Thomas & Friends (formerly Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends from 1984 until 2002) is a British children's Television series based on The Railway Series of books by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son, Christopher Awdry. The series first aired on ITV in the United Kingdom in September 1984.
In the United States, it had its first broadcast on Shining Time Station in 1989. For American audiences, the Series is redubbed using American Railway terminology among other changes done to fit the ideals of the American public (political correctness changing the perceived harshness of some of the dialogue).
In 1988, producer Britt Allcroft began work on launching the Thomas franchise in the United States. Striking a deal with PBS, she co-created Shining Time Station with Rick Siggelkow, with the show acting as a vessel to introduce Thomas to American audiences. The series would be a half-hour program revolving around one or two episodes of Thomas, and exploring the lessons and morals within the stories. Ringo Starr played Mr. Conductor, an eighteen-inch tall man who told the stories of Thomas to the children who visited the station.
In a bid to fit the ideals of the American public, numerous changes took place to the episodes themselves. Several titles were changed; many technical terms were adapted to suit the American audiences' familiarity, and the title of 'Fat Controller' was politically corrected to 'Sir Topham Hatt' so as not to offend. The original British narration for the series was used, albeit slightly altered throughout with Ringo re-recording some parts to adapt the story with necessary changes, recommended by Allcroft's American television advisors, including child psychologist Dr. Ron Slaby.
After Ringo left Thomas and Shining Time to pursue his musical career, comedian George Carlin was brought in the replace him as Mr. Conductor in Shining Time Station and narrator the American dub (while Michael Angelis was brought in for the UK Narration). Carlin also re-narrated Seasons 1 and 2 (11 of which Ringo had not re-narrated for US audiences). Following Shining Time Station's third season in 1992, the preference was to produce specials of that series instead. As a result, Thomas' fourth season was the first one to be released straight to video, which is how much of its future seasons would be released in the US.
Following Carlin's departure from the series after the 4th Season, actor Alec Baldwin would be brought in to narrate the American version of the 5th Season, and would later play Mr. Conductor in Thomas & the Magic Railroad. Baldwin would briefly return to narrate the 6th Season in 2002, before moving on for his acting career. In 2004, British Narrator Michael Angelis would very briefly re-narrate 6 episodes from the 7th and 6th series for the VHS and DVD release New Friends for Thomas & Other Adventures.
With the acquisition of the Thomas & Friends franchise by HiT Entertainment, the series was now redubbed for American audiences terrestrially in the United Kingdom. American-born actor Michael Brandon was brought in as the new narrator for American audiences, narrating Seasons 7 through 16, as well as renarrating six episodes from Season 6. Pierce Brosnan briefly served as guest narrator for the special The Great Discovery, and was initially set to replace Brandon and Michael Angelis in both narrations starting with the 12th Season, but this fell through for unknown reasons.
In 2009, with the transition from models and sets to CGI, the series would move on to feature separate voice actors for the characters. The series' American and British dubs were both recorded in the United Kingdom, featuring the same pool of actors but in different roles for each dub, with some exceptions. Since the 16th Season, many characters gradually began having the same voice actor in the US as the UK dub.
Model Series (Seasons 1-12)
|Image||Characters||U.K. Dub||U.S. Dub||Seasons|
|Narrator / Character Voices||Ringo Starr||Ringo Starr (original airings)||1-2|
|George Carlin (re-dub)|
|Michael Angelis||George Carlin||3-4|
|Alec Baldwin (original airings & home video releases)||6|
(re-dub, 6 eps.)
|Image||Character||U.K. Dub||U.S. Dub||Seasons|
|Narrator||Michael Angelis||Michael Brandon||13-16|
|Thomas||Ben Small||Martin Sherman||13-18|
|John Hasler||Joseph May||19-24|
|Edward||Keith Wickham||William Hope||13-24|
|Rob Rackstraw||19-20 (ep. 24)|
|Rob Rackstraw||20 (ep. 26)-24|
|Percy||Keith Wickham||Martin Sherman||13-18|
|Nigel Pilkington||Christopher Ragland||19-24|
|Toby||Ben Small||William Hope||13-18|
|Emily||Teresa Gallagher||Jules de Jongh||13-24|
|The Fat Controller /
Sir Topham Hatt
|Keith Wickham||Kerry Shale||13-18|
|Donald & Douglas||Rob Rackstraw||20-21|
|Bill & Ben||Jonathan Broadbent||17-19|
|Spencer||Matt Wilkinson||Glenn Wrage||13-22|
|Rosie||Teresa Gallagher||Jules de Jongh||13-16|
|Whiff||Keith Wickham||William Hope||14-22|
|Stanley||Matt Wilkinson||Ben Small||15-18|
|John Schwab||20 (ep. 8)|
|Charlie||Matt Wilkinson||Glenn Wrage||13-15|
|Bash & Dash||William Hope||14-16|
|Keith Wickham||Kerry Shale||14-16|
|Ferdinand||Ben Small||Glenn Wrage||14-16|
|Scruff||Matt Wilkinson||Kerry Shale||14-19|
|Jules de Jongh||20-23|
|Porter||Steven Kynman||David Menkin||17-23|
|David Menkin||20 (ep. 8) |
21 (ep. 8)
|Diesel||Kerry Shale||Michael Brandon||13-16|
|Mavis||Teresa Gallagher||Jules de Jongh||13-16|
|'Arry & Bert||Kerry Shale||14-21|
|Diesel 10||Matt Wilkinson||17|
|Sir Handel||Keith Wickham||16-24|
|Peter Sam||Steven Kynman||16-24|
|Victor||Matt Wilkinson||David Bedella||13-16|
|Annie & Clarabel||Teresa Gallagher||17-24|
|Troublesome Trucks||Ben Small||16-18|
|Rocky||Matt Wilkinson||William Hope||13-24|
|Slip Coach #1||Jonathan Broadbent||18|
|Slip Coach #2||Rebecca O'Mara||18|
|Slip Coach #3||Steven Kynman||18|
|Harold||Keith Wickham||Kerry Shale||14-24|
|Trevor||Nigel Pilkington||Christopher Ragland||20-22|
|Cranky||Matt Wilkinson||Glenn Wrage||13-24|
|Jack||Steven Kynman||David Menkin||20-23|
|Max & Monty||Tim Whitnall||Kerry Shale||20-23|
|Rasmus Hardiker||Rob Rackstraw||20-23|
|Kevin||Matt Wilkinson||Kerry Shale||13-23|
|Kerry Shale||19 (ep. 5)|
|Skiff||Jamie Campbell Bower||20-24|
|Big Mickey||Rob Rackstraw||21-24|
|Lady Hatt||Teresa Gallagher||Jules de Jongh||13-24|
|Stephen Hatt||Matt Wilkinson||William Hope||13|
|Teresa Gallagher||19-24 (ep. 8)|
|Rachael Miller||24 (ep. 12)|
|Bridget Hatt||Teresa Gallagher||Jules de Jongh||13-14|
|Teresa Gallagher||19-24 (ep. 8)|
|Rachael Miller||24 (ep. 12)|
|Dowager Hatt||Keith Wickham||13-24|
|Farmer McColl||Matt Wilkinson||William Hope||13-22|
|Alicia Botti||Jules de Jongh||13-14|
|The Mayor of Sodor||Keith Wickham||David Bedella||13-16|
|Mr. Percival||Keith Wickham||Kerry Shale||16-24|
|The Duke of Boxford||Matt Wilkinson||William Hope||15-24|
|The Duchess of Boxford||Teresa Gallagher||Jules de Jongh||16-24|
|Mr. Bubbles||Keith Wickham||Michael Brandon||13-15|
|Sir Robert Norramby||Mike Grady||17-24|
- Ringo Starr's US narration only covers 25 of the 26 first season episodes, and only 16 of the 26 second season episodes.
- Ringo Starr's narration for the episode "Thomas & the Missing Christmas Tree" was released on the VHS for the Shining Time Station Christmas special 'Tis a Gift. This, however, was the UK Narration with any lines mentioning Sir Topham Hatt as "The Fat Controller" removed.
- The UK Narration was once released in the United States on The Early Years three disc DVD set in 2004.
- Michael Angelis re-recorded some of his narration for the U.S. DVD New Friends for Thomas and Other Adventures.
- Michael Brandon's narration of the 7th Season has only been released with a re-composed score by Ed Welch and Robert Hartshorne (composers for Seasons 8-12) rather than the original score by Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell. The only exceptions are three episodes released on the Thomas and the Jet Engine DVD in 2004.
- Despite attempts to use strictly American terminology for the dub, there have been several instances where British terminology is used.
- Various merchandising released in the US still use British terminology (referring to Sir Topham Hatt as "The Fat Controller" and the Freight Cars as "The Troublesome Trucks").
- In "The Flying Kipper", Ringo's original narration referring to the conductor as a guard is left intact. This is repeated in George Carlin's narration.
- Since the sixth Season, the narrator has inconsistently referred to the Trucks by their American standard (Freight Cars) and their British standard (Troublesome Trucks).
- Various instances of characters' US voices being slipped into the UK version are known to occur (or vice versa).
- David Menkin was asked to replace Martin Sherman as the voice of Thomas after his departure, but Menkin declined in support of Sherman.
Shining Time Station
Thomas & Friends
|2005-2015||PBS Kids Sprout||1-18|
|2000, 2017-2019||Nickelodeon (Nick Jr.)||19-21|
- List of Thomas & Friends Films & Specials
- Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures! (Season 22-24)
- Thomas & Friends on the Internet Movie Database