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How Thomas & Friends is steaming into its 75th anniversary

Source takes a look at just some of the activity which is taking place across the year.

Having begun as a collection of stories in 1945 – The Railway Series – written by Reverend W Awdry to entertain his son, Thomas & Friends is now entering its 75th year of entertaining preschoolers globally. Despite taking 12 years for the first consumer products to launch in 1957, Thomas is now one of the biggest brands in preschool.

Helen Genia, senior manager consumer products at Mattel, explains: “Publishing is really at the heart of this brand, so we are delighted to be working with Egmont to publish the perfect book that features the complete collection of all 26 short stories from the famous original railway series in one stunning volume.” This will be accompanied by a full programme of book releases throughout 2020.

In April, Mattel will launch a partnership with Harrods to celebrate the heritage of Thomas & Friends with several activations in-store along with limited branded merchandise. Also in the retail sphere is a global DTR deal with H&M to produce a range of children’s apparel and accessories, and the successful partnership with M&S will continue into 2020.

Publishing is at the heart of the Thomas & Friends brand.
Publishing is at the heart of the Thomas & Friends brand.

Later in the year, model railroad manufacturers Bachmann will work with Thomas & Friends on a two-year licensing deal. The company’s traditional electric trains will create a realistic recreation of the property through HO (1:87) scale products in the UK and Ireland.

Mattel itself has strong plans to mark the milestone. Helen continues: “New product including engines and play-sets will be introduced across the range, with fun limited-edition items to celebrate the birthday all supported with great product from our licensing partners.”

Key to the longevity of the Thomas brand is Mattel’s commitment to build on its preschool heritage. The core values are as relevant today as when Awdry wrote the first book, and as the brand evolves, these are reflected in everything it does.

Meanwhile the property is kept fresh, as Helen explains: “The brand and content saw a ground-breaking refresh in 2018 to encourage children to discover the world around them. Introducing new locations, characters, a gender balanced Steam Team with a 4:3 boy to girl ration from the previously 6:1, new theme tune and humour through the format and narrator.”

This is also how Mattel will continue to keep the Thomas brand relevant. Helen concludes: “2020 will continue to pave the way for the next generation, with break frame moments that spotlight Thomas as the beloved British heritage brands that embraces modernisation as the world continues to change.”

This feature originally appeared in the spring 2020 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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