Little Dan excitedly sings the Thomas the Tank Engine Theme tune from the original Thomas and Friends TV show intro. Which was called Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (prior to 2002) the British-American children’s television series, which had its first broadcast on the ITV network in 1984 and airs on PBS Kids in the US. It is based on The Railway Series of books by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son, Christopher Awdry. These books deal with the adventures of a group of anthropomorphised locomotives and road vehicles who live on the fictional Island of Sodor. The books were based on stories Wilbert told to entertain his son, Christopher, during his recovery from measles. From the first four series, many of the stories are based on events from Awdry’s personal experience.
Thomas’s on-screen appearances in the TV series were developed by Britt Allcroft. The first series of 26 stories premiered in October 1984 on the ITV Network in the UK, with former Beatles drummer/vocalist Ringo Starr as storyteller. Starr became narrator only after former Beatle John Lennon turned down an offer to narrate the children’s TV show based on talking railroad engines on 3 March 1980. The stories were featured as segments as part of Shining Time Station in the US beginning in 1989 with Starr as the show’s Mr. Conductor character. From 1991 to 1993, George Carlin replaced Starr as both the storyteller and as Mr. Conductor for Shining Time Station. Carlin also told the Thomas stories for Shining Time Station in 1995.
In 1996 the Thomas stories were segments for Mr. Conductor’s Thomas Tales, again featuring George Carlin. Alec Baldwin portrayed Mr. Conductor in Thomas and the Magic Railroad, and narrated the series for the US from 1998 to 2003. Michael Angelis narrated the series from 1991 to 2012 in the UK, while Michael Brandon narrated the series from 2004 to 2012 in the US. As of 2013, the series is narrated by Mark Moraghan.
Thomas’s personality was originally faithful to the character of the books. As the show branched away from the novels however, modifications were made. Thomas became noticeably less arrogant and self-absorbed, developing a more friendly, altruistic and happy go lucky (if still rather over-excitable) side. He also no longer appears to be limited to his branch line and seems to work all over Sodor. These changes in his personality and duties are a result of his “star” status. He is the most popular character in the series, and therefore he has the largest number of appearances, appearing in all of the DVD specials and the movie Thomas & the Magic Railroad.
There have been two different versions of the Thomas the Tank Engine Theme this one being the older theme tune.
From Hero of the Rails until Series 18, Thomas was voiced by Martin Sherman (US) and Ben Small (UK). From 2015 onwards, Thomas is voiced by John Hasler in the UK, and by Joseph May in the US.
In The Adventure Begins which is a retelling of Thomas’s early days on Sodor, he is a bluish-green colour when he first arrives on Sodor, his tanks are lettered “LBSC” (for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway) with the number 70 on his bunker. The 70 is a reference to 2015 being the 70th anniversary for the Railway Series, while the LB&SCR E2 class were actually numbered from 100-109. The real life LBSC no. 70 is an A1 class.
Edward Glen (Thomas and the Magic Railroad)
John Bellis (Thomas and the Magic Railroad; original work-prints only)
Ringo Starr (The Official BBC Children in Need Medley)
Ben Small (UK; Hero of the Rails – Season 18)
John Hasler (UK; The Adventure Begins onwards)
Martin Sherman (US; Hero of the Rails – Season 18)
Joseph May (US; The Adventure Begins onwards)
Keiko Toda (Japan; Season 1 – 8)
Kumiko Higa (Japan; Calling All Engines! onwards)
Thomas the Tank Engine Theme in popular culture
Thomas has been referenced, featured and parodied in popular culture. In 1988, he was parodied on ITV’s Spitting Image where he was portrayed as a drunk who went “completely off the rails.” In 2009, he appeared in The Official BBC Children in Need Medley where he was voiced by Ringo Starr, who narrated the first two series of Thomas and Friends. In the British comedy show Bobby Davro’s TV Weekly, a spoof was created titled “Thomas The Tanked Up Engine” involving Jeremy, the pink engine. Bobby Davro provided the narration by impersonating Ringo Starr.
The 2015 Marvel film Ant-Man features a toy version of Thomas. In the film’s climactic battle, Ant-Man and Yellowjacket fight atop Thomas while in their insect sizes until Yellowjacket derails Thomas and throws him onto a windowsill. An accident during the fight results in Thomas suddenly growing to the size of a real train and demolishing a large portion of Ant-Man’s daughter’s house before falling on top of a police car.
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