Sometimes you see a tweet and you wonder, was this an April Fools’ Joke that came too late? Surely, this can’t be real.
That’s what I thought when I saw a tweet from Hot Wheels showing off the new Thomas the Tank for its 75th anniversary. My first thoughts went into that old man mentality of – you screwed up my childhood! – to my design side, this is just overly designed. And why so many super chargers on a train? Is it actually a train? It doesn’t have the wheels to ride a rail. Part of the HW Metro Mini Collection, which, one: is a pretty rad set, harking back to the Hot Wheels of the 80s and early 90s, and two: left me wondering…why?
This goes back to that age-old phrase – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Fisher-Price, who manufactures the majority of Thomas the Tank toys, is a subsidiary of Mattel, who owns Hot Wheels. So after that corporate breadcrumb trail, you start to see why they did this. The fact is, this isn’t the definitive Thomas the Tank. Nor do I think this is the route they’re taking with this little guy.
It’s a giant corporation, with many different demographics. What works for Fisher-Price, doesn’t work for Hot Wheels. They’re reworking the design to meet the demographic of that product line. I’m sure Mattel has years of Analytical data on what works and what could work. It’s also opening up that franchise, to a whole new demographic that may not know of its existence. Broadening the brand. It’s similar to what Burger King did with its moldy whopper campaign. Almost like shock marketing, you make Thomas so radically different, blogs and news outlets will do the marketing for you.
I think in the end, we let nostalgia and our childhood, dictate what we think is right or wrong. Even if we understand why they did it. We give it that side eye, that disapproving head shake. But Thomas the Tank is a wonderful children’s show, one that actually got me interested in trains, dioramas and model kits.
While the change is jarring, it’s a wonderful outlet to get people interested in this product. I believe Thomas the Tank is a gateway to creativity and any way to get that out to a demographic, that normally wouldn’t be interested, is awesome in my eyes.