The long gestating Thomas the Tank Engine live-action adventure will be directed by 9's Shane Acker, with WETA Digital behind the effects.

The story will be set in the land of Sodor, an island inhabited by talking trains. The movie is based on the popular preschool toy line, but in bringing Thomas' adventures to life, Shane Acker hopes to broaden the appeal of this juggernaut franchise, and bring in children of all ages with a timeless story and classic characters.

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Here is what Shane Acker said about taking on the coveted project.

"I'm a recent father, with a 20-month old daughter. We lead such busy lives in Hollywood, always running and hustling, but children tend to slow you down a bit and reconnect you with that inner world. It reinvents your imagination, seeing things through a child's eyes. It was transformative for me and that is what inspired me about the possibilities here. The tale will revolve around a pre-teen boy who has drifted apart from his father. The son is introduced into this world of Sodor, a place his father visited as a child but can't remember. There is a bonding experience."

HIT Entertainment will be developing Thomas the Tank Engine outside of the studio system.