Friday, 7 November 2014

DVD Review: The Christmas Engines


Written by
Andrew Brenner
Mark Huckerbry & Nick Olster
Davey Moore

Directed by
Don Spencer & David Stoten

Produced by
Robert Anderson (Arc)
Ian McCue (HIT)

Last Train For Christmas
Long Lost Friend
Duncan the Humbug
The Perfect Gift

DVD Intervals
Calling All Engines! - Toby and Henry
Mr. Perkins Storytime - Percy and the Trousers
Mr. Perkins Postcard - Tidmouth Sheds
The Earl's Quiz - No Snow for Thomas and Merry Winter Wish

Special Features
'It's Christmas Time' music video
Guess Who puzzles

Release Date
14/10/14 - Digital 
28/10/14 - DVD

Distributed by
Universal/HIT Entertainment

With Season 18 airing in UK since August, American fans were treated to another Christmas DVD with episodes featuring from the 18th season. With the return of Duncan, after six year wait to be fully incorporated into CGI. So will these episodes bring the spirit of Christmas? Well let's find out.

Unlike the previous Christmas DVD 'Santa's Little Engine' this DVD features five newly written episodes, whereas the former had released four newly written episodes and one episode re-recorded from Season 13. I won't go into too much detail on the episodes, I'm keeping them ready for December, however you can read my views on 'Duck in The Water'. But I will say this, there's a top favourite of mine, two good ones and one OK but not great episode, you will find out in December when the episodes are on air in the UK.

We are given another Railway Series story from Mr. Perkins which is 'Percy and the Trousers' which its episode adaptation is called 'A Scarf for Percy'. I was surprised that Andrew Brenner had chosen the season three adaptation rather then the usual story, like the previous segments. However it's very understandable on why he must've chosen the episode over the original story. If you read the Railway Series book 'Henry the Green Engine', which is the only book in the series that has more then five stories, the story 'Percy and the Trousers' was very short and out of place in a book about Henry. I was kinda glad that Britt Allcroft and David Mitton had extended the story for the sake of a five minute timeframe and with it being an extended story, we are given more of Loraine Marshall's beautiful talent of her replicated Railway Series pictures. Funny enough the story was in the same book as last year's Christmas DVD, which was 'The Flying Kipper'. I don't know if it's by sheer coincidence or Andrew Brenner just loves continuity, which is very important to a story.

We also get another postcard segment which is about Tidmouth Sheds, what I like about it is that they've mentioned that Duck once lived their but now Emily lives there as Duck now runs the Little Western with Oliver, it's nice to give some continuity to the series. The Earl's Quiz is a nice addition too for young children to learn about shapes and sizes, though I wish they've chosen something else then the dreaded S14 episode 'Merry Winter Wish'. They could've added what Sidney needs to make him move, it would help the child's thinking skills on what makes a locomotive move. 

The special features include 'It's Christmas Time', a new music video for the DVD. To be honest the song was decent and it has a nice festive ring to it and it has a nice catchy beat and the lyrics were good. I don't know who sang the song, though I wish HIT Entertainment would credit the singer of the songs in future. 

Also is the 'Dinos and Discoveries' DVD trailer, which like this year's release 'Spills and Thrills', will see six episodes from the 18th season, which one has been already confirmed in book form which is 'Emily Saves the World', though that title may change, I also noticed that ABC won't be airing them as well, hope they don't mess around with the DVD like 'Spills and Thrills'. The trailer was also seen on the UK release of 'Santa's Little Engine'. Many people would know that I'm not a huge fan of the US dub, though I'm not saying I passionately hate it, I just think the American dub doesn't put much emotion into the character's voices, despite some, and some voices were just absolutely terrible (Scruff comes to mind in the trailer). However I do know the UK has its flaws too when it comes to acting. 
The DVD will feature Samson, who helps out at the Earl's Dinosaur Park, I will say the basis that they've chosen him is absolutely outstanding. Some people may think he looks like Neil, though the basis are a bit similar, it's vastly different. I know that when the UK's trailer came out, some people are doubting that these episodes would be like the Sam Barlow era, I don't blame Sharon Miller solely for the show's problem and shame on the ones who use death threats against her, she's not a great writer but there's no need for you to have such incredible amount of stupidity. Andrew Brenner and his writing team as well as Ian McCue, head of production at HIT, had done wonders on bringing the roots of the Reverend Awdry back. Sam Wilkinson, the Railway Consultant, had shared a map using RWS locations and TVS locations bringing the entire canon together with new links and all. The writing team may not have put an amount of action in the 18th season and I know many people love to have S5 style action, but to be honest I'm glad. Thomas the Tank Engine had never been a show that's been action packed. It's stories about life on the railway with morals for children to understand when they are growing up and the action is needed to showcase that moral. The writing team shows, in the words of Chris Tomson, that story comes first before action and also that the action is needed to showcase the moral. I don't mind action in the series, unless it is needed. 

What makes it sad though that the exclusive DVD will mark the end of Ben Small and Martin Sherman's voice for Thomas the Tank Engine in the UK and US. Although Thomas' US voice is not to my taste in some episodes and specials, Sherman did put some effort in it as well, the DVD will also mark the end his role as Percy and Diesel, the former is more likely to be in the DVD then the latter, it depends though, either be a cameo or minor or secondary role. Ben Small will be missed too, though his reason is very different towards Sherman's. Sherman's reason to end the voice of Thomas, Diesel and Percy in the US dub is due to low pay and Small's reason is because his contract isn't renewed and that HIT wants a more fresher voice for Thomas in the UK. Both will be sadly missed and I wish them all the best of luck for their future.


As I was wondering about these Christmas releases, I thought why couldn't HIT release the Christmas episodes from the recent season in the UK as well as the US. The recording could've been done by now from the UK cast. Over the years the US cast does the voiceovers first then the UK second, which is why we see the Wal*Mart exclusives in 2013 and 2014. I don't have enough knowledge on the voice recording, but if the UK cast has done the recordings for the Christmas episodes, surely they could've released them on the DVD as well as play them on TV. 

On the DVD, it has a good selection of episodes for the Christmas season. To me the episodes that standout would be 'Last Train for Christmas' and 'Duncan the Humbug'. Both episodes stood out well with its morals and storyline, the others will follow with their reviews next month along with the stood out episodes. The other special features showcase the Guess Who puzzles and they're same as always along with some trailers from HIT Entertainment and Universal.