Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends

Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends

infobox television |Lop
show_name = Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends

caption = Thomas the Tank Engine
format = Children's television series
runtime = four and a half minutes (season 1-7) seven minutes (season 8-12)
creator = W. V. Awdry
Britt Allcroft
Robert D. Cardona (1984-1986)
David Mitton (1984-2003)
Simon Spencer (2004-present)
Steve Asquith (2004-present)
starring = Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends
narrated = Ringo Starr (1984–1991) (UK and US series)
Michael Angelis (1991–2008) (UK series)
George Carlin (1984–1997 (US series)
Alec Baldwin (1998–2003) (US series)
Michael Brandon (2003–2008) (US series)
Pierce Brosnan (2008–present) (UK and US series)
composer = Junior Campbell
Mike O'Donnell (1984–2003)
country = UK [
network = flagicon|United Kingdom ITV (1984-1991) (2002-2003) (2009-Present), Cartoon Network & TCC (1995-2002), (1984-1998), Nick Jr., Noggin and Milkshake flagicon|United States PBS, PBS KIDS Sprout
flagicon|Australia ABC, Nick Jr. Australia flagicon|Japan Tokyo MX flagicon|Brazil Rede Manchete, flagicon|Canada TVO, BBC Kids, Treehouse TV flagicon|Germany Super RTL flagicon|Italy Rai Due, Rai Tre flagicon|Malaysia RTM2, Astro Ceria flagicon|Mexico Azteca 7, Azteca 13, Proyecto 40 Discovery Kids flagicon|Netherlands Nickelodeon flagicon|New Zealand TV3 flagicon|Norway NRK 1
flagicon|Philippines 3ABN flagicon|Russia Telenyanya (First Channel Worldnet) flagicon|Poland TV4, MiniMini flagicon|Spain Cadena Tres flagicon|Romania Minimax TV
first_aired = September 4, 1984
last_aired = Present
num_episodes = 302
website =
imdb_id = 0086815
tv_com_id = 11466

"Thomas and Friends" is a British children's television series, first broadcast on Anglia Television in September 1984. Until Season 7, which premiered in 2003, the name was called "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends". This series was shot in Shepperton and Isle of Man.

It is based on "The Railway Series" of books created by the Reverend W. V. Awdry. These deal with the adventures of a group of subanthropomorphised trains 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 measles. Many of the stories are based on events from Awdry's personal experience.

During the 1980s, the television rights were sold to Britt Allcroft, who started producing the television series. It premiered in the UK in 1984. The show has been narrated by Ringo Starr (1984-90), Michael Angelis (1991-2008), George Carlin (1991-97), Alec Baldwin (1998-03), Michael Brandon (2003-07) and the upcoming series will be narrated by 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.

Heritage railways have also benefited from the series. "Day out with Thomas" events, where passengers are given the chance to ride on full-size trains pulled by Thomas or his friends, provide a considerable source of income, and attract those who might not otherwise visit the railway.

Format and animation

Each episode consists of a four and a half-minute (Seasons 1-7) or seven-minute (Season 8 onwards) story, told by a narrator.

The series was originally produced using moving models, seen at the time as the most effective way of realising the stories without the cost and expense of conventional animation. The locomotives and other vehicles move, but people and animals are generally static. Stop-motion is generally used for instances in which a human or animal character is seen to move. In recent seasons, CGI has been used to generate smoke and other effects.

The use of a narrator removes the need to make characters' mouths move when they speak. However, their eyes do move by use of remote controlled mechanisms. The characters' faces are sculpted from foam rubber. Each character has several different faces to convey different emotions.

The models were initially built to the 1:32 scale, known in model railway circles as "Gauge 1". They used chassis made by Märklin with specially made bodies. As well as the eye mechanisms, these bodies also include smoke generators. Coaches and trucks were made using Tenmille kits. Models were later constructed entirely from scratch.

From Season 5 onwards, some larger scale models were used for the narrow gauge characters, in order to make it easier to 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 to a large scale, and large models of Thomas and Percy were made to interact with them. Beginning with the ninth season, the Thomas model also interacted with the narrow gauge engines. It was joined by a large version of James in the tenth season.

It was announced that Thomas and Friends, along with HIT Entertainment's other franchise "Bob the Builder", that newer series will be produced by Nitrogen Studios in Canada. The twelfth series of 2008 will feature Nitrogen's assistance in animating the faces of the characters, and in the 2009 season the series' production will move from Britain to Canada, and will be fully CGI instead of using models. cite web
title =Hit reveals new look for Bob and Thomas
work =(Press Release)
date =9 June 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-06-09

Series history

For the first two seasons the series was closely based on stories from the Railway Series. The first season took stories from the first eight books, along with one specially written by the Rev. W. Awdry, "Thomas's Christmas Party".

The second season took stories from Book 9 ("Edward the Blue Engine") to Book 30 ("More About Thomas the Tank Engine"). This last book was unusual, in that it was written specifically by Christopher Awdry in order to be adapted for the series, as a contractual obligation of the series at that time was that it could not create original stories that had not previously 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".

The third season (1991) – made at a cost of £1.3 millioncite book
last =Sibley
first =Brian
authorlink =Brian Sibley
coauthors =
title =The Thomas the Tank Engine Man
publisher =Heinemann
date =1995
pages =p318
id =ISBN 0 434 96909 5
] – was a combination of episodes derived from the Railway Series, from stories in the Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends magazine and original stories. There were two primary reasons for diverging from the original books. The first was that many of the books not yet adapted featured large numbers of new characters, and so would be expensive to produce. The second was that the producers wanted more stories centring on Thomas, the nominal main character. The Rev. W. Awdry complained that the new stories were unrealistic and not true to the spirit of the books (see Henry the Green Engine for more details on this) .] .

For the fourth season (1995), the producers planned to introduce some "new" female characters, including Caroline the car, Nancy the guard's daughter and The Refreshment Lady.Sibley, p320] . Some commentators took this as a response to a number of accusations of sexism that had been levelled against the series two years earlierSibley, p309] . In reality, they were not "new" characters, but creations of the Rev. Awdry, borrowed from The Railway Series.

Season 4 was almost entirely based on the Railway Series, the last season to do so. The narrow gauge engines were introduced, greatly increasing the number of stories that could be produced. Only one original story was used, namely 'Rusty to the Rescue', but this took certain elements of plot and dialogue from the book "Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine".

The fifth season was a radical departure, as it was entirely original. This season saw the introduction of new characters and more action-packed storylines Fact|date=April 2007.

Following this season, the film 'Thomas and the Magic Railroad' was released. It featured only a small number of characters from the television series and was rather more fantasy based. Despite high production values and the popularity of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, the movie was criticised for being confusing, badly written, poorly directed, poorly acted and not true to the spirit of either the Railway Series or the television adaptation by UK audiences Fact|date=April 2007. It was well received by young children at whom it was aimedFact|date=April 2007 and made $16 million at the box office; however, no reference to the film has ever been made in the television series. New episodes that had been written by Britt Allcroft and director David Mitton were from then on scripted by hired-in writers.

The sixth and seventh seasons continued the policy of action-packed storylines and new characters. The seventh season was notable for its attempt to create a spin-off series. In this seventh season, two episodes were produced centring around a group of new characters known as 'Jack and the Pack', ( see On Site with Thomas).These were construction machines, and it has been speculated that this was an attempt to cash in on the success of Bob the Builder Fact|date=April 2007. The spin-off never materialised, and as the models of the Pack were incompatible with the other characters in the series (having been built to a larger scale), they have not been seen in the series since. However, they have recently appeared in a straight-to-video spin-off release called "On Site with Thomas" which could presumably be that spinoff that never materialised (a possible hint would be old Tidmouth sheds is still there and the fact that it is filmed with the 35 min camera from Season 1-7).

Starting with Season 7, the title was shortened to "Thomas & Friends".

Following Season 7, a number of significant changes took place. The series was taken over by HIT Entertainment (the owners of Bob the Builder). Episode length was increased from four and a half to seven minutes, Junior Campbell & Mike O'Donnell the original series composers, left the production, and a new theme tune was composed by new composers. The number of characters was greatly reduced, with stories focusing on Thomas, Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Percy, Toby and Emily. Following complaints from parent action groups concerning the number of accidents in the series, the stories' emphasis was moved from action to character, with episodes generally focusing upon morals Fact|date=April 2007.

Shortly before the release of Season 9, a straight-to-video film, 'Calling All Engines', was released. This featured characters from 'Thomas and the Magic Railroad', but was not a sequel as such. It proved successful, and more direct-to-video specials are being made for the future.cite web
title =Pierce Brosnan Announced As New Narrator For Thomas & Friends
work =(Press Release)
publisher =HIT Entertainment
date =19 July 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-10-29

Series 9 and 10 featured the introductions of new characters, as well as returns of several older ones. The show format generally remained the same as Series 8. Season 10, which aired in 2006, became the first season to ever feature 28 episodes, as opposed to the standard 26 episodes per season.

The eleventh season came in 2007, and was the first to be filmed in the increasingly popular high definition format. Only 20 episodes aired freely. However, six other episodes focusing on the Skarloey Railway were released on a DVD called "Engines and Escapades".

UK and USA DVD & Video History

**Guild Home Video (1984-1985)
**Screen Legends (1986-1991)
**Video Collection International (1985-2005)
**2 Entertain (2005-2008)
**HIT Entertainment (2008-present)

**Strand VCI Entertainment (1989-1993)
**Strand Home Video (1993-2000)
**Quality Family Entertainment (1998)
**Anchor Bay Entertainment (1995-Present)
**HIT Entertainment (2004-Present)
**Lionsgate Entertainment (with HIT Entertainment) (2008-Present)
**PolyGram Video (1997)


The television series has featured a large number of characters, many of them only appearing in one or two episodes. There are far too many to describe on this page. Instead, the character descriptions are grouped together on separate pages, as follows:

* Railway Engines – "standard gauge engines, including the Steam Team"
* Narrow Gauge Engines – "from the Skarloey Railway"
* Rolling Stock – "coaches and trucks (US: 'cars')"
* People and animals
* Non-rail vehicles
* Movie Characters

List of productions

Thomas on television and in film

The 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 2001, 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 series. 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 rotation.

In 1989, "Thomas and Friends" was shown in North America, in a television series called "Shining Time Station", which was broadcast on PBS. Storytime with Thomas was another American spin-off that aired in 1999 on the Fox Family Channel. Thomas segments were also shown on "Mister Moose's Fun Time" in 1997 (which also appeared on the Fox Family Channel). Today, "Thomas and Friends" 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 Railroad". However, the film was not a success.

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 in North America and on Nick Jr. in the 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".



*Ringo Starr (UK & US Series 1-2): Former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr narrated the first two seasons 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 language and terms more familiar to Americans (i.e. "freight cars" instead of "trucks"). Starr also played Mr. Conductor - the character who would relay the "Thomas" stories to the characters at "Shining Time". Starr declined to return when the third series of "Thomas" began, citing an interest to return to his musical career.

*Michael Angelis (UK Series 3-12, US DVD): Michael Angelis has had the longest tenure as narrator of "Thomas & Friends", narrating nine series and several specials over the course of sixteen years. Angelis briefly served as the U.S. narrator, retelling two Series 6 and four Series 7 episodes in the DVD release "New Friends for Thomas". Michael Angelis narrated the direct-to-video releases "Calling All Engines", "On Site with Thomas", and "Engines and Escapades". He has been involved with Thomas outside of the TV series as well, narrating the first three volumes of The Railway Series for CD in 2006.

*George Carlin (US Series 1-4): He took over the role of Mr. Conductor on "Shining Time Station" and, in turn, dubbed much of the first two series and all of the third and fourth. While George Carlin was known for his adult comedy routines, Britt Allcroft attests that Carlin was actually quite gentle and enthusiastic in his approach to the series. She states that Carlin was quite nervous recording his voice alone in a sound booth - their solution was ultimately 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." [,0,3849505.story] , Los Angeles Times - "The George Carlin I knew"] 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 narrator for the fifth series. Baldwin was also chosen to recreate the role of Mr. Conductor as a major character in "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" in 2000. Baldwin returned for one more series in 2002, and then elected to devote his time to film again.
*Michael Brandon (US Series 6-11): 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 episodes from Series 6 and 7. Brandon provided his voice for all of the intermissions in this format. He also narrated "Calling All Engines", the "On Site with Thomas" releases, and "Engines and Escapades".
*Pierce Brosnan (UK & US Series 12-15): Former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan took over narration duties for the "Thomas & Friends" feature, "The Great Discovery". Brosnan was enthusiastic to take up the role, recalling his experience with "Thomas" as a father, reading the stories for his children. He is scheduled to perform for three series starting with Series 12, and additional DVD specials.

Other Languages

*Leo Morimoto is the narrator of the Japanese version of the series. Unlike the other versions, voices for the characters were provided by individual voice actors. Starting from Season 9, the narrator as well as the voice actors have been replaced.
*The Mexican/Spanish narrators have been Jorge Arvizu (Seasons 1-2), Eduardo Tejedo (Seasons 3-4), Salvador Delgado (Seasons 5-7), Arturo Mercado Jr. (Seasons 8-11), and Carlos Segundo (Season 12-Present).
*In Denmark the narrators have been Poul Dissing and later Tommy Kenter.
*In Hungary the narrator is Zoltán Csankó, and the series is running under the title "Thomas és barátai" (Thomas and his friends).
*In the German version, the Narrator is Sky Du Mont, and the series title is named, "Thomas und seine Freunde" (Thomas and his Friends).
*In the Netherlands, Erik de Zwart, a former D.J., is the narrator and the series is running under the title "Thomas de stoomlocomotief".
*In the Portuguese, Polish (TV4 only), Norwegian, and Swedish versions, the narrator is a woman.
*The Romanian version was narrated by Daniel Vulcu, (Series 8 - Calling all Engines) and the series is running under the title "Thomas si prietenii sai".

Production history

The series has gone through numerous changes throughout its run. The producer is in charge of every aspect of the show for the relevant season(s)

*1984 to 1990: Britt Allcroft (executive producer), David Mitton, and Robert D. Cardona
*1991 to 2000: Britt Allcroft, David Mitton
*2001 to 2003: Phil Fehrle
*2004 to Present: Simon Spencer

Originally the series was produced by The Britt Allcroft Company and Clearwater Features Ltd (David Mitton 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 Entertainment bought the company and now runs its operation. HIT Entertainment was acquired in 2005 by the private equity firm Apax.

The series has always been filmed at Shepperton Studios.


* Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell composed the show's original Main Title Theme, Incidental Music and Songs,( List of Thomas & Friends Songs ), from the years 1984 to 2003 (Season 1 to Season 7 - 182 episodes). In 2004, Robert Hartshorne took their place as composer, while Ed Welch wrote the new theme tune and the songs.

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. [ [ Children with autism and Thomas the Tank Engine] ] .
*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. [ [ Autism group probes why children love Thomas the Tank Engine] ]



A wide range of merchandise has been 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 Rev. W. Awdry – 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 magazines, and computer games. However, 'Thomas' merchandise has also included such diverse 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.

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" brand.

Thomas in Amusement Parks

In the 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 Californa and in Six Flags Over Georgia in Atlanta Georgia in 2008.

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.

For the 2008 Season, Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA featured a 'Thomas and Friends Live' production.


ee also

* "List of Thomas & Friends Songs"
* "Shining Time Station"
* "TUGS"
* "Thomas and Friends merchandise"

External links

* [ Official "Thomas and Friends" website]
* [ Main Page - Thomas the Tank Engine Wiki]
* [ Awdry Family Site]
*imdb title|id=0086815|title=Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends
* [ Thomas showtimes and info on Fancast]

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