Australian Council on Children and the Media

Thomas and Friends: The Great Discovery

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Short takes

Recommended for children under 8; Lacks interest for older viewers.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Thomas and Friends: The Great Discovery
  • a review of Thomas and Friends: The Great Discovery completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 8 November 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Recommended
Children over 8 May lack interest for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Thomas and Friends: The Great Discovery
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: None
Length 60 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Island of Sodor is preparing for the celebration of Sodor Day Holiday. We see Thomas and James engaged in a race to the wharfs, which Thomas wins. As a reward, Thomas is given the special job of going into the hills to collect timber with Duncan. Duncan decides to play a trick on Thomas by sending him on a wild goose chase by telling him that an old disused line will get him back to the wharf quicker. Thomas follows Duncan’s directions and finds a deserted overgrown town. Thomas takes the Fat Controller to the abandoned town, and the Fat Controller tells Thomas that it is the long lost town of Great Waterton, which used to supply all of Sodor’s steam trains with water. The Fat Controller decides that the restoration of Great Waterton would be a perfect way to celebrate Sodor Day, and Thomas is placed in charge of the trains working on the restoration.
While Thomas is busy rebuilding Great Waterton, a shiny new tank engine named Stanley, who is just a little bit bigger than Thomas arrives on the Island of Sodor, and takes over all of Thomas’s regular duties. When Thomas sees that all the other engines like Stanley, a happy-go-lucky engine, who does his job well, he feels threatened and jealous of Stanley. When his plot to show Stanley up in front of the other engines goes badly wrong, Thomas is forced to work even harder to have everything ready for the Sodor Day celebrations.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Friendships; jealousy; forgiveness

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

None of concern

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

The Great Discovery contains a few scenes depicting physical peril that may disturb some pre-school viewers. For example:

  • Thomas is tricked into travelling across an old dilapidated suspension bridge that sways, makes cracking sounds and crumbles as Thomas travels across it. While Thomas is in the middle of the bridge, it collapses falling into the ravine below and Thomas just manages to make it back to safety.
  • When Thomas tries to outdo Stanley, he takes a bend in the track too fast and rolls off the track; Thomas is uninjured.
  • While trying to retrieve a truck, Thomas races out of control down a mining shaft as if on a wild roller coaster ride to crash through a wall and land on a wooden platform that then goes floating down an underground river. Thomas picks up speed going faster and faster until he crashes through a wall to go flying over a ravine and become stuck in the mud on the other side.
  • Stanley bursts a valve while trying to help Thomas. 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Nothing of concern

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Nothing of concern

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

Almost the entire Thomas the Tank Engine range of toys were depicted in this film.

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

Thomas and Friends: The Great Discovery is an animated children’s film that uses model trains and vehicles to represent real life personalities and situations. The film targets preschool aged children and the narration makes it easy for younger children to relate to both the story and its characters. However, the film runs for 60 minutes, which some preschoolers and younger children may find a little too long to maintain their interest. It is being shown at selected cinemas and then available on DVD.
The main messages from this movie are that:

  • friendship is important
  • working co-operatively with others is better than trying to be the best and being jealous of others.
  • it is important to feel useful

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • working cooperatively
  • making amends

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as

  • Thomas feels excluded when Stanley arrives on the Island and becomes threatened and jealous of Stanley. Parents could discuss times when their child/children felt left out or threatened by someone. Could Thomas have reacted to Stanley’s arrival differently so that he wouldn’t have felt excluded or jealous?
  • how Thomas thought about his mistakes and how he attempted to fix them.

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