Monday, 13 November 2017

DVD Review: Christmas on Sodor

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OWN OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FAN BASE

CHRISTMAS ON SODOR
Written by 
Andrew Brenner
Helen Farrall 

Episodes
Terence Breaks the Ice
Daisy's Perfect Christmas
Confused Christmas
Emily in the Middle
The Big Freeze
Cautious Connor
Tit For Tat
All In Vain

Special Features
It's Christmas Time - Music Video
Helping Others - Learn with Thomas
Sleigh and Plough - The Earl's Quiz
How Steam Engines Use Coal - Down at the Station

Directed by
Dianna Basso 

Produced by
Ian McCue (HIT)
Micaela Winters (HIT)

Release Date
3/10/17 - US (iTunes)
17/10/17 - US
13/11/17 - UK

Distributed by
Mattel Creations (UK/US)
HIT Entertainment (UK)
Universal (US)

For the first time ever, HIT Entertainment & Mattel have released a Thomas DVD, barring specials and tent pole releases, without holding back the UK to get it an entire year later! A welcoming change and I hope they do that for other DVDs in the near future. However like last year the US got a lack of DVDs unlike in 2015 and that includes the annual exclusive tent pole DVDs, the yearly special, Christmas DVD and generic release. Usually until 2016, Wal*Mart releases exclusive release DVDs of the upcoming season but it's most likely that the contract between the company that owns Wal*Mart and HIT Entertainment had expired and was never renewed. 

So now with 'Journey Beyond Sodor' out of the way, let's take a look at this year's Christmas release.

EPISODES

Like every other Christmas release, I'm leaving the recent episodes until they've aired during the course of Christmas. But the last three episodes I will say that they are still great episodes even though they are a year old. I think it is sad that they've lost the potential of releasing the Arlesdale episodes as there own DVD but in the end they were at least given a DVD release. 

I love 'Cautious Connor' and on its own it was a good episode but it's not good in comparison to the likes of 'Edward's Exploit', 'Gallant Old Engine' and 'Four Little Engines'. Three of those stories showcased an engine struggling and got injured but carried on like it was nothing. For Edward his crank pins broke (and damaged his splashers in the book) and for Rheneas his valve gear had jammed and despite the pain, he still carried on like a hero, Skarloey broke his springs and carried on to the last station despite his old age. Compare them to Connor who had a broken traction rod it's not really a big thing.

Now don't get me wrong I don't hate the episode but I wouldn't call it the best episode ever though. I still think that the episode has missed opportunities like Caitlin being the engine to motivate Connor as they are both close friends and that maybe either Edward or Rheneas motivate him about their past experiences. Rheneas purpose to be Ulfstead castle could be him delivering passengers or slate from the quarry or Edward could be there delivering passengers to visit the Castle. In the end, it was a good episode but it lacked some missed opportunities.

The other two episodes on the DVD still hold up, I love watching 'Tit for Tat' probably the best of the adapted stories of the miniature engines in my book and I still consider that 'All In Vain' is 'Pouty James' done right with his developed character of putting his jobs first before his vanity. 

SPECIAL FEATURES


So they've released 'It's Christmas Time' again which was seen on the 2014 Christmas DVD 'The Christmas Engine'. To be honest I'm glad because after the release of 'Snow Place Like Home' and 'Glynn's Christmas Wish' I don't blame them, Mattel and HIT Entertainment. Both songs weren't good among fans but for me I don't mind them but they weren't great looking back. So I hope one day we do see a good song from Eggplant that is if they're still contracted or better yet, from the likes of Andrew Brenner. 


Of course there are standard special features within the DVD, such as another 'Learn from Thomas' segment, which is used at the end of each Thomas block on PBS Kids of a moral life lesson from an episode that had aired that day. Then we have the Earl's quiz with clips from two S17 episodes, 'No Snow for Thomas' and 'Santa's Little Engine'. Again, good segements for the younger audiences to learn for their thinking skills.

And of course we have the Mr. Perkins segment, 'Down at the Station', another segment that are seen on PBS Kids in the US and Nick Jr. in the UK. I do like these segments as it show kids about certain parts of a steam engine or a diesel that they see in real life and it's always beautifully shot with the real steam locomotives on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. It also made me realise sadly that we lost Ben Forster earlier in the year! May the good man rest in peace.   

OVERALL


At the time of writing this review, I was reviewing the US copy that I bought from iTunes, I have an account despite living in Australia. 

I know there's another upcoming Christmas DVD releasing soon in America, which is 'Thomas' Holiday Collection'. But despite the addition of the model series episodes, it's a DVD that's not worth getting considering for parents, they would want more CG episodes and less of the old stuff, I know that sounds crazy but it's sadly true by looking at the Amazon reviews on the US site when it comes to the classic series. There are DVDs with the same episodes as the other discs and that, for the older fans' sake, they already have these DVDs when they were released years ago and the CGI DVDs in the collection have terribly written stories! In all honesty why not release another generic release DVD? I don't know how many episodes from S17-20 are released over in the US but you can have that along with maybe two additional episodes from S21 or episodes from the same season that had been released over in the UK recently on television!

Plus the DVDs from that collection are more cheaper to buy on their own than as a bundle they are about $5.00 - $9.00 USD or you can watch them on either Amazon Prime or Netflix through your membership, I know because I have used my sister's account while I visited America.

If you want something for your child for Christmas, I recommend this DVD as they are all brand new episodes and not repackaged DVDs. The special features may be standard but they are good in the end despite some being in previous releases. I know most of my overall is about another DVD that's coming soon but there's not much I need to say about this DVD and I want to get it off my chest as I have no interest in buying it because I already have these DVDs already and I think it's just lazy of Universal to put all these together when there are cheaper copies on their own and that they are up for streaming on streaming services.

RATING
8/10

Sunday, 15 October 2017

NWR Editorial: Big World Big Adventure Part II (UPDATE: 24/10/17)

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FANBASE

NWR EDITORIAL:
BIG WORLD BIG ADVENTURE PART. II

MIPJunior in Cannes, France had started and with it came the sneak peak of 'Big World! Big Adventures!' the upcoming new movie and series in 2018. Along with a new character who is another new female engine that will join the 'steam team'. Along with it came footage of the upcoming series and what it had to offer. This here is a second part of my previous post which you can read here:

Rebecca:

Along with Nia the African engine in the upcoming movie, we have another female engine to join in the 'steam team' in the new series and of course according to source, she will be one of the replacements for Henry and Edward, I will mention those two later on in this post. One thing that I like about Rebecca is that she's a new British tender engine based on the Southern Railway's 'West Country' class locomotive, a class of loco that I had the obligation of riding on when I visited the UK in 2012. It was 'Wadebridge' on the Mid-Hants Watercress Line. Despite the locos being in BR Brunswick Green in reality, it's quite understandable on why she is given the colour yellow. It makes her stand out! Yes she may look like a yellow banana on wheels but the colour yellow is good for young children as the bright colour is good for their early developed eye sight. Things like Pikachu from 'Pokemon' and of course the Minions from 'Despicable Me' are successful because of it. Plus we have other engines with unrealistic liveries. I mean have you ever seen a blue E2? 

The only known personality of her that we got from news articles is that she's not afraid to stand up for herself and not intimated by the older engines. While I do like that, I hope see more sides of her and if her purpose is to pull the express with Gordon, then it just proves that there can be more than one engine to pull express trains. I look forward to be seeing her in the series. 

Edward & Henry:
So yes those rumours are true, Edward and Henry are officially leaving the 'steam team' most likely because they aren't marketable enough. To be honest, I'm quite sadden that this is actually happening but it's also quite reassuring that they will have the spotlight from time to time, so Mattel and of course the production team do understand that they are important. What I'm hoping for them is that they'll be part of something special. After all in three years time the brand will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020 and these two characters are very important as they started the Railway Series books and the brand, Edward was the first engine that the Reverend came up with in his mind for his son, Christopher, who was sick with measles. Henry applies as well. 

'A Shed for Edward' was a good send off to Edward and it make sense to have him working on his branch line at Wellsworth and I hope in this new series we see more of it and of course with being paired up with Philip it could bring more of his character and maybe it might make kids see some relations between them and Edward with him looking after Philip, maybe he'll remind them of their grandfather and of course we have him saying, 'I'm sure we'll see each other again.' In the episode as well. 

For Henry it's quite hard to know what his future might be. I know they won't be kicking him off the series since we'll see him sharing a bit of the spotlight. I hope the episode we see would be a good send off and I think what it should be is an adaptation of 'Super Rescue' and maybe change up the story maybe have him being repaired at the Steamworks for his broken regulator and decided to stay at Vicarstown sheds to teach Bear their ways on the North Western Railway. But whatever it is, I hope it's a good sendoff. Plus notice how Nia and Rebecca don't have their numbers? I think that might be Mattel saying that Henry and Edward are still important despite them not being marketable. 

Fast Paced Animation and More Jokes and Fantasy Sequences:

With the jokes I hope they are something good and not something that are on the line of poo jokes or anything below that line. Thomas the Tank Engine is better than that. Maybe have a bit of banter and teasing that would be good. While I don't mind fast paced animation it can be quite exhausting and that happened once when I bought a 'Chuggington' DVD. The animation's movement just happens quickly and it can get quite exhausting. With fantasy sequences, I'm fine with some unrealistic stuff to be like that, a fantasy. According to MIPJunior's twitter feed they said that Thomas imagines himself as a rocket ship and him being chased by a dragon. I hope for the latter it's the Chinese dragon. The fantasy sequences is a bit like 'The Great Race' when during the song Thomas imagines himself as Harvey or Stephen or in that trailer back in 2014 when his Macy balloon was to make its debut on Thanksgiving 2014 in US where he imagines himself as Cranky, Hiro, Big Ben and a New York Taxi cab. They are silly but I would rather them being fantasy sequences then actually happening in the show.

I will say from the clip of Nia and her trucks leaning from the side, it was a bit cringeworthy to see that. I can take the bouncing as it was subtle. But I hope I get use to this cartoony behaviour and I hope the production team would find the right balance.

More Merchandise Focused Towards Girls:

To me this is one thing that I love hearing. Outside of the toys and books in the brand, there's hardly any merchandise focused towards girls. There had been plenty of female characters in the past that were never given any shirts or bedding or anything aside from toys and books. The only time I saw something for girls is t-shirts at 'Thomas Land' at Drayton Manor in the UK back in 2012 with a picture of Rosie when she was pink and they are only sold there. Plus this had been an issue in the past, in the 'Daily Mail', although it's a bad clickbait site, a mum from the UK was annoyed that there isn't any girl clothing of Thomas for her daughter. But a woman from Melbourne, Australia made one for her and given it to her to give for daughter for Christmas. So seeing this happening is great thanks to the increase viewership of girls. 

Sodor Will Be Safe:


This was a fearing thing when this revamped series was announced. But after hearing that half of the series will be focused on Sodor this is a big relief. My guess that the first half will be us following on Thomas' world tour and the second half will be Sodor centric and I think next season might be all centred on Sodor. While we know that the Island of Sodor will be safe, I'm quite looking forward to se be seeing other countries in CGI. 

The Animation:

Judging from the clips from news sources, the animation still has some of the flat grounding and textures like in 'Journey Beyond Sodor' and they feel more like dream sequences. I hope these are unfinished animation but I won't be holding my breath for it. 

Climate Change and other UN Teaching Methods:

I will say, I was surprised by Mattel are having help from the United Nations (UN) with teaching methods from them. They even came up with the idea of Nia's name which is Swahili for fun and adventure and the African patterns on her side tanks. One of the things that I find confusing is Climate Change. To be honest when I heard that I thought it was pretty dumb to do that considering kids are learning about it with a steam locomotive that can cause damage to the O-zone layer. It's hard to think how they're going to challenge that to the young viewers. I see other things working like zero hunger. You could have Thomas or an international engine working together to bring food to villagers or something. 

Thomas being 'Stodgy' & Down Toy Sales:

While I don't agree that Thomas is 'boring' according to Mattel, there can be some quite exciting stuff on a railway. But with the toy sales going down, maybe that's because over the years there had been Thomas play sets from the likes of Wooden Railway (Wood), Adventures and Trackmaster is because most of them have sets with only Thomas in them? This had been happening even before Mattel took over Thomas. Maybe kids are bored that all the new play sets they see always have Thomas in them and that they have no variety other than Thomas maybe meeting a dinosaur or a shark. Now yes there had been other sets too with other characters like Luke for example but I hardly see their sets at shops and most of the sets are Thomas'. Mattel should also know that parents would most likely buy Thomas and the other steam team characters separately at a cheaper price and that they would save money on buying a play set with the same character in it! 

Yes I know he's a big seller because he's the titular character but maybe kids just want to see more characters. How about having characters like Daisy or Glynn as exclusives to play sets? You can only buy them with this set and maybe that might sell? You could have sets based on particular episodes like how about a Thomas Wood 'Duck & the Slip Coaches' play set where the slip coaches are the exclusive toys in that set with Duck. Yes Duck may have a Wooden Railway toy but it's rare to find him now unlike in 2013. 

Netflix & Hulu Exclusive:

This is only in the US but I think this is better for Thomas. When I was in the US back in June, I remember Thomas was the first PBS Kids show at 6:00 am in the morning and to me it was bad to put it at that hour as kids are still asleep. Now that it'll be up for streaming purposes only, this could be better. It can be watched at certain hours, plenty of parents nowadays would at least have a Netflix account and most content that are brand new are on Netflix. Dreamworks for example have plenty and I remember reading once that there TV content is doing more better than their movies. 

If HIT and Mattel decided to do this for a worldwide audience, I will be OK with it but they should also think about the people who can't afford a subscription too and maybe let be on TV or have it on YouTube and they, the company, put adsense on it as most shows like 'Postman Pat' are uploading hour  long videos of their episodes. 


---

While these new changes are happening I'm still going to be cautiously optimistic. There had been times when we doubt things from this era such as 'King of the Railway' when the trailer was released and when the movie came out we praised it to no end. I remember the reaction to the episode titles on the 'Railway Mischief' DVD when it was released in the US and in the end we praised them and I remember people were saying that 'Tale of the Brave' was 'Percy and the Monster of Brendam' but longer and once again it was praised. Sometimes we can be proven wrong over many things and to me I admit that I can be wrong on many things so that's why I'm in the cautiously optimistic crowd. Yes these new changes can be worrying and I can understand the frustration on dealing with them. I don't think the autistic fans will respond well considering they have a hard time dealing with change and I hope Mattel and the production team haven't forgotten about them. After all they made Theo with them in mind! 

I will say, I'm kind of seeing 'Journey Beyond Sodor' as filler now. With the way S21 is playing out to be with the continuity such as Edward leaving the sheds. I felt like it's just there to fill in time, I digress. I'm going to wait and see what the outcome is. It might be good or it might be bad I don't know. 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

NWR Editorial: Big World Big Adventure

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FANBASE

NWR EDITORIAL:
BIG WORLD BIG ADVENTURE
Back in May 2017, Kidscreen announced, through an article about 'Journey Beyond Sodor', that Thomas is going up for a 'revamp'. No one knew what it'll be as some say it was a spin off to run parallel with the main series. But a few months later we were given more information about it and it turns out to be a 'new series' of Thomas going around the world. 

Now with an issue of 'preview' for the upcoming MIPJunior event in France and the Toyworld magazine, we have more new detail about the show and here are my thoughts about it:

Thomas the Tank Engine is now the Storyteller:

Yes, that is now going to happen. The number one tank engine will now be the storyteller of the new series rather than a person. Now to me this is sad considering that S21 will be Mark Moraghan's last season to narrate, although I hope, as he stated on his twitter account, that he would be narrating online content and apps. However many people are thinking that Thomas speaking directly to the audience would be like 'Dora the Explorer' When really, according to the article, it's Thomas talking about his adventures from his perspective far from what 'Dora the Explorer's' engagement to its audience was. It wouldn't be much, the Dora like engagement, for a fast-paced storyline that Mattel are aiming for. This had been done before in the past with those 'life lesson' or 'Learn with Thomas' videos that were uploaded on the official YouTube channel were Thomas tells the audience on what he had learnt from an episode.

While it's sad that Mark Moraghan will not be narrating the show, his role has been decreasing over the years and I was wondering if they were going to do that one day by not having him narrating the show at all. 'A Shed for Edward' did prove that in a show don't tell sort of way and of course it works since the CGI made the characters more expressive then what the models did. 

More Female Characters:

While I welcome more female characters, I hope they aren't introduced to be just girls and that's it, you know a check on a list. Some people are saying that is PC but since Mattel stated that that more girls are watching the show, I'm glad that they are doing this. Although the production team had introduced and reintroduced female characters before in the past and gave them character and personality so I'm at least confident that they will do that. But if they introduce them for being a girl or having that nationality, a bit like Ashima in 'The Great Race' yes she was a bit bland IMO then that will be a problem as it would feel more forced if it goes into that direction. 

New 'Steam Team': 

I'm not a huge fan of the 'steam team' concept since over the years from this production team we have seen more focus on the secondary characters while some focusing on the core characters. But I think with the term, 'new steam team', we are still going to see characters like Gordon, James, Percy, Emily etc. but maybe with some new female members too. I don't know how they are going to do that despite that we had Edward leaving and that there's a rumour about Henry leaving the group, I hope they give him the same treatment as Edward though by at least give him some focus too. 

---

When I first heard about the new format from Kidscreen, I also thought it would be a spin off and hoping it was about the mainland engines. But now after reading this from those sources, it sounds like the movie would be Thomas going to the five continents and going back to Sodor at the end of the film and then this new show will have Thomas telling us, the audience, his world trips while he's home and we see him in other countries and while some people may think this is all 'politically correct', I like that a show is teaching kids about different cultures and what they do since the world right now is not good at the moment. 

I still have a feeling it's a one-off and then they will be focusing on newer themes as time goes by until whenever they decide to change up the show again and I will still feel cautiously optimistic considering that it might turn out different then what I have expected but considering that the current production team are still working on the show, I have confidence in them to make this good for both young and old, I for one am looking forward to see more international engines more than the ones from the 2016 special, 'The Great Race'. I don't think this will be another 'dark era' and if these changes mean to keep the show alive for a new generation, then let it survive. I'm going to wait until next year and see the finish product as I'm not like other people who think this is the end. Like I said before, I'm going to wait and see what the final outcome is. 


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Movie & DVD Review: Journey Beyond Sodor (SPOILERS)

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FAN BASE

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS

JOURNEY BEYOND SODOR

Written by
Andrew Brenner

Directed by
David Stoten

Produced by
Micaela Winter
Ian McCue

Special Features
Who's Thomas?
The Hottest Place in Town
What Can't We Do
Somebody Has to Be the Favourite
Top 5 Funniest Moments
Landmarks of Sodor - Travelling to the Mainland 

Release Date
25/08/17 - US
4/10/17 - AUS
4/10/17 - NL
16/10/17 - UK

Distributed by
HIT Entertainment (US/UK/AUS/NL)
Mattel Creations (UK/US/AUS/NL)
Universal (US/NL)
ABC Kids (AUS)

It's that time of year again, the annual Thomas & Friends DVD special. This year we go to the mainland once again as Thomas meets new friends whom are experimental engines and two steelworks engines. 

This year another big name had joined the cast, BBC's 'Downtown Abbey' and star of the 2014 film and its upcoming sequel, 'Paddington', Hugh Bonneville who plays as Merlin. Other new voice actors joined in too as the newbies as well.

Even though 'The Great Race' didn't please fans due to its missed opportunities and overhype. Would 'Journey Beyond Sodor' be a success or another dud? Let's find out!

PLOT

We open up to, like we had in 'The Adventure Begins' and the 4D movie 'Bubbling Boilers', another beautiful view of the Island of Sodor and all of the Fat Controller's engines were working hard on various lines such as the harbours, quarries, coastal towns, farmland and historic places. We then see the main line with Gordon taking the express from Kanpford to Vicarstown (with a nice cameo from Flying Scotsman) where the rolling river bridge will take them to the mainland. The opening shot in those first few minutes was fantastic to watch especially with Chris Renshaw's music.

We then see Henry pulling an important goods train that was to be taken to Bridlington goods yards, and yes the location is a real life place in England around the Yorkshire area, although the goods yard is now a Tescos. But the trucks were being troublesome to Henry and he had missed a signal, which was faulty, and Hiro was waiting on the same line and it resulted into a crash in slow motion and derailing himself and dangling on the side of the bridge.

After our creative intro of the steelworks, we then see Thomas travelling along the line with his two coaches saying hello and good morning to everyone such as rabbits, squirrels, trees, sky and to Toby as well with some bouncing along the way, I'll discuss that a little later.

Thomas felt bright and cheerful and he felt that days like this makes you want to burst into song and as he was about sing, James cut him and sang instead. Which I find pretty funny. As James was singing 'Somebody Has To Be The Favourite', Thomas was annoyed that James claimed it was himself because he's given the best jobs unlike Thomas. To be honest, the whole who's the Fat Controller's favourite plot really just came out of nowhere. There was never really any context on the reason. Why not have Thomas being late with his passengers due to things like sheep or cows on the tracks and with James boasting about being on time is the reason why he was given the special jobs and thinks that he's the Fat Controller's favourite. It would give plenty of context on what's going between him and Thomas. Although I do like how James act smug and boastful, pretty much like he was in the classic series around Season 5 it does parallel with him character in 'James and The Trouble With Trees'.


While Thomas was collecting pigs at Farmer Trotter, James is seen passing through with people playing Steelpans (steel drums which originated from The Republican of Trinidad and Tobago). I love in some scenes we weren't given wall to wall music and it was just the sounds of nature. It feels so subtle like out of a Pokemon movie before TPCI (The Pokemon Company International) decided to create some unneeded music in the movies to avoid the emptiness.


Later Henry was loaded onto Judy and Jerome and the Fat Controller was making arrangements in his office with his wooden trains and he had assigned James to take Henry's trucks first thing in the morning while Thomas thought up a cheeky plan. When Thomas told James about it, James was in disgust until he realised what Thomas had meant and thought it was a great job! Much to Thomas' dismay and James still carried on with his boasting about being the favourite. 


Thomas throughly dismayed whined to the Fat Controller about James having the important and the Fat Controller pointed out to him about other important jobs such as the Flying Kipper, mail train, milk train and his branch line. While Thomas was still whining, he then had an idea.


Early the next morning, James arrived at the goods yard in Vicarstown and here we see the brand new painted and newly developed Rosie! While it was only a few second cameo of her, she said to James that Thomas took Henry's trucks much to James' surprise and we see Thomas rolling over the bridge and onto the mainland. 

Back on Sodor, Henry was being repaired while James went towards the Fat Controller and complained that Thomas had taken his train while the Fat Controller didn't seem to be cross about Thomas taking a train without permission, he then said to James that he has to take Thomas' passengers instead on his branch line. 

Meanwhile over on the mainland, Thomas was having the time of his life as he crossed through the hills and countryside. While the troublesome trucks were laughing and teasing and causing Thomas a headache as he arrived at the junction. The troublesome trucks were probably one of the best things to happen in the movie. They weren't just one-dimensional pranksters that would push engines down hill or running away. They have some persona such as being scared or annoyed. Although I do wish they were given British accents in the UK dub as it felt out place when you have US voices in a dub full of UK voices whereas in the US dub it blends in well. Meanwhile James was seen charging through Thomas' branch line with Annie and Clarabel and of course James was causing problems such as him overshooting the platform at Maithwate.

Back on the mainland, Thomas arrived at a canal and there we meet our first new character Beresford who sang 'Who's Thomas' with the trucks' wacky behaviour and from what we see from Beresford is that he just wanted a friend. During this scene however the US version had really bugged me. When Thomas said 'They're all right', the US dub sound like Thomas saying they were 'alright' instead of the former. The UK dub did a much more better job at phrasing the 'alright' into two  words 'all right' and it just feels right. I don't hate Joseph May but I feel like he sort gives Thomas awkward delivery with his lines in the US dub when it comes to phrasing the words. After the song, we see Thomas puffing through a large forest and we see that he ran out of coal and steam.



In the large forest we see more new characters such as Lexie and Theo who are experimental engines with a mention of Merlin, who we'll see later on in the movie and a bad pun from the trucks, seriously there was no need for that, I personally am not a fan of puns. I never liked the yards that the experimental engines lived in, it's just bland and uninteresting and it feels like something out of Misty Island. I wonder why can't they make an actual rail yard? With sheds, sidings etc. You can still make it abandoned and forgotten or an old forgotten branch line? It would reflect on what Awdry was telling in his books about branch line closures on the mainland (England) during the 50's and 60's. You could still have Thomas being diverted away from the junction on the mainland and make him go to the old branch line and meet the experimental engines and Beresford along the way. Beresford could be an abandoned crane too only for his happy ending, he works at the steelworks. 

After being filled up on coal and water, Thomas is on his way again to Bridlington until he he arrived at the steelworks with a reference to 'The Wizard of Oz' and as Thomas and the trucks marvelled at the sight we then meet our other new characters Hurricane and Frankie, who both work at the steelworks. 

Thomas asked them where Bridlington is and as luck would have it, Hurricane offered to take them there as he delivered trucks there all the time. Then we have our next song 'The Hottest Place In Town'. Afterwards the engines on Sodor were worried about Thomas with two references from 'Down the Mine' and 'Thomas Comes to Breakfast' coming from James. Yeah it's fan service but I quite like these references since there is some continuity but you think Brenner might understand his own continuity when it comes to Percy. While James was complaining that Thomas shouldn't have taken his job, Percy offered James to go and look for him.

Percy said he be scared to do that, even though he should put his friendship first rather then being scared. The movie though could've worked with Percy, when it comes to the friendship moral. His naive character would work very well when it comes to characters like Frankie and Hurricane. Seriously this has been a problem since last year with 'The Great Race' and 'Three Steam Engines Gruff'. There was the song 'Let's Be Brave' that mentions 'You can be brave and still be scared.' So why can't Percy do that? The next morning, Thomas, Hurricane and Frankie start working at the steel works. Even though it was by force. 

Thomas started work by shunting ladle trucks and taking molten slag out to the slag heap. While Thomas was working, he accidentally bumped into some slag trucks which were full of molten slag. Hurricane and Frankie warned Thomas that the slag is really hot and can melt an engine's wheel. Back on Sodor, we see that the Fat Controller had spilt his tea and is missing Thomas and there hadn't been any news of Thomas. James offered to go but the Fat Controller can't spare another engine despite James' protest. Percy was even more worried that his friend is delayed and thought he only got lost. To be honest that was the weirdest thing hearing from Percy, wouldn't he be more worried that his friend was lost rather than being delayed? 

Back on the mainland, Thomas was tired and said the work is thirsty work. Frankie and Hurricane are pleased with his work so far but Thomas told them that he needs to get home to Sodor now. Despite the protesting, Thomas is now trapped at the Steelworks, which is pretty much slave labour when you look at it.

As Thomas was at the steelworks we come to the next song which is about Thomas wanting to go home and I think that was suppose to be the 'right in the feels' moment as I did feel sad for Thomas and I can understand his pain. So no it wasn't about Thomas having a death experience, who on earth would be expecting that? The strange thing is that the song wasn't given a title in the bonus feature or not even shown on it! But all in all it was a nice and a bit of emotional song and it had a good line of characters that Thomas missed, except for Duck for some reason.

As Thomas sings his plea to go home, he saw an open fence and was free until he was derailed because of an unfinished track. Back on Sodor, James was having trouble with sheep. 


Hurricane and Frankie helped Thomas back onto the track and back on Sodor, James had have enough of Thomas' branch line and decided to go to the mainland and look for Thomas and to be a hero! Back at the steelworks, Thomas decided to break out and runaway while Frankie and Hurricane are a sleep in their shed while a storm was brewing.


However Thomas was caught out and Frankie and Hurricane charged their way to catch him. But he was at last hiding away from them in a siding and he heard the voice of Merlin who was 'invisible'. To be honest, I love how he mention his class' name 'King Arthur'. The railway enthusiast side of me was a little bit excited when that was mentioned, I love it! Plus it might get kids to research on what his basis looks like. Some think it was fan service or fan fiction, but I disagree. Rev.W.Awdry did that similar thing back in the Railway Series book 'Main Line Engines' by having Edward mentioning BoCo's basis to Bill and Ben and the episode kept that in as well. Can Awdry's own work be considered as fan fiction despite that he created the series in the first place? 

As the sun rose up, Thomas went to find Merlin. Meanwhile James was at Bridlington Goods Yard and surprise, surprise they've recycled the set of the large yard that was seen in 'The Great Race' and the EWS livered diesels are in it again and they've talked! I find it brilliant, a nice string of continuity. Although it was strange to hear one with a US accent in a UK dub despite that their basis is from the UK. 

Although they said they haven't seen Thomas until the trucks told James that he was at the steelworks and of course Hurricane happens to be at the yards too! Meanwhile Thomas arrived back at the experimental engines' yard again. However though Thomas felt hopeless and silly for making mistakes.

This is where we come to our next song 'What Can't We Do' where the engines tell Thomas how everyone makes mistakes and this is where we see Merlin all in the flesh. Merlin thinks they should try and get Thomas home. Although Theo said they could get lost and offered Thomas to stay with them. Although Thomas politely rejected the idea and made his own way home.

We then see Thomas puffing near the canal until he was stopped by Beresford in the most unrealistic way, although I take that over a stupid bridge jump since it wasn't built up to become pointless to the plot as Beresford would later hide Thomas behind the boats to avoid Hurricane and Frankie. 

But then he saw Hurricane and Frankie coming into view and told Beresford to hide him. Although I think the logical thing to do is hide him on one of the boats and I'm questioning about the directions from Bridlington goods yard and the steelworks. Thomas also discovered that they've got James as well and have to help him with help of the experimental engines! 

Back at the Steelworks, Frankie and Hurricane started to sing 'Hottest Place in Town' again and James  was fed up and wants to know where's Thomas. Frankie and Hurricane though made James work at the steelworks. Back the yards, plans were made to rescue James.

The plan was to have Lexi and Theo to create a diversion so Thomas can sneak in and get James. For Merlin though he's to keep a sharp eye from the distance. Theo and Lexie created a 'derailment' which was Theo spilling cogs and gears all over the place and Thomas puffed towards the steelworks. Meanwhile Merlin was worried and raced away to help Thomas and uses the power of 'invisibility'. Until he was found out. 

At the steelworks, James pushed the slag trucks to the slag heap and of course he was cross for doing such a job. Thomas arrived to collect him while James was cross with Thomas but then Merlin arrived to warn Thomas that the steelworks engines were coming back until they did. 

The chase is on. Although the music wasn't as epic as I thought it would be. But just then Theo's trucks were derailed and had launched a giant magnet to Thomas and transferred him to a pool of molten slag. James was free but Thomas was in need of help.

Thomas was saved and although his fall was a bit ridiculous, I still don't find it as bad as the bridge jump. However Thomas had once again knocked over some slag trucks and this time Hurricane's wheels had melted after saving Thomas. Merlin came and saved the day by pushing him out of the way. Maybe it could've been better to have him coupled up? 

So after the chase, Frankie was very upset that Hurricane can't make deliveries and that she's on her own. It turns out they just want help and Thomas said to Frankie all she has to do was ask. To make matters better, the experimental engines offered to help and after that Thomas and James head back for home to the Island of Sodor.


This is where we come to our final song 'The Most Important Thing Is Being Friends' and we get a funny line from Henry.

THE END. 

CHARACTERS

MERLIN
One thing that made me quite interested in Merlin is his basis. The reason he thinks he's invisible is because his actual basis was given three funnels during the second world war and the steam would cover the entire engine to hide away from war planes. However, his actual counterpart didn't work and so it was revert back to a single funnel. 

The strange thing about his presence is that he wasn't in the special for that long and was in it for a few minutes despite the hype of him being voiced by celebrity back in May 2017 when they've released the trailer. We do see his persona such as him being confident and optimistic and that's pretty much it, not a really interesting character really. Hugh Bonneville who is the voice of this engine really put energy into this character and I can tell he was having the time of his life. I hope we see more of him soon in the future. 

THEO
Theo is the character that autistic traits and of course there is the shaking as children with autism can flap there hands which is a symptom. He's very charming too with his shyness but he also posses a bit of a pessimistic persona as well with his doubtful nature and anxiety, which I can understand from him as I too can have some anxiety over things that I find frightful, and it shows throughout the movie.  

LEXI
Lexi is pretty much a fun character with her jovial nature and her changing voices, great range of voices by her voice actor, while she has a conversation. I love the voice actress as she, like Hugh Bonneville, felt like she was having some fun with her character too.

HURRICANE & FRANKIE
There isn't much of Hurricane and Frankie I can say other than they're not your typical bad guy but just a villain that needs sympathy. All he and Frankie want is another engine to help them with the steelworks and it's a breath of fresh air to see that, although there isn't much point on why Frankie and Hurricane need help is it a backlog? Or are they lazy? But they were brilliant and memorable characters Frankie was cunning, funny and intelligent and Hurricane was this big friendly giant who cares about Thomas. Hurricane would have to be the most complex out of all the characters. The voice actors though were really great and I can see they have a fun time voicing these characters and I think they were the best singers in the special.

BERESFORD
Beresford's role was small but he can be funny at times and of course all he wants is a friend and I do feel sorry for him. It's nice to see that from a crane's perspective and I think he should've been explored more. Like maybe have him being this big tough crane and that's why engines always avoid him. But he's just trying to be friends that is until Thomas teaches him about how to make friends, that is if more time was put into him (Beresford). His voice actor was pretty good though with his acting and delivery of lines.


SONGS & MUSIC
Like 'The Great Race' and 'Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure', we are once again given another musical. One of the songs 'Who's Thomas' feels unnecessary to me and felt more like filler to fill in the time between Thomas and Beresford. However the bouncing of the troublesome trucks was pretty wacky and funny to look at. 

'The Hottest Place in Town' was my favourite among the songs of the special. The voice actors of Hurricane and Frankie were amazing with their singing and the music brings it a nice beat.

Another song that I like was 'We Can't Do Anything' although a bit pessimistic, Merlin's bit brings a bit of positivity about give something a try and it shows a bit that not every can be perfect of course. 

Another song which was 'The Most Important Thing Is Being Friends'. Although a generic song about friendship it was not a really bad song. The lyrics were nice and catchy and the music is good too. 

ANIMATION
Of course there were some on and off with the animation from Jam Filled. But I think I can forgive them. The layouts along the mainland do look unfinished but I believe from the words of CalleyFan and his 'Thomas Talk' series that the movie was a month behind production because of Arc Productions' unexpected bankruptcy back in August 2016 and had to finish it for a deadline when Jam Filled Productions took over. Yes, I do agree that there are errors here and there such as the flat ground and lack of trees and I do hope Jam Filled do better for next year's special. But despite the bare ground around the junction on the mainland, Jam Filled had done a terrific job with the animation as well as the layout for the Steelworks. 

SPECIAL FEATURES (DVD)

The DVD consists the four songs from the movie and two new segment intervals. One is the 'Landmarks of Sodor' interval about travelling to the mainland. With some nice Railway Series references of the engines going to Barrow-In-Furness and crossing over the Walney Channel which are, as many Thomas fans would know, other real life locations in the UK. They even mentioned the infamous bridge jump from 'The Great Race' and said how dangerous it was. It was funny to me because at least the production team were acknowledging its stupidity. 


Another segment is 'Top 5 Funny Moments' and to be honest it really didn't interest me but it was fun hearing Sam and Nigel again but I think it might be a new YouTube video for the offical channel.

And there are four songs from the movie. 

OVERALL
I think one of the negatives I have with this special is how the way the movie markets that Thomas is leaving Sodor for the first time, when in the past he had left Sodor several times. He went to London in 'Thomas and the Special Letter', that was even mentioned in last year's special, Misty Island in 'Misty Island Rescue', if that bares any importance, York (if you count the books) in 'Thomas and the Great Railway Show' and 'The Great Race'. I guess it's Mattel's way of adding hype to the movie? But why repeat it again when kids would already know that he went there before (the mainland), I guess maybe in Mattel's views kids might not be interested if they mention that Thomas is going to the mainland again? I don't know, but kids would know after watching last year's special. They aren't dumb! But then again with the next special possibly being the upcoming 'refreshed' series & movie next year, 'Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventure!' we might hear that tag line again.

Big World! Big Adventure! Poster with Thomas, The Fat Controller, Yong Bao & the new engine, Nia the African Engine

Speaking about the upcoming movie/series next year, I believe it's a one-off attempt by Mattel as I don't see that lasting a long time and judging by the new information that we've gotten recently with the new African engine Nia, it sounds like a one-off with Thomas going to five continents to head for home. The movie serves as the pilot and then we get the 26 episodic series sometime in autumn months. I like the idea and it's good for competition against 'Paw Patrol', but I'm going to be cautiously optimistic. 

Paw Patrol maybe dominating right now, but for how long?

I understand that ratings are involved, although if that's the case why not demand the TV stations in the UK and US to put Thomas at a better time slot? The UK barely plays an entire season at times, despite that 'milkshake' had played 13 episodes of S21, and the US plays it at 6:00 am in the morning, after seeing it while I was in San Fransisco in June 2017 and they barely play any new episodes unlike other countries, I digress here, but with this and that Thomas has competition with 'Paw Patrol' at the moment along with other pre-school brands and yes that show's toys (Paw Patrol) are pretty much dominating toy shelves at the moment and that the conceptual idea works since kids love action and dogs at the same time. I understand that Mattel can see the potential in Thomas more than Disney could, which by the way for the latter might be terrible to see considering that Disney didn't have great successes, outside of 'Marvel', 'Star Wars' and their own brands ,with other brands in the past such as 'Doug' and 'Power Rangers' and even Disney are trying to make something out of 'The Muppets' and just because Disney has trains at their parks, it doesn't mean Thomas would have any great success with Disney as well, but I digress. Mattel is pretty much suffering with low sales on their products as well as their 'Cars 3' range, which has better detailing.

I don't know how long 'Paw Patrol' will keep up with its popularity but I don't think it'll last the many years that Thomas has. When you look at 'Yokai Watch' in Japan, it had been dominating a long living franchise in that country, 'Pokemon', since 2014. But the popularity of the former didn't last too well, heck it's not even in the top 10 ratings anymore with its show even during the 'Sun and Moon' saga from 'Pokemon'. Even the game which the show (Yokai) is based on had sold less than 'Sun and Moon'. Thomas had went through competition before in 2012 with 'Jake and The Neverland Pirates' and that was a Disney Junior show but the Disney Junior show had ended last year and Thomas is still going on. But despite that, I'm not going to be those people who think it's the end of the world because something new and different is going to happen. I'm just going to wait and see what the outcome is. It might be good or it might be bad, I don't know what's going to happen nor am I going to be pessimistic about it. 


Rob Rackshaw is now James' UK voice

The movie had one voice actor change and that's Rob Rackshaw being the voice of James for the UK/AUS audience. To be honest, I was never a big fan of his US voice since he debuted in 'The Adventure Begins'. I thought he sound like Kerry Shale's Henry, which should change by the way considering that Henry's persona had changed, but worse. But as time went on, I was warmed to his US voice and after hearing some of his UK voices in the UK dub, he was really talented and despite that you know it was him it can be quite distinct and to me his James is more distinct than his US voice. When I heard a sample of his UK voice I thought it was OK and I was being cautiously optimistic as I felt his voice was his US one with a British accent. But after watching the whole movie, his voice was really good and I look forward to be hearing it again in future. I'm sad that Keith Wickham had stopped as James, I do like his cockney voice, but despite the talent it was very high pitched and I just can't see him singing all of James' songs in this movie. He sang a bit for James in last year's movie, but it was minor and it didn't sound too well in my opinion. 

One thing that I'm very pleased with is the distributing of the special, despite the early release on Digital Download earlier in August over in the US. America had got the DVD on August 25th and the UK got it in the cinemas two days later and Australia got it in the cinemas the next week on the 31st for Village Cinemas and Sep.1st in Hoyts cinemas. So kudos to the distributors for the release dates of this special. Much more better than how the way 'The Great Race' and 'Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure' were released in previous years. This DVD special's release is more fair and balanced in my opinion and I hope they keep up with it. It's much better this way rather than having one country seeing all the spoilers and posting pictures or recorded clips up on social media from the cinema as it damages the experience of it. You can say, 'oh but we were waiting!' It's still an illegal move to film a movie on a phone in a cinema, so it's no excuse.

Another thing that I love is that the plot was focusing on one thing rather than several subplots. 'Journey Beyond Sodor' was pretty much focused on Thomas and him wanting to have an adventure and wants to go home with James having a bit of a side plot. But it wasn't like last year's special where it was Thomas learning to be himself, Gordon trying to better than his brother (which I think would be a much better main plot) and the useless third subplot which was Diesel's hope of being part of the show. 

A lot of people have been saying that this movie had a less marketable push than its predecessor and I think it's good that this special didn't have very big exposure. 'The Great Race' was pretty much overhyped with the YouTube channel promoting the international engines despite that they were background fodder to make the railway show look busy in the final product, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) did as well by promoting Shane on the front cover, plus they had the media on their side and their 'controversy' of implementing international engines, as well as hyping up Flying Scotsman since the real locomotive returned to service in the British press, lots of promotional things like the Hilton providing a specially decorated room and so on. Plus at the time, the special was made to cash out of the Rio Olympics and that was the intention for that special. Before the 2016 special, 'Tale of the Brave', 'Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure', despite the 70th anniversary, nor 'King of the Railway' didn't receive any big marketing push in the same way as 'The Great Race'. In the end though, I'm glad that this movie didn't get that big marketing push as hype culture can be bad at times. You expect something to be good but when you see the final outcome it could either be good or bad in the end, take a look at the Pokemon fandom a few months back when the live feed didn't announce 'Diamond and Pearl' remakes although I do wish that for those myself. 

Chuggington's movements are far more worse than what 
Journey Beyond Sodor had done.

Of course the most infamous moment that is 'controversial' is the body movement. I understand that it breaks the rules of railway realism but let's be honest. In the past there had been many rule breaking moments in the series as far as back as the classic series. In 'Daisy' we had her shaking violently while her driver was outside, Henry for not following Rule 55 in S3 and of course in S5 we had characters like Toby floating on a wooden bridge, a boulder that rolled over a narrow gauge viaduct that didn't crumble it yet can smash down an engine shed and a water tower, a truck flying high into the air after Gordon rammed right into it and trucks running away at 100mph with heavy loads inside of them. Heck even 'Thomas & the Tragic FailRoad' had some unrealistic stuff in it like Gordon shaking at the sight of Diesel 10, an engine pumping magic dust out her pistons and a huge diesel having a claw and using it to hold himself from falling of a dangerous viaduct. Even though I like 'Thomas the Jet Engine' for being stupid yet fun, it was still unrealistic with Thomas going at full speed with a jet engine behind him and of course we had Kevin in 'Snow Place Like Home' who had also some movement when he speaks and yet no complaints about these. Plus even previous specials in this era had some rule breaking moments too such as 'Tale of the Brave', 'The Great Race' and even 'Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure', such as the rockslide at the clay pits, Thomas balancing and dangling on steel tracks while he fell into a hole, even chasing a pirate ship that can balance well on a flatbed despite tipping over on a tight curve later on and of course Thomas jumping across a bridge and land perfectly despite that the special before showed us what happens when Thomas lands on the ground hard. 

We even have engines moving off by themselves despite them having engine crews in the background. So why do these rule breaking moments get the free pass, apart from the pointless bridge jump, and yet the subtle movements are a bad thing? It's just coming to the point where we just have to accept it for what it is for it to make the show more successful and entertaining, after all, like I said before, 'Paw Patrol' has more toys and their are plenty of other shows that are competing than Thomas in plenty of shops so they have to be in competition and that means sacrifices are to be made to make the audience at least engaged to the TV show. 

I'm not a big fan of the movement myself but I can see them working in places such in song and a way to expressive themselves when they talk to other engines and like Kevin in S19, it feels subtle. Plus some are comparing the movements to 'Chuggington' and if you don't know what that show is, even though it is now obscure at the moment except in North America and Japan, it's a pre-school show about three 'trainees' learning about friendship, loyalty etc. and of course they jump up and down and sway from side to side but far more worse in my opinion. The movement in Thomas feels, like I said before, subtle.

Another problem I see is with the Fat Controller for not being authoritative enough. When Thomas left with the goods train that was meant for James to take he didn't get angry over it, he just brushed it off and carried on like it was normal. This was also a problem with him in 'The Great Race' when he hadn't disciplined Thomas for neglecting his duties so he can be part of the Great Railway Show. I guess they don't want him to be too authoritative but maybe the writers are worried that they might get criticism for the Fat Controller being a dictator which is all lies made up by stupid journalists in The Guardian who are really overanalysing the show so they can complain about it, I digress. But I think it is important to showcase an authority figure like the Fat Controller to get cross at his engines and punish them for not following his orders like kids doing the wrong thing despite their parents warning them at first, heck that was shown in 'Pouty James' an episode that I don't like! The Fat Controller should've scolded Thomas for taking something without asking. It could teach kids that you can't do everything you like and that was shown in 'Tale of The Brave'. After all in this day and age we hear a lot about bad parenting in the media and question on why they are parents in the first place. His authoritative figure shows so well in 'Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure' and 'Tale of The Brave' and in a few episodes of this era. Him lacking the authoritative nature is just bad consistency for his character.

Even though an article from May 2017 had stated that Lexi is the first transgender engine, there was nothing that felt like she is one. I'm not hating the idea really of an engine with those traits to showcase the unique things about people. The special's moral. The way some people in this fanbase have treated the story and the mention about transgenderism it was at all not pleasant in my views.

Another thing too is the response this movie is getting from parents on Amazon US. Here they've been saying that there kids are scared because of the movie's premise and while yes I can see why but from the words of one of animation's greats, Don Bluth:

 ' [If] you don’t show the darkness, you don’t appreciate the light. If it weren’t for December no one would appreciate May. It’s just important that you see both sides of that. As far as a happy ending…when you walk out of the theatre there’s [got to be] something that you have that you get to take home. What did it teach me? Am I a better person for having watched it?'*

Whether it's sadness or something dark, kids should learn from what the movie is trying to say. Even if the message that you should ask for help, there's no other way to showcase someone to force the main character to do something. Not everything is all sunshine and rainbows where nothing bad happens in the world. Yes I understand that the current situation we are facing on this planet right now is bad but it'll showcase to kids something to get ready for when they are older and they need to be toughen up for all the obstacles that lies ahead for them and parents need to understand that you can't protect your kids forever. Plus one of the Amazon parents said, 'This probably isn't what Awdry had in mind.' If they are reading this, I highly suggest reading his stories like 'Bluebells of England', 'Escape' and 'Granpuff'. You'll be surprised. 

Parents need to understand that they can't keep their kids wrapped in cotton wool and hearing these kinds of complaints is like hearing from parents on 'Common Sense Media'. They're worried about what their kids should be watching and complain about everything. Heck they're worried that kids might think adults are stupid because a kid was doing all the work in 'Paw Patrol', yeah Thomas' rival, without any parents in the show. Kids are smarter than that, they know the differences between reality and fantasy. Quite ironic considering there's a website with the two words Common Sense. 

In the end I'm glad that this special didn't get so much hype unlike last year's special because it really kept the expectations low and it got some positive feed back among many fans since its release in the US. I do feel that Beresford's role was not really worth it considering he didn't do much for the movie and I think they should've focused more on the experimental and steelworks engines but in the end, the story is good, the movement is not the worse thing and the plot focuses only one thing rather than focusing on plot after plot after plot which where 'The Great Race' failed at. This is not on par with 'Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure', 'The Adventure Begins' and 'Tale of the Brave'. But on its own it was a good movie but not brilliant nor ground breaking.

OVERALL RATING
8/10 

*Quote came from 'Film School Reject