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  1. ITV Report

Thomas the Tank Engine to be more ethnically diverse with 14 new characters

Thomas and his new friend Ashima. Credit: Universal

Thomas the Tank Engine will soon have 14 new friends as the famous TV series attempts to diversify its cast.

Mattel, the show's owners, has announced that Thomas will be joined in the sleepy railway town of Sodor by:

  • "Feisty, strong and agile" Raul from Brazil
Raul the feisty Brazilian. Credit: Universal
  • Indian train Ashima
Ashima, the 'happy to help' Indian train. Credit: Universal
  • Yong Bao of China
Yong Bao. Credit: Universal

Yet, not everyone is celebrating the news.

Tracy Van Slyke, a researcher in social justice and pop culture, told the Telegraph that she was concerned about the execution of multiculturalism in the show.

"There is a danger in reducing very complex countries and peoples to singular characteristics," she said.

"If the trains are only defined by cultural stereotypes, the result will be a calculated, and destructive, nod to diversity and inclusivity."

Mattel has been looking to expand the reach of the programme since it purchased its rights in 2012.

The new characters will make their debut in a new film, The Great Race, which will be released in the UK in May.

The character of Thomas was created in 1946 by Reverend Wilbert Audry, and these additional characters mark a significant change in the 70-year-old franchise.