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Toonhound presents...






British TV series

      Thomas the Tank Engine - copyright HIT Entertainment

   Thomas the Tank Engine
  and Friends


   producers: Britt Allcroft / HIT Entertainment
   animation: radio-controlled models
                           1983 - 2008 / TWELVE SEASONS
                           308 episodes
                           ON SITE WITH THOMAS
                           2006 / 13 x 4.5 mins spin-off

                           CALLING ALL ENGINES
                           2005 / 1 x 60 mins special

                           THE GREAT DISCOVERY
                           2008 / 1 x 60 mins special

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   Thomas the Tank Engine and his Sodor Railway friends have chuffed out from the
   pages of Rev. Awdry's best-selling styoybooks and onto television screens around
   the world thanks to Brit Allcroft and latterly, HIT Entertainment. The translation
   has been deceptively simple. The tv engines are remote control Hornby-style
   models with interchangeable faces operated amidst train set scenery, with
   paper mache hills and sponge and wire trees - just like the tracks and sets
   you'd find in a rail enthusiast's loft or garage.

   It's not quite animation in its truest form, perhaps, but the Sodor Railway and the
   engines, trucks, helicopters and associates all participate in a uniquely-realised
   world that's more real than many traditionally animated efforts you might care to

   Initially former Beatle Ringo Starr narrated the railway stories, but from the third
   UK season he was replaced by another scouser, Michael Angelis, who talked
   his way through to 2007, when former Bond star Pierce Brosnan took over
   the role. Meanwhile, American audiences have experienced a rejigged series,
   with new live-action wraparounds and cultural changes to the stories and
   characters. "Shining Time Station", as it's known there, has been just as
   successful as the UK original. And boy, what a success it's been. We're
   now chuffing along into the 12th tv season, with two hour-long specials,
   an "On Site" spin-off season featuring Thomas' construction pals, and
   a live-action feature film in the sidings...
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   Thomas' original producers, Robert Cardona and David Mitton went on to bring
   us the series Tugs, this time featuring radio controlled model boats...

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    Cover detail from "Small Railway Engines" by Rev. W. Awdry

    Sodor Railways

    Rev. Wilbert Awdry's Sodor Railway books have been in print for 40 years. He
    created 26 original works, all published in an engaging A6 landscape format,
    just right for tiny hands and appealing to collectors too because of their
    "miniature" feel.

    The stars of the first few books were, of course, Thomas the Tank Engine,
    Henry the Green Engine, James the Red Engine etc, with the Reverend's tales
    evocatively illustrated by C. Reginald Dalby. Then John T. Kenney brought his own
    twist to the artwork in books like "The Twin Engines", but personally, The Hound
    gets a kick out of the later works. "Small Railway Engines" (above), "Mountain
    Engines", "Duke the Lost Engine", etc - these explored lesser known realms of
    Sodor Island and its railway life and afforded artists Gunvor & Peter Edwards the
    oppurtunity to create ever more atmospheric artwork to accompany Wilbert's
    tales - tales which had become more poignant as each latter work was published
    and the great age of the railways passed its peak.

    Wilbert's son Christopher took up the pen when he died, creating 14 new 
    Railway Series books between 1983 and 1996, whilst Brit Allcroft's series
    steamed from television to videos to licensed products and on. In 2004,
    HIT Entertainment snapped up the rights to the character, and he's still
    chugging on unstoppably through the Sodor countryside today, with
    300+ stories filmed, thus far...

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    A Fat Fact

    The infamous Fat Controller, so berated for his plump name, was originally
    known as The Fat Director. It wasn't until Book Three, "James the Red Engine",
    that Rev. Awdry revealed how his title changed to the more familiar version
    with the nationalisation of the Sodor Railway. It's also interesting to note how
    much press space was devoted to the American alteration of The Fat Controller's
    title to Sir Topham Hatt, but this in fact, was Rev. Awdry's original name for
    the man, who is namechecked thus in Book 6 - "Henry the Green Engine".

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    Special Thomas

    We've had two Thomas "specials" so far, each with a one hour running time:

    Calling All Engines!
    When the Fat Controller/Sir Topham Hatt begins development of Sodor's
    new airport, those old rivals, the diesel engines are once more pitched
    against our chuffing heroes in an escalating feud that threatens the
    Island's very future...

    The Great Discovery
    Pierce Brosnan makes his narrating debuts with this very latest release.
    Whilst he's helping to prepare for the annual town holiday celebration,
    Thomas gets lost in the mountains and uncovers the lost village of
    Great Waterton...

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     Thomas & Friends on DVD...

    Thomas the Tank Engine on DVD

    If you're a Thomas fan in the UK and you want to collect each season
    properly, in its entirety, you should look out for releases billed as
    The Classic Collection.

    There hasn't been a definitive box set, as yet, but we've had these:

Thomas & Friends: Classic Collection Series 1-11

                Region 2 / eleven discs /
VCI / July 2010

UK DVD Thomas & Friends: Classic Collection - Series 1-7
                Region 2 / seven discs / VCI / November 2008

UK DVD Thomas & Friends: Classic Collection - Series 1-5  
                Region 2 / five discs / VCI / November 2004

     Alternatively, all twelve seasons have been released inidividually:

    Classic Collection - Series 1
    Classic Collection - Series 2
    Classic Collection - Series 3
    Classic Collection - Series 4
    Classic Collection - Series 5
    Classic Collection - Series 6
    Classic Collection - Series 7
    Classic Collection - Series 8
    Classic Collection - Series 9
    Classic Collection - Series 10
    Classic Collection - Series 11
    Classic Collection - Series 12

    Then there's the two specials:

    Thomas and Friends: The Great Discovery

    Thomas and Friends: Calling All Engines

    And eleven episodes of On Site With Thomas have been released too:

    Thomas' Trusty Friends
    If you're a more general fan (or completist!), there are all these UK
    DVD compilations to look out for, featuring various classic episodes
    from across those twelve seasons...

      The Spirit Of Sodor
      8 episodes / March 2008
      Engines and Escapades
      6 episodes / October 2007

      On Track For Adventure
      6 episodes / May 2007

      Together On The Tracks
       6 episodes / March 2007

      Little Engines, Big Day Out
      6 episodes / May 2006
Tales From The Tracks
      6 episodes / March 2006

      Bumper Party Collection

      12 episodes / May 2005

      Peep! Peep! Hurray!

      7 episodes / February 2005         

      It's Great to be an Engine

      7 episodes / October 2004

      Pulling Together

      8 episodes / August 2004

Steam Team 

6 episodes / May 2004

Engines to the Rescue

8 episodes / March 2004

Happy Little Helpers
8 episodes / October 2003
The Very Best of...
16 episodes / August 2003
Brave Little Engines
8 episodes / June 2003

The Chocolate Crunch and Other Stories
8 episodes / March 2003
The Fogman and Other Stories
8 episodes / October 2002
Seasonal Scrapes
17 episodes / October 2001

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    Original credits

     Thomas and the Sodor railway engines
     created by Rev W Awdry

    director:       David Mitton
    producers:    David Mitton, Briit Allcroft, Robert Cardona
    writers:         Rev W Awdry, Christopher Awdry, Britt Allcroft
    narration:     Ringo Starr
                       Michael Angelis

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      On the web

      Thomas The Tank Engine
      HIT Entertainment's official Thomas site...

      Sodor Island Fansite
      A huge and thorough fan site for everything Sodor-based, packed
      full of series detail, historical info, interviews and more...

      This one is from Randomhouse in the States, and again it's a licensing
      promotion. All the latest tie-in books are indexed (priced in $s of course),
      plus there's some wordsearch fun for youngsters to download and a slim 
      additional biography page for the late great Rev. Awdry and his son
      Christopher, and a corporate profile of tv-series developer Britt Allcroft....

      Shining Time Station
     Now this is interesting, it's a fan site detailing the american version of
      Thomas, known as Shining Time Station. There's show info, details on its
      musical content, episode guides and a pictures page of home-made gifs -
      confusing though at first, for us Brits....

      index »    previous »   next »

© Britt Allcroft / HIT Entertainment / F2008