I consider it some kind of karmic punishment. I hated Thomas as a kid, probably only because my younger brother adored it. The old–school Thomas theme (before words and personalities and whatnot) carries with an unpleasant undertone of cranky sibling nostalgia. Even with that in mind, I’m still slightly suspicious of the Thomas and Friends revamp. With words in the theme song, and trains that have animated faces and each their own individual voices.
And, because I am old, I just really miss Ringo Starr.
Whatever. TV show and merchandise being mostly unrelated, anyway, I held no preconceived grudges against the Fisher Price Thomas Speed n Steam that was delivered to the TinyTrainHouse last weekend. And I’m grateful for that. Because when I say this is the coolest toy I have ever seen in my whole life, you might believe me.
And I mean that- really. This Thomas is truly awesome– everything you hated about remote controlled toys for little ones, Fisher Price has already thought of. And they’ve fixed it.
There’s no annoying, thin metal antennae to snap, bend and render the toy useless. Secondly, the controls are so, so simple. The green arrow goes forward. The blue button changes ’modes’, but only requires one press on it to make Thomas get all piston–happy and shoot off across the floor. The yellow arrow is, technically, ’reverse’– but not. The most frustrating thing for a three year old is attempting to manipulate an RC toy when the concept of a three point turn is many teenaged years away from them. So Thomas doesn’t just reverse, he also spins himself around, so he’s facing back the way he came from. Or any other other direction you like, really– he just keeps doing 360′s until you take your finger off the button.
So ridiculously simple. So damn ingenious.
Thomas Steam n Speed also, as his implies, blows real steam– but cool steam, not hot steam–from his smoke stack. Say what you will about children and imagination and so forth, I do, even from my fantastic plastic standpoint over here, totally get what you’re saying. But the reason Thomas is so very cool is that he’s a steam train. And, unless you happen to live in the TinyTrainTown, you just don’t see them all that often. Filling up his tiny water tank seems to last a very long time, even with only ten ml’s of water in it; and is super easy thanks to the little plastic dropper provided which actually tucks into a compartment underneath Thomas, so it won’t get lost in that draw of batteries, phone cords, paper clips, pens and other junk that I know you have somewhere at home. Because everyone has one. I call it the Basket of Doom. Speaking of, Thomas takes four AA batteries… consider yourself forewarned, and therefore forearmed.
Anyway. The Thomas Speed n Steam is, completely honestly, one of the most awesome battery–powered toys for little kids that I’ve monopolised away from my children. And, of course, the Chop and the Bump love it, too– I can tell by the way they are prepared to fight one another to the death for possession of the remote control.
So this one gets an extraordinary five out five jellybeans on the RRSAHM Ranking Stuff Scale. Well done, Thomas, well done. Cinders and ashes, indeed.