Still in production today as Thomas and Friends this animated childrens series based on The Railway Series of books by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son, Christopher Awdry has been popular as a tv show – and also as a huge range of branded merchandise, DVDs, videos and blu-ray – since the first episode of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends was first broadcast in 1984 with Ringo Starr as the narrator.
The narration has always been a key part of the show as it was intended to give the feel of a book being read in the home. Up until series 13 all the narration and dialogue was performed by a single storyteller (in the most recent series characters are individually voiced).
It has been more than 70 years since the first books were published and it has moved with the times with full cgi animation in the later series, but it is the early episodes with the live action model animation that I remember most fondly. Each train had its own personality, expressed through interchangeable faces on the fronts of the stop motion models used for the programme.
Since it’s first broadcast there have been more than 450 episodes over 18 series, 1 feature film and 8 specials featuring Thomas.