Thomas & Friends Relaunches With Brand New Series Featuring Multi-Cultural Characters, New Girl Protagonists + Preschool TV Show
“Thomas & Friends™: Big World! Big Adventures!” series airs in the UK from next week followed by the US and the rest of the world and features:
· New gender-balanced Steam Team; new multi-cultural characters and new locations as Thomas leaves Sodor for the first time in 73 years to travel the world
· Catchy new theme tune also revealed today, whilst Thomas “breaks the fourth wall” for first time and takes up the role of series’ narrator, a role that was famously held by Ringo Starr in past series
· New female characters revealed for the first time today includes: Isla, an Australian Flying Doctor; Hong-mei, A Number 1 Blue Tank Engine from China; Churubala, a female railway controller from India plus many more fun and diverse characters from around the world
· New series marks the launch of the first ever collaboration between a kids’ TV show and the United Nations to promote the Sustainable Development Goals
· A special unveiling of the series takes place today at BAFTA in London to usher in a new era for Thomas & Friends™ on television and a focus on capturing a new generation of fans
Mattel Inc. will today take centre stage at a special London premiere event held at BAFTA, the home of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, where it will cut the ribbon on its reinvigorated new series of Thomas & Friends™, marking the blast-off for 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 and exciting changes being unveiled for the first time today include: new international and female characters, a new theme tune and a dynamic new faster-paced show format, all of which are heading to TV screens next week when the show will air daily from Monday 3rd September at 7.00am on Channel 5 “Milkshake!”.
The relaunch of the show is the centerpiece of a major strategic brand refresh, to help engage a new generation of fans by bringing its content in line to the meet the tastes of a global audience in the modern day. After market research with hundreds of children and parents around the world to help transform the British brand, the anticipated new Thomas & Friends™ series unveiled today showcases a more contemporary feel, a brand-new theme tune and a refreshed line-up of central characters in its ‘Steam Team’, ensuring gender equality across the show.
The all-new format series also brings faster-paced action, increased humour and music, new international friends, animals and exciting fantasy elements and dream sequences. The key highlights include:
· New global locations: For the first time in the series’ history, Thomas leaves Sodor to travel discovering new cultures and countries including China, India and Australia. The series will include 13 episodes in Sodor; 5 episodes in China; 4 episodes in India and 4 episodes in Australia.
· New Steam Team: A new gender-balanced Steam Team is introduced, made up of three male and three female characters - Percy, James, Gordon, Emily and new characters Nia and Rebecca, as well as Thomas. This change will 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.
· International & new empowered girl characters: The series features new characters from around the world including the new African steam engine from Kenya called Nia, Ashima from India, Yong Bao from China and Shane from Australia as well as host of new strong girl characters who are revealed for the first time today, including 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.
· New theme tune: In one of the most dramatic changes to the show, a new and energetic theme tune is introduced in this series. 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.
· New format: The brand-new episodes feature faster-paced stories with more humour, music, animal characters and fantasy sequences. In a first for the show, Thomas will 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.
Ian McCue, Senior Producer at Thomas & Friends™, says “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 – whilst 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 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 that were most appropriate for a preschool audience and fitting to the Thomas & Friends™ brand values. This included the SDG’s: #5 Gender Equality; #15 Life on Land; #12 Responsible Consumption and Production; #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities; and #4 Quality Education.
This collaboration further comes to life with parent tips, activity sheets and short-form content that launches today. The content and parent targeted materials looks to introduce pre-schoolers around the world to the concept of global citizenship and start meaningful conversations between parents and children.
Thomas the Tank Engine™ was created over 70 years ago and that story quickly grew to become the award-winning #1 preschool train brand franchise it is today, selling 1 engine every second, enjoyed by families in more than 160 territories and over 55 languages across multiple touch-points and formats, including: 500+ original TV shows; 12 feature-length films; apps; toys; consumer products; publishing; live attractions and much more.