This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.
Network: Fox Family
Best For Ages: Under 2, 2-5
A combination of older THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE installments and new non-train-themed cartoons, STORYTIME WITH THOMAS offers a jarring combination of styles and stories. Both the new cartoons and the old train stories feature old-fashioned tales of friendship to amuse the youngest television viewers.
Educational Value: Most episodes feature a moral lesson accessible to very young children. Some history of railroads can be gleaned as well.
Entertainment Value: The familiar Thomas stories feature accessible train characters with a remarkable range of expressions on their simple faces. The characters in THE MAGICAL ADVENTURES OF MUMFIE lack the same range.
Frightening Situations: Trains become derailed and damaged in accidents. Animals get lost and scared when isolated.
Gender/Racial Issues: This is a boy's club; when they appear at all, the female characters are accessories in need of rescue or towing.
Questionable Behavior: Trains and cartoon animals behave like children, evading hard work, ignoring authority figures, and taunting one another.
Violence: Nasty large trains occasionally deliberately crash into one another.
Each episode of STORYTIME WITH THOMAS consists of two parts THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE, the classic animated train series made popular on SHINING TIME STATION, plus one part new cartoon by Britt Allcroft, the producer of THOMAS. Geared towards younger children than SHINING TIME STATION, STORYTIME WITH THOMAS appeals to the same young children who gobble up the videos, but they often become restless when the trains aren't onscreen.
THE MAGICAL ADVENTURES OF MUMFIE is a direct rip-off of WINNIE THE POOH, as magical elephant Mumfie and his friends Scarecrow and Pinky Pig (picture Wilbur from CHARLOTTE'S WEB with wings) have adventures in a clone of the Hundred-Acre Woods. Unfortunately these characters don't have the familiar charm of A.A. Milne's beloved animals, and there's seldom any connection between the Thomas stories and the cartoons interspersed with them.
Each show begins with a Thomas sing-along, some of which will be familiar to viewers from SHINING TIME STATION or the THOMAS videos. The train stories which follow have a familiar pattern in which one train gets into some kind of trouble, usually due to his own arrogance or impatience. Friendly trains and understanding human engineers always save the day, but the trains rarely learn lasting lessons, as they experience the same derailments and speed problems over and over.
A three-year-old train fanatic enjoyed the familiar Thomas installments, but got fidgety during the Mumfie cartoons - and a bit confused by one story involving a hot air balloon, a whale, and a king who had written for help but eventually came to Mumfie's rescue. Since the show is only half an hour, most children will watch attentively, even if the old-fashioned values don't enthrall them.
Children's Television Reviews