Thomas the Tank Engine producer insists new foreign engines not down to political correctness
The producer of a new Thomas the Tank Engine film that features a host of new foreign characters has rejected claims that filmmakers had bowed to political correctness by introducing the multicultural cast.
The Great Race, which will be released next month, features thirteen new international engines, including Yong Bao, a red engine from China, Ivan of Russia, and Ashima, a hand-painted engine from the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, in Southern India. The new characters will represent their countries, alongside Britain’s entrant, the Flying Scotsman, in a train race.
Critics have claimed that the decision to augment the Reverend Wilbert Awdry’s 1940s tales with a host of new international characters was borne of a politically correct desire to import cultural diversity to the fictional island of Sodor.
But Ian McCue insisted that that was not the case. He told the Telegraph: “That wasn’t the intention. The intention was to create this big global racing event and make it feel real. I’m a little bit shocked about the strong views people have articulated about things they haven’t seen yet. There are clearly some upset people.”
Mr McCue said filmmakers hoped that including the international characters would help children learn about the world. He said: “I would hope it will get youngsters asking about foreign countries.”
He insisted that the new characters would only feature in a single film, adding: “These engines won’t be appearing in future episodes. They’re just here for this story.”
The stories have previously been criticised as sexist, due to the fact that only one of the original engines – Daisy – is female, and Mr McCue said that producers had tried to redress the balance with a new female main character, Ashima, voiced by Bollywood actress Tina Desai.
He said: “We’ve had a lot of flak in the past about not having enough female representation. But we’ve been trying to bring in more female engines, and now the main new character is female.”