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 clichéd 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