A couple of quick notes about the latest Thomas and Friends DVD, A Very Thomas Christmas: first, it’s not a full-length movie, but four recent holiday-themed episodes of the Thomas television show, held together with live-action segments featuring an engine driver spending the night in the station to get an early start the next morning. (I kept thinking, “I hope he’s getting paid overtime for this.”)
Second, Thomas himself is not even the main character in any of these stories. In “The Christmas Tree Express,” nervous Toby (the engine that looks like a house on wheels) takes the more spirited Rheneas to mysterious Misty Island to find the perfect tree; “Ho Ho Snowman” involves goofy Charlie trying to cheer up the dejected Henry, who hates the snow; “Salty’s Surprise” has the helpful Edward trying to find a present for the diesel engine Salty (who sounds like the Sea Captain from The Simpsons); and “Emily’s Winter Party Special” has one of the few “female” engines convinced she’ll get to carry the presents to the big Holiday party, once she finds Sir Topham Hatt’s top hat.
If none of this makes sense to you, I take it you have no children. If you do have kids, they‘re almost certainly familiar all of these Thomas and Friends characters, and many more. They probably own most of them in toy form, for that matter, and they should be happy to find copies of A Very Thomas Christmas in their stockings. Parents can rest assured, the little ones will not be exposed to any violence or bad behavior, and will learn valuable lessons about friendship, teamwork and (in the case of poor Toby) facing their fears.
As with the recently released direct-to-video Thomas movie Blue Moutain Mystery, the episodes featured in A Very Thomas Christmas are a joy to look at. The island of Sodor, on which Thomas and his friends have their adventures, is modeled on a romanticized version of prewar England, with little cottages, cobblestoned streets and – of course – many, many steam locomotives. The amount of work the Thomas and Friends animators put into creating the world of Sodor is very impressive.
My only real issue with A Very Thomas Christmas is that, except for references to “Christmas trees,” the dialogue goes out of its way to avoid mentioning the C-word. Instead we hear about Sodor’s big “winter party,” and Edward trying to find the perfect “winter holiday present” for Salty.
I’m not one of these people who gets offended if someone says “Happy Holidays” to me instead of “Merry Christmas,” and considering that Thomas and Friends episodes are shown all over the world, I can understand why they wouldn’t want to emphasize a Christian festival too much. But, in that case, why call it A Very Thomas Christmas in the first place?