Thomas & Friends
One of the longest-running children's TV series around the world, Thomas & Friends is based on a series of books by Wilbert and Christopher Awdry. These stories, which have been steadily published since the 1940s, feature the adventures of anthropomorphized trains and other vehicles--including the lead character, Thomas the Tank Engine. First brought to television screens in 1984, the original British series was filmed in London and broadcast to audiences on the ITV network. The show was first brought to American audiences as part of the PBS series Shining Time Station in 1989.
Over the last three decades, 18 unique seasons of Thomas & Friends have been produced. The series has occasionally gone off the air for up to five years at a time before being picked up by new producers, directors, and distributors. Individual episodes have always been relatively short--ranging from 5-9 minutes--and they have been narrated by celebrity voices like Ringo Starr, George Carlin, Alec Baldwin, and Pierce Brosnan. Recently, CGI effects have been added to the traditional railway models, which allowed the characters to talk more realistically and launched Tomas & Friends into the 21st century. Today, the series continues to air on ITV in the U.K., and it is broadcast on PBS Kids in the U.S.
Since the main characters in Thomas & Friends are trains and other vehicles, marketing merchandise that appeals to kids has always been relatively easy to accomplish by designing toys that resemble the beloved stars. You'll find toy train sets that include engines modeled after Percy, Henry, Emily, James, and (of course) Thomas himself. These trains range from miniature sets to full-sized ride-on vehicles. Other characters that are featured on toys include Cranky the Crane and Sir Topham Hat. Beyond train sets, other Thomas & Friends products include plush toys, video games, jigsaw puzzles, home décor, bath accessories, bedding sets, books, and more.
Apparel featuring the characters from Thomas & Friends is extremely popular among fans. Graphic tees, pajamas, bodysuits, hats, slippers, sweatshirts, shoes, socks, and underwear are all available with prints of the trains. Costumes are also excellent options for Halloween or just for fun. Accessories like watches, backpacks, lunchboxes, and more can help your tot bring his or her love for Thomas to preschool and beyond.
To use the obvious train pun, Thomas the Tank Engine has really proven himself to be the "little engine that could." The Thomas & Friends series has gone through so many iterations over the last 30 years, but it always seems to come back stronger than ever. More recently, a focus on characters that used to be relatively minor has ensured that every child can find a favorite train or other vehicle that they strongly relate to. Merchandise is available for practically every character, and you should never have trouble finding new toys, apparel, and/or accessories to add to your little one's collection. Thomas & Friends has always been the sort of show that is entirely age-appropriate--even for the youngest of kids--which is one reason why parents have been so supportive of its ongoing production for so many years. The characters are cute, lovable, and fun, and we give Thomas & Friends 4.5 stars out of 5.
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