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Thomas the Tank engine mod got Skyrim player in legal trouble

An iconic meme’s tricky past

‘Thomas The Tank Engine’ Begin Operations For The Christmas Seaso Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The tradition of adding Thomas the Tank Engine to video games started with Skyrim back in 2013, when Kevin Brock put the blue locomotive in Bethesda’s fantasy game. While the cameo has become a meme now, the joke’s explosion apparently put the modder in hot water with Mattel, the toy giants who own Thomas’ image.

The Face has published a fascinating look at why people keep adding Thomas the Tank Engine to video games, and embedded in this report is a tidbit about how the iconic joke created problems for the original creator. According to Brock, the Skyrim mod got him in “so much trouble,” and that attention followed him across other Thomas the Tank Engine mods that he made.

“Mattel pretty much want me dead at this point,” Brock says. “It’s the reason why the Fallout 4 mod can’t be found on any normal website.” Sure enough, if you run a search for “Thomas the Tank Engine” on Nexus, the largest distributor of Bethesda mods on the internet, absolutely nothing comes up for Fallout 4. (Skyrim’s Thomas mod is still up, though.) Similarly, if you click on links for old stories on the internet that previously led to the mod, nothing comes up. Apparently, Mattel sent its lawyers after Brock after the Skyrim mod blew up, The Face reports. We reached out to Mattel but the company did not respond in time for publication.

“It was some intermediary law firm based out of Macedonia, saying how I diminished the brand of Thomas by showing him blowing up (nothing about him violently murdering people),” Brock said. “They issued takedown notices on the videos for it. The first time it got taken down. The second time Youtube told them it was covered under parody law, with no prompting from me. So that was nice.”

Fortunately, no amount of legal meddling can stop the proverbial train here, which is why recent titles like the Resident Evil 2 Remake have been graced by its horrifying presence.

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