The Little Engine That Could (1991 film)

The Little Engine That Could

VHS cover of The Little Engine That Could showing Tillie pulling the birthday train
Directed by Dave Edwards
Produced by David Edwards
Mike Young
Screenplay by Ray Rhamey
Story by Watty Piper
Starring Kath Soucie
Frank Welker
B.J. Ward
Neil Ross
Bever-Leigh Banfield
Peter Cullen
Scott Menville
Billy O'Sullivan
Dina Sherman
Music by Ian Lawson
Edited by Terry Brown
Sianel 4 Cymru
Kalato Animation
Dave Edwards Studio
Distributed by MCA/Universal Home Video
Release dates
  • January 1, 1991 (1991-01-01) (United Kingdom)
  • November 22, 1991 (1991-11-22) (United States)
Running time
30 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Little Engine that Could is a 1991 animated direct-to-video short film directed by Dave Edwards and co-produced by Edwards and Mike Young, animated at Kalato Animation in Wales and co-financed by Universal Studios through their MCA/Universal Home Video arm and S4C, Wales' dedicated Welsh-language channel. It was released on VHS by MCA. The film features the voice talents of Kath Soucie and Frank Welker. It is based on the book of the same name, by Watty Piper.

In Wales the film was joint-released in both English and Welsh, under the title Yr Injan Fach Fentrus (The Adventurous Little Engine) and was broadcast on television in both languages. As a native production it was widely available on VHS in Wales and thus achieved a degree of cult status during its time, though never touching on the level of other iconic characters such as Fireman Sam and Superted, both of which featured production staff members who worked on The Little Engine That Could.


Eric, a young boy, is excited about his birthday after reading a book and believes that a train will come for him, despite his teenage sister Jill's disbelief. A few hours later, the train station's control tower wakes up and in the roundhouse, Tillie, a young little blue switcher engine, along with her best bird friend, Chip, wakes up four other trains: Georgia, a kind all-purpose engine, Farnsworth, a stuck-up, shiny, new passenger engine, Jebediah, a worn-out, rusty, old engine, and Pete, a gruff, burly, big, strong freight engine. After the tower assigns Farnsworth and Pete their jobs, he declines Tillie's offer to help with the milk train assigned to Jebediah due to her small stature. Georgia is assigned to pull the birthday train. A clown named Rollo leads the toys into the train, including Jeepers, a monkey, Stretch, a basketball player, Missy, a ballerina, Handy Pandy, a panda, Perky, an elephant, and Grumpella, a stuffed bird.

During her journey, Georgia breaks down and is taken back to the roundhouse by Doc. Left behind, Rollo eventually takes Doc's advice of flagging down one of the other engines returning from their daily runs over the mountain. Farnsworth and Pete turn blind eyes to the offer, and Jebediah explains that going over the mountain is too much for him. Meanwhile, despite the tower turning down Tillie's offer to help carry the birthday train, she and Chip sneak past the tower and pulls the birthday train up a mountain. Despite being ridiculed by the animals along the way, Tillie manages to reach the summit after crossing a bridge that collapses, but loses the last train car, which snaps off and falls into the river, along the way.

However, an avalanche knocks Tillie out cold. Eric is woken up by a thunderstorm and is worried about Tillie and the birthday train. After Tillie regains consciousness, she pulls the train out of the snow using her cowcatcher as a snowplough and down the mountain before they reach the town, much to Eric and Jill's happiness. The film ends with Tillie, who although very tired from her long and adventurous journey over the mountain, is very proud and happy and tells her best friend Chip that she did what she could.


See also

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