Iconic children’s TV show ‘tarnished’ by US reboot claims original series creator

Has Thomas been ‘tarnished’ by a US remake? (Picture: Clearwater Features)

The creator behind beloved kids’ TV series Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends has slammed its US reboot.

Britt Allcroft, 80, who produced the show for 19 years between 1984 and 2003, has said the legacy of the programme has been ‘tarnished’ due to the changes made in the American version.

That US reboot, Thomas and Friends: All Engines Go, launched in 2021, a decade after the property was purchased by international toy company Mattel.

After buying the rights to the show, Mattel said it wanted to take an ‘entirely new approach’ to the franchise, which would involve using a new animation style and featuring a more diverse cast in its shows.

However, Allcroft isn’t happy with the way Mattel have taken the show. She told The Times: ‘There is only one Thomas. Thomas doesn’t want to be reimagined. Sadly, Mattel now has control of Thomas and there is nothing I can do.’

The original version of the series was based on books written and published in 1945 by Wilbert Awdry and his son Christopher – the show followed the adventures of Thomas and his steamtrain friends.

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr famously narrated the first and second series, and it also featured voice work from the likes of Alec Baldwin, Piers Brosnan, and George Carlin as it gained international popularity.

In the new edition of the cartoon, which has changed from 3D animation (with use of stop-motion) to 2D, Thomas is also significantly younger – the show follows the adventures of a young Thomas and his friends.

One such character is Kana, a female locomotive, while another character, Bruno, a brake car, is on the autism spectrum. Bruno is voiced by a child called Elliot Garcia, from Reading, who is autistic.

Speaking about Bruno, Elliot said: ‘Bruno is a new friend for Thomas and his friends, and he’s also autistic, like me. He is funny, smart, and he’s a very relaxed character. 

Britt Allcroft oversaw production on the 3D animated series between 1984 and 2003 (Picture: Britt Allcroft Co.)

Ringo Starr narrated the original series (Picture: Getty)

‘He can get really overwhelmed, he can get worried, and he uses comedy to get past situations. Bruno loves schedules and timetables, and when everything goes to plan.’

The show is scheduled to begin airing in the UK on Channel 5 in the spring of 2024.

And Thomas the Tank Engine isn’t the only British animated series that’s about to get a big American reboot, with Jennifer Lopez currently overseeing an adaptation of Bob the Builder – yes, you read that correctly.

The 54-year-old megastar is developing a feature-length film based on the CBBC animated show about the little builder who can, indeed, fix it. They’ll be working alongside ShadowMachine studios, who were behind Guillermo Del Toro’s recent interpretation of Pinocchio.

Bob will be played by Anthony Ramos, and the film will follow the beloved character as he journeys to ‘the enchanting island of Puerto Rico for a major construction job’.

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