Sunday, April 03, 2016

Thomas has foreign friends? Quelle horreur!

The Interweb is getting excited because the owner of the Thomas the Tank Engine franchise are releasing a new film featuring some new characters - foreign trains!

As expected, the Daily Mail is very angry, although not fuming as much as some of their nuttier commentators. I hadn't spotted the story until the guy looking after the York show Facebook feed decided to go off on one. At that point I was slightly annoyed, not because of the new characters, but because a show I usually enjoy had decided to turn all xenophobic (the writer claimed to have accidentally logged on with the wrong account eventually). After all, they hadn't complained about this monstrosity:

"Diesel 10" from the Thomas & the Magic Railroad film. If Rev Awdry was to spin in his grave, I think a Peak with an out-of-gauge grab would probably do it rather more than some new characters who happen to be based on non-UK prototypes.

Bad things have been happening to the series since the rights were sold back in the 1980s. The stories have moved far away from the gentle tales based on good railway practise. Worse, the toys might have started out as model of real engines but now we have horrors like this:

I'd recommend you go and have a look at thing on Amazon to see just how witless this is. Watch the video and then ask yourself, "How long would this amuse a child for?".

5 minutes?

Let's face it, once they have watched Tomas complete half a dozen circuits they'll work out that nothing new is going happen and head back to the telly. Compared to a train set, especially one with a siding you can shunt into, it's complete rubbish IMHO.

So no, frothers on the Interweb, Thomas is not being ruined by the addition of new characters. I'd say these were a positive development. The good Rev always considered the locomotives to be children and at a guess I'd expect the film to finish with everyone good friends. That sounds like a pretty positive message to me.

As for the evil "diversity" that exorcises the Mail commentators?

Digging out my copy of "Thomas the Tank Engine" printed in 1970, what do we find on page 35?

A coloured engine?

Sadly, appearances are deceptive as this is supposed to be Edward. Whether illustrator C. Reginald Dalby was trying to make a change, show an engine in shadow or just made a mistake is unclear. It stuck in my mind though.


tony taylor said...

I don't think that's a peak, looks more like something like a product of North British to me. It's funny but one of the new characters is quite obviously a Sentinal. Must come from Somerset or Dorset. Now if Hornby were to produce a model they'd have the basis of a real world model too.

Mark said...

Okay I agree that set is daft but.... it looks like it's part of a range where more track and engines etc. can be bought, so in that sense it's kind of like the Hornby starter sets intended to grab the imagination and then be extended. Not sure I'd buy a kid this over a Hornby Thomas set but anything that gets young kids interested in railways can't be a truly terrible thing.

Anonymous said...

I am sure it's called moving with the times but I can't watch the new programmes. Give me the old ones any day.
The voice of Thomas is too whiney and I don't think sets a good example.
As for the new daft toys etc... this will be them cashing in on anything and everything possible.
I am still hoping to get to Thomas Land just to see the layout that I still believe/hope is on show there.

Phil Parker said...

Mark - Sadly not. As far as I can thell, that is it. Thomas goes round and round doing the same thing each time. No imagination required.

Tony - The Sentinal appears to be the Radstock shunter. I agree Hornby could do a nice detailable model very easily, but then they could have done this with Toby and instead produced a weirdly overscale lump.

Paul B. said...

Thomas? Pah! Irritating do-gooder. Give me Ivor any day, gentle stories rather than preaching, and no crass commercialism (he says drinking tea from an Ivor mug...).

That silly diesel looks like a Warship to me.

Mark said...

Sorry Phil, but it is expandable. Yes that set on it's own does nothing but allow Thomas to go round and round (very much like the basis Hornby Thomas sets), but it's part of the "Track Master" range. The full range includes buckets of track pieces (a bit like Hornby track packs), more locos, and other complete sets like this one. Have a look here for some videos and explanations of the full system. I still think I'd go with a Hornby Thomas set if I was buying for a child as they can expand beyond Thomas then, but I don't think it's quite as bad as you think.

Then again, I'm with Paul, I'd much prefer an Ivor set over a Thomas set any day!

Phil Parker said...

Paul - You are right! It's all very impressive.

Now, can I pitch a magazine piece using this stuff? Could we take it to a show? Would it be more popular than all the "serious" layouts?


Mark said...

Well, I wasn't suggesting that the sets were any good, just that they possibly weren't as bad as you thought. I don't think I'd ever buy these for any children I know, but at the same time if a child had played with these sets they may well want to move onto something more which can't be a bad thing.

I'm in danger of "frothing on the interweb" so I'll stop now :)

Phil Parker said...

My favourite models are the Triang Giraffe car and Battlespace Turbo Car.

Trust me, if I saw this at a show, I'd be fascinated, as would quite a lot of other modellers, even if they wouldn't admit it.

I really do agree (sorry if it came across as sarcasm earlier) they are a lot better than I thought. The first set I saw looked like there was no expansion but it's obvious that there is.

It might make "MyHornby" look a lot less appealing of course. This is much more fun, and not badly priced, compared to a single train running around a track which is what they are initially offering.

Paul B. said...

PH Designs market an etched kit for Ivor, in both 4mm (with a EM/P4 option) and 7mm. I have one in the pile awaiting attention. Looks to be a well designed kit.
I personally wouldn't like an Ivor trainset, let Thomas get dizzy chasing his tail and leave Ivor in peace.

Favourite model? Maybe the Tri-ang Dock Shunter, simply because it was my second loco and inspired my liking of obscure industrials. Mine sits behind me on the top shelf of a display cabinet. Perhaps I should write a log post about it.

Phil Parker said...

You're not the only one with that kit in the pending pile...

Mark said...

ooooh, I knew PH Designs did Ivor in 7mm but didn't know they did it in 4mm as well. Might have to treat myself at some point.

Andy in Germany said...

Foreign characters aren't new: I saw a Mikado on there years ago, and never mind that is should be 3'6" gauge.

Probably it's just the first locomotive the DM recognies as furrin...

tony taylor said...

If ever there was a case for design clever it's that Sentinal ,a basically accurate moulding that can be modified to take a face.
Has anybody made a collection of British made foreign locomotives.? I have a spare GBL class 47 begging to be turned into a Cuban loco

Phil Parker said...

Tony - There's plenty of UK traction in Bulgaria too:

Paul C said...

My son started out with the Brio style "Thomas" sets. This has the distinct advantages that it's not in any way powered or automated, plus compatible track is available all over the place (including IKEA!) for not much money. He has had several years of great fun building huge railways, long trains (often with implausible numbers of engines) and ludicrous junctions. The most important thing for me, though, had been the chance for him to be creative, making up his own stories and acting out ones he remembered from the Rev Awdry's books.

I'd agree that the recent films are awful, but I can't deny that my son loves watching them. He also enjoys the original books though, and was enthralled by the original Ringo Starr narrated TV series. Does anyone know what happened to the models used?