For 30 years, Thomas the Tank Engine has been a classic childhood favourite. Mattel, the company behind the brand, is looking to find a gender balance by bringing female characters to the forefront in 2018. Meet Thomas the Tank Engine’s new female characters, Nia and Rebecca:
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Two new female characters will join Thomas & Friends in the fully overhauled new season, in an effort to revamp Thomas’ stodgy image, boost viewing figures and compete in a saturated toy marketplace.
New trains Nia and Rebecca will appear in each episode, alongside the current sole female Emily, and help balance the genders in the Sodor train shed. Edward and Henry will move out of the shed to make room for the new female trains, but will still appear in the show occasionally.
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Meet Nia and Rebecca
Nia is an engine from Kenya, who will make her debut in the movie “Big World! Big Adventures!”, before joining the series. Based on the East African Railways’ ED1 class, Nia is mainly orange with a colourful African-inspired stripe.
Rebecca, a yellow train, comes from the mainland near Thomas’ fictional island of Sodor and is based on the Southern Railway West Country 4-6-2 Pacific engine.
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Why Are Mattel Adding New Characters?
Viewership of Thomas & Friends is equally split between girls and boys, according to Mattel, although girls are more likely to watch regularly each week. However, branding hasn’t catered to girls at all.
Mattel plan to incorporate girls within the packaging and advertising campaigns for Thomas & Friends. A new range of clothing, bed linen and accessories will be developed to appeal to a wider market, while Nia toys will hit the market in 2018 and Rebecca toys in 2019.
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What Else Will Change?
In addition to the arrival of Nia and Rebecca, next year will also see Thomas & Friends travelling for the first time. China, India and Australia are amongst those destinations which will feature when Thomas spends half of the 26 episodes outside Sodor.
Further changes in 2018 include Thomas’ voice replacing the narrator, a new theme song, faster animation, and more humour.
Do you think there is a need for Thomas the Tank Engine’s new female characters?