It seems no childhood franchise is safe from being re-imagined (and, more often than not, ruined) for the movies. Today comes news from The Hollywood Reporter that a Thomas the Tank Engine movie will be arriving in theaters sometime in spring 2011.

This won’t be the Thomas you grew up with on PBS. The hokey yet cool, old-school wooden models are being thrown out in favor of – you guessed it- CGI and live actors. And not just the look is changing; In advance of the movie, a new animated series will be coming to TV next year that gives a voice to Thomas, Toby, James, and the rest of the traditionally silent train gang. Chances are the feature film will do the same.

Though the prospect of a darker, gritty, more industrial Thomas has appeal, think Thomas the Tank on The Road. You know, the post-apocalyptic aesthetic 😉

HIT Entertainment, which owns the “Thomas & Friends” world, hired Josh Klausner to write the screenplay. Klausner penned Shrek the Third and the upcoming Shrek Forever After. So, expect dialogue that panders to the under-five set with a few titter-worthy double entendres every now and then to keep the adults from killing themselves. And who knows, maybe the trains will sing and dance too…

Or not.

Thomas is the world’s most popular preschool property, so this retool won’t mess with the brand’s key components: “positive values, timeless lessons and rich train history,” according to Julia Pistor, the head of HIT Movies. (Rich train history? These are anthropomorphic, talking trains. What alternative history is this woman talking about?) Still, HIT hopes Klausner translates the movie into a “thrilling, big, modern adventure movie,” and honestly, this thing has legs. Thomas has been running the rails since the 1940’s, and with gas prices the way they are, trains may have a second coming.

Besides, little boys like big machines, and Thomas has attracted a few big names in the past: Ringo Starr, George Carlin, Alec Baldwin, and Pierce Brosnan all narrated or appeared in the television series. So far, no actors are attached, but I wouldn’t be surprised seeing some famous family guy, like, say, Brad Pitt, donning a tux to play Sir Topham Hatt.

What do you make of this?

Source: THR