Entertainment

Prince Harry records message for Thomas the Tank Engine special

Prince Harry has recorded a special message to celebrate the 75th anniversary of children's favourite Thomas the Tank Engine, introducing a new program that has a storyline featuring his father and grandmother, Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II, as characters.

Harry recalls 'fond memories of growing up with Thomas and Friends and being transported to new places'

Prince Harry is seen in January recording his introduction for the new animated special Thomas & Friends: The Royal Engine. Set when Harry's father, Prince Charles, was a boy, the program involves Thomas being tasked with taking railway controller Sir Topham Hatt to Buckingham Palace to receive an honour. (Dave Poultney/Mattel/Associated Press)

Prince Harry has recorded a special message to celebrate the 75th anniversary of children's favourite Thomas the Tank Engine.

The Duke of Sussex introduces a new program called Thomas and Friends: The Royal Engine, which has a storyline that includes Harry's father and grandmother, Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II, as animated characters.

Set when the Prince of Wales was a boy, the story sees the friendly engine taking Sir Topham Hatt, the controller of the railway, to Buckingham Palace to receive an honour.

In his introduction — which was recorded in January before his move overseas — Prince Harry is seen sitting in an armchair, reading from a book about the train's adventures.

In a statement he said he has "fond memories of growing up with Thomas and Friends and being transported to new places through his adventures."

Thomas "has been a comforting, familiar face to so many families over the last 75 years — entertaining, educating and inspiring children on important issues through exciting stories and characters," he added.

Prince Harry is seen in September 1987 carrying a Thomas The Tank Engine bag while leaving from his first day at kindergarten in London. (Martin Cleaver/Associated Press)

In January, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, announced they planned to quit as senior royals, seek financial independence and move to North America. The split became official at the end of March, and the couple are currently in California, where Meghan was raised.

Proof of Prince Harry's attachment to the engine can also be seen in photos of his first day attending nursery in September 1987, where he is seen carrying a Thomas the Tank Engine bag.

Longrunning franchise began with book series

The Rev. Wilbert Awdry released the first book in The Railway Series 75 years ago. It was originally created as a bedtime story for his son, Christopher, during a bout of the measles.

The plucky blue tank engine doesn't appear in the debut story. He got his own illustrated book in 1946 called Thomas the Tank Engine and swiftly took over from Edward, Gordon and Henry as everyone's favourite.

A scene from Thomas & Friends: The Royal Engine shows Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles as a boy alongside Sir Topham Hatt and Thomas the Tank Engine. (Mattel/Associated Press)

The train tales were turned into a children's series in the '80s, morphing into CGI in 2009. Thomas and Friends, owned by Mattel, is now on air in over 160 countries worldwide.

British actress Rosamund Pike is also onboard Thomas and Friends: The Royal Engine, voicing a new character, an important train called the Duchess of Loughborough.

The show will be aired by Netflix in the U.S. on May 1 and on Channel 5's Milkshake show in the U.K. the following day. It will also be broadcast in Canada and Australia later in the month. 

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