The Little Engine That Could


Tillie recreated as a real engine

Inexplicably, The Little Engine That Could was one of my favourite ‘movies’ when I was little. Though only 30 minutes long, the short film could have been 2 hours to my young mind, I was engrossed and enthralled.

Perhaps I liked the determination of Tillie in doing what she wanted to do and following it through, achieving her dream. Perhaps I liked the novelty of actually being able to watch a show about a train or it could have been something else entirely. I think I can! Unfortunately the movie never got a DVD release despite the fans that crop up, sighing nostalgically.

As recently as 2011 however, there has been a remake of this story which was based off a children’s book of the same name. I can’t say that I am a fan of the new design where the eyes are on the sides of her cab with her mouth on the smokebox — her eyes are much more wideset which makes her look somewhat alien. Perhaps this makes more sense than her ‘face’ being on the chimney/smokestack, but the train depicted in the 1991 version looks closer to trains from the 1930 date of the original book — insofar as I can tell.

But I digress, the CGI effects also don’t meet my expectations for a 2011 animation but other versions of the cover online show it to look better than the one depicted on Wikipedia. I’m not a fan of the new plot either, as the original adaption seems truer to the original meaning of the story. But I am biased.

Despite my unsubstantiated opinion, the true measure of a film is enjoyment, and if children of today are able to happily enjoy it as much as my brother and I enjoyed watching it when we were little, that’s all that really counts. In my twenties, I question the logic of even the 1991 movie, which just goes to show it doesn’t really matter to kids. If such a movie can teach kids to be bolder and work hard, then they have achieved their purpose.

I do remember as a child puzzling over the title though and wanting to call them up to change it — shouldn’t it be The Little Train That Can?