The Thomas DVD Experience

I’m hating the “Thomas And Friends DVD Experience.” Loathing it with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns.

Here’s how it used to work when it wasn’t an experience: My preschooler would say, “Mom, I want to watch a Thomas video,” and I would go get the video, forward through the commercials, get to the main menu, and hit “play” or select a story to play. Total time: fifteen seconds.

Here’s how it works nowadays:

  1. My preschooler says, “Mom, I want to watch a Thomas video,” and I go get the video.
  2. I forward through all the commercials to get to the main menu
  3. The main menu comes on, only there are no selections. Instead, Sir Topham Hatt’s voice starts up. “Welcome to the Thomas And Friends DVD Experience. Today we’ll be watching stories about Thomas and his friends on the railway lines of Sodor.”
  4. Sir Topham Hatt then continues talking and blathering away while I’m pushing every button on the remote and on the DVD unit itself to forward PAST his preamble (which used to be on some DVDs, but you could skip) and get to the menu selections.
  5. The menu selections pop up. But first, Sir Topham Hatt, who is now in serious danger of having a remote control jammed sideways down his throat, says the various engines are going to explain what each menu option means.
  6. Four different engines explain what their “jobs” are (Dudes, you’re menu options, get over yourselves) and they are, essentially, “play,” “skip to a scene,” “special features,” and “make Mommy wish she’d never heard of Thomas The Tank Engine.”
  7. Finally, after all that is over, four menu options pop up, and you can finally pick “play” so your kid, who by now has fallen asleep, can watch the video.

Whoever designed this needs to Experience real life with a preschooler. Sure, I bet they thought, “This is great for preliterate kids! They won’t need to read the menu items and they can do it fine without their moms!” No, they still can’t do it fine without their moms because mom still needs to load in the DVD and turn on all the equipment. (Because my Patient Husband is a geek, the DVD player requires three things to be turned on.) The kids never remember where the remote is, so they need mom for that. And so on and so forth.

The net result is, I “experience” five minutes of trying to get the TV set up so I can go get something else done. Meanwhile, the baby is fussing or dinner is boiling over.

Therefore, I’ve put in a design for a special ring of Purgatory. In this ring, the designers and promoters of this Experience will get a DVD player, a top of the line wide-screen TV, a surround-sound stereo system, a leather recliner, and 65 of their favorite movies. They must watch 60 of the 65 movies before they can enter the Kingdom of God.

When they put in the first DVD, they will forward through the commercials to find that the main menu is being prambled and narrated by a minor character from the movie. He will talk interminably about how to operate a DVD player. And then, when their popcorn is stale and they finally get to “play all,” the DVD will freeze or begin to skip just after the opening credits, a nd they’ll have to do it all over again.

Being human, of course they’ll try it with every one of the movies before realizing they’re all like that.

Enjoy, guys! Enjoy the Experience just as much as I do.


  1. ivyreisner

    You need to make a backup of your DVDs, you know, to protect your investment. On the PC, the best software for this is bitRipper, which allows you to specify precisely which tracks you want to copy. I don’t know which is best for the Mac. Then you can store the original somewhere safe as your archival copy and use the backup, which conveniently only has the episodes and none of the nonsense.

  2. Jenni

    Would that work for game discs too, Ivy?

    Yeah, friends just look at us bewildered when they want to watch a movie with us and we need 3 remotes to turn everything on. Husband wants one of those uber universal remotes that also works the lights in the room (a small computer in and of itself) but wants to upgrade everything else first. So, we contend with 3 remotes for now.

  3. philangelus

    Ivy, these are videos from the library, so I can’t justify ripping them. Otherwise, it would work.

    Jenni, you realize that day will never come because there’s *always* something that could be slightly more upgraded than you have right this instant. 😉

  4. blueraindrop

    i always appreciated the older wiggles ones for this reason… normally, their previews were all for other wiggles videos so kiddo would sit through them, and they all autostarted if you didnt hit anything on the menu in like a minute. so i could drop it in and run!

    the newer ones when boo was little had started to have ads for other kids videos, but usually still ones she would sit through. the older vhs were awesome though, because instead of ads even for other wiggles stuff, they would show a full song from 1 or 2 other videos, usually at the end. so you got extra wiggles songs to inspire you to buy the other videos in the series… which worked much more often than any of the ads actually..

  5. ivyreisner

    Jenni, no, not for game disks. There are other utilities to make backups of CDs and DVDs (CloneCD and CloneDVD respectively) and those only work on PC games, not those designed for consoles.

  6. Cricket

    I hear you on the videos. We use that time to get popcorn and visit the bathroom. It sometimes works.

    Nooo! Don’t get the all-in-one remote. My parents have one (it doesn’t control the ceiling fan), and first you have to make sure it’s set to control the right thing. Saying “off” to the TV when you really want to turn off the radio doesn’t work well so the kid can watch TV is a recipe for disaster.

    When we visit, I plead, “I’m a chemie, nothing to do with electronics or computers.”