Saturday, 31 January 2015

Top 5/ Least 5 Favourite S18 Episodes



Another Season has been and gone and so, as mentioned in my DVD review, here's my top and least favourite episodes of the 18th season. Please be reminded that over the course of 2014 and early this year some of my opinions may have changed. 


One of the best Christmas episodes I think since 'Thomas and Percy's Christmas Adventure'. This episode definitely shows, what I believe, the true meaning of Christmas, Effort. The engines you see in the story are making the effort to get the lines cleared to get the last train back on Sodor in time for Christmas and Connor promising a small boy to bring him and the other passengers home. It also shows the railway doing the number one important thing like all railways, serving the public. Andrew Brenner had really created such an amazing episode and I'm glad to call this a top favourite.

As I've mentioned in my review for the episode as well as my 'Top 10 Favourite Thomas Episodes' list, I still stand by and saying this as a modern classic. The two writers aren't perfect but this is there best work in their part of Season 18. They've captured James' persona very well and Duck as well with his knowledge about the Great Western Railway and the idea of introducing slip coaches to the series to teach kids about how the way they've used. However I do agree with some people about the 'Emily vs. Duck' joke. It would've been better if they've ended the episode with Emily coming out on top then it wouldn't have been mean spirited, although some 'fans' accepted how the way it end. To me the joke was sour in my taste.

Edward had missed out on an episode in S17 but regained an opening number in August 2014 with this modern classic. Although it has been done before in previous years with the usual tropes, but I believe that each generation has there own Edward episode. The fans grew up with the classic series has 'Edward and Gordon', The post-Awdry classic series fans has 'Edward the Very Useful Engine' and the new series has this one, yes I'm calling it new series because there is still some continuity for it. Andrew Brenner had captured Edward so well with his sarcastic humour, watch the end of 'Cows', and wise persona. It even has a great moral that you should never take your friends granted and that you must always say thank you. 

I've stated that episode reminds me of people in this fan base and months after this episode had aired I still think of that. Davey Moore had captured Duncan's grumpy personality very well however I hope we don't see him with that persona too often. We had see him being a bit conceited in 'Duncan the Humbug' over about a new coat of paint for the winter. But this episode does show that we can't please everyone with everything and it's best that we ignore them instead.

Despite its flaws like the lack of coaches and I do agree on people's views for that reason. I usually say that if we have that, having more coaches then we have no plot, but thinking about having that in the plot it could work differently. We might have Gordon getting annoyed that his express, with different express coaches, is late say he stopped at Wellsworth and then he saw Samson coming by and was shocked that his express coaches were there. So yeah it could've worked that way but you might be thinking why I considered this as my fifth favourite episode? Well it's all down to Samson's character of being stubborn and arrogant and always wanting to be right and perfect after one mistake and that his character is pretty much like what a child can be at times. Plus its moral that we always make mistakes is thought out well and that the words 'Confusion and Delay' is needed for an episode like this. They should've called this 'Samson's Confusion and Delay'.


I understand that it's Samson's personality is suppose to be stubborn and head strong but this episode shows that he has lack of common sense. I don't know though of continuity, considering that these episodes were released only on DVD and many DVDs don't follow by production order, maybe we'll wait for the series compilation DVD in future? With the lack of common sense part, Samson thinks a bike, a bus stop and the Fat Controller's car that all look new is deemed as scrap. I also don't like how Harvey was portrayed in the episode as well, he's just there all nervous and worried. I understand with Samson's stubbornness Harvey may've been worried not to mess with him but Harvey should at least stand up against him and put some common sense in him. Plus the lack of remorse from Samson as well for not knowing the car, bike and bus stop. Despite that I like some of the comedy in the episode, it could've been improved with its story and characterisation. 

Even though I gave the episode a good rating, it's the choice of character that I don't like. Now if the plot was about Toby being nervous of the junction being new and not being used to it due to him working on a rural branch line then that would work. Plus looking back at the episode, some parts do get repetitive mostly with Thomas and Henrietta saying that Toby is the 'number seven brown tram engine.' It feels a bit lazy in my opinion. I may have given this episode a good rating when I first saw it but my opinions for the episode had changed after seeing it many times and I do believe it's not one of the strongest episodes of S18. The Ferdinand cameo, as it was confirmed by a Thomas & Friends production member, it's really not a big deal. If the writers do consider of bringing him as well as the other two idiots back then there would be some common sense in them.

This episode has a nice moral for kids that everyone celebrates their own way and it was written to show Percy's not giving up attitude. But the story concept is not anywhere new and I understand that can be said for previous episodes in the past but we're focusing on S18. The plot feels like a rehash of 'The Biggest Present of All!', 'The Party Surprise' and 'Salty's Surprise', if you've seen those episode you'll understand. If you haven't, it's main character sees secondary character and thinks that a present might be great to give either it's for a party or cheering up, messes up three times and realises in the end. 

I find the episode alright and it shows a nice ending to the Percy and Gator story arc. But there are some unexplained parts such as Gator knowing Owen, the purpose of the rock salt having Gator delivering them from the docks then delivering them for the docks. I don't find it bad it's just not written well in my opinion.

I don't see this as 'Percy and The Monster of Brendam' of S18 as the episode is nowhere near that plot line. It's a bit complex with Salty's story. It's not that frightening enough and I do know that it's a pre-school show but I believe that a young child wouldn't find that scary. I think it would've worked say that the flatbeds have pipes of them and that was the cause of the sound as the flatbeds in the 'flashback' is just generic parts and all. The sound effect would've made more sense. 


So these are my most favourites and least favourites in the 18th season. So what would that mean for S19. Well on my wish list I would like to see better stories better then the last as they've proven that in this season and maybe some returnees like Duke, Daisy and BoCo. But only time will tell later on in the year, all we know that Donald and Douglas are set for a return this year thanks to their voice actor, Joe Mill for leaking it back in March 2014 on his website. It's not there now but it's happening.

Monday, 19 January 2015

DVD Review: Dinos and Discoveries

As we are now in the 70th year of the Railway Series books ready for May 12th according to the newly made official website, we take a look at HIT Entertainment's DVD 'Dino's and Discoveries' featuring six selected episodes of the 18th season. First confirmed last year in book form by Random House publishings in America, which is the DVD title with another episode which is 'Emily Saves the World' and a trailer was later released on the UK's 'Santa's Little Engine' and the US' 'The Christmas Engines'. Sadly this will be the last DVD released with Ben Small, the voice actor of Thomas the Tank Engine, as well as Toby, Rheneas and Owen in the UK dub and Stanley and Charlie in the US dub, as he was released by HIT Entertainment last year as announced by SiF, so good luck to Ben Small and his future, he will be replaced by John Hasler who sounds striking similar to Small but younger. Martian Sherman, who voices Thomas in the US as well as Percy and Diesel, left the series due to pay dispute and this will also be his last DVD to voice the iconic blue engine, it's not yet confirmed who will replace him. I wish Sherman well and his future.


Marion and the Dinosuars
Millie and the Volcano
Timothy and the Rainbow Truck
Samson at your Service
Emily Saves the World
Samson Sent for Scrap

Written by
Andrew Brenner
Davey Moore
Laura Beaumont and Paul Larson
Mark Huckerby and Nick Olster

Directed by
Don Spencer

Produced by
Robert Anderson and Brian Lynch (Arc)
Ian McCue (HIT)

Special Features
Really Useful Engines - Diesel and Caitlin
Mr. Perkins' Storytime - Edward and Gordon
The Earl's Quiz - Chickens and Kites
Mr. Perkins Postcard - Shunting Yard
Who's That Engine? - Gordon

Release Date
12/01/15 - UK
3/03/15 - US
4/03/15 - AU

Distributed by
HIT Entertainment (UK/US/AUS)
Universal (US)

As I've announced mid/late last year, I'll be reviewing the episodes only from these kinds of DVDs released around early in the new year. So here are the episodes:

Written by
Andrew Brenner

The episode has a certain feel to 'Thomas, Percy and the Dragon' from the third season, one of Andrew Brenner's stories that he created for the magazines. This is pretty much more the start of Samson's story arc that it almost feels like a RWS book. The story is simple but good and it definitely shines Marion's personality and her love of digging and Oliva Colman who voices Marion sounds really enthused and did wonderful with the emotion of her. Plus it was good how they hid Samson until the very end. However there are usual animation errors from the episode as well such as when Thomas left the second time after meeting Marion he had about four trucks but then in another show he had only one without a brake van, however it's only a nitpick. It's simple but entertaining in the end. This is Ben Small's last episode as Toby.


Written by
Andrew Brenner

One of the best things about the new production team is that they add more vocabulary such as 'megalosaurus' giving the pre-school audience more words to learn. The moral is good too for kids, telling us that we can be scared of anything and the engines' knowledge about dinosaurs and volcano's is good too as there are about ten different ones although none in active service. Another moral too on Mille's part that even though you've been called names it still doesn't give you a right to trick them and that size doesn't matter. However there is two plot holes in this episode and that's the dinosaur models being disconnected. While in the previous episode, the dinosaurs were transported all connected on the flatbeds and yet Samson would have to go through Henry's tunnel on the way from the mainland. Despite that they're very tall. Plus as Chris Tomson said on his blog, Andrew Brenner had wrote for Fireman Sam and 'Too Many Fire Engines' and we see a groundskeeper having a bonfire near the railway line. There could've been major consequences with the fire as well. It could've worked better if say Millie delivered a workmen who can do smoke effect and Millie would've tricked Samson and Harvey that way. Andrew Brenner is one of the best writers in the series but he can have some flaws with his work. However the episode gives good moralisations and a feeling of a classic series episode and I hope one day we see an episode of the Earl and Dowager Hatt together.


Written by
Davey Moore

The beginning of this episode seems to be very much filler to fit the time frame. The audience knows who Bill and Ben are and what they do. Some fans have said that this episode feels like a S13-16 storyline and although it shares the familiarity it's actually a S13-16 storyline done right. The episode really shines Timothy's gullible nature and their was not much of a three strikes formula. It was just Timothy puffing past three things and that's it because it doesn't feel repetitive nor lazily written. Plus the joke at the end shows great comeuppance for Bill and Ben with a truck looking like a rainbow truck instead of discovering a real one. It's not the best episode but decent enough.


Written by
Davey Moore

This episode shows Samson's stubbornness and development about making mistakes. I think it's good that we have a character that act like that like what Sir Handel was back in the fourth season. Plus Samson is an example of a character acting like a child. Children can get stubborn and want to be perfect and right, even though mistakes come along the way and that helps us improving ourselves. I enjoy the episode and I think there some good comedic scenes such as Gordon with Annie and Clarabel.


Written by
Laura Beaumont and Paul Larson

Yes I've panned many Thomas episodes that share its unrealistic value. But despite this episode having it as well it's actually entertaining too. I know many will say 'Rusty and The Boulder' is the same way and it's fine if people like that episode but to me the latter is not really entertaining as its story feels like bad fan fiction with many plot holes, such as the shed blowing up for no reason, the workmen not checking if it's safe to work below, the movement of boulder. Though there is some realism in the episode when it comes to the globe with it stopping on flat ground and near the crest of the hill. Though compare it to RATB, the moral of the story is much better then what the S5 episode gave us, that is if the moral in that episode was given. The moral in this episode is that we shouldn't be overexcited and be more careful first. I know that this episode shares the same flaw such as incompetent workmen not knowing the safety of the earth on the flatbed and I agree with that if many people share the same thought. So while this episode is good in my opinion it's not the best of all nor perfect. I love the call backs to the past episodes too, thanks to Sam Wilkinson the Railway Consultant. Yes it's unrealistic but it's entertaining at best.


Written by
Mark Huckerby and Nick Olster

This episode has its problems such as Samson knowing a bike, a bus stop sign and the Fat Controller's car are scrap in his eyes. I know it's Samson's personality to be stubborn and a know it all, but he should've known better. Plus Harvey could've at least tell Samson they look too new to be scrap, or for the bus stop, explaining its importance or could go against his word (Samson's). I understand that the writers bend the rules to make them learn the moral, but the episode could've been better. But there are some good comedic parts such as Scruff and the Fat Controller. So the episode is alright but could've been better.


The first we see is the 'Calling All Engines!' segment with the Fat Controller with giving us the biography of characters. In this DVD we see Diesel and Catlin. It's the same thing as we see in every DVD but it's great to introduce kids who are new to Thomas towards some of the selected characters.
In the intervals is Mr. Perkins' Postcard about the Shunting Yards. Although it doesn't feel different in my opinion but the postcard picture seem to be implying that Stafford is the engine there, considering that his basis is a shunting engine. Who knows, we might see engines having a specific job in future? Although this is a nitpick but Thomas rarely works in the shunting yards as well as Percy as they both work on Thomas' branch line.
Another interval is the Earl's quiz with episodes of 'Kevin's Cranky Friend' and 'Thomas and The Runaway Kite'. It's a usual thing as well like 'Calling All Engines!' good for young kids and there thinking skills.
It's quite funny that the first Railway Series story to be told by Mr. Perkins for 2015 is in fact from the first book that was published 70 years ago, 'The Three Railway Engines'. The story is 'Edward and Gordon' despite some little alteration from the story, not with engine repaints or having the story going with the TV series adaptation. Lorraine Marshall once again captured such brilliant artwork in the likes of Dalby they feel so nice and nostalgic.
Making a comeback after missing out a few DVD releases over in the UK and US is 'Who's that Engine' with the Fat Controller and the character is Gordon. Although out of all the episodes that Gordon had in the CGI era of the series you think maybe it might be the likes of 'Gordon Runs Dry' or 'Old Reliable Edward'. I accept that S13-16 exists and is a part of Thomas history but 'Bust My Buffers' is not a brilliant episode with its clich├ęd storyline of steam and diesel rivalry, which was highly overused in the 'reboot' series, thankfully we have less of that with the new production team nowadays. But it wasn't a good choice for Gordon.


For Series 18 overall it is actually much better then S17 with its realism and storylines, it's not perfect though but enjoyable. There have been story arcs between Gator and Samson, they are OK but not great. Plus the new character for the DVD which is Samson is a stubborn character and at times in my opinion he can get rather annoying at times but not too annoying as there can be people in life who are like that but after seeing the episodes a few more times he grew on to me quickly and he reminds me of other characters that like Sir Handel in S4. Hopefully we see him being develop soon in the future. There are so many episodes that I call favourites that I can't list them all! I might make a list of my favourite and least favourite episodes S18.

As of the selected episodes, half of the episodes are female characters so to the journalists who are bad mouthing Thomas with the sexist tag, take that. There has been much comedy through the writing and the visuals. I know that during the course of 2014 when S18 aired on TV many fans have been arguing over the stories or characters like Duck, Bill and Ben appearing too much out of fan service even though for over ten years they've been begging to comeback. I'm sorry but that sounds hypocritical of them. I appreciate that they've made a comeback and even though some may've been added for fan service it doesn't hurt the experience of watching the episode. Would those fans rather have more Thomas appearances to be shoehorned in because he's the main star or have more engines and less Thomas, after all it is called Thomas & Friends for a reason. Besides Bill and Ben were in eight episodes this season and Duck was in five episodes while Thomas was in about 22 episodes this season. With the stories, it would be nice to see a RWS like story in the series but the only people that can pull that off are really the Awdry family. Sure I said episodes like 'Duck and The Slip Coaches' feel like an unused Railway Series story but it's still not the RWS. Sure I've seen many fan made material that can write in the similar style of the RWS and they're great, but it is still no Awdry. The only reason the series now is never going to be like the classics is that most of the stories between the first two seasons were all of the Reverend's material being adapted and purists need to know that the Reverend himself had accepted that the first two series the way it was even though. While the third series was half magazine stories by Andrew Brenner and half RWS stories and a lack of realism (mainly in 'Henry's Forest') and S4 were most of Awdry's stories but some were dramatically rewritten and some treated as leftovers. Andrew Brenner says in an interview with TTTE Wikia that he's trying to bring back the flavour of the early series and he's doing well. He didn't say he'll bring it back in the classic sense.

Tis a shame that this is the last time we'll hear Ben Small and Martin Sherman being the voice of Thomas as well as other characters. Both had done outstanding voice work since 2009 and will always be remembered by Thomas fans. If they're reading this, I wish them all the best of luck for their future.

Well I will say the episode choices are good but they're not perfectly written but have much effort putting into the storyline. The animation is once again top-notch towards from Arc Productions even the camera angles and all. There are the usual animation errors coming from them but you can miss them by the blink of the eye, expect for James sliding away from his chassis. 

Well now that S18 is over I think we'll now await for S19 and the two DVD specials for 2015 which is 'The Adventure Begins', in celebration of the Railway Series' 70th anniversary, and 'Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure'. So let's hope 2015 is the year of Thomas! 

DVD Rating: 7/10

S18 Rating: 205.5/220

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

NWR Editorial: Logan Gets A Render


The new year had started off with two surprises. Of course the 'The Adventure Begins' trailer, which I've discussed earlier and the CGI rendered Logan. Last year in July 2014, Fisher Price has revealed on the Thomas & Friends 'Engine Depot' website the new exclusive character Logan. Which is available in his own Wooden Railway train set and Book Pack. This year the official Thomas Wooden Railway website had revealed a promotion video of Logan in a full CGI render by Arc Productions.

When I first saw the picture above from the TTTE Wikia, I thought it's a fake picture. As there has been previous images in the past when it came to Tale of The Brave of engines with sloping boilers. But thanks to friends on twitter it was real. Though it had lead to the speculation that Logan will join the television series in Series 19. As SiF had put it on their blog, Logan is created by Fisher Price. No one from HIT Entertainment were involved towards the creation of the character. Plus he's a 'merchandise exclusive' character and even if he's added in the series it loose that uniqueness, in my opinion. It's understandable that some people don't like how he's a one-off character but in my opinion it's in a good way. Children who have the item can give there own personality towards Logan using their imagination and can recreate the adventure with the book through a train set. Plus he's a one-off with purpose, by working at a coal depot at Crosby. Much better then the previous one-off's between S5 and S9-16. 
Although fans do want him in the series and I have nothing against that, I think we should wait and see if he is confirmed to be in the series. In my eyes I see this as a promotion only video and I understand that it's costly to render a model just for a one-off deal. Though that happened to characters like Trevor and Jack in the past. But there has been many promos that use CGI such as the Pixar teaser trailers and some Toy Story promotional videos that were on TV in the 90's on Fox Kids I believe, but they're on the 10th anniversary DVD from 2005. 
But I will admit, the CGI render is much better then the book. His face in particular doesn't look like plastic surgery gone wrong or a jacked up Victor. Although in some places it looked awkward but natural as well. Plus I'm glad Arc had given him a front coupling too and riveting and detail of his body looks amazing. In conclusion though there is nothing to confirm that he'll be in S19 this year. 

Monday, 12 January 2015

NWR Editorial: The Adventure Begins Trailer



Happy New Year and Welcome to 2015! This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Railway Series books by the Rev.W.Awdry in 1945. In previous years of celebrations, HIT Entertainment marketed the anniversaries by republishing and releasing the Railway Series books, as well as republishing the 2nd book 'Thomas the Tank Engine' in anniversary slipcases. However 2015 seems to make the anniversary celebrations very different. With a brand new production team behind Thomas the Tank Engine since 2013 caring and respecting the original source with such passion and with the praise that S17 and 18 along with 'King of The Railway' and 'Tale of The Brave' getting much praise from parents and fans over the UK, US and Australia. What better way to mark the 70th anniversary then a special about how Thomas had come to Sodor. The trailer was released this week in the UK on the 'Dinos and Discoveries' DVD. The trailer was first announced of BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) back in late 2014. Fans began speculating that it's a promotion for the 70th, a series compilation or a DVD special. 

The trailer starts off with a glorious and realistic view of the Island of Sodor and amazing sweeping shots with engines such as Gordon and Henry passing by. Now I understand that this started some speculation on the subject of accuracy. Henry didn't arrive on Sodor until 1922 and was in his infamous shape at the time and Gordon didn't arrive until about 1922/23, but we'll get to that later. 

We're now introduced to 'Flashback Thomas' as I'll dub him as and the new voice actor John Hasler. Hasler has been in other productions such as Timon in The Lion King stage production as well as James in HIT Entertainment's 'Fireman Sam' and Gargoyle in 'Mike The Knight' as well as 'Toot the Tiny Tugboat'. In my opinion John Hasler sounds exactly like Ben Small only slightly younger so I give my kudos to HIT Entertainment to find someone who sounds almost exactly like Ben Small, as many fans would know Ben Small left the voice over as Thomas due to HIT Entertainment wanting a fresher voice for Thomas. I wish John Hasler all the best for his work as the number one blue engine.

To me 'Flashback Thomas' looks fantastic. The Southern Railway green looks striking what you see on locomotives that were built for the Southern Railway, here's an example of a SR School Class locomotive with the same livery and lining:
Plus after over thirty years of waiting we finally see James in his original livery! 

This surprised me when I first saw the trailer. In 1984 when Thomas the Tank Engine made their debut on British television, James was seen in his red livery. I understand that at the time the show has it limitations but we've seen many repaints in the early years of the show such as Oliver's scrap model in S3 so why not James? I will admit this new production team is much better then Britt Allcroft and Sam Barlow's team combine and I do respect Britt Allcroft and David Mitton for what they've done for the show. 

However it did slightly annoy me over that Thomas was racing next to James despite that James' accident off screen and off the page. However I know that the new production team respect the original source and it didn't put me off from the excitement. Plus it's easily acceptable if you're not a purist that goes hotheaded over the small things like Ringo Starr not being the narrator for nearly 30 years or that the mainland station is not exactly like Barrow-In-Furness. 'Beggars are not choosers' you know.

Now comes the many things that comes from the fan base, the complaints, sorry if I offended some fans here but the fan base does have a history of some complaining and fights sadly over the internet with nitpicking, I tend to nitpick myself but the small things don't matter, even I can get into some fights myself unfortunately. This is the accuracy issue I've mentioned earlier. Of course Gordon and Henry were seen at the start of the trailer but when you look later on in the trailer, Henry is not seen elsewhere. The scene at the start could be maybe be the start of the special, maybe the prologue. Plus the SR green livery that Thomas is wearing is of course not the true colours that E2 had worn during their working day. The E2's were painted in tuscan livery. But in my opinion it might not sell well if Thomas was in tuscan livery for toys. The only tuscan paint job I see on products are mostly model trains. It's also a fact that young children do like bright colours. According to a BBC research in 2005, young children's eyes aren't fully developed yet to see dull colours like grey or brown and tuscan is not really a bright colour when you look at it in my opinion. More of it can be seen here on 'ehow'.

Also some fans complain that Henry is not in his original shape, considering that if he appears in the flashback. To me that is no big deal. His new shape was seen in the first season in the close up shots prior to 'The Flying Kipper' and that in my opinion, Henry's old shape looks like his new shape but with the bulk upside down. As much as I would like to see Henry in his old shape in CGI I think it also adds the expense of the CGI render. It happened before in 2012 in 'Blue Mountain Mystery' by Nitrogen Studios during the Henry flashback. But if you really look at the classic series back in the day, they weren't that faithful as well. I know that the Reverend himself has accepted how the way the first two season had intrepid his story's to the screen and he pretty much said that in interviews such as the 60 minutes documentary in Australia back in the 90's. Here are some examples on it, Knapford station was the main station instead of Tidmouth, Henry, Donald and Douglas weren't blue and Elsbridge was the junction and not Knapford. So if these 'purists' think that the new production team aren't doing their job they should look at Britt Allcroft's interpretation and go and read the books instead, the books are still there.

But despite all of that this new special is gearing up many of the older fans including myself of course. The animation is truly striking as well with the shining gloss on the engines, as seen in the Logan promo video on the Thomas Wooden Railway Website. It feels a bit realistic. All in all I am excited for the special and I'm in hopes in getting a copy despite that this is exclusive to Wal*Mart in the US and ASDA in the UK and I understand as those two countries are the biggest when it comes to Thomas. I believe the US copy would end up on Amazon US as I know some sellers do sell the exclusives and I did get them in 2013 and 2014. However I'm looking forward to the book coming out in February by Random House and I will review it later on and hopefully this DVD too. 

If we want this kind of stuff again I implore you to purchase this DVD at your local Wal*Mart or ASDA when it's out on the shelves. This DVD special so far is a great way to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Railway Series and understand the rich heritage of the well known children's icon and I believe that if he were still around today, the Reverend Wilbert Awdry would approve of this.