Friday, 31 January 2014

DVD Review: The Thomas Way

Welcome to the first DVD review for 2014. Today will be looking at the UK's first DVD release of S17, a new era of Thomas & Friends which has been praised by many of the older fans last year when the new season premiered in UK, US and Australia. This is also a new format of Thomas DVDs for the UK as well and here are my views of it, but first:


Written by
Laura Beaumont and Paul Larson
Davey Moore

Directed by
David Baas
Produced by 
Robert Anderson (Arc)
Ian McCue & Halim Jabbour (HIT) 

- The Thomas Way
- The Switch
- Percy's Lucky Day
- Calm Down Caitlin
- The Lost Puff
- Luke's New Friend

Special Features
- Really Useful Engines
- Mr. Perkins Postcard
- The Earl's Quiz
- Mr. Perkins' Storytime
- Who's That Engine? 

Release Date

You can have a look at my views of the episodes provided by the link under the episode list above. I am glad that HIT Entertainment had provided more then four episodes so that parents in the UK can more value with these, and by looking at this list, I can tell that the will be well spent over these episodes, despite a few that have some problems but not as major as the ones between S13-16. Mark Moraghan's narration is of course spot on in these episodes and bring some enthusiasm and it brings a charm towards the episodes too with some of the story lines' simplicity.  

The special features have been seen in 'Santa's Little Engine' last year for the US audience and now are seen for the UK audience. They're more fun then the previous CGI releases and I can see kids can enjoy them. As what Chris Tomson says on his blog that the 'Really Useful Engine' segements are the ones from the Fisher Price website glued together. But they are fun and there may as well be children who didn't watch. The Postcard segment was nice, simple and educational about the narrow gauge engines, I can see that Andrew Brenner had put some research in. 

Of course my favourite is the story time segments with Mr. Perkins, as I said last year on my 'Santa's Little Engine' review, it's a great way to introduce the Railway Series stories towards an entire new generation sharing with the illustrations of John T. Kenny (who illustrated the story that is on the DVD) and some by Loraine Marshall. Although there were livery changes towards the illustrations like Peter Sam being green instead of red, but I understand why as there are kids who are familiar with the characters in their TV series liveries, but it would be better if they kept the illustrations the way they were and mention that it was years ago when they were all painted red. But the actual basis for Peter Sam (Edward Thomas on the Talyllyn Railway) was painted in different colours as well such as GWR green in 1987. 

However there are some errors in her illustrations, Gordon's cab was too tall when talking to Sir Handel, but other then that her artwork is really good and remastered RWS pictures are amazing in widescreen format. However the Mr. Perkins segment in this release has an error, considering that this the same railway that was filmed for the PBS segments in America for the mainland, Mr. Perkins mentioned Thomas. There might be some differences saying that the DVD ones are set on Sodor and the mainland ones are for the PBS audience, but they are the same place so it's hard to see the difference. The Earl Quiz's was nice and fun and the 'Who's That Engine' segment is great as well with the specially made footage by Arc Productions. 

This is definitely a good DVD to have for your child or if you're a big fan of Season 17. These episodes are enjoyable for both young and old, even though they may have a few problems here and there, but like I said earlier, not as major as S13-16. The format of the DVD is better then the previous releases rather then having Engine Roll Call at the end of every episode, leave the song until the end, like the American releases.   

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

NWR Editorial: Hornby discontinuing the Thomas & Friends range (EDIT:3/2/14)



After nearly 30 years of being on the shelves of hobby shops around the UK and Australia (I don't believe they were sold in the USA) and after years of rumours and speculations of Hornby waning their Thomas range due to £1 million annual loss and supply issues, Hornby had discontinued their Thomas & Friends range, as reported by ''. 

The range first started in 1985, under Hornby Railways, a year after the debut of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends on ITV when it was under the Britt Allcroft company label. Quite obviously the range was a huge success gaining characters that were in the television series and quite rarely, the Railway Series books. However since 2011, speculations had risen since Hornby had discontinued characters such as Duck, Stepney, Henry etc. and as well a year later in 2012 when HIT Entertainment were bought under the owners of Mattel and has ceased Learning Curve's licesne for their Wooden Railway range and Take-N-Play range. 

First off, if this story is confirmed true by Hornby, I am disappointed that Hornby had come to this conclusion with their well-known range to Thomas fans and railway modellers. I started collecting the models from the Hornby range since I was ten years old until I've lost some interest in it until I got back into it in 2009 when I bought the 'Great Discovery' set with the weathered Thomas model. But I'm also not surprised by the discontinuation. Hornby had been lacking with their Thomas range ever since the release of Murdoch and Dart in 2011 when the 2012 range was being announced via the Hornby website and by the result of their poor sales during the London Olympics of 2012.  

Bachmann had been pretty much keeping up the Thomas characters that were either made by Hornby or not and kept well accurate towards the television series model. If either anyone from HIT or Bachamnn US are reading this I think they may need to consider to bring the Bachmann models to UK hobby shops for the keen Thomas collectors since that the Hornby has been discontinued. 

Once again I am disappointed by also not surprised by this news. Hornby had produced such wonderful models, despite a few flaws with characters like Edward and Emily, but as the Hornby and Marketing manager, Simon Kolher says 'Nothing ever lasts forever.' If anyone from Hornby is reading this, thank you for producing such a great range that brought kids into railway modelling and hope that you may continue on with your success with your other respective range of locomotives, rolling stock and sets.

EDIT - 3/2/14: It's been confirmed that Hornby has discontinued their Thomas range, so as I said before if any representative from Hornby are reading this, thank you for making such a terrific range for railway modellers and children and good luck with your other products from their respective ranges.

EDIT - 25/09/15: Even though it has been months, turns out the 'news' from last Feb was nothing but false and that Hornby had resurrected the range. This post will stay up though.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

NWR Editorial: First Thoughts on Tale of The Brave trailer



The second special by Arc Productions and the second written by Andrew Brenner. King of the Railway had proved successful last year with its writing and character development as well as S17 with some its classic series story lines (e.g- Bill or Ben? and Thomas' Shortcut) so how would hold up? 

The story so far seem to take place, possibly, at the China clay pits, since that Timothy's yellow lettering on his boiler does stand out 'SCC'. Meanwhile a monster is presumed by Percy, with the discovery of footprints. We then meet new characters such as Gator, Timothy, Reg, Marion. And we see some old favourites who make there debut in a DVD special such as Duck, Bill and Ben and of course: 

When I first saw the trailer, I was of course excited to see the GWR 14XX pannier tank engine in full CGI. This is the first time that Oliver is seen the series since season 12 in 2008. Looking at the design of the character, he looks very detailed. However I'm not expecting him to land a big role in the special, maybe minor. But he might have a role in S18 like Duck in the previous series. However despite his return, I'm expecting a great story rather then a character return. 

Looking at the new characters, Gator seems likeable and is voiced by Clive Mantle, who played Simon Horton in 'The Vicar of Dibley'. The voice sounds very good in my opinion. Some might say that his basis looks 'weird' or a 'mega Scruff'. He is however based on the Colombian Steam motor locomotive that happen to be built in Britain for Colombia. Despite that this is a trailer, the other characters look good as well, including Marion: 

When I first saw the book cover last year, I thought it was Ned from the Sodor Construction Crew. But I did have doubts about it and after looking at the basis I knew it can't possibly be him as it runs on rails. But the design for Marion looks excellent. 

In my final thoughts, the trailer had left me more impressed then KOTR's trailer that was seen back in January for the UK. The movie looks very promising and looks to be even better then King of The Railway, in my opinion. I remember some people were saying that at the time, 'Monster of Sodor' which it was originally called, was 'going to be bad', 'Percy and the Monster of Brendam the extended episode' etc. despite that people can judge, I think they need to give things a chance. We weren't impressed with KOTR at first and look how much it was praised with its writing, Railway series and classic series references. I may sound a bit harsh or aggressive here but I'm just stating that we shouldn't judge things quickly here. 


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Year In Review - 2013


Now that Australia are in the new year of 2014 let's take a look back at the events during the course of 2013...

The DVD review started off with 'Muddy Matters' from the United States, despite that I was going to receive it January, Amazon cancelled the order and I've delayed my post for in February. But despite that I find the DVD to be a good start for the year. However in January there was a surprise for the Thomas fans as the UK trailer for 'King of the Railway' was leaked on the internet, showing us the infancy of the storyline, new animation and characters, albeit in low quality. Fans had complained about the animation at the time being 'cheap' and 'awful', were there was some scenes that are not finished yet (Robert Norramby with Thomas, James, Percy and Stephen at the Steamworks). It was however a big surprise, to me, in Australia that we're getting also getting 'Go Go Thomas' early that year as well, alongside with the UK and US, however there was some disappointment in the DVD, despite that it's from the 16th season, there were two episodes from the horrid 15th season, which are 'Wonky Whistles' and 'Kevin the Steamie'.

But March was also the month were a new turn of the Thomas & Friends was revealed, despite being a Wal*Mart exclusive, with brand new episodes from the 17th series with new writing, animation and the biggest surprise of all was a new narrator by the name Mark Moraghan from Liverpool, England, which means 2012 was the last year for the longest running UK storyteller Michael Angelis and US storyteller Michael Brandon. Despite the new change, Moraghan was quickly accepted by Thomas fans and praised his narration. Plus the animation was praised as well by Arc Productions and the new story lines were praised as well, despite one episode that didn't turn out well (Steamie Stafford).

The UK had received a surprise too in Poundland. Despite that the restored classic episodes were released in the latter part of 2012, HIT Entertainment with Poundland had released 1 pound DVDs of classic Thomas the Tank Engine episodes from the Ringo Starr era of the series. I happen to bought a couple when I went to the UK in July. However there were some bad times in the Thomas fandom in the US with Netflix pulling streaming Thomas episodes out of there website due to cutbacks. But over in the UK we see them starting off the new and improved S17, albeit showing only the first episodes with characters old and new, the rest will follow from October, with one in November and four winter themed episodes in December. The other unaired episodes in the UK, that had just aired on Australian TV around October/November, will hopefully air around the new year.

King of The Railway then made its debut in Poland on a television network, making it the first country to see the new special. It's english debut started in Australia at selected Hoyts cinemas. The DVD soon came out in September in the UK and US and then October here in Australia, though I got it earlier at Trainworks. KOTR had earned praise by parents and older Thomas fans with extended cinema runs in the UK and it ended up on Amazon UK's 'Best selling DVD' list.

But there were some bad times for the UK fandom of the series. AudioGo was announced administration leaving a very rocky future for the Railway Series audio series. This also happened with other UK classics like Doctor Who, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013. However nearing Christmas news came that Random House have become the new owners of the AudioGo/BBC audio series giving a new light to the future of the Railway Series audio series.

Also that same month, the administration news, Thomas the Tank Engine was named 34th greatest kids show by channel 5's list. Despite some strong disagreements of such a classic being shunned by shows like Peppa Pig. Even Sooty and Postman Pat, who share the same title as Thomas for being long running classics, were shunned with Sooty at a very low position. But there were some good times during the last few months, the US had released 'Santa's Little Engine', with Christmas/Winter themed episodes of the 17th season and one renarrated 13th season episode. The DVD showed a new style of Mr. Perkins with now being filmed at various heritage railways across the UK with the Railway Series stories being shown towards a new generation, with him telling 'The Flying Kipper'.

However there were people from the Thomas legacy that have parted from this earth. Hilary Fortnam had battled cancer for many years and had passed away in December. She was the woman who helped both her father and brother's work of making the Railway Series stories come to life with her own opinions. Plus she was the one who battled with the opposition of getting rid of the word 'Christmas' in the Thomas series, which made its amends in the 17th series. She'll never be forgotten by the Thomas fans for her contribution.

There was another surprise before the year ended when SiF revealed that Sam Barlow and HIT wanted Gwyneth Paltrow, who played as Pepper in the Iron Man series, was considered as the Thomas narrator for 'The Great Discovery' which would've made her the first female narrator for the series. However I think Thomas deserves a British narrator, considering that the show is made in Britain, and could've chosen a female narrator like Helena Bonham Carter.

So what's there for 2014? Well so far 'Spills and Thrills' will be making its DVD debut soon with US hopefully getting in the widescreen and that Australia will be giving it a cinema release at selected Hoyts cinemas. We also have a new special lined up called 'Tale of the Brave' and that the television series will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

With 2013 being a great year for Thomas who knows what 2014 might bring.