It's been years since I've watched an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine - not since my nephew (now in his twenties) could name every engine from the tiniest glimpse. In all honesty, I've never really been a fan of the works of Reverend Awdry and until recently, having been blessed with only daughters, Thomas et al did not feature in my life.
The arrival of my son has precipitated an interesting shift in the toy cupboard and the DVD collection. I don't go out of my way to impose gender stereotypes but my son very definitely has more interest in all things vehicular than my daughters ever did.
When I was offered a copy of the new Thomas & Friends DVD - Thomas in Charge - released this week, I imagined my little Dylan would be very happy.
The animation style is quite different to the original series that I remember and Ringo Starr has been replaced as the narrator by Michael Angelis, who I remember fondly as Lucien from the BBC sitcom The Liver Birds ("I breed rabbits, me") - but I suppose evolution is inevitable with a franchise of any longevity.
Another difference is how much more friendly and pleasant the engines are to each other. I'm sure that in the books, there are some quite nasty characters. I was disappointed that the original theme tune no longer featured but Dylan responded to the new cheery tune with a little wiggle and a smile.
Although for me, watching this DVD inevitably made me draw comparisons and ultimately feel my age, for Dylan, watching with fresh eyes, it was a positive experience. It did not sustain his attention for the running time of just under an hour but as it is comprised of episodes, that was not a problem.
I was actually doing my knitting and chatting to my mum at the same time as watching this DVD. Without giving it my full attention I couldn't really give you the run down of all four episodes but suffice it to say, it was much what you would expect with problems finding resolutions in the setting of Knapford Station and the Island of Sodor. I was more attuned to my little boy's reactions as he watched avidly, proving that I was right to think he would enjoy this.
It is possible to select the episodes individually on the DVD menu or to take the option of "Watching with Mr Perkins". The Mr Perkins infill between episodes creates a separate story arc about playing music at the Knapford bandstand. There was a gentle educational content to the Mr Perkins segments but I could happily have done without it. Dylan was far more engaged by the animation than the acted parts. Perhaps for older children it would have more value.
In summary, fans of Thomas & Friends are in for a treat and for Dylan it was definitely a good introduction to a classic.