Thomas the Tank Engine goes global with new “diverse” characters

The classic children's series will see Thomas travel the world along with a new group of gender-balanced trains as part of a bid to remain "relevant" to modern audiences

(Fusion Studio/Mark Collins PR)

Thomas the Tank Engine is getting a multicultural makeover.

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The classic children’s series is set to introduce a diverse new cast of characters from around the world.

For the first time in 73 years Thomas will leave the island of Sodor to meet new trains, as part of a bid to expand the series’ global appeal and promote “sustainable development goals” in partnership with the United Nations.

The new series of Thomas and Friends will also for the first time feature a gender-balanced group of characters, with classic trains such as Henry the Green Engine replaced in favour of more female characters.

New characters include Isla, an Australian Flying Doctor, Hong-mei, A Number 1 Blue Tank Engine from China, and a new African steam engine from Kenya called Nia (below).

Thomas and Friends Nia African Engine

“The changes and new additions of characters and geographies will make the show more entertaining, inclusive and global,” said senior producer Ian McCue, “whilst ensuring all the favourite characters and storylines that fans around the world love remain at the heart of the action.”

Thomas the Tank Engine’s history goes all the way back to the series of books by Rev Wilbert Awdry first published in 1945, but this contemporary makeover is part of “an evolution to remain relevant for the next generation of parents and children” according to McCue.

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The changes were made in collaboration with the United Nations, with the new series accompanied by a series activity sheets designed “to introduce pre-schoolers around the world to the concept of global citizenship”.