Mega Brands Inc. said Wednesday it has inked a deal to develop products based on Thomas the Tank Engine characters in the hope of jump-starting the ailing toymaker's own profit train.

Montreal-based Mega Brands, which makes plastic building blocks for kids, signed a multi-year licensing agreement with London-based HIT, which owns the rights to the popular animated engine.

The pact will allow Mega Brands, which competes with the iconic Lego brand blocks for market share, to develop construction models using Thomas and all his buddies who inhabit the make-believe island of Sodor.

The Thomas the Tank Engine show became famous with ex-Beatle Ringo Starr as the engine's first voice and will help Mega Brands boost its tiny-tot business, the Canadian company said.

"We're excited … to have this wonderful opportunity to … build on the immense worldwide popularity of Thomas and Friends to grow our preschool portfolio," said Vic Bertrand, Mega Brands' chief innovation officer.


Three-month stock chart for Mega Brands Inc.

The move is also designed to help Mega Brands get back on track after getting pounded financially in recent quarters.

In the first three months of fiscal 2009, Mega Brands lost $25.9 million on $43.5 million in revenue. Quarterly sales dropped $36 million from the same quarter a year earlier.