Who Inspired That Cartoon?

We know our kids’ favorite cartoon or storybook characters. We can list their names, tell their jokes, possibly even remember what they are usually wearing. But, do we know what inspired these lovable characters? Some of us might assume that the illustrated object of our child’s affection was created in a darkened computer studio somewhere in Hollywood, where children are simply test subjects and demographics. This might be the case for some children’s media, but a little research shows that many of today most loved characters were created for or inspired by real boys and girls just like our own.

Some examples:

Olivia the Pig- This rambunctious piglet makes mischief and fun everywhere she goes. Her creator, Ian Falconer, created the character as a gift for his brand new baby niece. The book was eventually picked up by a publishing house that had been impressed by Falconer’s work with The New Yorker. Today, Olivia is the star of various picture books, board books and gifts. Olivia toys can be purchased at many toy stores across the nation and she has her own animated television show on Nick Jr.!

Charlie and Lola- This is yet another television show adapted from popular children’s picture books. The characters are Charlie and his younger sister, Lola. Much of the stories surround the duo’s relationship and the everyday scenarios that most brothers and sisters encounter. The author, Lauren Child, was inspired to create the series of books after meeting a young, inquisitive stranger on a train in Denmark!

Thomas the Train- Although not based on an actual child, this very popular character comes from a series of train stories told, originally, from father to son at bedtime. Those stories—published as The Railway Series books—were developed into a British television show that eventually made its way through various adaptations and into the Thomas and Friends series that we all know and love.


It appears that inspiration is all around us! It might only be a matter of time until your lovable child becomes the next star of his own television series!

Thomas: From Supporting Role to Star!

Thomas the Train may be a star in the hearts and minds of young people around the world, but Thomas has not always been in the spotlight. In fact, it took Thomas almost fifty years to reach star status!

In the minds of many parents today, Thomas began as a character in the 90’s television show Shining Time Station. In this live action show, we follow the lives of the people who work at and travel through a small train station somewhere along the fictional Indian Valley Railroad. In this station, children are regularly entertained by a small, magical man named Mr. Conductor. During every episode, Mr. Conductor tells them stories about a very special train—Thomas—and his friends on the Island of Sodor. Through these stories, Shining Time Station made Thomas a star. But, Thomas was created long before this memorable television show.

Those who know Thomas’s whole story know that he was a storybook character long before he appeared on television. He was one of many trains introduced to the world through the books in The Railway Series, a collection of stories written in the middle of the 20th Century by a father, for his son. After being told word-of-mouth from father to son, these stories were written down, illustrated, and first published in 1945. But, not only was Thomas not the star of these stories, but he didn’t even appear in the first book! It’s clear, though, that Thomas has proven himself as the stand-out character. He has gone from supporting role to star!

The Railway Series paved the way for the British television show Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, which spawned Shining Time Station. After that, Thomas took off as the star of spin-off Thomas & Friends  movies, books, and toys. He is now a star in his own right and is recognized by young children from coast to coast, perhaps even worldwide.

Mattel Includes Thomas the Train on List of Hot Holiday Toys

Thomas and Friends Trackmaster Zip, Zoom and Logging Adventure.

Thomas and Friends Trackmaster Zip, Zoom and Logging Adventure.

With the holiday season coming up soon, Mattel recently shared their picks for Hot Holiday Toys. Among several great gift ideas on Mattel’s “must-have” list of licensed toys, they included the Thomas and Friends Trackmaster Zip, Zoom and Logging Adventure.

Whether you’re new to Thomas the Train or a long time passenger, the Trackmaster is a perfect holiday gift. Kids can relive Thomas’ most thrilling moments from the “Misty Island Rescue” movie and create new adventures on Misty Island.

We invite you to explore more holiday gifts at our official Thomas the Train shop on Ty’s Toy Box. And make sure to sign up for our newsletter so you can get more holiday toy specials delivered right to your email inbox.

What’s On Your List?

We’d like to know what toys are on your children’s wish list this year? Post your favorites in the comments below!