Thomas and Friends, previously Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends until 2003, is an extremely popular children's TV series based off of the Railway Series books by the Rev. Wilbert and Christopher Awdry. Over thirty years old, it has not only delighted children across the world but also has created a massive fandom online with people who are older than the shows general target audience. The show was created by Britt Allcroft in 1984 and is still running today, with twenty seasons. It has been narrated by several celebrities, whom are Ringo Starr, Alec Baldwin, Pierce Brosnan, George Carlin, Michael Angelis, Mark Moraghn, and Michael Brandon.
Early 1980s Edit
Britt Allcroft becomes inspired to adapt the Railway Series after doing a documentary about the Bluebell Railway.
- First season of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends premiers on October 9, starting with Thomas and Gordon. It is narrated by former Beatle drummer Ringo Starr. This season introduces Thomas, Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Percy, Toby, Terence, Bertie, and the Fat Controller/Sir Topham Hatt
- The final two episodes of the first season air on January 8.
- Thomas debuts of VHS in Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, released by Guild Home Video. This VHS features the first half of the first season. The second half is released a few months later on Further Adventures of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends
- Second season airs in the United Kingdom. This season introduces Duck, Donald, Douglas, Diesel, Bill, Ben, Boco, Daisy, Trevor, and Harold.
- The show debuts in Australia.
- The show debuts in the United States on the TV Show Shining Time Station. Ringo Starr plays "Mr. Conductor", a miniature man who tells the Thomas stories to children. The first season of this show features 24 episodes of the first season (excluding Whistles & Sneezes and Thomas's Christmas Party) and 16 episodes of the second season.
- Many episodes are partially re-narrated for American audiences to replace British terms with more American ones. For example, trucks are known as freight cars and guards are known as conductors in the United States. Also, the Fat Controller is always referred to by his real name, Sir Topham Hatt, as referring to ones size is considered more rude in the US.
- The show debuts in Japan, where each engine has it's own voice actor.
- Ringo Starr leaves the show. The episode Thomas's Christmas Party airs for the first time in the US on a Shining Time Station Christmas Special, whilst Whistles & Sneezes remains the only Season 1 episode to not be re-narrated by Starr for the United States.
- Thomas debuts on VHS in the United States on Thomas Gets Tricked & Other Stories.
- The third season premiers in the UK on VHS. It is narrated by actor Michael Angelis in the UK and comedian George Carlin in the US, meaning he takes over the role of Mr. Conductor in Shining Time Station. The third season introduces Oliver, Mavis, Toad, and Bulgy.
- In Shining Time Station, the first 16 episodes of the third season, the rest of the second season, and Whistles & Sneezes air for the first time.
- The third season features many stories that weren't from the railway series and were instead written by Britt Allcroft and David Mitton. These stories were not well received by the Reverend W. Awdry, especially Henry's Forest.
- George also re-narrates the first two seasons.
- The third season airs in the United Kingdom
- The first sing-along song, Thomas Anthem is released.
- The rest of the third season airs on Shining Time Station in the US.
- After three seasons, Shining TIme Station is cancelled, although a few specials air afterword.
- The first half of the fourth season premiers on VHS n the UK. This season introduces the narrow gauge engines, whom are Skarloey, Rheneas, Falcon/Sir Handel, Stuart/Peter Sam, Rusty, Duncan, and Duke. The season also introduces Stepney, George, and Caroline. It is widely considered the best season among many fans.
- The show celebrates it's 10 year anniversary.
- Twelve episodes of the fourth season premiere in the US on VHS.
- The fourth season airs on TV in the UK, and 8 episodes air on Shining Time Station specials in the US.
- The final special of Shining Time Station airs, which ends the 6 year run of the show.
- In the US, most of the remaining fourth season episodes premiere on VHS. Then, the rest of the fourth season would air along with previous episodes on the Shining Time Station spinoff, Mr. Conductors Thomas Tales. This series features George Carlin as Mr Conductor remembering certain events from the Island of Sodor, in which an episode would play. A song would also play at the end.
- George Carlin leaves the show after Mr. Conductor's Thomas Tales.
- The Rev. W. Awdry dies on March 21 at the age of 85.
- It was around this year that T1E2H3 began his interest in Thomas.
- The fifth season airs in the UK and Australia. This is the first season to not feature any original stories from the Railway Series. Britt Allcroft and David Mittion thought that the best stories had already been adapted from the Railway Series and the other stories featured too many one appearance characters which would be too expensive to build or plots that were too confusing for the target audience. This season was darker than the previous ones, featuring crashes or scary scenes in the majority of the episodes. (Because of that, it is T1E2H3's favorite season). Major characters introduced were Cranky, Arry, Bert, and Butch. Several other characters were also introduced, like Derek, Bertram, The Horrid Lorries, Old Slow Coach, Thumper, and Tiger Moth. However, these characters had only one or two appearances and never appeared again, though this was likely unintentional because of future events.
- The reception of the fifth season seems to be very positive for most episodes but some have a very divided view. One particular example is Rusty and the Boulder, which some claimed was way too cartoonish and surreal whilst others say it was fun and exciting (and even scary). T1E2H3 is with the latter group.
- The fifth season airs in the in the United States and is narrated by actor Alec Baldwin
- Production of a feature length film, Thomas and the Magic Railroad, begins.
- Thomas and the Magic Railroad is released in theaters. Despite having Thomas in the name, the film is a Thomas and Shining Time Station movie. Alec Baldwin serves as the narrator as well as Mr. Conductor. The film also features Peter Fonda, Mara Wilson, Michael E. Rodgers, Didi Conn, Russell Means, and Cody McMains. The film introduced the characters Diesel 10, Lady, Splatter, and Dodge as well as several human characters. Only the first two would appear again. Unfortunately, the film did not do well financially and critically. Many criticized the confusing plot (which was drastically changed in the final cut because of test audience reactions) and the small roles of the engines themselves. The British audience was not familiar with the Shining Time part which also added to the films negative reception. However, Diesel 10 and the engines themselves were received well and the film did have good DVD sales.
- Britt Allcroft steps down as the head her studio, Gullane.
- Gullane Entertainment is bought by HiT Entertainment. HiT would become very infamous to fans in the following years.
- The sixth season airs. This season introduced Salty, Harvey, Elizabeth, as well as several construction vehicles from "The Pack". The Pack was set to be a spinoff series featuring Jack, Alfie, Max, and the other construction vehicles as well as Thomas and Percy. However, the series was cancelled after HiT became involved because it was too similar to their other show, Bob the Builder. This season features new models that were less shiny, likely to prevent crew reflection. The season is often considered by many (including T1E2H3) to be the lowest season of the classic era. Though still good, the lighting was dull and lifeless and the stories were hit and miss. Alec Baldwin's narration was also not well received, in contrast to his previous work on the show.
- Alec Baldwin leaves the show after the sixth season.
- Seventh season airs in the United Kingdom. It is the last season of the "Classic Era". Britt Allcroft, David Mitton, Mike O'Donnel, Junior Campbell, and several others did not return after this. This season introduces Emily, Spencer, Arthur, Murdoch, and Fergus. The latter did not appear again as his model was damaged during filming. It received generally positive remarks from fans, and though not the best, it was seen as superior to the previous season.
- The show changes it's name to simply Thomas and Friends.
- The seventh season airs in the United States. At first, four episodes (along with two sixth season episodes) premiered on the DVD New Friends for Thomas, narrated by Michael Angelis with the original music. Then, the season aired on TV, narrated by actor Michael Brandon. For unknown reasons, these had new music composed by Robert Hartenshore and Ed Welch instead of Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell, as they did in the UK releases. Only three episodes with Brandon's narration have been released with the O'Donnell and Campbell music: Salty's Stormy Tale, Bulgy Rides Again, and Harold and the Flying Horse. These were released on the Thomas & the Jet Engine VHS/DVD.
- The eighth season airs. This season brought massive change to the show. The episodes were now 7 minutes as apposed to the original 4.5 minutes. The music was now composed by Robert Hartenshore and Ed Welch for both the US and UK. None of the original themes were brought back. The frame rate was much higher and the stories became simpler with moral values. This was also the first season not to introduce any new characters. It focused mainly on the "Steam Team", which included the original numbers 1-7 engines as well as Emily, to bring in a major female character. Other previously major characters, especially Duck, Donald, Douglas, and Oliver, were completely absent. This was also the first season since the fourth to not feature the Skarloey Railway.
- The show celebrates it's 20th anniversary.
- The ninth season airs. This season introduces Mighty Mac, Molly, Neville, Dennis as well as Mr. Percival, who now is controller of the Skarloey Railway instead of Sir Topham Hatt. This season also saw the introduction of Sharon Miller as a writer, who would later become notorious throughout the Thomas community.
- For the 60th anniversary of Thomas, the special Calling All Engines is released. This was the first hour long special. It featured the return of Diesel 10, Daisy, and Lady as well as a cameo from Derek. However, only Diesel 10 and Daisy would appear again in the show.
- The tenth season airs. This marked the introduction of Rosie, Fearless Freddie, Rocky, and Jeremy.
- The unaired episodes of Season 7 are finally aired in the US.
- The eleventh season airs. This marked the introduction Whiff, Madge, Hector, and Billy. The latter only had one appearance and never appeared again. This also marked the return of Donald and Douglas. This was the last season to exclusively use models.
- The special The Great Discovery is released. It is narrated by Irish actor Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan was supposed to replace Angelis and Brandon in the show, but never did for unknown reasons. This special marked the introduction of Stanley and is the very last appearance of just models.
- The twelfth season airs. This is the first season to use CGI, although it was only used for the engines' faces and people. Models were still used for filming. This season introduced Hank, Flora, and Colin, although none of them appeared more than once. The season also marked the return of several past characters including Duck, Oliver, Toad, and Stepney.
- Two major people from the show die: David Mitton dies on May 16 at the age of 69 and George Carlin dies at the age of 71. Fans are greatly saddened by this.
- The special Hero of the Rails is released. This is yet another major change in the show as it is the first to use CGI exclusively as well as individual voice actors rather than the narrator doing all the voices. However, the narrators still narrated. This special introduced the first international engines (meaning accents and language, not basis origin) who were Hiro, from Japan, and Victor, from Cuba. However, the latter's nationality was not revealed until later and Hiro's homeland was not referred to by name. The special also introduced Kevin and brought back Spencer, who was the first steam antagonist.
- The thirteenth season airs. This is the first season to have extremely basic plots set on moral values. Fans consider this to be the beginning of the "Three Strikes Formula", meaning an engine has to do something and doesn't do it correctly after ignoring advice or declining help offers and then messing it up, only to do it right after using the advice or help from another engine. This formula was used from this season until the seventeenth and it was here where the show's popularity with fans dropped massively. This season introduced Charlie.
- The special Misty Island Rescue is released. This marks the introduction of the logging locos Bash, Dash, and Ferdinand as well as Captain the boat. Although the plot was received well, the special featured constant rhyming which did not go down well with fans at all. The logging locos also had an extremely bad reception and are considered by many fans to be the worst characters in the whole show.
- The fourteenth season airs, meaning 2010 is the only year to have more than one full season air. This season introduced Scruff.
- The fifteenth season airs. This season was supposed to air after Day of the Diesels but was brought forward to the spring for unknown reasons. Therefore, characters who are properly introduced in the special are present in the season without an introduction. This season introduced (not properly) Belle, Den, Dart, Flynn, Paxton, and Norman, although the latter two had no speaking roles until the future. Among fans, this season was received extremely negatively and is considered the worst season in the show. This is due to massive use of the "Three Strikes Formula", and two episodes that are particularly hated are Percy's New Friends and Wonky Whistle. However, the season did have the first ever speaking appearance of Butch, who had only made cameos since his first appearance 10 seasons ago.
- The special Day of the Diesels is released. This properly introduces the Season 15 characters plus a completely new diesel called Sidney, although all his appearance was extremely brief. The special also brought back Diesel 10. The special received neutral reviews.
- The sixteenth season airs. This season was the first appearance of the Skarloey Railway engines in complete CGI, although they only appeared in two episodes. The characters introduced were Stafford and Winston. This season received had a better reception than the previous one, but was still considered to be not great by fans.
- Sharon Miller steps down as head writer in favor of Andrew Brenner
- The special "Blue Mountain Mystery" is released. This was the very last Thomas production to be animated by Nitrogen studios, and saw the introduction of Luke, Owen, and Merrick. It was the first time in the show that a character (Victor) spoke another language (Spanish). The special also featured CGI remakes of certain scenes from the classic era of Thomas. These included flashbacks from The Sad Story of Henry/Come Out, Henry!, Down the Mine, and A Scarf for Percy.
- Both Michael Angelis and Michael Brandon leave the show. Angelis had narrated the UK dub since the third season, 21 years ago. He holds by record for the longest narrator by far.
- Mark Moraghn replaces both Michael Angelis and Michael Brandon in the US and UK as narrator. This is the first time since Ringo Starr's departure when both American and British narrations were by the same person.
- The special King of the Railway is released. This was a major change in the show. It is the first production to be written by Andrew Brenner, the first to be animated by Arc Productions, and the first to be narrated by Mark Moraghn. This special introduced Stephen, Caitlin, Connor, Millie, and Sir Robert Norramby. It was received well among fans because of it's new writing style, similar to Awdry's. It also dug heavily into Sodor's history, which had never been done before. To date, Stephen is the oldest engine to be introduced.
- The seventeenth season airs. Like King of the Railway, it featured a new writing style. It also brought back Bill, Ben, and Duck. All three had been absent since Season 13, and also had starring roles for the first time in ages. This season introduced Porter.
- The special Tale of the Brave airs. This marked the introduction of Gator, Marion, Timothy, and Reg.
- The first half of the eighteenth season airs. This marked the introduction of the Slip Coaches as well as the return of Oliver, Toad, and Duncan. Many fans consider this to be the best season since 2004.
- The show celebrates its 30th anniversary
- The Railway Series celebrates its 70th anniversary. A special called The Adventure Begins is released in March. This is basically a retelling of The Three Railway Engines and Thomas the Tank Engine, also showing how Thomas arrived on Sodor. It is the first time that the original character themes are used since Season 7, and the special is acclaimed by fans. It introduced Jerome and Judy the breakdown cranes, and a Coffee Pot engine named Glynn, though briefly.
- The second half of the eighteenth season airs in January. The audience is introduced to Samson.
- Six episodes of the nineteenth season are released on the DVD Whale of a Tale and Other Thomas Adventures.
- The special Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure is released. This features the first TV appearance of Mike, Rex, and Bert, and the return of Donald, Douglas, Daisy, Oliver (excavator), Alfie, Max, and Monty. It also introduces Sailor John, Ryan, and Skiff, whom are voiced by celebrity actors John Hurt, Eddie Redmayne, and Jamie Campbell-Bower. This film was one of Hurt's last roles before his death in January 2017.
- The first half of the nineteenth season airs. This is the first to feature a completely new intro since Season 8 (not counting various tweaks such as music and CGI), though the theme is the same aside from a re-orchestration. This season introduces Phillip the Boxcab diesel. Unlike the previous season, this one got mixed reviews. Though it was still praised, many fans considered it a mixed season. Some episodes were great while others not so much.
- The second half of the nineteenth airs in January.
- Arc Productions goes bankrupt in August. They have completed the Great Race, Season 20, and half of Season 21. The animation will be taken over by Jam Filled Entertainment.
- The special "The Great Race" is released. It features the first full appearance of the Flying Scotsman as well as many foreign engines including Ashima from India. (The other foreign engines had very small roles). It is also the first musical, with more than one song sung by the characters themselves.
- The twentieth season begins airing. It is the last full season to be animated by Arc Productions. It marks the introduction of Bradford the Brake van, and Hugo. This is the first time Donald, Douglas, and Daisy have had major roles since the seventh and fourth seasons, and the first time Trevor makes a full appearance since the ninth and Max and Monty first since the Great Discovery. It was also the first season to adapt any Railway Series stories since the fourth season 21 years prior. The stories adapted were three from the RWS book Small Railway Engines. This season was acclaimed by fans.
- Actors John Hurt, who played Sailor John, and Ben Forster, who played Driver Perkins in the learning segments, die at the ages of 77 and 59.
- The second half of the twentieth season airs.
- The special Journey Beyond Sodor will be released in the fall. It will introduce Hurricane, Merlin, Theo, Lexi, and Frankie.
- If the scheduling is the same as previous seasons, the twenty first season will likely begin airing in the fall.