The term evergreen is probably used too easily when it comes to many brands. Really there are very few which qualify. Thomas the Tank Engine, however, certainly does qualify, having celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2005 and is still as popular as ever.
The show is broadcast in 185 countries and in 45 languages and has over 100 licensees across all categories including toys, games, apparel, housewares, live events, publishing, food and attractions.
Quite simply, it’s a phenomenal brand.
“Thomas is an evergreen, classic property that continues to hold an enduring appeal to generation after generation of young children,” explain Laura Clarke, licensing director toys & games (hard goods) UK and Tracy Griffiths, licensing director (soft goods) UK at Hit Entertainment when asked how the brand has stood the test of time so well. “He remains iconic and has universal appeal to young children around the world. Thomas’ brand values are to encourage parental involvement, teaches timeless life lessons, fosters imagination, has an engaging play pattern and has authenticity, tradition and simplicity.”
The already comprehensive licensing programme will be extended even further next year. Tomy will continue to distribute the recently launched Trackmaster system and will be developing lines featuring new characters from the CGI programming and the autumn/winter special. In addition, new pre-school ranges are being introduced by the firm, as well as fresh characters and destinations in the RC2 wooden range.
Golden Bear will be extending its successful collection of Talking engines, as well as introducing a new Crash n Bang range; while Hornby Hobbies has scale model sets and has developed new engines and sets to tie in with new location, Great Waterton, which was introduced in the latest TV series and The Great Discovery special.
Ravensburger has produced new jigsaw puzzles and card games, plus Painting by Numbers; MV Sports has re-developed its wheeled range; Lego will roll out new Thomas toys; Martin Yaffe continues to add to its outdoor and furniture range; and, finally, DanJam has added new characters to its Big Buddy engine line, as well as new stacking toys such as Cranky.
2009 will also see Thomas move into a new category – electrical goods. This is via a deal with Martin Yaffe, which will be developing Thomas TVs, a TV/DVD combo, a digital camera and boom box.
Away from merchandise, the Day Out with Thomas programme will continue next year with an all-new rebrand, tapping into the heritage of the character at the events. Over half a million people visit a Day Out with Thomas event annually, according to Hit. And, as the brand builds towards its 65th anniversary in 2010, the Fat Controller will continue with meet and greets and personal appearances.
“Thomas & Friends has stood the test of time and will remain the number one for years to come,” continue Clark and Griffiths. “Its core values and authenticity to its train heritage will ensure its longevity as a pre-eminent pre-school property. The onset of CGI programming brings Thomas to life in a way we have never seen before and it will reach out to and engage a greater number of pre-schoolers. It will also bring scope to extend the consumer products portfolio, not only in the mature Thomas markets such as the UK, US, Japan and Germany, but also in key emerging markets such as Eastern Europe, France and China.
“The production slate for the next five years includes new episodic series, specials and exciting new formats for Thomas & Friends.”