This week marks one of the biggest in Thomas & Friends’ 73 year history as the Mattel-owned property launches its new, reinvigorated series on Channel 5 Milkshake.
The launch of the series has been billed as the ‘blast off for the most significant changes to the world-famous children’s brand,’ since its launch nearly 75 years ago, as it sets its sight on increasing its appeal to global audiences.
The changes being revealed on screen for the first time from this week include a new international female character cast ensemble, a new theme tune and a new, faster-paced show format. All of this can be watched daily on Channel 5’s Milkshake at 7am from today.
The relaunch of the show is acting as the centrepiece of a ‘major strategic brand refresh,’ to help engage a new generation of fans by bringing its content in line to meet global audiences.
Ian McCue, senior producer at Thomas & Friends, said: “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.
“The changes and new additions of characters and geographies will make the show more entertaining, inclusive and global – while ensuring all the favourite characters and storylines that fans around the world love remain at the heart of the action.”
As part of the redevelopment of the content, the Thomas & Friends production team collaborated with the UN Department of Public Information’s Creative Community Outreach Initiative to develop content inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals most appropriate for a pre-school audience.
This included the SDG’s Gender Equality, Life on Land, Responsible Consumption and Production, Sustainable Cities and Communities and Quality Education.
Toy maker Mattel, which owns the £600 million Thomas brand, concluded that the character, based on the original books by Rev Wilbert Awdry, needed a contemporary makeover if it is to retain its position as the number one selling pre-school toy.
The refresh has not come without its critics and has been labelled ‘politically correct meddling,’ by some in that camp, including Anne Widdecombe.