Kids shows often have dirty secrets lurking just beneath the surface. Some illustrators pen shocking images into background shots, or sneak adult humor into lines of dialogue. Sometimes, though, the plots them selves are surprisingly dark and no one seems to notice, like this episode of Thomas & Friends. It will keep you up at night.
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Anyone who has watched Thomas the Tank Engine knows kids dig it. Young kids. Adults are less thrilled by the prospect of Thomas marathons, but the shows have plot, so it isn’t as bad as some of the other options kids could chose. And the slow pace of the shows can be oddly hypnotic. Maybe that’s why we don’t notice the abject horror.
This episode, called The Sad Story of Henry, features the big green engine, Henry. He’s a proud engine and doesn’t want to get his new paint job wet in the rain. So he parks himself in a tunnel and refuses to come out.
Even after the downpour stops, Henry is reticent. In his vanity, he stays put. Sir Topham Hatt (going by his nickname The Fat Director) orders people to push him out. He even orders Thomas to push. But Henry won’t budge.
Sir Topham Hatt then takes a pages from Edger Allen Poe’s book and simply walls Henry up. In his anger, he has a crew pull up the tracks, and brick Henry into the tunnel. Alive.
The Sad Story of Henry is indeed sad. It doesn’t help that the episode is being narrated by Ringo Starr. “I think he deserved his punishment, don’t you?”
If you’ve been sucked into Thomas’s world, the Island of Sodor may seem like a safe enough place. Yet there’s still a hierarchy of man and machine. Sir Topham Hatt runs the island with a firm hand, and knows how to put an engine in its place. Forever.
It is a useful lesson for kids, though, and something many of us who have had to sit through hours of anthropomorphic talking trains have wished we could do with our own little engines.