Mattel has today unveiled the new look for animated kids series Thomas & Friends. The announcement was made at a special London premiere event held at BAFTA.
The changes Mattel announced today include: global locations, a gender-balanced ‘Steam Team’, new international and female characters, a new theme tune and a faster-paced format. These are the most significant changes to the world-famous children’s brand in its 73-year-old history as it now sets its sights on increasing its appeal with its global audience. The new look show will launch to audiences next week, when the show will air daily from on Channel 5’s kids strand Milkshake!.
Some of the global locations to be featured on the new series include China, India and Australia, rather than being solely based in Sodor. 13 episodes will be set in Sodor; 5 episodes in China; 4 episodes in India and 4 episodes in Australia. Beyond Thomas, the new gender-balanced Steam Team will consist of three male characters (Percy, James and Gordon) and three female characters (Emily, and new characters Nia and Rebecca). The gender-balanced team is designed to deepen the brand’s engagement with girls who represent over 40% of the show’s viewership and provide a strong message of gender equality to the young audience.
The new series also see the introduction of several international and female characters. The international characters include Nia from Kenya, Ashima from India, Yong Bao from China and Shane from Australia. While the female characters are Isla, an Aussie flying doctor plane; Noor Jehan, a royal express engine from India; Hong-Mei, a Number 1 Blue Tank Engine from China; and Churubala, a female Railway controller for India. Additionally, there is a new energetic theme tune. The catchy song reflects the new content and Steam Team, and the classic “Roll Call” song will still be included in some musical segments within a number of episodes.
Finally, the new format of the show will see faster-paced stories with more humour, music, animal characters and fantasy sequences. In a first for the show, Thomas will break the fourth wall, talk directly to the audience and narrate the story himself, leaving behind the Ringo Starr and Mark Moraghan narrator. Each episode will also include a sing-along song and will end with a ‘life lesson’ delivered directly by Thomas to the audience.
“The show has undergone an evolution to remain relevant for the next generation of parents and children by opening up the world of Thomas & Friends so children can discover the world around them while being entertained”, said senior producer Ian McCue. “The changes and new additions of characters and geographies will make the show more entertaining, inclusive and global – whilst ensuring all the favourite characters and storylines that fans around the world love remain at the heart of the action.”
Check out some of the new characters in the gallery below: