Children’s TV shows come and go, but the one about the tank engine that wants to do the right thing is still leading the way and more relevant than ever.
For those of us who’ve grown up with Thomas & Friends and raised our kids watching the talking locomotives from the Island of Sodor in action, the affinity we have for the characters in Thomas’ world is similar to how we feel towards a family member: trustworthy, always loving and, above all, fun to be around.
The biggest appeal of the show is that parents can relax in the knowledge that the show keeps children entertained while watching something that’s engaging and enjoyable, as well sharing a few life lessons along the way!
So here’s why the show kids and adults love today is so dear to viewers from generation to generation.
It’s all about family values
Thomas came to being after the vicar Wilbert Awdry took his son Christopher’s love of steam engine trains to concoct a story to keep him amused while he was sick with the measles. In the subsequent 26 Railway books that followed, all the way to being televised in 1984 to become the Thomas & Friends we know and love today, the stories never diverted from the central theme – that of the fatherly figure guiding the confused child towards the right path.
It’s unashamedly traditional
The plot lines of Thomas & Friends are based around concepts of valuing loved ones, respecting rules and understanding boundaries - lessons the children watching the show are coming to terms with in their own lives. Parents love the gentle way the message is put across. After all, who doesn’t want their toddlers to walk away from a TV show thinking it’s a good idea to behave?
It feels safe
The Island of Sodor is like every parent’s dream set-up for the home. You feel secure, loved, supported, with everyone working together to keep chaos and disorder at bay. Plus, the show takes a lot of family issues into account that other overtly PC shows perhaps gloss over – rivalry, competitiveness, justice and punishment. The beauty of Thomas & Friends is that these are dealt with in a loving manner in a familiar and comfortable setting.
The message is universally understood
The reason why Thomas & Friends has such a global appeal is because it drums home the moral every parent wants a story to possess. A story may involve a character getting into trouble for doing something selfish or thoughtless, learning his or her lesson, and ending with the authority figure offering understanding and forgiveness. On the other side, later incarnations of Thomas & Friends - particular in the cinema - offer this alongside a range of other emotive story lines synonymous with the big screen.
The pace is gentle
Every cartoon you flick through on the box seems to be the visual equivalent of fizzy pop and sweets – sped up, noisy and chaotic. Thomas & Friends keeps the story line simple and the narration soothing, meaning the viewing experience is aligned to our little viewer’s attention span (not to mention guaranteeing a calmer frame of mind all round).
The new film, Thomas & Friends: Journey Beyond Sodor, is showing in cinemas from the 25th August. Book tickets in advance at your local cinema.