Thomas the Tank Engine has new multicultural friends. Shane is his new Aussie friend and so are Ashima and Rajiv, who come from India. He has more friends like Carlos from Mexico, Raul of Brazil, Yong Bao from China, and Ivan of Russia. While these new pals feature in “The Great Race,” they will not be appearing in any of the upcoming TV episodes of the show.

“The Great Race” is the 11th animated film for Thomas. The movie plot focuses on a race that sees him competing against other engines at the Great Railway Show. The movie is set to release next month. It will feature a total of 13 new engines from around the world. Thomas will also meet Axel of Belgium, French engine Etienne, Frieda from Germany, Gina from Italy, The Flying Scotsman, and North American Racing Vinnie.

Many are critical of Ian McCue, the producer. They feel that his decision is just a case of being politically correct, reveals the Telegraph. This is not the first time that McCue has been slammed for Thomas the Tank Engine. The series was criticised for being sexist when it was revealed that Daisy, only one of the original engines, was a female character. The producers tried to address the issue by introducing Ashima from India.

The whole idea behind these additions, according to McCue, is to get youngsters interested and curious about other countries. “That wasn’t the intention. The intention was to create this big global racing event and make it feel real,” said McCue. “I’m a little bit shocked about the strong views people have articulated about things they haven’t seen yet. There are clearly some upset people. I would hope it will get youngsters asking about foreign countries,” he added.

The movie releases worldwide next month and the new additions will surely increase interest for the movie in international markets, states BBC. According to SBS, the new characters have potential to do more harm than good if the characters steer close to cultural stereotyping.