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The Design Studio Behind One Of The Creepiest, Most Popular Kids’ Toys

We visit the lab that has helped turn (the very weird) Thomas the Tank Engine into a multimillion-dollar franchise.

The Design Studio Behind One Of The Creepiest, Most Popular Kids’ Toys

Thomas the Tank Engine debuted in 1946, in a children’s book written by Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son. Seventy years later, Thomas is a huge business. Acquired by Mattel in 2011 as part of a $680 million deal, the Thomas brand generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually, licensed across hundreds of new toys and products built every year.

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Thomas is also very weird. He’s a train with a face. No arms. No legs. But a face.

And toddlers love him.

Here, we go inside the design studio where the creepy magic is made.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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