The production design is even more impressive. The creators of Thomas and Friends came up with a remarkably detailed world for Thomas and his locomotive friends to travel, complete with harbours, rivers, bridges, mountains and – needless to say – rail lines all over the place. The recent CGI episodes look great, but these earlier ones are even more impressive for being painstakingly created by hand. (The set even comes with a large map showing the attractions and rail lines on Thomas and Friends’ very British setting, the Isle of Sodor.)
The stories are very charming, too. One of the videos – Calling All Engines! – is an hour-long movie about Thomas and his fellow steam engines’ rivalry with the mean-spirited diesels, while the others feature episodes of the television show. Highlights include a diesel engine getting his comeuppance after trying to scare Thomas with tales of a “ghost train,” Thomas trying to find a birthday picnic spot for Sir Topham Hatt and his visiting mother, and old Edward in a tortoise-and-hare race with a Duke and Duchess’s sleek private locomotive.
The DVDs are packed with special features, too. Each one contains several games, sing-a-longs, character galleries (particularly useful for parents, who aren’t nearly as good as children at keeping everyone straight) and – best of all – listen-and-read stories, apparently adapted from Thomas and Friends books, with the narrator reading the text. (There’s an option to read without sound, too.)
Let’s Explore With Thomas, then, should delight any young Thomas and Friends fan – but just make sure they’re ready for their favourite characters looking and sounding a bit different.