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Thomas & Friends at 75: The best celebrity guests

The beloved children’s show is celebrating a major milestone.

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Rosamund Pike is one of the famous faces to have lent her voice talents to Thomas and Friends (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Rosamund Pike is one of the famous faces to have lent her voice talents to Thomas and Friends (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Rosamund Pike is one of the famous faces to have lent her voice talents to Thomas and Friends (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Thomas The Tank Engine is 75.

The beloved anthropomorphic steam engine, a favourite of generations of children, first appeared in the Reverend Wilbert Awdry’s The Railway Series books, originally published in 1945.

The TV adaption arrived in 1984 and proved a hit with viewers, with the colourful cast of characters – including engines Thomas and Percy, as well as railway overseer the Fat Controller – captivating young audiences.

Thomas & Friends celebrates its 75th anniversary on Tuesday and to mark the occasion here are some of the show’s best celebrity guests:

Ringo Starr

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Ringo Starr (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Ringo Starr (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Ringo Starr (Mattel, Inc/PA)

The former Beatle lent his distinctive Scouse brogue to the show as narrator, voicing the first two series in the UK from 1984 to 1986.

Starr also voiced Mr Conductor in Shining Time Station.

He left to focus on his music career and was replaced as narrator in the UK by Michael Angelis and George Carlin in the US.

Pierce Brosnan

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Pierce Brosnan (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Pierce Brosnan (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Pierce Brosnan (Mattel, Inc/PA)

James Bond star Brosnan traded his licence to kill for a more sedate role as narrator of 2008 film Thomas & Friends: The Great Discovery.

Speaking at the time, the actor said he was “thrilled by the opportunity to be the narrator for this beloved series.”

Hugh Bonneville 

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(embargoed 00.01am 12th May 2017) Actor Hugh Bonneville pictured in the sound booth recording the voice of the engine Merlin who he stars as in the new movie “Thomas and Friends: Journey Beyond Sodor”. The 70-minute movie is the twelfth to be released by the world-famous children’s franchise and will be screened in over 70 countries worldwide from this summer, including in cinemas in the UK from 25th August. The release of the images and trailer today also coincides with the 72nd anniversary of the first ever “Thomas the Tank Engine” book, “The Three Railway Bridges” , which was written by the Reverend W. Awdry and published on 12th May 1945. Thomas the Tank Engine was created by the Rev W Awdry, as a storybook for his son. That story quickly grew to become the award-winning global brand franchise it is today, enjoyed by families in more than 150 territories and in over 40 languages across multiple touch-points and formats, including: 400+ original TV shows; 11 feature-length films; 14 websites in nine languages; apps; toys (ranked number one property in the pre-school toys category in the UK and Australia and number two in the US); consumer products; publishing; live attractions and much more. Photo: HIT Entertainment/MattelPR handout image – no fee requiredMark Collins PR: 44 (0)2072052700 / markc@markcollinspr.com

(embargoed 00.01am 12th May 2017) Actor Hugh Bonneville pictured in the sound booth recording the voice of the engine Merlin who he stars as in the new movie “Thomas and Friends: Journey Beyond Sodor”. The 70-minute movie is the twelfth to be released by the world-famous children’s franchise and will be screened in over 70 countries worldwide from this summer, including in cinemas in the UK from 25th August. The release of the images and trailer today also coincides with the 72nd anniversary of the first ever “Thomas the Tank Engine” book, “The Three Railway Bridges” , which was written by the Reverend W. Awdry and published on 12th May 1945. Thomas the Tank Engine was created by the Rev W Awdry, as a storybook for his son. That story quickly grew to become the award-winning global brand franchise it is today, enjoyed by families in more than 150 territories and in over 40 languages across multiple touch-points and formats, including: 400+ original TV shows; 11 feature-length films; 14 websites in nine languages; apps; toys (ranked number one property in the pre-school toys category in the UK and Australia and number two in the US); consumer products; publishing; live attractions and much more. Photo: HIT Entertainment/MattelPR handout image – no fee requiredMark Collins PR: 44 (0)2072052700 / markc@markcollinspr.com

(embargoed 00.01am 12th May 2017) Actor Hugh Bonneville pictured in the sound booth recording the voice of the engine Merlin who he stars as in the new movie “Thomas and Friends: Journey Beyond Sodor”. The 70-minute movie is the twelfth to be released by the world-famous children’s franchise and will be screened in over 70 countries worldwide from this summer, including in cinemas in the UK from 25th August. The release of the images and trailer today also coincides with the 72nd anniversary of the first ever “Thomas the Tank Engine” book, “The Three Railway Bridges” , which was written by the Reverend W. Awdry and published on 12th May 1945. Thomas the Tank Engine was created by the Rev W Awdry, as a storybook for his son. That story quickly grew to become the award-winning global brand franchise it is today, enjoyed by families in more than 150 territories and in over 40 languages across multiple touch-points and formats, including: 400+ original TV shows; 11 feature-length films; 14 websites in nine languages; apps; toys (ranked number one property in the pre-school toys category in the UK and Australia and number two in the US); consumer products; publishing; live attractions and much more. Photo: HIT Entertainment/MattelPR handout image – no fee requiredMark Collins PR: 44 (0)2072052700 / markc@markcollinspr.com

The Downton Abbey star voiced Merlin in 2017’s Thomas & Friends: Journey Beyond Sodor.

Merlin is a ‘stealth engine’ who believes he has the power to make himself invisible.

Bonneville described the character as “rather enchanting”.

Alec Baldwin

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Alec Baldwin (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Alec Baldwin (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Alec Baldwin (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Baldwin, known for his roles in Glengarry Glen Ross and The Hunt for Red October, replaced Carlin as narrator in 1998, taking the controls for the fifth and six series in the US.

He also starred as Mr Conductor in 2000’s Thomas And The Magic Railroad.

Peter Fonda was another star who lent his voice to the movie.

Sir John Hurt

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Sir John Hurt (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Sir John Hurt (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Sir John Hurt (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Sir John boasted what was perhaps the most distinctive voice in British acting, so it was no surprise he was a hit on Thomas & Friends.

He voiced greedy pirate Sailor John in 2015 film Sodor’s Legend Of The Lost Treasure.

And he was not the only sprinkling of Hollywood stardust in the movie – Olivia Colman and Eddie Redmayne also featured.

Rosamund Pike and the Duke of Sussex

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Image shows Harry, The Duke of Sussex photographed in January this year during the recording of his on-camera introduction to the new animated special “Thomas and Friends: The Royal Engine”. The 22-minute episode features Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales as a child and has been produced as part of Thomas and Friends’ 75th anniversary celebrations this year. The special will be screened in the US on Netflix on 01 May and in the UK on Channel 5 Milkshake! at 09:05am on 02 May before it is then aired in other countries this year. The Royal Engine will see Thomas the Tank Engine travel to London for the first time and introduces a new character, Duchess of Loughborough, who is voiced by actress Rosamund Pike. Global plans for the Thomas and Friends 75th anniversary include more storytelling touchpoints than ever before with new specials and episodes, exclusive YouTube content, a birthday music album, podcasts for kids in the form of audio stories and all-new book titles along with exciting new partnerships where Thomas and Friends will show up in unexpected places. Press contact for story: Mark Collins, MCPR, +44 07974215334 / markc@markcollinspr.comCredit: image use must be accompanied with a tune-in credit for the TV show with screening date and time

Image shows Harry, The Duke of Sussex photographed in January this year during the recording of his on-camera introduction to the new animated special “Thomas and Friends: The Royal Engine”. The 22-minute episode features Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales as a child and has been produced as part of Thomas and Friends’ 75th anniversary celebrations this year. The special will be screened in the US on Netflix on 01 May and in the UK on Channel 5 Milkshake! at 09:05am on 02 May before it is then aired in other countries this year. The Royal Engine will see Thomas the Tank Engine travel to London for the first time and introduces a new character, Duchess of Loughborough, who is voiced by actress Rosamund Pike. Global plans for the Thomas and Friends 75th anniversary include more storytelling touchpoints than ever before with new specials and episodes, exclusive YouTube content, a birthday music album, podcasts for kids in the form of audio stories and all-new book titles along with exciting new partnerships where Thomas and Friends will show up in unexpected places. Press contact for story: Mark Collins, MCPR, +44 07974215334 / markc@markcollinspr.comCredit: image use must be accompanied with a tune-in credit for the TV show with screening date and time

Image shows Harry, The Duke of Sussex photographed in January this year during the recording of his on-camera introduction to the new animated special “Thomas and Friends: The Royal Engine”. The 22-minute episode features Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales as a child and has been produced as part of Thomas and Friends’ 75th anniversary celebrations this year. The special will be screened in the US on Netflix on 01 May and in the UK on Channel 5 Milkshake! at 09:05am on 02 May before it is then aired in other countries this year. The Royal Engine will see Thomas the Tank Engine travel to London for the first time and introduces a new character, Duchess of Loughborough, who is voiced by actress Rosamund Pike. Global plans for the Thomas and Friends 75th anniversary include more storytelling touchpoints than ever before with new specials and episodes, exclusive YouTube content, a birthday music album, podcasts for kids in the form of audio stories and all-new book titles along with exciting new partnerships where Thomas and Friends will show up in unexpected places. Press contact for story: Mark Collins, MCPR, +44 07974215334 / markc@markcollinspr.comCredit: image use must be accompanied with a tune-in credit for the TV show with screening date and time

Not content with Hollywood stars, Thomas & Friends took a regal route for 75th anniversary special The Royal Engine.

Harry provided an on-camera introduction to the episode and told of his “fond memories” of growing up watching the show.

Pike lends her voice to the royal train, called the Duchess of Loughborough.

Tina Desai

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Tina Desai (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Tina Desai (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Tina Desai (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Thomas went from Hollywood to Bollywood when producers cast Indian actress and model Desai in 2016.

She voiced Ashima in The Great Race, later returning in 2018 for series 22 and 23.

Desai, whose film roles include The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, described Ashima as “strong and adventurous”.

Peter Andre

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Peter Andre (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Peter Andre (Mattel, Inc/PA)

Ellis O'Brien- Hit Entertainment

Peter Andre (Mattel, Inc/PA)

The Australian singer and actor gave a typically flamboyant performance as the mischievous bright yellow race car Ace in 2018’s Big World! Big Adventures! The Movie.

The film involved Thomas breaking free of Sodor and embarking on a journey across the five continents – without the permission of the Fat Controller.

Andre also recorded the song Free And Easy for the film.

PA