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The voice who guided Thomas the Tank Engine down the tracks for a generation of fans has gone silent. Multiple media outlets report that Michael Angelis, the British actor best known for giving narrative voice to the animated children’s series through the 1990s and beyond, has died.
BBC reports that Angelis passed away in London on May 30 at the age of 76. Angelis (pictured in the news tweet below) became the series’ main narrator for both American and UK audiences in 1991, taking over the role from the Beatles’ Ringo Starr. In all, Angelis provided voice work for Thomas & Friends (originally titled Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends) for 13 seasons.
Angelis also lent his voice to the British version of the 2005 Thomas the Tank Engine spinoff film Calling All Engines!, as well as 2009’s Hero of the Rails. He also voiced a variety of the franchise’s characters in a trio of Thomas & Friends-themed video games that released between 1999 and 2002.
Outside of his work with the children’s series, Angelis enjoyed a lengthy acting career, appearing in a variety of British TV series dating from the 1970s through 2012. He also appeared in several British feature films over the same period.
Based on the books created by Wilbert Awdry and his son, Christopher Awdry, Thomas the Tank Engine started life in the 1940s as one of the characters who featured in stories the elder Awdry told his son as entertainment while Christopher recovered from measles. The characters eventually assembled in Awdry’s The Railway Series of books, hopping the tracks to the world of TV (and eventually film) thanks to a deal with English writer and producer Britt Allcroft.
As Thomas’ popularity grew in both Britain and the U.S., the franchise attracted the vocal talent of several major entertainers, including narrative stints from George Carlin, Alec Baldwin, and Pierce Brosnan.