Thomas & Friends (previously known as Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends) is the name of the television series based on the Railway Series by the Reverend W. Awdry. It was adapted for television by Britt Allcroft using the original stories from the Railway Series before using television-exclusive stories written by independent writers. The series has been broadcast in over 185 territories and has spawned twenty television seasons (with a twenty-first and second series also confirmed), a theatrical movie, one 44-minute special and ten one hour-long specials.

The series is currently produced by HiT Entertainment, who filmed the series since its acquisition of Gullane Entertainment in 2002.

In April 2008, it was announced that filming of the series would transfer to Nitrogen Studios in Canada and that it would be CGI animated. CGI was first used during the twelfth season for the faces of the engines, people and animals, although characters in background shots would still have the traditional clay faces. The first fully CGI production, Hero of the Rails was released in Autumn 2009. The remainder of the series will be CGI animated. In February 2012, it was announced that Arc Productions would take over animation duties starting with the seventeenth season in 2013. In August 2016, Arc Productions closed down after filing for bankruptcy. Jam Filled Entertainment, however, entered into an agreement, looking at acquiring the entirety of Arc. On 22 August 2016, it was confirmed that Jam Filled Entertainment had successfully acquired Arc Productions, and thus taken over the animation for Thomas and Friends.

About

Thomas & Friends is a television series mainly based around railway engines that live on the Island of Sodor. The show is mainly about the title character, Thomas, a cheeky little blue tank engine with six small wheels, a short stumpy funnel, a short stumpy boiler and a short stumpy dome. Thomas & Friends takes place on the standard gauge North Western Railway, the narrow gauge Skarloey Railway and the 15-inch gauge Arlesdale Railway. The head of the North Western Railway is Sir Topham Hatt, affectionately nicknamed "The Fat Controller" by the engines and staff, the Skarloey Railway is operated by Mr. Percival, "The Thin Controller" and the Arlesdale Railway is operated by Fergus Duncan, "The Small Controller".

History

The first known attempt to make a television adaptation of the Railway Series books was by the BBC in 1953. It was decided that Hornby Dublo models would be used and everything went ahead but the project did not succeed. During the live airing of the first episode, Henry derailed and a hand was seen coming down to put him back on the tracks. Nothing else is known to remain of this project. There have been several other attempts, however. The first somewhat successful run was on the children's show "Jackanory" in 1970. The Railway Series books were read out loud by host Ted Ray. Five books were read in all until 2 October 1970. The current television series got its start in 1979 when the Reverend Awdry was interviewed on the Bluebell Railway for a feature on steam engines. The producer, Britt Allcroft, had read some of the books before the interview. She had become fascinated with the characters and after getting funding from her local bank, acquired the series so she could adapt it for television.

  • Allcroft rounded up a production crew, which included model director David Mitton, narrator Ringo Starr and composers Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell.

The first season premiered in October 1984 and with its success, came another in 1986. After the huge successes of Season 1 and Season 2, Britt Allcroft set another goal: bringing Thomas into the United States. Due to stricter broadcasting schedules, Britt had to create a half hour program to go with the four and a half minute episodes. The result was Shining Time Station, starring Ringo Starr as Mr. Conductor. This was another hit for Allcroft and was the beginning of the "Thomas craze" in America.

When the television series returned in 1991 with the third season, there were some big changes. Instead of following closely to the Railway Series, Allcroft and Mitton loosely adapted many of the Reverend's stories as well as loosely adapted magazine stories written by the current head writer Andrew Brenner (who unfortunately did not get credited for these adaptations), they even wrote their own episodes, much to the Reverend's disdain. The fourth season, airing in 1995, only had one original episode however and featured many new characters such as the Skarloey Railway engines. The series was doing incredibly well after that and a full-length theatrical film soon loomed ahead. Britt Allcroft decided to drift completely away from Railway Series stories and in 1998, the fifth season, contained all original storylines. This was so Britt could showcase the series as her own before the upcoming film.

The full-length theatrical film gained the title of "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" and after many changes from the original script, it premiered in July of 2000. The film had mixed views and despite being well received in America, the film was a huge box-office failure and Allcroft was forced off the series. Her company was sold to Gullane Entertainment and they, in turn, were later sold. In 2001, the idea for a spin-off focusing on the non-rail vehicles was being tossed around at Gullane. It is possible that this idea later became Jack and the Sodor Construction Company. During the process, the sixth series was produced and aired in 2002, as was the seventh in 2003. The buyer turned out to be HiT Entertainment and the eighth season, that aired in 2004, came with drastic changes. The episodes became more formulaic in plot with the focus on morals and education. Since Season 8 this format is still being carried out for all the following seasons with great success. 2005 saw the broadcasting of the ninth season as well as the release of the first direct-to-DVD special, Calling All Engines!. The tenth season aired in 2006 and was the only production to contain twenty-eight episodes unlike the usual twenty-six. The first broadcasting of the eleventh season took place in 2007 and this marked the final series to contain twenty-six episodes, until Season 17.

The second direct-to-DVD special, The Great Discovery was released in 2008 and this marked the final production to fully use only models on screen. One of the most revolutionary steps in the show's history also took place in 2008, when it was announced that Thomas & Friends would be produced using computer generated imagery (CGI). The show would be produced in Canada at Nitrogen Studios and season twelve used CGI for the faces of the engines, the people and the animals alongside the traditional model format. This was also the first season to contain twenty episodes and this format continued until the seventeenth season. The first fully CGI animated production was the 2009 direct-to-DVD special, Hero of the Rails, directed by Greg Tiernan. This was also the first time the engines and people had individual voice actors since Thomas and The Magic Railroad. The voice acting continued for all seasons and specials hereafter.

2010 saw the first year to have two seasons, the thirteenth and fourteenth. Another feature length special, Misty Island Rescue, was released that Autumn. Season 15 premiered in early 2011 and the next direct-to-DVD special, Day of the Diesels, was released in Autumn 2011. During that October, Mattel won HiT Entertainment in an auction by Apax Partners, HiT's owners and in February 2012 the money was transferred. February 2012 also saw the premiere of the sixteenth season in the UK. It was the last season animated by Nitrogen Studios, the last to have Sharon Miller as the head writer and the final season to contain twenty episodes. Blue Mountain Mystery was released in September 2012. It was the last special to involve Nitrogen Studios and Miller.

A second theatrical film, supposedly titled "The Adventures of Thomas", was set to be released in 2011, but years later and still with no news on any further developments, it is unknown whether the project will actually move on. Although there has been no official confirmation of the project's cancellation, it is presumable that the film has been scrapped.

2013 saw Andrew Brenner take over as head writer and Arc Productions take over the CGI animations, animating the seventeenth season as well as all following seasons and specials to date. The seventeenth season also regained the initial twenty-six episode format and implemented a new writing style that promised to focus on the original charm and appeal of Thomas & Friends. This format is presently being used with great success and unanimous fan approval. Ten episodes of Season 17 aired in the UK in June 2013 followed by five episodes in September/October 2013. Another episode aired in November and four more in December. Also released in Autumn 2013 was the seventh direct-to-DVD special, King of the Railway. Season 17 began airing on 7 October 2013 in the US. The remaining six episodes of the seventeenth season, featured on Spills and Thrills aired between July and November 2014 in the UK. In Autumn 2014, the eighteenth season aired and the following feature-length special, Tale of the Brave was released. The remaining six episodes of Season 18 featured on Dinos and Discoveries, premiered in the UK in July 2015.

Thomas & Friends celebrated their 70th Anniversary in 2015. To celebrate this milestone, a 44-minute special, The Adventure Begins was released in Spring 2015, the first feature to include original stories by the Rev. W. Awdry since 1995. Furthermore, a special 28-minute documentary, titled 70 Years of Friendship was released exclusively on the Thomas & Friends YouTube channel on 14 July 2015. In Autumn the same year, the next direct-to-DVD special, Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, was released. The first four episodes of the nineteenth season premiered in the UK between 21 September and 24 September 2015. Season 19 also first aired on 13 October 2015, in the US.

In January 2016, three more episodes from the nineteenth season aired in the UK, followed by another five episodes in March 2016. March 2016 also saw the release of six more nineteenth season episodes released on the annual mini-tentpole, episodic release, Start Your Engines!. These episodes later aired in the UK on July of 2016. A special 4-D theme-park exclusive production was released titled, 'Thomas & Friends in 4-D: Bubbling Boilers' on 9 April, in Boston. In August 2016, Arc Productions closed down after filing for bankruptcy. After entering an agreement, Jam Filled Entertainment looked to acquire Arc Productions under a new management. On 22 August 2016, it was confirmed that Jam Filled had successfully acquired the entirety of Arc Productions, and some former Arc staff regaining their jobs, resumed working on animation for Thomas and Friends under the new management and organisation name. September 2016 saw the release of the next direct-to-DVD special, The Great Race. The twentieth season began broadcasting in the UK on the 5th of September 2016 with the first five episodes of the season, and in the US on the 21st of October, 2016. HiT Entertainment and SiF released a poll in which fans voted for what they wanted to see rendered in CGI for this season.

In 2017, a special entitled Journey Beyond Sodor will air in the fall. The twenty-first season has also been confirmed to premier sometime in 2017, and it is expected to be the first season to be entirely animated by Jam Filled Entertainment.

In 2018, the last feature-length special to date, Big World! Big Adventures!, was released. This was also the new title the show, with the first season of this era, Season 22, premiering in 2018. The main cast also undergoes its first overhaul since 2004, with Edward, Henry and Toby leaving the group and being replaced by new characters Nia and Rebecca, evening out the gender ratio in the main cast to four males and three females, in order to make the show more appealing to girls.

Seasons

  1. Season 1 (1984-1985)
  2. Season 2 (1986)
  3. Season 3 (1991-1992)
  4. Season 4 (1994-1995)
  5. Season 5 (1998)
  6. Season 6 (2002)
  7. Season 7 (2003)
  8. Season 8 (2004)
  9. Season 9 (2005)
  10. Season 10 (2006)
  11. Season 11 (2007)
  12. Season 12 (2008)
  13. Season 13 (2009)
  14. Season 14 (2010)
  15. Season 15 (2011)
  16. Season 16 (2012)
  17. Season 17 (2013-2014)
  18. Season 18 (2014-2015)
  19. Season 19 (2015-2017)
  20. Season 20 (2016-2017)
  21. Season 21 (2017)
  22. Season 22 (2018-2019)
  23. Season 23 (2019-2020)
  24. Season 24 (2020)
  25. Season 25 (2021)
  26. Season 26 (2022)

Films & Specials

The Model Series

The CGI Series

Music Videos

Spin-offs

Videos

Thomas_and_Friends_Season_6_Intro_2

Thomas and Friends Season 6 Intro 2

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