With the introduction of foreign trains, 'Thomas the Tank Engine' enters 'The Great Race' debate

A new straight-to-DVD film featuring the 70-year-old children's favourite will bring in 13 foreign friends, much to the disgust of some fans

Thomas the Tank Engine, The Great Race, Ashima, Daily Mail

British engine Thomas shares the tracks with Ashima, an Indian train voiced by Bollywood star Tina Desai [Mattel]

In what has been reported by the Daily Mail as giving the show “a multicultural edge”, the new Thomas the Tank Engine movie spin-off sees the British train share the screen with Raul, Yong Bao and Ashima, locomotives from all over the world. And loco is how many of the website’s readers are describing the film’s motives, criticising the toy company Mattel for the decision.

The film, unfortunately called The Great Race, comes out on DVD in September, and has drawn fire from a number of sources. In The Telegraph, social justice and pop culture researcher Tracy van Slyke welcomed introducing diversity into the show, but expressed some concern that the creators were drawing on broad strokes in the process.

“There is a danger in reducing very complex countries and peoples to singular characteristics,” she said. “If the trains are only defined by cultural stereotypes, the result will be a calculated, and destructive, nod to diversity and inclusivity.”

Van Slyke’s opinion stands in somewhat stark contrast to how readers posting in the Daily Mail comment section have reacted, with the “British institution” under fire from the dangers of political correctness:


Other complaints included allusions to Brexit conspiracy, the ongoing refugee crisis, and concerns that Mattel, the company behind Barbie, might introduce a “pink ‘camp’ engine” to indoctrinate children into the homosexual lifestyle.

Created in 1946 by a British clergyman, Thomas the Tank Engine is now a billion-dollar franchise, popular with children all over the world. Purchased by Mattel from Hit Entertainment in 2012 for $680m, the toy company has spearheaded a diversity movement on the tracks ever since.

Now, September’s release will introduce children to the likes of Raul, a Brazilian engine, and Ashima, one of four new female characters and voiced by Bollywood star Tina Desai. You can see the rest of Thomas the Tank Engine’s new international friends in the gallery below:

[H/T: The i100]