SODOR ISLAND Essay Annex

Moving With The Times

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A personal view of the taunts and criticism Thomas has recieved in the past few years, it's time to put them into perspective and check a different angle...

The recent criticisms of the new Thomas series are in some respects justifiable.  Yes they have changed a lot of what made the series great such as the storylining basis, and even the camerawork.  This has sent a lot of loyal fans seething with rage and disappointment.  Personally, I've taken time to think about the whole thing and realise that these changes have been a necessary part of the programme's continuity and keeping it in touch with it's audience.  Although some may disagree with me and possibly even flame my view, I just hope you will listen without prejudice as I share my views on the good aspects of the new series.

The 1980s was a golden age for children's television in general.  In my opinion, kids TV peaked around this point in terms of quality both in terms of characters and stories to suit them.  Children's programmes particularly in the UK were blossoming through studios such as Cosgrove Hall (Wind In the Willows, Danger Mouse, Count Duckula), Woodland Animations (Postman Pat, Charlie Chalk, Gran, Bertha) and others were churning out what was proving to be a highly enjoyable era in kids TV.  In 1984, little known company, Britt Allcroft Ltd joined the fold and brought us the first series of Thomas The Tank Engine.  The endearing nostalgia for the 1940s and the enjoyable stories were adored instantaenously by the UK audience and would be again when the programme was launched elsewhere.

As the decade changed however, the style of the series changed too.  Obviously now, Allcroft and Mitton had begun to feel that what was right in the 1940s-1970s was not relevant in modern society.  And so they felt obliged to change a few things and also to install a few new stories whilst they were working.  A few of these were rejected by the Awdry family but filmed anyway, much to their disgruntlement.  On the whole, the third series went down well with fans of the TV Series across the globe, and so the trend of change continued.

In the first of the new series following the new Millennium, noticable changes had been made again to the storyline emphasis.  Whilst the trend of no longer using Awdry's stories was continuing, the emphasis had moved to looking more at friendships.  In a modern world where fear and destruction is everywhere, we must do all we can to shield our children from the grim realities of what's going on outside their window.  If this means teaching them the value of something so important such as forgiveness, kindness, courage and above all, friendship, then I can safely say that Thomas is the best candidate for the job.

In a changing social climate, we need to look at things such as Kid's TV.  More often than not children are influenced by what they see on screen, whether it be good or bad, and we need to accept that.  Children are still developing and need to be taught right from wrong, using the powerful influence of television it is possible to do this.  If Thomas is going to be contributing to the production of well-adjusted human beings to the world, then I say all the more power to them for doing so.

On the note of using more Railway Series stories and characters, I can only urge fans not to get their hopes up.  Not only would this prove costly in terms of building new models, but it would also prove difficult in implementing the Small Railway Engines.  They would have to be scaled down lower than the Skarloey Engines were, and to have all the necessary pieces and parts installed inside them would be near-enough impossible to do.  And for the sake of a few episodes, I wouldn't be too supportive.  The same goes for the Mountain Engines too, the object of getting passengers up a hill in perfect safety wouldn't prove to have wide enough scope for writers for the series, and the characters who are not developed enough would be reliant on people other than their creator to create personalities for them, quite patronising to the Reverand Awdry I think.

Also on the subject of Railway Realism, where's the point?  Children know no different as to the rules of the railway, neither did Britt Allcroft when she placed trees too close to the line in Henry's Forest.  I'd be very surprised if anyone of the people who have been moaning about it would even know Railway realism without consulting a book when quizzed on it.  The writers are sticking to what they know best for writing the series.  To those who have complained about the series of late, you've really just got to let go and ignore the morals contained within.  I've laughed at James' vanity in James Gets A New Coat, as was the intention; I've sympathised for Gordon in Squeak, Rattle and Roll, and felt his relief when the Fat Controller tells him all is well; I've even chortled at Henry bumping the dining car in Henry and The Wishing Tree.  And to be serious, looking past these things has been so beneficial to my outlook of Thomas lately, and seen the new episodes as an improvement on the past few years.  A personal favourite would be Thomas and The Circus, the warmth from that episode was just so nice and downright entertaining.

And so, I feel now would be as good a time as any to end the protests, stop the moaning and just enjoy the new episodes.  If you're looking for fault in something, you're going to find it if you don't keep an objective mindset.  It's taken me some time to realise that what HIT Entertainment have done is going to further the popularity and life-span of the programme.  Thomas has never stood still, even in the days of the Railway Series, modernisation always pushed it forward, and so the turn falls to the TV series to change and move on too.  Nothing wrong with that, you just need to look on the bright-side of things concerning the changes and developments.  If you can look past the morals and camera-work, then no doubt you'll enjoy Thomas!  But we each have to face facts and realise that nothing stands still...

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