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January 20, 2010

Sleek 'Chuggington' locomotives on track for stardom in America

Posted on Wed Jan 20 2010


When it comes to animated kids' characters these days, you get one of two extremes: the cute and/or fuzzy sort (this is the Elmo and SpongeBob posse), and the kick-ass crew (Spider-Man, et al). Far be it from us to argue with what works, of course, but for kids hankering for heroes with a little more grit and realism, the time has finally come. Making their stateside debut on Playhouse Disney this Monday were Brewster, Koko and Wilson—three All-American friends who just happen to be diesel locomotives.
  Yeah, we know railroad engines have been done before. But Thomas the Tank Engine dates from 1946—and he's looking the part, what with that gray-rubber face on his boiler and all. By contrast, the three engines in the Chuggington series—created by London-based Ludorum and already a successful franchise in Canada, Japan and most of Western Europe—are thoroughly millennial motors.
  For one thing, there's diversity in this roundhouse. Koko is billed as "a strong lead female train … who isn't afraid to put her wheels to the rails." The moral messaging is credible, too. For instance, when Brewster arrogantly fills his hopper cars with more traprock than he can carry, he learns his lesson when his brakes fail. But best of all, the CGI-enhanced animation makes for a surprisingly realistic industrial landscape. All three characters are modeled after actual commercial locomotives (Wilson is an EMD F3-A diesel-electric unit) and follow railroading protocols right down to obeying the semaphore signals and using their sander valves to achieve better rail adhesion on steep ascending grades.
  Try that, Little Mermaid.

—Posted by Robert Klara


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