
bought the company and now runs its operation.
HIT Entertainment was acquired in 2005 by the private equity firm
. In the US, the series is distributed by
and Junior Campbell
composed the show's original
main title theme, incidental music and songs, (see List of Thomas & Friends
), which were used for Seasons 1 to 7 comprising 182
episodes between 1984 and 2003.
In 2004, Robert Hartshorne took their place as composer, while Ed
Welch wrote the new theme tune and the songs.
The first series (1984) took stories from the first eight books,
along with one specially written by the Rev. W.
, Thomas's Christmas
. The second series (1986) took stories from Book 9
the Blue Engine
) to Book 30 (More
About Thomas the Tank Engine
). This book was unusual, as
it was written specifically by Christopher Awdry
to be adapted by the
show. At that time it was a contractual obligation that the show
could only adapt stories that appeared in print. The series also
adapted a story from a Thomas Annual, "Thomas and Trevor", and an
especially written stand-alone story,
Thomas and the Missing Christmas Tree
. A single
episode ("The Missing Coach") was in the process of being filmed,
but was never completed because Allcroft decided it was too
confusing for young children. The production team went on to adapt
"Thomas, Percy and the Coal" instead.
Series 3 was broadcast 1991 to 1992 in two halves, thirteen
episodes each. It was made at a cost of £1.3 million. The series
was a combination of episodes derived from The Railway
, stories in the Thomas the Tank Engine and
magazine, and original stories by Allcroft and Mitton.
One of the primary reasons for diverging from the original books
was that many of the stories not yet adapted featured large numbers
of new characters, which would be expensive to produce. Another was
that the producers wanted more stories about Thomas
, the nominal main character.
The Rev. W. Awdry complained that the new stories were unrealistic
(see Henry the Green Engine
for more details).
Series 4 was also broadcast in two halves from 1994 to 1995. The
producers planned to introduce some "new" female characters,
Caroline the car
The Refreshment Lady
. Some commentators took this as a response
to accusations of sexism
levelled against the
series two years earlier. In reality, these were not "new"
characters, but creations of the Rev. Awdry from the original
books. Series 4 was almost entirely based
on The Railway Series
. The narrow gauge
engines were introduced,
and were the focus of a number of episodes. Only one original story
("Rusty to the Rescue") was written, but this took certain elements
of plot and dialogue from Stepney the
The fifth series (1998) was a radical departure, as none of the
stories were taken from the Railway Series. This season saw the
introduction of new characters and more action-packed
Thomas and the Magic
was released in 2000. It featured new characters
created by Britt Allcroft, along with characters from the show that
to the US, Shining Time Station
. The film was
heavily edited late in production due to test audience
Despite high production values and the popularity of the show, the
film was criticised by UK reviewers who were unfamiliar with
Shining Time Station. The movie was well-received by young children
on both sides of the Atlantic, but made only $16 million at the US
box office at matinee prices. This was obviously a net loss, as the
movie cost $19 million to produce.
The sixth and seventh series continued to introduce action-packed
storylines and new characters, and saw the introduction of a
writing staff. The sixth series in 2002 was notable for its attempt
to create a spin-off
based on the
successful "Bob the Builder" series. Two episodes introduced a
group of construction machine characters known as "The Pack". The
spin-off didn't materialize for some time. Eventually, in 2005,
thirteen episodes were released straight to DVD. The fact that
older sets were used and the episodes were shot on 35mm camera (as
opposed to the digital camera used at the time of the episodes'
release) suggest it was filmed some time before Series 8. In Series
7 (2003) the programme title was permanently shortened to
Thomas and Friends
The eighth season (2004) introduced a number of significant changes
to the show. Britt Allcroft was no longer involved with the
product, and the show was taken over by HIT Entertainment
, a company specializing
in children's entertainment. Episode runtime was increased to seven
minutes. The series was produced using digital video camera,
creating a somewhat different look for the show. Original composers
and Mike O'Donnell
left the production, and a new
theme song and incidental music were composed by Ed Welch
, respectively. Other changes include the additions
of CGI educational sequences and transitions between stories.
These series saw the adoption of a centralized cast, including
A straight-to-video film, Calling All Engines
shortly before Series 9 in 2005. While featuring characters from
Thomas and the Magic Railroad
, it was not a direct sequel.
It proved successful, and more direct-to-video specials are planned
for the future.
Series 9 (2005) and 10 (2006) saw the expansion of the supporting
cast with new and old characters. Series 10 aired with twenty-eight
episodes rather than the twenty-six of previous years. The eleventh
series (2007) was filmed in a high definition
episodes aired in the original broadcast, while six were released
direct to DVD
. i3DTV was a
credited production studio alongside Shepperton Studios.
The 2008 series saw the introduction of CGI effects, with the
intent of producing the show entirely in CGI the following year.
Only twenty episodes were broadcast (the US broadcast featured six
additional episodes from Engines and Escapades
Closed captioning was produced by CaptionMax
HIT announced multiple changes to the show beginning in 2009. One
new aspect was the introduction of live-action host segments to
home video releases. The host took the form of a
character who worked on The Fat Controller's railway, who would
instruct viewers in craft projects.
The other major changes were a move to production in CGI, rather
than using physical models, and the addition of a voice cast to
support the established narrator. The DVD feature, Hero of the Rails
, was the first
Thomas and Friends
production to show these changes;
Season 13 will be the first television series in the new
HIT also revealed that its theatrical division would be piloted by
" movie, aimed for release in late-2010.
List of productions
*HIT Entertainment has planned eighty new episodes to air beginning
Films, Specials, and Miniseries
Home Video History
The show revolves around the machines and people who populate the
fictional Island of Sodor
. Since the
advent of a centralized cast, known as "The Steam Team," in 2004,
the show has featured eight main characters.
Supporting characters are described in detail on other pages:
The role of the storyteller dates back to the first series. Britt
Allcroft thought it essential to convey the episode as a story that
would be read from a book at home.
- Ringo Starr (Series
1-2): Former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr
was storyteller for the first two series of the show. In 1989, when
Britt Allcroft created Shining
Time Station to introduce Thomas to American
audiences, Starr performed new recordings of these stories, using
some terms and phrases more familiar to Americans (like "freight
cars" instead of "troublesome trucks") and some that would be more
easily accepted by American audiences (like "Sir Topham Hatt"
instead of "The Fat Controller"). Starr also played Mr. Conductor -
the character who would relate the Thomas stories to the
other characters at Shining Time. Starr didn't return when the
third series of Thomas began, citing an interest to focus
on his musical career. For the 2009 BBC Children in Need
appeal, Ringo reprised his role as narrator, providing the voice of
Thomas for The
Official BBC Children in Need Medley single.
- Michael Angelis
(UK Series 3-present): Michael Angelis has had the longest tenure
as storyteller of Thomas and Friends, filling the role for
over seventeen years. He narrated the direct-to-video releases
Calling All Engines, On Site with Thomas,
Engines and Escapades and Hero Of The Rails.
Angelis narrated one US video release before Michael Brandon took
over. He has been involved with Thomas outside of the TV series as
well, narrating the first five volumes of The Railway Series on CD, starting from
- George Carlin (US
Series 1-4): George Carlin took over the role of Mr. Conductor on
Shining Time Station and, in turn, retold all of the first
four seasons. While Carlin was known for his adult comedy routines,
Britt Allcroft attests that he was gentle and enthusiastic in his
approach to the series. Allcroft states that Carlin was nervous
recording his voice alone in a sound booth - their solution was to
keep a teddy bear in the booth as Carlin's "audience" for the run
of the show. Allcroft also recalls that the two of them discussed
their lonely childhoods, and felt that Thomas was a way of
"filling some kind of void." He eventually left the series to
return to his career in comedy.
- Alec Baldwin (US
Series 5-6): Baldwin was selected as the new American storyteller
for the fifth series, and was cast in the role of Mr. Conductor in
Thomas and the Magic
Railroad in 2000. Baldwin returned for one more series in
2002 before electing to return to the film industry.
- Michael Brandon
(US Series 7-present): When Thomas & Friends debuted
in America in its new half-hour format in 2004, Michael Brandon was
hired not only to narrate the new Series 8 episodes, but also all
episodes of Series 7. He re-narrated six episodes in Series 6.
Brandon provided his voice for all of the intermissions in this
format. He also narrated the US releases of Calling All
Engines, On Site with Thomas,Engines and
Escapades and Hero Of The Rails.
- Pierce Brosnan
(Guest Narrator): Former James Bond actor
Pierce Brosnan narrated the DVD special, The Great
Discovery. Brosnan was enthusiastic to take up the role,
recalling his experience with Thomas as a father, reading
the stories for his sons. In 2007, HiT
Entertainment announced that Brosnan had signed on for "all
English-language releases for the brand, including three upcoming
Thomas & Friends television series and three DVD specials." The
announcement preceded Season 12 by several months, and Brosnan
recorded lines for Season 12 episodes, although he did not feature
in their broadcast. Subsequently, Brosnan has been promoted as a
"guest narrator" for The Great Discovery.
Recently, HIT has begun to expand the cast of the show beyond just
a narrator. On home video, a live-action character,
(Robert G. Slade), speaks directly to the
audience and instructs viewers in a project for the day.
Additionally, Hero of the
and Series 13 will see the addition of a voice cast
to the narrator of the show.Confirmed actors at present include:
Popularity with autistic audience
- 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..
- 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 1/3 of parents reported 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.
A wide range of merchandise
manufactured to cash-in on the success of the TV Series Thomas the
Tank Engine and Friends. It is down to the popularity and longevity
of the series – having originated in 1945 with the first of
The Railway Series
books by the
– that large numbers of
manufacturers have sought to produce 'Thomas'-branded items.
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
, and computer games. However,
'Thomas' merchandise has also included such diverse items as:
, colouring and activity books,
, board games, stationery
, photo notebooks, clothing, cutlery,
household items such as curtains, duvet covers and lampshades, and
even soft drinks and spaghetti shapes.
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"
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
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
locomotive is shipped
from the UK. The South Limburg Railway Compagny has its own
Thomas in Amusement Parks
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.
2007 summer Six Flags season, a Thomas and
Friends attraction opened at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (Formerly Six Flags Marine World) in Vallejo,
CA and at Six Flags New England in Springfield, Massachusetts. "Thomas Town"s were also opened at Six Flags
Magic Mountain in Los Angeles California and in Six Flags Over
Georgia in Atlanta Georgia in 2008. Six Flags
America in Maryland is due to open their Thomas Town in
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.
In early 2009, it
was announced that the original Television Series models would be
put on display here.
2008 & 2009 Season, Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA, featured a 'Thomas and Friends Live'
Thomas on television and in film
series was first broadcast in 1984 on ITV's
Children's ITV in the United Kingdom.
It was shown throughout the late eighties
and into the early 90s when it was taken off the terrestrial UK
network following broadcast of the third series. Between 1994 and
2003, Thomas was never shown on terrestrial UK networks, although
did make a comeback on satellite through Cartoon Network in the mid
1990s and lasted until 2002, which was 5 seasons, and then Nick Jr
in 2001/2002, where it has remained since and become a popular
fixture, even stretching to their involvement with Gullane and HIT
Entertainment on recent series of the popular children's series.
The Children's Channel
repeated shows from 1984 - 1998.
Thomas also made a comeback on Children's ITV in January 2003 with
its sixth series of four and a half minute stories. The sixth and
seventh series were shown in their entirety in 2002 and 2003. The
eighth series was broadcast in 2004, but only 13 episodes were
aired, possibly on account of the new format for the programme; it
wasn't until July 2006 that the remaining 13 episodes were
broadcast. Due to a new agreement between ITV and the
Programming Authority (Ofcom) which
allowed them to cut their children's TV output in mid 2006,
five bought the rights to the
The ninth series began showing on 10 October 2006
, followed one
month later on 10 November 2006
by the tenth. The channel now shows series 8-12 in
In 1989, Thomas and Friends
was shown in North America
, in a television series newly
created by Britt Allcroft and Rick Siggerkow called Shining Time Station
, which was
broadcast on PBS
. Storytime with Thomas
American series featuring Mr Conductor from Shining Time Station.
This aired in 1999 on the Fox Family
. Thomas segments were also shown on Mister Moose's
in 1997 (which also appeared on the Fox Family Channel
). Today, Thomas and
is broadcast in more than twenty languages around the
world. In 2000 Thomas moved to the big screen, with the release of
Thomas and the Magic
The Thomas and Friends
stories were four and a half
minutes long. The first two series showed two episodes at a time,
with a show of the characters in the middle. It changed to one at a
time in series three. In each series until series eight, the number
of trains on the railway increases as the railway expands.
In 2004, the series began using computer animated
special effects and the
story length changed from five to seven minutes. A half-hour show format
(aired on PBS
and Treehouse TV
North America and on Nick Jr.
UK from 2004-2008) was also adopted, showing three episodes plus
puzzles, songs, and mini stories. The new series made major
changes, such as changing the famous theme tune, and took on a more
moralistic stance than previous series. Starting Season 10, only
two episodes aired, with the middle story being replaced with
Places around Sodor
, a recurring mini-story which features
major locations and recaps episodes from Seasons 8-10 that take
place at the location. Season 11, also only two episodes aired, and
Places around Sodor
was replaced by Fun times with One
of Sodor Engines
. Season 12, the history story was called
"One/Two of Thomas' favorite/special friends".
- In Danish, Poul Dissing and
Tommy Kenter have narrated the show.
- In Dutch, Thomas de
Stoomlocomotief features former D.J. Erik de Zwart
as the storyteller.
- In German, Thomas und seine
Freunde has been narrated by Sky Du
- In French, the series is called
Thomas le petit train
- The show is broadcast in Hindi with its
original title on Zee TV.
- In Greek, the show is narrated
primarily by a woman, with a male voice actor for certain
- In Hungarian, Thomas a
gőzmozdony has been narrated by Zoltán Csankó.
- In Japanese, the show features
a full voice cast. Lee Morimoto was the original narrator, but he
and the original cast were replaced after Series 8.
- A Spanish dub has featured
Jorge Arvizu (Seasons 1-2), Eduardo Tejedo (Seasons 3-4), Salvador Delgado (Seasons 5-7), Arturo Mercado Jr. (Seasons 8-12), and
Carlos Segundo (Season 13-Present) as narrators.
- The Norwegian, Polish TV4,
Portuguese, and Swedish dubs feature female narrators.
- In Romanian, Thomas si
prietenii sai has been narrated by Daniel Vulcu.
- In Welsh, the show is called
Tomos a'i Ffrindiau.
- In Czech, the show is called
- How Thomas the Tank Engine Works
- Sibley, p320
- Sibley, p309
- Thomas & Friends and Bob the Builder Move to
CGI Animation in 2009 Broadcast Season
- , Los Angeles Times - "The George Carlin I
- , HIT Entertainment - Prestigious National
Organizations Honor DVDs from Lionsgate and HIT Entertainment
- Thomas and Friends: Team Up With Thomas
- Thomas and Friends: Percy and the
- Children with autism and Thomas the Tank
- Autism group probes why children love Thomas the