Thursday, 23 July 2015

DVD Review: Whale of a Tale and Other Sodor Adventures


Directed by
Don Spencer

Produced by
Ian McCue (HIT Entertainment)
Jennifer Hill (Arc Productions)

Toad and the Whale
Who's Geoffrey 
The Truth About Toby
Lost Property
Henry Spots Trouble

Special Features
Guess Who Puzzles? - Toby and Oliver
Fun with Driver Perkins - Mr. Perkins' Railway
Who's That Engine? - Toby
The Earl's Quiz - Percy's New Friends and Slippy Sodor
Mr. Perkins' Storytime - Toby's Tightrope
Mr. Perkins' Postcard - Ffarquhar Quarry



All the episodes are five selected upcoming episodes from the 19th season sold exclusively to Wal*Mart stores across the US, which I have to say to people who have watched 'Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure' in the UK that these episodes are set before the special. Meaning the new characters and returnees will be featured in the 20th season. I won't go into much detail on the episodes as we'll await their TV run later in the year. But their are some good episodes and some can be a bit of a dud to me but they're alright in the end.


The Guess Who? puzzles are just the usual like every other DVD release as well as the Earl's Quiz, despite the choices of episodes. The Who's That Engine segment features Toby and the episode 'Signals Crossed', which I have to say is a fine choice of episode compare to the other Toby episodes that came out in the CGI era of the show. The Perkins segments are the same as what was seen in 'Trouble on the Tracks' in the UK and my views on them are here. It was also interesting to see one of the PBS segments in the DVD release, 'Mr. Perkins' Railway'. It's like the 'Down at the Station' segment that were released on DVD in 2009-2011 or 2012 but with more variety of real preserved steam locomotives from such railways like the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. The insight of the different type of engines is good for the young audience to learn about them.


It's a good DVD this year and I'm glad that Wal*Mart and HIT Entertainment are still releasing these to gather the excitement for the new series coming soon this year. I understand that over the years many fans want the UK audience to have a fair share on these DVDs and while I do understand and love for that to happen, but according to a friend I know on twitter, he says that in a marketing point of view the United States has to be the biggest audience when it comes to Thomas and Friends, which makes sense why they get these kinds of releases and it makes sense that way. 


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Book Review: RWS No.41 Thomas and Victoria (2007)


Written by
Christopher Awdry

Illustrated by
Clive Spong

Eels on Wheels
Toby's Vintage Train

Release Year

After a ten year hiatus from Christopher Awdry's last book, 'New Little Engine' in 1996, Egmont had released a brand new volume in the Railway Series in 2007. At this time the company were rereleasing the 1-40 books that year with the demand by fans since 2005 on bringing the books back to the shelves, thanks to Sodor Island Fansite (SiF) at the time. So here are my views on the 41st volume of the Railway Series books.

The story revolves around Toby and Henrietta taking the workmen to the quarry and the dangers of people standing in open end railway carriages. The story also tells kids that for every problem there's always a solution and that was in Thomas' part when they discovered Victoria at the station by the river. Plus this is the first and only time in the books we see Henrietta with a face, which I'm sure was the influence for S18 seven years later.

Rating: 9/10

So we meet Victoria for the first time and learned that she use to work on the Furness Railway, which was Edward's old line before working on the NWR. I believe that it was the first time it had been mentioned in the books. We also meet Albert, an engine that use to work on the Furness Railway. Albert may not have much depth though. All we know he shares the same personality as Thomas, during his young days, when it comes to snow. The story does show kids the dangers of an avalanche in the end. It was nice however to see the Furness Railway through the flashback and how the way it ran in its working days.

Rating: 8/10

First time I believe Daisy had a story to herself since 'Thomas Comes Home', which would be 15 years since then at the time this book was published. It's nice to see an engine's understanding of things that is not railway related and it shows the morals to kids that creatures like eels, snakes etc. can be more scared of thing then we are of them. 

Rating: 9/10

I think this story was a nice ending towards the book. We see Victoria all restored in good order for her return. Though Terence's part felt a bit forceful for the sake of some suspense and the title can be a bit misleading as the whole 'vintage train' part happened in the end. However it's still a nice story in the end and we see the solution finally in order for Toby and Henrietta.

Rating: 7/10


Looking back at this book, I find it more better then 'Thomas and his Friends'. I find the last book, which I have reviewed back in June, to be weak despite some good stories even though some were rehashes with some development. I believe this should've been the last book for the Reverend's centenary in 2011 as the book have some good quality stories. The illustrations from the book by Clive Spong are great as usual coming from the artist, the pictures here have the Dalby feel with some realistic quality in the picture. 


Thursday, 9 July 2015

DVD Review: Railway Mischief


Written by
Andrew Brenner
Laura Beaumont and Paul Larson
Lee Pressman
Davey Moore

- Gordon Runs Dry
- Kevin's Cranky Friend
- Scruff's Makeover
- Wayward Winston
- Steamie Stafford
- Bill or Ben?
- Not Now, Charlie!

Special Features

Produced by
Robert Anderson (Arc)
Haliam Jabbour & Ian McCue (HIT)

Release Date

In April 2013, Wal*Mart and HIT Entertainment in the United States, had exclusively released five unreleased S17 episodes before it's television debut later that year internationally. Now after two years the UK get there copy of the DVD. At the time some fans were worried by the titles as we were just getting out of the Sam Barlow era of the series and it was popular among older fans. 

The episodes featured are from the 17th season of Thomas & Friends, completing all S17 episodic releases. Looking back at the episodes from 2013, it amazes me how much had Arc Productions, the people behind the animation of Thomas and Friends, had improved with stuff like the settings, lighting and animation. Looking at scenes like Knapford station in the episodes, I don't even like the lack of activity that they've made compare to what is now. The station now feels like an actual railway station with a station announcer, people chatting and engines puffing about. Plus the expansion of it all with points and signals gantries now really adds total character on it being a railway station unlike what is was shown in the episodes here, just showing the comparison of how much Arc had improved the series so well done to them! 

It also amazes me how the stories improved too. Davey Moore says in an interview for the TTTE Wikia that they look back at previous episodes and specials and see how they should make it better the them, which indeed the writing team are doing an excellent job at trying to make it more entertaining. The episodes are a good choice and do add some theme towards the DVD title. I especially like 'Not Now, Charlie'. Sure he may as well be an annoying character, how the way he was handled during S13-16 with poor jokes, but to me the episode is such an major improvement on his character. He knew what he did was wrong and sure some people may not like the ending of it but I see it as 'Old habits die hard'. Sure jokes need some improvement but I rather find a joke about pirates to be funny compare to his joke/riddle about a table. 

Episodes like 'Steamie Stafford' though, while it has a good moral about being yourself, it's not the best after seeing more of the 17th season. The other episodes are good and I still love 'Gordon Runs Dry' and the last two episodes. 'Wayward Winston', 'Kevin's Cranky Friend and 'Scruff's Makeover' are OK in the my books.

I love the choice of the Railway Series story for the DVD of the Mr. Perkins segments, 'Thomas' Train' and the wonderful illustrations for it too. Looking at her design of Dalby's Thomas reminds me of the illustrations from the 1985 annual. Although looking at Henry with the colour green in one of the picture just felt a little bit off and I understand that they change the colour so that the young audience recognise who the character is, although since Henry had been his new shape for three decades now you think they may've drew a whole new picture in his new shape? But I'm not too upset by that. The postcard segment is about Brendam Docks as well and I have to it's much better then what was done for the quarry from 'Trouble on the Tracks' as it was more about the location rather then who is who. 

Their's not one but two segments for 'Calling All Engines!' which are Spencer and Stafford and Hiro and Flynn. They are the usual segments about who and what are the characters and some mentions like Pullman coaches intrigued me, maybe they should create an episode about Pullman coaches? It worked with the slip coaches. 

'Who's That Engine' features Edward and the episode they explain is 'Edward the Hero', sure there are better choices, like 'Old Reliable Edward', but the S15 episode was a decent one looking back at it. There is also a trailer once again for 'Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure', which is coming out next week in the UK at some VUE cinemas. However I feel that it was missed opportunity for HIT to advertise for 'The Adventure Begins'. The DVD was suppose to come out in April only at ASDA but due to an unknown reason, it was pushed towards July 27th and the only way to see it is through 'Dinos and Discoveries' that came out in Feb 2015. But the trailer will still have the words 'COMING SOON'. ASDA and HIT needs to work on their advertising for the special if they want it to sell it. It has already been commissioned by the BBFC last week. Hopefully the UK Thomas and Friends YouTube page upload a trailer.   

This is a much more better DVD then the S16 compilation DVD, despite it that it took two years to be released on British shores. There are some good episodes that actually feel like stories rather then a formulated plot (S9-16), although the latter stories are much better (S18-19) but these are good to start with and are enjoyable. 

Rating: 8/10