Thomas The Tank will always have a special place in my heart. Back in 1993, when my kids were very young, and I was unemployed for a few months, Thomas was a big part of our lives. PBS had a wonderful lineup of children’s shows at that time. There was Shining Time Station (starring Thomas), Shari Lewis’ Lamb Chop‘s Play Along, and yes, even Barney. We would watch these in the morning while I made breakfast, then go to the park. Shining Time Station was always my favorite, not least because Mr. Conductor was none other than Ringo Starr, and later George Carlin. Very cool indeed.
Of course, that era ended much too soon, but Thomas remains a beloved character. I even recently saw a reference to him on the uber-nerd program The Big Bang Theory. So it was with a mixture of nostalgia and curiosity as to what Thomas is up to these days that brought me to the new Thomas & Friends Movie Pack three-DVD set.
Maybe 19 years have dulled my memory a bit, but things seem to have changed a bit on the Island of Sodor. On the one hand, the animation looks better than ever. But there seems to be much more “interaction” now than there previously was. This is actually a nice feature. For example, there is a segment in the first movie Hero Of The Rails, where Thomas wants to play a trick on the “bad guy” Diesels. They are supposed to be bringing building materials to their destination, and we are presented with three choices. To play a trick on the Diesels, should Thomas give them a car full of wood, or bricks, or bananas?
This is an interesting and (I suppose) educational element, and occurs often throughout the three movies. It is a bit of a distraction, although not so much as to become a major complaint. In fact, parents may very much enjoy this new element. Besides the fact that there are quite a number of these little “quiz” moments, the basics of the Thomas stories have not been significantly altered. And with DVD technology, there are quite a number of extra educational games and such included as well.
The Thomas & Friends Movie Pack contains three one-hour movies. They are Hero of the Rails, The Great Discovery, and Calling All Engines. All of them are very fine for youngsters, and while there is no Ringo (or George Carlin), parents should enjoy them as well. Again, the animation is top-notch – and there is a bit of drama in each as Thomas is faced with various scenarios.
One minor complaint I do have is with the way the DVDs are packaged. The box is large, as one would expect considering the fact that it holds three DVDs. In every multi-disc set I have ever owned though, there were either separate “pages” for the discs, or at least separate holders for each DVD. In this case, all three DVDs are stacked on top of each other, with a piece of foam filling the space between them and the outer box. It seems to almost guarantee that the DVDs will become damaged very quickly.
On the other hand, the price of this set is very low, which is a bit of a mitigating factor. And we all know how kids are with DVDs. They generally do not exactly understand the concept of treating them carefully. My final analysis for parents looking for a fun (and inexpensive) set to watch with their children is that the Thomas & Friends Movie Pack is a worthy choice.