Just about everyone is familiar with Thomas the Tank Engine and his fellow anthropomorphic trains that hale from the fantasy world of Sodor. So it's understandable if word that a new movie based on the character(s) is being developed at first causes you to roll your eyes and complain about Hollywood plundering yet another one of your cherished childhood memories for profit.
However, here's where things get interesting: filmmaker Shane Acker has signed on to direct the project, which will be a live-action feature that includes creative input from the minds over at WETA Workshop - who were also responsible for the incredible-looking CGI effects in this summer's Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
For those not familiar with Acker: He began to earn a name for himself when he turned his acclaimed animated short student film, 9, into a full-length feature back in 2009. While that visually-stylish effort failed to make a huge dent at the box office, it did establish Acker as an animation talent to be reckoned with - and now, has paved the way for him to portray one of Mattel Entertainment's most kid-friendly creations in a (odd though it may sound) more stylized fashion.
Acker certainly seems like an odd candidate to helm a Thomas the Tank Engine movie - especially when you consider that his previous film was about homunculi made out of burlap bags and a post-apocalyptic world where soul-sucking machines dominate the ruined landscape. However, he has assured Deadline that his new project will definitely be more of a kid-friendly undertaking.
Here's how Acker described it, followed by an official teaser image for the film:
"... The tale will revolve around a pre-teen boy who has drifted apart from his father. The son is introduced into this world of Sodor, a place his father visited as a child but can't remember. There is a bonding experience."
With Acker calling the shots and WETA working on the production design, there's no reason to doubt that this Thomas the Tank Engine movie won't be a visually-pleasing interpretation of the character and his world. Obviously this was always going to be a kids-first project, but the storyline Acker has in mind sounds like it'll actually offer appeal for those beyond their pre-school years.
It's just too bad the screenwriting team working on the film - writing duo Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi (Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Tale of Despereaux) and Shrek the Third scripter Josh Klausner - seem like a mixed bag of talents when it comes to crafting decent family-friendly fare.
We'll keep an eye on this Thomas the Tank Engine movie as more information is released.