Director Shane Acker to Helm a New 'Thomas the Tank Engine' Movie
by Ethan Anderton
June 8, 2011
Personally, I was quite impressed with the darker, post-apocalyptic animated film 9 back in 2009, so I'm looking forward to almost anything director Shane Acker takes on in the future. The reason I said almost is because Deadline reports the filmmaker will next make his first live action feature film in the form of a new take on the favorite children's toy Thomas the Tank Engine, and that's not exactly in my wheelhouse. The character is a talking steam locomotive from the island of Sodor, which is full of talking trains and other vehicles, and hails from The Railway Series of books that were first published back in 1945.
Though this is obviously meant for families and children, what helps make this a little more interesting for older, childless movie fans like myself is the involvement of Weta Workshop being part of the creative team. That should make this a little more appealing than the more recent 2000 film adaptation Thomas and the Magic Railroad. In addition, apparently Acker and HIT Movies want to broaden the audience for Thomas the Tank Engine as well, but not make it dark like his animated film 9. The filmmaker says:
"I'm a recent father, with a 20-month old daughter. We lead such busy lives in Hollywood, always running and hustling, but children tend to slow you down a bit and reconnect you with that inner world. It reinvents your imagination, seeing things through a child's eyes. It was transformative for me and that is what inspired me about the possibilities here. The tale will revolve around a child slightly older than preschool, who has drifted apart from his father. The son is introduced into this world of Sodor, a place his father visited as a child but can't remember. There is a bonding experience."
The film has apparently been developed outside of the studio system and HIT Movies president Julia Pistor explains, "Doing it this way gave us more control over the development, keep the essence of the story right and package the film in a way that makes sense for the brand. The movie will launch a line of older-skewing movies and toys that will be in the vehicle aisle of the toy stores and not the pre-school aisle." Obviously the toys are a big selling point, and if all goes well, maybe they'll get the same merchandising success that has given Disney/Pixar's Cars so much success on toy shelves and in theaters. This isn't my cup of tea, but some adults who have their own kids will probably be interested. How about you?