Thomas The Tank Engine, a lovable animated locomotive created in 1946 that has appeared in books and TV shows for decades, is now starring in a new straight-to-DVD movie, "The Great Race," (video below).
According to On Demand News (ODN), Mattel's locomotive "franchise is spicing up its image with its 13 new international engines."
Christopher Keenan, executive producer of the film, said:
We have lots of engines arriving from all over the world. We have engines from China, from Brazil, we have Shane from Australia and we even have the Flying Scotsman.
It's really great to finally be able to give fans a sneak peek of the move and the trailer that is out today. All of our favorite engines are there, but it's really exciting to see the new international characters in the great race.
The additions of the new international characters may be in reaction to accusations of racism and sexism by some parents who have criticized the "Thomas & Friends" TV series for being mostly male and white, notes The New York Times.
Vincent D’Alleva, who oversees the TV show, told the newspaper that the movie was made with the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in mind and to make Thomas more aware of other cultures in his fictional world.
"This story is a way to help him understand that there is a bigger world out there," D'Alleva stated.
"Three years ago, we weren’t even in China," D'Alleva added. "Now it’s the second-largest territory for us."
However, Slate's Elissa Strauss counters:
Unfortunately, the characters Thomas will meet will largely be fashioned out of stereotypes. So far, Mattel has only released biographical details on four of the new characters. There’s Raul of Brazil, who is described as 'feisty, strong and agile.'
Yong Bao of China, who’s 'driven to achieve and make progress.' Ashima of India, a colorful female train, who, in addition to being as fast as Thomas, 'shows no fear,' and is 'happy to help out.' Carlos of Mexico sports a Frida Kahlo-style unibrow and is 'proud' and 'always wearing a smile.' The excitable South American, the ambitious Asian, the obliging female, the peppy Mexican—they aren’t exactly playing against type here.