Read early this morning on Indie Wire's Blog, The Playlist, that Shane Acker, director of 9 (the feature length animated film and the Oscar nominated short) will be directing a feature length Thomas The Train film.
Now, while the Playlist presents a negative slant on what this film says about Shane Acker's film, my thought is a little different. And maybe that's because I've watched a lot of Thomas the tank engine and his friends over the past three or four months.
When my 2 year old daughter attended a Thomas-themed birthday party in February, she suddenly decided SHE wanted a Thomas party, although she had never seen Thomas. We hadn't either.
So after much Thomas talk, we picked up a video. We started with Thomas & Friends: Splish Splash Sploosh. Frankly I found it pretty enjoyable and my daughter LOVED it. And frankly, I felt very comfortable with her watching it because unlike other cartoons (whether that be the Saturday morning variety, or beloved Disney classics) these cartoons were incredibly tame, without a villian or other dark elements.
Later, we would watch other Thomas videos, and I quickly learned the more recent the better, because the older versions (and when I say older, I'm talking 2005), aren't nearly as engaging. Their stop-motion style photography (versus the modern version with CGI) and the tempo drags far more. So beware!
But frankly, I enjoy these videos, and am perfectly fine my daughter does to. And as far as a feature length film directed by Shane Acker - from my perspective, I'm worried he will direct a story with out these crucial elements that I see in the modern Thomas and Friends stories.
These crucial elements of a good Thomas The Tank Engine Story are:
1. Thomas must be presented with a task from Sir Topham Hatt
2. The task must be relatively simple but of great importance.
3. Thomas must express a desire to be a "very useful engine."
4. Thomas must have an emotional response (pride, a desire to have fun, embarrassment, wanting to be extra brave, etc. the response itself doesn't really matter).
5. The emotional response causes him to fail at completing the task to it's fullest.
6. Sir Tomham Hatt must tell Thomas he's disappointed causing "confusion and delay."
7. Thomas must correct his errors.
8. Any new characters must have a obnoxiously British name (example of current characters: Gordon, Percy, Arthur, Claribel, and Edward)
Good luck, Shane. I've laid out my expectations.
Image from Indiewire Blog.