Monday, 28 September 2015

Movie Review: Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure (SPOILERS)



Written by
Andrew Brenner

Directed by
David Stoten

Produced by
Ian McCue (HIT)

Release Date
8/09/15 - US
23/09/15 - AU
28/09/15 - UK

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

2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the Railway Series books and to celebrate HIT Entertainment had released two new specials. One is of the course the acclaimed 'The Adventure Begins' which was released exclusively at Wal*Mart in the US and ASDA in the UK and this one around the world. This DVD marks the incarnation of the Arelsdale Miniature Railway into CGI, it's also the first time that any character from the books was incarnated onto screen in twenty years! It also marks the return of classic characters such as Donald, Douglas, Daisy and Oliver the Excavator. Along the line of other specials, this introduce new characters such as Ryan, Skiff and Sailor John with their voices done by Academy Award winning actor Eddie Redmayne (Ryan), who has been in films such as the Stephen Hawking's biography film, 'The Theory of Everything', Sir John Hurt (Sailor John) who has been in many things such as Doctor Who and Jamie Campbell Bower (Skiff) who has been in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows P.1 & P.2. 
So will this special be better then TOTB considering it's the 70th anniversary? Let's find out:


The film opens up with a usual prologue of Thomas puffing along his branch line passing the windmill. While he was doing so, he called out to Annie and Clarabel to look out for Bertie the Bus and when he spotted him they decided to have a race. As the two were racing each other, Thomas was switched onto a different track, passing a red signal and even have a near collision with Toby and Henrietta! Bertie on the other hand was stuck behind Oliver, the execvatior. Meanwhile given a little cameo is none other then a CGI recreation of the creator of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, Rev.W.Awdry. That was a fine tribute to the late vicar for the 70th anniversary so well done to the team that thought of the idea.

After the opening credits, we then discover from Bertie about the newly constructed branch line that runs to Harwick from Arlesburgh junction. Even though in the past there had never been rail links of the line going to Harwick on the Sodor maps. But it is an interesting idea to expand the Island to newer locations that had never been seen before. 

Then we move to Marion the steam shovel who was heading towards the construction site of the new branch line where she discovered the Arlesdale Miniature Railway engines from Oliver and Toad, who appear for the very first time and it's the first time in 20 years that we've seen more Railway Series characters implemented into the show. She was amazed at their size calls them 'magical' and I find her astonishment of them funny, a nice tribute to the Rev.W.Awdry's story in the 'Small Railway Engines' book. Her thinking them are magical, reminds me of the sentence saying, 'The verre wee engine, must be some kind of magic.'

Donald and Douglas, who are now voiced by Joe Mills, are seen heading their way towards the construction site. With a little in-joke about them not been seen in a while, which is of course them not being in the television series since 2008. 

While the line was being constructed, we then move to the next morning with Thomas not making enough steam and he had to shunt Gordon's coaches ready for his express run, a nice little past reference to 'Thomas and Gordon'. After Gordon made a remark that 'silly little tank engines' only shunt towards Thomas after Thomas called Gordon lazy. Thomas decided to take Gordon's coaches in a cheeky way but caused an accident after the signal turned red and made the express coaches derailed. 

Meanwhile over on the new branch line, we then see Marion being introduced to Oliver the excavator mistaking him for Oliver the Great Western engine and thought it was caused by the Miniature engines and their 'magic' after Stanley had passed with a goods train, we then see the ground below was starting to crack. 

Back at the big station, the Fat Controller was not happy with Thomas and his trick towards Gordon, in which Thomas had blamed Gordon and Emily for his mistake. So as punishment, the Fat Controller sent Thomas to the new branch line and Ryan, the new tank engine, to look after Thomas' line. 

Back on the new branch line, there was trouble with the ground as it was growing even weaker and was unstable and so the part of the line was cut off and to be routed. Back at the Miniature Railway, we see Rex, Mike and Bert meeting up with an upset Thomas about his mishap and the miniature engines for the first time ever in the series, broke out into song entitled 'Never Overlook A Little Engine' with such surreal atmosphere. After that Thomas made his way to the construction yard and decided to shunt the flatbeds of rails and sleepers, without any idea of the weak ground of the cutting.

A large gaping hole was made with the weight of the trucks and Thomas fell right in it, damaging himself and discovered a pirate ship in a cavern! After he was rescued by Rocky, the Fat Controller was cross because of his cheeky behaviour and sent Thomas to the Steamworks. 

Meanwhile in the background, we are greeted towards Sailor John and Skiff. At the Steamworks, Thomas was in doubt about his future but Victor told him that the Fat Controller wants him to be fixed as possible. Meanwhile Edward told them that Rocky had 'found' the ship, when really it was Thomas. 

So Rocky lift the ship up from the cavern and is to be put on display at Arelsbrugh Harbour. Marion thought that if there's a pirate ship then there must be treasure and that made her decision on what to wish from the miniature engines. However they don't want to meet her until she blocked her bucket against Mike. There's one thing I should add, some people thought this is a reference to the movie 'Magic Mike'. Although I do understand what people are saying, I personally think it was a reference to the Railway Series book. Although if it were a joke for the adults, I don't mind that as many children shows and movies had several adult related jokes, especially shows like Animaniacs and Rocko's Modern Life. 

So after Marion's 'wish', we then see Donald and Douglas delivering the pirate ship to the harbour and then at night, Henry was given a fright when he saw Sailor John and Skiff gliding along the main line. James doesn't believe him and thought Henry was dreaming. However Salty told one of his tall tales about a lost pirate who stole treasure from merchant ships. But he was being chased by the navy and hid in the cavern and hid his treasure. But one windy night his map was blown away from the wind and the lost pirate still looks out for his treasure.

Later Thomas was repaired but not cleaned up and he was still annoyed that Rocky took the credit of finding the pirate ship. Meanwhile Sailor John was looking through the pirate ship. Ryan is now helping around the construction yard and Thomas is sad that he used to be the Fat Controller's number one. Meanwhile we see Marion talking to Oliver and Alfie about her 'wish'. As Thomas arrived at Arelsburgh junction, he had bad coal from the hopper at the construction yard. Later that night Thomas' firebox was cleaned out and headed to the sheds, where Ryan was resting. Ryan offered him a spot in the shed but Thomas declined.

Later that night, Thomas encountered Sailor John and Skiff, who were finding Captain Callis' lost treasure. Thomas helped Sailor John down the cavern, discovering the! As the day dawned, Sailor John and Skiff head back to the sea. Although the wind died down and Thomas pushed them towards the harbour. As the day wore on, Ryan was being filled with the bad coal as Thomas didn't warn him and the construction team were awaiting for the dynamite from Brendam docks, delivered by Ryan. Although Marion asked Oliver to 'turn himself' back into a railway engine, still believing that Oliver is still an excavator. 

Ryan returned although with black smoke and sparks being poured out of his funnel with his trucks filled with dynamite and one was alight! After a much hot potato, Thomas warned Ryan and pushed the trucks towards the cavern just in time. However the Fat Controller was not happy after seeing Thomas pushing the trucks towards Ryan earlier one. Despite not being deliberate, the Fat Controller told Thomas to go to his shed - like a child going to their room. However as the day wore on, their was not much work to do with the lack of dynamite. However Marion had found a box but left until morning. 

When night came, Thomas met up with Sailor John and Skiff once again and hunt down for the treasure during a song montage of 'We Make a Team Together' by Sam Blewitt with a little reference to Titanic. But as the sun rose up the treasure wasn't discovered and Sailor John believed that someone had beaten them to it. With that Sailor John and Skiff sailed away towards the sea with Marion in the background waking up. She was excited from what she has in her shovel which turns out to be the treasure! 

With Marion being praised for her discovery, Thomas was sent to take waste to the dump and Ryan to collect more dynamite at Brendam docks. However Sailor John wasn't happy by the discovery and was even more upset when he heard that the Fat Controller was giving it to the museum. Sailor John demand Thomas to bring the treasure to him, despite Thomas being against the idea of taking it. 

At Kanpford station, Thomas saw the Fat Controller calling the museum and told them that the treasure will be locked up in the safe. But Thomas was worried, would the treasure be safe? At the sheds, Ryan thanked him for saving him and was amazed by his bravery and sorry that he thought he got him into trouble again. But Thomas was apologetic towards Ryan for not warning him about the bad coal. However Ryan laughed it off and offered Thomas the spot in the shed, however Thomas kindly declined this time and said he was to spend the night at Knapford. Ryan however was wondering what Thomas was sleeping there for. 

At Knapford, Thomas kept watch. But as time went by he was asleep and Sailor John and Skiff head to the station to get the treasure. Skiff hated the idea but Sailor John didn't care. Thomas woke up despite being low on steam as Sailor John was getting away. At the sheds, Annie and Clarabel saw Henry passing through, scared of the ghost ship. Then Sailor John cackling past, which I have to say it was a funny scene. 

Then Thomas came screaming through chasing after Sailor John and Skiff. Despite passing a red signal and overtaking Gordon, he caught up with them with...the lost pirate ship from earlier and so an even bigger chase was on. Ryan though was worried for Thomas until he saw the ship and raced away. Rex, Mike and Bert were surprised and Thomas called out to them to help, which they did by pushing the ballast wagons to block their way. One truck though was slowing them down. A rope was then caught onto Ryan ending the ship to fall onto its side. Thomas praised Ryan as he chased after Sailor John and Skiff all the way to Arelsbrugh Harbour. 

Thomas splashed himself into the water and Skiff saw that the treasure was heavy for them to sail on. Sailor John didn't care and Skiff had enough and capsized with the treasure now under the sea. However Skiff and Sailor John turned out fine and Sailor John was caught by the police. 

Thomas was rescued by Rocky and was apologetic but the Fat Controller was proud of Thomas after what Ryan told him and despite losing the treasure, the Fat Controller didn't mind and said that his engines are more important then any treasure. 

In the end the line was opened, with Daisy making a brief return, Marion discovered that all this time there were two Oliver's and Skiff was repainted and doing boat tours now along the line.



When Ryan was first discovered as an upcoming toy, his persona was to be overconfident. However his persona changed during production to be kind and cheery. Looking at his character, I can see that his original persona is still intact when we first saw him at Knapford with the smug look and that he wasn't gentle with Annie and Clarabel when he was coupled up to them. I don't think the series need more arrogant engines though as we have enough such as Gordon, James, Samson etc. Some say that he's a second version of Stanley but Stanley though was a lot different compare to Ryan. There wasn't much intention of Stanley wanting to be Thomas' friend, whereas Ryan wanted to be friends with Thomas by offering a spot in the shed whereas Stanley didn't make an offer when he was in Thomas' berth. Despite all that, Ryan doesn't seem to add much to the special. He had a reason to work on the new branch line but the website says he's capable of doing many jobs since he's a bigger tank engine. What the website says would've brought better conflict towards Thomas' situation. Thinking about his original persona, I think it would add better development to his personality as he felt a bit bland. But he's not terrible. As much as I like Stanley, Ryan is becoming more of a favourite. It's great that HIT Entertainment got Eddie Redmayne, an Academy Award winner in the film and I hope he stays as the voice for Ryan from S20 as he did such a nice and fun performance. 

I think Skiff is a good character and his basis was inspired by Spooner's Boat, as mentioned by Andrew Brenner in the Thomas and Friends YouTube documentary. I love how despite working with Sailor John he knows his right and wrong and that he cares about Thomas but when it comes to relationship between him and Sailor John, it seems he vary the persona of Winston. But despite that I think there could've been something better for Skiff, why not make him a villain with Sailor John and of course with Thomas seeing him being abused by Sailor John, influencing him (Skiff) to know who his real friends are, it would bring some character development into Skiff and the moral to coincide the 70 years of friendship. Jamie Campbell Bower did him brilliantly well I enjoyed his performance, yes an actor from the awful Twilight series actually did a great job! 

I think out of all the newbies, Sailor John was a great character, performance wise. As Doug Walker said, 'Everything John Hurt does is gold' and Sir John Hurt was fantastic and he stole the show. Such a great pirate voice that he pulled along with evil cackles etc. However I am a bit disappointed that they didn't give him much depth in the special as the official website says, he was kicked out of the navy and retired on the Island of Sodor ending up to be a criminal. We see that but we learn of his past. Plus we don't know why he wants the treasure, sure it's for himself but that's not enough for his reasoning, just like every pirate in fiction they want the treasure because they want it, it doesn't really feel strong. I do consider him as overrated as I felt he added no reason for his need for the treasure and that he's your typical pirate bad buy, sure it's a first for the show like Thomas to have a human villain but it's not really groundbreaking.  I'm not being edgy I'm just being honest. Heck P.T Boomer had a reason as a villain in MRR, and that is something coming from a person who despises MRR, even if it is terrible his reason was to make Burnett Stone's life a misery all over a girl and wants to destroy something that he (Stone) considers something as precious. If he were related to Captain Callis it could've brought some development in him knowing that he was doing the wrong thing for the right reason, to protect his say family history as he thought they would find it and sell it off or throwaway and then realises that it's ending up in the museum and he's happy that it's going to happen. I rather that then the cliched 'I want the treasure because...because.' pirate. I don't think he's terrible, he would've been better if he were related to the pirate in Salty's story.

I think they count as new. After all this is their debut in the series. I love how they treated them like they have always been there all this time but we never seen them, coming from the interaction between them and the classic characters (Thomas) whereas Marion is new. I can see a bit of Reverend Awdry's personas for the engines are there  such Rex's love of teasing Mike. Tim Whitnall, Tom Stourton and Keith Wickham did brilliant work on the voices which makes them have their own charm. Plus they did great singing for 'Never Overlook A Little Engine'. 


When I first heard that there was a musical number with the characters, I thought it sounded weird as Thomas never had that ever! Unless you count 'Away from The Sea' (S17) and 'Thomas the Quarry Engine' (S18). But after seeing the movie, it was fantastic and it felt fresh and new. 'Never Overlook A Little Engine' is a fantastic song for young children who are being overlooked by the older kids. The lyrics are filled with positivity and children need that saying that bigger doesn't mean better. Plus it almost feels like something that Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell would've written in the classic series. Plus the music video provided in the special was very psychedelic and amazingly animated. 'We Make a Team Together' is your typical friendship song, but it's not that bad and it was great seeing some children from the Westfield Infant School joining in, as they won a contest for a national singing contest.

The music was performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and they've done a remarkable job on giving Robert and Peter Hartshorne's music an orchestrated feeling. After hearing there music for a few years though, it did sound very close to the music that was used in previous specials and episodes. But you definitely hear more brass and string. Such a shame though that HIT Entertainment hadn't released any soundtrack album of this special nor any of their previous ones. If they are reading this, they should create a compilation album one day called 'The Thomas & Friends Soundtrack: Music and Songs from the Movies'. 


I love the animation that Arc Productions had given us since 'The Adventure Begins' special that was released earlier this year. Instead of the engines looking like plastic toys, they are given shine and glimmer like real steam engines, the lighting maybe off in a couple of places, but they are mostly natural and I have to say, the early morning sky nearing the end of the film was amazing, especially in 1080p HD, shame there's no BluRay release for the UK and Australia. The layout of Arlesbrugh harbour is simply gorgeous, it gives it that British seaside town feeling and the layout of it all reminds me of some locations from the Studio Ghibli films, mostly like the seaside town in 'Kiki's Delivery Service' and I know that Arc Productions were inspired by their animated film. In the end, Arc Productions had done a fantastic job. 


I still find Tale of The Brave great with its unique three part story arc and emotional storyline,  but Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure is probably the best Thomas centric special to date. I love the development that Thomas had starting from his conceited and cheeky behaviour but ending up getting into trouble and I do believe he was sent away in disgrace judging by the Fat Controller having enough of Thomas' cheekiness and misbehaviour at Knapford and for losing his branch line. Feared that a much bigger tank engine is replacing him and redeeming himself by saving the treasure. Something that Thomas and The Magic Railroad should've been. I really do see this as Magic Railroad done right.

I think it was great to see Donald, Douglas, Daisy, Alfie and Oliver (the executor) return again and I love the little in-joke that Duck made towards the Scottish twins, despite that it didn't add much to the main story. Even though after ten years since Calling All Engines! was released, it's good to see that the production team isn't pandering towards the parents who are wrapping their kids in cotton wool. Kids are growing up in a world where there are bad people and the scene at the end of Sailor John being arrested definitely shows a positive side about what happen to bad people. The morals are good such as teamwork and knowing who your real friends are.

There had been little complaints from parents that the Fat Controller was too strict towards Thomas. You can't blame him for Thomas' cheekiness and immaturity with Thomas damaging things that cost money such as the express coaches, the dynamite etc. while spending money on a new extension of a branch line and it had been proven that the Fat Controller is not a good listener in episodes such as 'Percy Gets it Right' and 'Wayward Winston' and with the scene of Thomas shoving the dynamite in the cavern and the Fat Controller yelling at him later on, you find that, out of the assumption, he had quite enough of his excuses after what he had caused earlier and was doing the same act towards Ryan, being cheeky, a lot like a father scolding at his own son, and that he has some trust issues with him until Ryan explained things off screen, so he had learned his lesson and it makes him human.

Marion and her subplot was hilarious as well I might add. Some people have complained that Daisy being transferred to the Harwick branch line is a bad thing. I think it's good as if there's any upcoming episode set on the Harwick line, she would have more screen time and besides in most episodes, we don't see Percy or Toby working on Thomas' line as well and there had been some changes towards Thomas, Percy and Duck as they were shunting engines and they all work on branch lines in the RWS. Yes we all want to see the Ffarquhar engines together, but characters like Marion had purposes for other things such helping with construction like in S18 and this special. So Daisy might work on Thomas' line maybe during S20 for whatever purpose. I think this, TOTB and TAB are the hard choices of what is the number one best special. I can see some flaws in this special such as Sailor John's purpose of the treasure and the pirate ship being on top of the hill in the climax. Plus the pirate ship didn't really add much to the story. I think for a little constructive criticism I think it would've been better if the treasure map was somewhere in the pirate ship rather then in the pit or maybe the treasure is the pirate ship, but I think for the latter it wouldn't hold for a 60 minute special as well as Ryan coupling up to Annie and Clarabel that added no point to the movie as well as some continuity errors with Clarabel wondering where Thomas is despite that he was nearby getting scolded at by the Fat Controller. 

Henry's subplot wasn't that good either. It never felt finished, all that we see is Henry being in his infamous persona running about being scared. Marion's subplot was finished at the opening ceremony and Henry was often seen around the branch line, before Thomas confronted Sailor John after the treasure had been found by Marion. So why not have Henry being there with Skiff all painted up and restored and just end it with Skiff laughing at Henry's idea of him being 'the ghost ship.' It would actually finish the subplot. I don't know if this was idea behind the writers or Mattel themselves, but it felt pointless and it would've been better if, as TheUnluckyTug02 said in his video, have Thomas know about the lost pirate.

I'm glad that this is such a great way to celebrate during the 70th anniversary better then what we got in 2005 and 2010, even though I don't mind CAE! at all. I wonder how the 2016 special with a Great Railway Show theme will top it up? Looking forward to that one already.

Now that the 2015 special has been released to Australia, UK and America this month, we are now awaiting more S19 episodes as well as new DVDs in each of these countries. Australia will now be awaiting for 'The Adventure Begins' and 'Railway Mischief' in November, the UK will await for 'The Christmas Engines' in October and the US will await for 'Thomas' Christmas Carol' in November filled with S19 Christmas episodes and 'Tale on the Rails' in November with S18/19 episodes.