My son is five. Like most boys his age, he likes cars and trains. Up till recently, Thomas and his friends on the Isle of Sodor were big, big favorites. As of a couple months ago, though, my boy has a new favorite set of trains: Wilson, Koko, and Brewster, residents of the town of Chuggington.
The three trains are "trainees" -- basically trains in training -- who attend classes in the town of Chuggington, surrounded by many other characters of various ages with whom they interact, facing challenges and learning valuable lessons. You know, the usual kids' show stuff.
I'm not sure why my boy prefers Chuggington over Thomas, but I'm going to speculate. First, Chuggington's three lead characters seem to be quite "young" -- they have the voices and personalities of children of 7 or so. Second, the setting of Chuggington is sunny and always full of very bright colors. Third, the trains all look much more distinct and are generally more colorful than the trains in Thomas. Fourth, the faces of the trains are not "pasted on" to the front of locomotives, as they are in Thomas cartoons; they are a fully integrated part of the train. Think of the cars in Cars. And I think the faces of the Chuggington trains are less scary than some of the angry faces the Thomas trains can occasionally have. My son finds the episodes exciting and emotionally involving. And he absolutely adores the upbeat theme song. Which is a good thing, because the full intro and end credits are included in these episodes, so if you watch the entire thing, you'll hear the theme 12 times.
Whatever the reasons, my boy cannot get enough of the Chuggington stories. He first saw them on the Disney web site, and it seems like lots of them are available to watch there for free. But this DVD is a great deal -- 62 minutes and 6 episodes -- and my son has often requested it for his "movie" on our weekly "movie night."
The episodes, each about 10 minutes long, are:
Training Time Harrison
Wilson Gets a Wash
Koko and the Tunnel
Watch Out Wilson
Wilson's Smooth Moves
Eddie Finds Time
I can't imagine a boy who likes trains not enjoying Chuggington. Or even a girl -- since, I am happy to say, there are numerous female characters with important roles. In fact, Koko, one of the lead "trainees," is female. Not only female, but green (instead of the cliche pink) and also self-confident. And she's the fastest of the trainees! Bravo to Chuggington for being feminist in a matter-of-fact way without being heavy-handed or preachy.
Summary: There are some valuable lessons to be learned along the rails in Chuggington, but the main draw is simply the bright, colorful trains having adventures. Highly recommended for any child who likes trains, cars, or any kind of vehicles.