NEW FRIENDS: Thomas pictured with Ashima of India (Pic Credit: Universal)
NEW FRIENDS: Thomas pictured with Ashima of India (Pic Credit: Universal)

Classic cartoon gets a modern day revamp

The nation’s kids will be overcome with excitement as TV favourite Thomas the Tank Engine has decided to expand his friendship circle to include locomotives from all around the globe.

The lovable steam engine will be introduced to a range of new characters including the ‘fearless’ Ashima of India and Yong Bao of China in a DVD film called ‘The Great Race’ – scheduled for a global release in August.

Vincent D’Alleva, who oversees Thomas & Friends for Mattel, said the movie was made with this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in mind.

“This story is a way to help him understand that there is a bigger world out there,” Mr D’Alleva said.

“Three years ago, we weren’t even in China now it’s the second-largest territory for us.”

In a phone interview with the New York Times, Mr D’Avella said Ashima ‘is the first one who can take on Thomas in terms of being the fastest engine’.

“It’s not a romance story because, well, that’s not something for our target audience,” he said. “But it is about developing a relationship. How does Thomas develop a relationship with someone who looks very different from him and in some cases can do things better than he can?”

Other new trains to star alongside Thomas include Carlos of Mexico and Raul, who hails from Brazil.

Tracey Van Slyke, a researcher in social justice and pop culture who has previously criticised the show for having a ‘little white boss’ dictate what tasks the engines do, told The Telegraph: “I applaud the idea, but am concerned about execution.

“There is a danger in reducing very complex countries and peoples to singular characteristics. If the trains are only defined by cultural stereotypes, the result will be a calculated, and destructive, nod to diversity and inclusivity”.

Thomas the Tank Engine was created by clergyman – Reverend Wilbert Awdry – a vicar in the parish of St Nicholas, Birmingham.

In 1942, he first told the story of the anthropomorphised train to his son and then went on to send three stories to a publisher after being encouraged by his wife.