‘Based on the Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry’ – This little caption accompanies the opening credits to every episode in the wonderful television series, Thomas the Tank Engine.
However, as blasphemous as it sounds, the series could have potentially remained as a cult icon – a series of books that have delighted train folk and their children – and perhaps not been such a dominant force in the world. Many websites on the Internet that focus on Thomas and his friends tend to not predominantly show pictures from the books. More often than not, the popularity of the series grew from the television series created by Britt Allcroft and directed by David Mitton. In fact, if it wasn’t for this programme, I wouldn’t be writing this essay now.
Many fans now have been told of all the old stories about the development of The Railway Series and other people’s attempts to transfer it to other media. Musicals, live television – most failed, bar talking books. However, during the late seventies a young business woman named Britt Allcroft offered to make the aging book series into a highly professional children’s television show.
With the excellent direction of David Mitton, the music of Campbell & O’Donnell and the soothing narration of Ringo Starr, it became an upmost success. The Thomas franchise began, with two series of the programme flying by before anybody could tell what was going on. All these stories were written by an Awdry – Wilbert or Christopher – and then adapted into the show.
As you might hear nowadays, “then there was a storm on the Island of Sodor.” The early nineties came and another series of Thomas was bound to turn up. ERTL toys, books, videos (which were relatively new, they’d only been around for the past 5 years or so) were filling up the shelves and the public demanded more. Plenty of stories by Wilbert and Christopher were there to be adapted. All was set.
But Britt decided not to. She had decided to take her own way – adapting quite a few of the books by Wilbert into the series and the rest she wrote with Mitton. This outraged many “purists” and it still does to this day. But I’d like to ask a big question to everyone – What’s The Matter With Series 3?