Two islands, many freaks

Is Thomas and Friends the vehicular version of The Island of Dr. Moreau? Let’s do a simple test.


1. Does it take place on an island?




Also Island



2. Are most of the inhabitants half-human, half–something else?

Half Animals

Half Trains



3. Is the island ruled by a heavyset, eccentric tyrant?


The Other Brando



4 and 5. Does the tyrant have a helper who is insane and a drug addict? Does the casting of this role in a film version make you exclaim, “What in Hell’s bells possessed him to do this movie!”?

Moreau's Little Helper

Hatt's Little Helper

Check, check. (Mr. Conductor from the Thomas stories travels from place to place using “gold magic dust.” Close enough.)

Thomas mania has hit our house.


Thomas love


It happened all of a sudden, without any warning whatsoever. One day, Ham wasn’t interested in anything on tracks; the next, he was downright obsessed with trains, especially with Thomas. It’s a mystery as to how this came to be, as we never watched the show. Ham had only seen part of a Thomas compilation DVD months before. At the time, he expressed no special interest. Did the Thomas virus just take this long to incubate? When Ham turned 2, was some sort of rails-loving, boy-child hardwiring activated?

No doubt about it, the wheel was invented by a male caveperson. I am astounded at how little boys can spend so much time rolling a toy car or train back and forth. And, of course, sooner or later that car or train must suddenly be seized with a suicidal or murderous urge and crash dramatically. Did the caveman who invented the wheel have his stone prototype roll into something? Did he, too, make that pkhow crashing sound?

Anyway, back to Thomas. I, for one, have always found Thomas and his crew totally creepy-looking. Those plaster-hued, pliable faces with the cheekbones and chins and haunted eyes…. I didn’t understand why kids loved them so much. When I tried watching that DVD with Ham, I was bored to tears. I was thankful back then that Ham wasn’t into the whole Thomas thing.

But now that he is and I’ve been forced to watch the show, read the books and familiarize myself with the characters, I am beginning to get it. And, after reading some of the books, I am even starting to appreciate their educational value. I like that the stories all teach ethical lessons that are not spelled out. Every character is flawed in some way, but what all the trains of Sodor (that’s where Thomas and his ilk live and work, for those who have not been Thomas-initiated) want most is to feel Really Useful, as the books say, and to please the jowly Sir Topham Hatt, their human boss. I can see how the premise strikes a primal chord in small children.

I am amazed at how quickly Ham mastered all the names and faces of the trains as well as their corresponding numbers. Nica, too, in an act of sibling solidarity, has memorized all the trains’ names and numbers, as well as the song. I have been slower to learn; the song especially confounds me.

So, I am surprised to have become somewhat of a Thomas fan myself. Even though I still find him a little creepy-lookin’.