Posts Tagged ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’

Forgive me if I seem a little edgy today. I’m still getting over the Thomas Take-Along “Thomas and Percy’s Carnival Adventure” set that I recently got at my friend MGK’s garage sale. 

“What’s to get over?” those people uninitiated in All Things Thomas might ask. 

“What’s not to get over,” would be my immediate response. After all, anyone who read my previous Thomas The Tank Engine rant “Tanks for Nothing” may recall that I have a few “issues” with the underlying messages of the Rev. Awdry’s classic children’s books. 

And yet, this time my beef was with something much more specific. Some might suspect it was with the half an hour I spent trying to put the Carnival Adventure together before discovering the instructions. Or with the fact that every second piece I laid out was instantly removed and hidden by small hands. Or even that I’d had Dora The Explorer’s “We did it! We did it! We did it! Yeah!” song on permanent loop in my head for the entire time (I’ll save my Dora rant for another day). 

But no, it was my discovery that there were New Generation Tracks in the Thomas Take-Along series which were completely incompatible with the old-style Take-Along tracks, of which we already have ample sufficiency, thank you kind sir. And it would appear that the only thing that might join the New with the Old was this small, unassuming and imminently losable connector piece:


And the more I looked at that piece, the more that I realised I should just Throw It Away Now and pretend that the Carnival Adventure was part of a “different” Thomas set altogether rather than waste the rest of my freakin’ life looking everywhere for it while small people looked on with Great Expectations. 

“Now, what’s all this about ‘different’ Thomas sets, NDM?” those same people from before are probably asking now, making me realise how truly blessed these people’s lives must be to not already know the depressing answer to this question. 

Why, they’re probably thinking it would be enough for the Estate of Rev. J. Awdry to whore the rights to the Thomas franchise to one toy manufacturing company. After all, there are well over 50 different engines to collect, not to mention Special Edition engines, such as “Thomas covered in paint” and “9 1/2 Weeks Percy dipped in chocolate” (there really is a chocolate covered Percy – I don’t make this shit up, you know).

But no, there are at least five different varieties of Thomas engines and tracks on the market: “Thomas Motor’n’Rail”, “Thomas Take-Along”, “Thomas Wooden Railway”, “Thomas Lego” and the “Thomas Electric Trainset” … and ne’er the twain shall meet.

So if you thought you could bung a Take-Along Annabel to a Wooden Railway Gordon, you would be wrong. Or that a Lego James might be able to go for a wee spin on the Motor’n’Rail tracks – but no. And you might even toy with the idea of putting an Electric Train Edward in a Take-Along roundhouse but THINK AGAIN, BUB.

But try explain that to an angry two year old boy who is at the throwing-die-cast-tender-engines-at-his-mother’s-head stage of frustration. “Sorry, darling. Skarloey won’t fit in the Sodor Saw Mill because there are GREEDY EVIL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO HATE ME AND WISH TO MAKE MY LIFE A LIVING HELL.”

It’s a wonder that I haven’t banned Thomas outright from this household, like I did “Barney & Friends” where just the words “Super Dee Dooper!” can send me into a muderous rage. Super Dee Dooper? Why, I’ll Super Dee Dooper your purple padded arse…

And yes, I think I’ll take myself off for a little lie-down right now…

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I’ll never ever understand what small boys see in “Thomas the Tank Engine”. Watching it feels the toddler-equivalent of standing at Clapham Junction with your clipboard and flask of hot tea and sandwiches that Mother packed for you. I mean, let’s face it: those model trains don’t exactly make for riveting animation – even with their moving eyes and all (fancy!) – and Ringo Starr gives us only shades of grey with his underwhelmed narration. 

But here’s a tip: don’t ever get me started about the show’s underlying message. Because if you do and I start thinking about it too much, I’ll get angry and, believe me, you won’t like me when I’m angry (not because I turn green or anything cool like that but because I. Just. Don’t. Shut. Up.). 

For one thing (uh, oh… here it goes!), the Fat Controller is positively Dickensien with his management style and his outlook on industrial relations. When Henry (the Green Engine) won’t come out of a tunnel because he fears rain will spoil his paintwork, the Fat Controller has the tunnel bricked up, ostensibly “forever”. Fortunately, Henry goes on to prove that he is, in fact, a “Very Useful Engine” and is allowed out, thus sparing us from a future episode where his skeletal remains are discovered by an archeologist. In another episode, the big tender engines go on strike because they feel they are being treated unfairly. The Fat Controller just dismisses their claims outright, brings in some scabs to run his railway for him and quickly shames the tender engines for wanting anything out of their jobs other than to expressly please him. Personally, I’d never sign any AWA that the Fat Controller waved under my nose. 

And then there’s Thomas. There is nothing redeemable about him as a character – he is xenophobic, arrogant, rude, suspicious, quick to judge and just plain annoying. And yet, according to the Thomas soundtrack we have on CD, he’s “The Very Useful Engine We Adore”. Other than the very first episode where he earns himself a branch line, there’s little evidence of him being at all useful, let alone “Very”, and certainly not “adorable”. If he’s still in a job, it’s only because he’s so good at the kissing the Fat Controller’s ample behind (“Oh yes, sir! Of course, sir!” said Thomas.). On principle, I never sing along with that song because it feels too disingenuous to exclaim “Thomas, we love you!” in the chorus. 

And while I’m talking about that CD, there’s another song with the lyrics “The magical isle of Sodor, where dreams come true”. All that can be said in Sodor’s favour is that it has an extensive railway network which very possibly far exceeds the needs of its small population (which is quite the opposite problem in the area I live in where trains are running at 100% capacity). And I have never seen any evidence of dreams being fulfilled in Sodor – it’s no “Fantasy Island” if that’s what they’re hinting at (“Look boss, the train, the train!”). Unless of course we’re just talking about trainspotter’s dreams, in which case, they are most certainly all wet ones and have no place on a children’s CD. 

And don’t even get me started on Trevor the Traction Engine, whose unnatural passions for children are legitimised by the Church when the vicar saves him from the scrap yard. He’s installed in the orchard where he lives out his days “giving rides” to the kiddies at the church fete. It’s just plain wrong. 

Personally, I much prefer the trippy world of “In the Night Garden”, which makes Tiddles star-jump in front of the television, exclaiming “Makka” when Makka Pakka  comes on the screen. I like that it teaches my children that even Great Shakespearean Actors like Sir Derek Jacobi never think too highly of themselves to say words like “Ninky Nonk”, “Tombliboos” and “Tittifers” (ooo-er, missus). And who can argue with the inherent wisdom of “Makka Pakka Akka Wakka Mikka Makka Moo. Makka Pakka Appa Yakka Ikka Akka, oooooo.” 

Some might think that there are more important battles to be fought than this one, against a harmless kiddies’ show. After all, the world economy is crumbling, there are 23 days until the US election and Maddona and Guy “I”m a geezer” Ritchie are getting divorced.

However, there are young minds at risk here. Won’t someone please think of the children? (Other than you, Trevor – I’ve got your number, mate).

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