Mattel takes a transformative route

Mattel, as any toymaker has numerous brands. From this summer’s 70-minute UK film Journey Beyond Sodor, to the brand’s foray into the infant toy space with Railway Pals, the last year has been a transformative one for Mattel’s Thomas & Friends brand.

Now, the 72-year-old brand is taking on a whole new course of action with an entirely new show format and licensing line designed to meet the needs of a more diverse, internet-savvy pre-school audience.

“We have an audience of kids that is growing up in a very different world than 70 years ago, and even 10 years ago, in terms of what they’re seeing both online and on television,” observed Christopher Keenan, SVP of global content and executive producer at Mattel Creations. “We wanted to make sure that we’re delivering content that’s going to really entertain them and maintain their interest and engagement.”

To better portray diversity in the show’s upcoming 26 x 11-minute 22nd season, entitled Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures, Mattel decided to have its titular character travel outside of Sodor for the first time to places like China, Australia, India, Brazil and Africa.

The new season, which will come out next fall on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu in the US, Discovery Kids (LatAm), Mexico (Televisa), ABC TV (Australia), NHK (Japan), SuperRTL (Germany) and Milkshake (UK), will have a brighter look with more vibrant colors to reflect the places the characters are visiting. (Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures made its world premiere this past weekend at MIP Junior in Cannes, France.)

Next summer’s 80-minute Meanwhile, Big World Big Adventures: The Movie will see Thomas meet new female engines Nia and Rebecca that will join Emily, Clara and Annabelle, bringing the overall cast closer to a 50-50 gender split.

Mattel’s licensing efforts will keep up with all of the on-screen changes. Key artwork for main products tied to next fall’s season will be brighter and more colorful and there will be new wooden and plastic play sets featuring the new places shown on screen as well as wood, plastic and die-cast trains.

New items will be available at major retailers like Target, Walmart and Amazon in fall 2018. However, some retailers will be sticking with the classic Thomas look, such as Pottery Barn, which just rolled out a child’s bedroom line including lamps, bedding, rugs and more with a vintage aesthetic

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