Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (also referred to as Thomas & Friends or Thomas the Tank Engine) is a British children's television series. It had its first broadcast on the ITV network in 1984. It is based on The Railway Series of books by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son, Christopher Awdry.
These books follow the adventures of a group of anthropomorphised locomotives and road vehicles who live on the fictional Island of Sodor. The books were based on stories Wilbert told to entertain his son, Christopher, during his recovery from measles. Many of the stories from the first four series are based on events from Awdry's personal experiences.
Why It Rocks
- The earlier episodes adapt The Railway Series books as well, and the original stories are also good to watch (for example: Thomas and Bertie).
- The idea of talking trains is cool.
- A large variety trains such as Thomas (of course), Gordon, James, Percy, Daisy, Henry, Toby, Edward, Duck, Rosie, Emily, Spencer, and the list goes on...
- The models in the model series look well done.
- The Really Useful Around the World videos are pretty interesting to watch, maybe these videos would be more interesting if they were adapted to Railway Series stories.
- Well-done narration. Not to mention, in the model series, the first narrator was none other than the former drummer of The Beatles, Ringo Starr! The most talented actor of the entire series.
- Likable main protagonist (except in Seasons 13-16).
- All of the theme songs are catchy.
- Since the show was so successful in the UK, the show came to America in 1989, with it's spin-off for the USA, Shining Time Station, in fact, that spin-off is a good way to introduce Thomas to American audiences, from toddlers, to kindergartners, to elementary-schoolers, to everyone living in the US.
- Speaking of Shining Time Station, the US dub was actually pretty good.
- The animation used since Season 13 looks nice (especially from Season 17 onward).
- It even spawned a theatrical movie and a ton of Direct-to-DVD movies (though some of them weren't well-received by both fans and critics).
- The characters are based off actual railway locomotives and most of the episodes were based on real life events.
- Back when it's second season was still out in the UK, it had a sister show called, TUGS, which only lasted for 13 episodes.
- The music and songs are well-done, such as Thomas You're the Leader, James the Really Splendid Engine, Rules and Regulations, Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining, Percy's Seaside Trip, Come For the Ride, The Island Song, Night Train, Accidents Will Happen, Hear the Engines Coming, Monsters Everywhere, the Engine Roll Call, We Make a Team Together, That's What Friends Are For, Will You Won't You, Set Friendship in Motion, Streamlining, You Can Only Be You, The Hottest Place in Town, Our Tale of the Brave, Never Overlook A Little Engine, Let's Be Brave, Somebody Has to Be the Favorite, Really Useful Engine, Thomas' Anthem, The Most Important Thing Is Being Friends, I Want to Go Home, On a Journey Today, Roll Along, Go Go Thomas, and Determination.
- The crashes are absolutely epic.
- It's not afraid to be mature and have dark themes. One example of a dark episode is Granpuff, where Duke tells the story of an engine named Smudger who misbehaved and then got turned into a generator for life. Then, due to no one wanting him, Duke gets buried in a shed. It's really adult and depressing.
- Many good morals that kids can learn, such as "be patient".
- Seasons 13-16 weren't very well-received, despite the good CGI animation from Nitrogen Studios, and a few good episodes from these dreaded seasons.
- Seasons 8-12 were not well-received either, as season eight was considered the season that started the seasonal rot as it went on to Calling All Engines!, which season nine was actually the season that started the downfall after season eight.
- In the model series, the characters' mouths don't move, which while adding to the charm, could get a little strange (except for Season 12, where the models have CGI faces masked onto them). Kind of similar to how Noddy, Postman Pat and Fireman Sam first started.
- If you know the Really Useful Around the World series, it was said to be not canon to the television series, and it's unknown why. Was it to make an inspiration for both season twenty two and the movie, Big World, Big Adventures!?
- Some characters (those who never appeared in the Railway Series, the show's book origin series) have been receiving a lot of negative feedback, such as Billy, Charlie, Bash, Dash, Ferdinand, etc., for either being incredibly annoying or having unlikable personalities.
- The show experienced some controversy and criticism despite being a very successful show in the UK and the US:
- "Henry's Forest" - Despite being a very good episode, Wilbert Awdry disliked this episode for breaking Rule 55, which is a rule applied only for British railways.
- The Henry the Green Engine Book (Early Editions in the 1950s) - Before the television series, Wilbert experienced a lot of controversies with one story (Henry's Sneeze) for the boys being described "as black as n****rs", which is a racist word towards African Americans and International Afros, it ended up being reported in 1972, two decade later, by The National Press, which lead Wilbert to end up apologizing for that offensive and nasty word and changed it to "black as soot" due to using a swearing racist word in a children's book.
- Decline from quality (Seasons 9-16) - Like SpongeBob SquarePants, Thomas also had lots of criticisms for its later seasons for having major decline in quality back in 2005 (and also 2004), HiT Entertainment was criticized of not knowing what the source material for Thomas the Tank Engine was, and after Calling All Engines!, the series approached seasonal rot by season nine, the annoying and generic rhyming used in every episode, the plot being the same in every single episode over and over again (the same story element later used in the infamous Bob the Builder reboot) and the characters ended up suffering from flanderization from having a big sense of humor and character, to just being idiots either being unlikable or just plain annoying and tedious, and Thomas was one of them for example, Thomas was turned from an optimistic and charmingly cheeky character to an airheaded character who does not pay attention to what job the Fat Controller gives him, acts so annoying and idiotic and is too darn happy all the time.
- The Merry Winter Wish UK DVD - In Autumn 2011, Hilary sent a letter to The Daily Telegraph criticising HiT Entertainment's decision to rebrand Christmas in the television series as "the winter holidays" as of eighth season. Her letter stated: "I am dismayed at 'Thomas the Tank Engine' having to call a Christmas tree a 'winter holiday tree'. It is not what my father wrote. Those who now write his stories should not take Christ out of Christmas." Because of this, the UK release of Merry Winter Wish was delayed for 2011 and many of the episodes related to Christmas from the fourteenth and fifteenth seasons were re-dubbed on the UK DVDs, but the episodes in the United States and on Channel 5's Milkshake television broadcasts in the UK remained unchanged. However, this issue was fixed altogether in both regions starting with the seventeenth season.
- "Henry's Magic Box" - Hilary Fortnam, the late daughter of Wilbert Awdry, and also Thomas' original creator, actually criticized HIT Entertainment for using the term, "Winter Holidays", which made them change it back to Christmas in later Christmas-themed episodes, such as "Merry Winter Wish", which had the same criticisms as of the UK DVD.
- "Keeping Up with James" - In 2011, Hilary Fortnam expressed her dislike of this episode, saying that her father would be distressed if he saw it (if he were still alive, he would be). The reason is because with the airing, the term "Christmas" was omitted in favour of "winter holidays."
- "Wonky Whistle" - The episode itself was panned by fans and critics for Thomas's idiocy causing a lot of trouble with his wonky whistle that sounded really unrealistic and annoying, one example is him blowing his "wonky whistle", scaring away all the animals because the sound was so bad, it made them all leave the wagon Thomas was pulling to a funfair, and Neil Ben for writing this episode, who ended up regretting writing the episode due to SkarloeyEngine01's video criticising the episode for how stupid it really was.
- Sharon Miller - Sharon was the main criticism of the series as she was completely criticised by the fans because of her responsibility on why the series dropped from quality in season nine, she was criticized for the same story elements repeated every episode from seasons twelve to season sixteen, her writing in both seasons nine to twelve, and seasons thirteen to sixteen, flanderizing of the characters, the Logging Locos, and the rhyming she uses in every script of an episode or two. So due to all the negative feedback from fans and Hilary Fortnam, she was succeeded by Andrew Brenner, and Miller is now a voice director because of said reason.
- The CNN Reports on Thomas and PAW Patrol - The series along with PAW Patrol were called out by CNN in the United States for being fascist misogynist cartoons in December 2017, when they did no wrong. Way to go, CNN, you proved yourselves social justice warriors that make up lies and rumors to everybody on purpose, this can cause Thomas fans British and American to get very mad at CNN for something stupid like that.
- Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000) - The movie may not be controversial, but the movie itself was not well received due to the negative reception, and why it focused more on Mr. Conductor than Thomas, himself.
- "Henry Spots Trouble" - "Henry Spots Trouble" was aired twice in Australia in 2015/2016, in which ended up being later banned in Australia due to the complaints from Australian viewers about The Fat Controller referring to the chicken pox "as a mild disease that is nothing to worry about", being considered inappropriate and conveyed an anti-vaccination message because of said reason, as well as him splitting open his trousers, that is being considered adult humor in Australia.
- The upcoming film: “Big World, Big Adventures!”, got a lot of negative reviews, criticism, and feedback, as fans thought Mattel decided to remove Edward and Henry and to replace them with two female engines, Nia and Rebecca. This could be the fuss about what's going on because that most of the characters in the show are male, and that there needs to be more females, but still, Henry was a really memorable character and Edward was the first character created by Wilbert Awdry. But in fact, that may not be true, to be optimistic, Edward and Henry are clearly not going anywhere, as what Roll Along Thomas said in his video, the Top 10 Things to Be Excited For Season 22, Edward and Henry are actually still going to be in the show, but they are going to be re-located. In addition, the film will lead into Season 22, which will involve Thomas travelling around the world to different countries, meeting friends old and new. The entire rebrand has been controversial, and is thought to be motivated by Mattel's desire to compete with PAW Patrol, which has apparently been cutting into Thomas and Friends' market share greatly.
- Speaking of Mattel, their merchandise has went downhill terribly, with all their Thomas and Friends toys having redesigns:
- The new Trackmaster engines look fatter and have similar looking moulds to that of Percy's.
- The new Take-n-Play oddly added some huge circular magnets. Heck, the magnets are North and South Pole magnets, which means that you can’t place the train cars whatever you want. At least it's successor, Adventures, is actually decent enough, and it has nice looking hooks for each engine.
- The My First Thomas toys look ugly and badly designed.
- Wood (which is a stupid name for a toy line), the successor to Wooden Railway is absolutely horrible. All of the trains look only half painted and very blocky looking, every steam engine that has a dome in the TV show lack their domes, the tender engines now have six wheels instead of eight, Annie, Clarabel, and Bertie all look like something out of the non-canon video, Shed 17 (look them up on Google, we're not joking) and the figures for The Fat Controller and the drivers look like something out of a completely different show, not anything like in the original Wooden Railway brands. Fortunately, reports have surfaced that Wood has bombed so hard, Mattel is looking to bring back Wooden Railway in 2019.
- Speaking of Mattel, their merchandise has went downhill terribly, with all their Thomas and Friends toys having redesigns:
- The infamous "Wonky Whistle" and "Edward Strikes Out" episodes.
- It first aired on PBS as a segment on Shining Time Station. Then it premiered on PBS in 2004 as a standalone program. It aired on PBS until 2017. Now it airs on Nickelodeon as of the special 45 minute length episode, "The Adventure Begins".
- The show is extremely popular in Japan due to trains being one of the most common ways to travel in the aforementioned country and many of the show's merchandise is exclusive to the Japanese market, in fact, Fuji TV, a popular Japanese TV network which aired the program, helped co-producing the show's 3rd season and it even got 3 crossovers with a Japanese children's program named Ponkickies.