Wednesday, 2 March 2016

DVD + Episode Review: Start Your Engines!

First DVD review for 2016 and here's the disclaimer:


Two Wheels Good
Reds Vs. Blues
Slow Stephen
The Little Engine Who Raced Ahead
Best Engine Ever
Phillip to the Rescue

Written by
Lee Pressman
Helen Farrall
Davey Moore
Andrew Brenner

Special Features
Race With You - Music Video
On a Journey Toady - Music Video
Go, Go Thomas! - Music Video (US)
Guess Who? puzzles

Directed by
Don Spencer
Diana Basso

Release Date
1/03/16 - US 
2/03/16 - AUS
14/03/16 - UK 

Every new year, HIT Entertainment always release a themed DVD. In 2014 we had 'Spills and Thrills' and in 2015 we had 'Dinos and Discoveries' featuring episodes from each season that had aired on TV the past year. So this year we see six episodes that are part of S19 but have been kept for the DVD release. This years one is about racing which will be the theme for the upcoming 2016 special 'The Great Race' that'll feature 12 international engines. These episodes have been aired on NHK in Japan late last year and so here are my views:


Written by Lee Pressman
This episode is good with its teaching moral that all wheels can be good no how much. It's your typical three strikes your out storyline but not in the style of S13-16. As I said in 2013, I don't mind the three strikes formula if you don't make it repeatable and painfully obvious, which is what the previous team failed to do. The episode does show it though but you don't see Thomas, Bertie and Spencer breaking down with the same problem they've faced before nor having it with repeatable, unbearable and unoriginal dialogue. Although there's one nitpick I will like to point out, at the start of the episode the narrator says 'His first stop is Knapford station' yet Spencer just stopped and left after boasting about 20 wheels. I think it would've been better if they had cut that dialogue out as the engines nowadays stop for a chat. The story is a simple slice of life kind of episode in the end. It's nice and good episode, but I wouldn't call it top favourite.

Rating: 7/10

Written by Davey Moore
I think this story would be better if it were a Gordon and James rivalry episode. Thomas' role does work for a character like Gordon (being fast and better, due to his ego) but of course the stadium is at Dryaw and that's on Thomas' branch line, which by the way it's nice to see the stadium again since it's one-off appearance in the Jack and the Pack DVD spin off series. But you could've used the stadium and place it somewhere near the mainline for the purpose of Gordon and James. Despite that, the use of Thomas and James definitely shows the friendly rivalry between the two. The musical insturmental moment between Thomas and James' race does kinda drag on and I do wish that they haven't written in 'They wear blue and they cheer at Thomas because he's blue', not an actual piece of dialogue but in a nutshell. It makes it though that kids don't understand their colours, sure it's a show towards pre-schoolers but I'm sure they know their colours anyway. Maybe it would've been better if the introduction was cut out or written better. However I do like its moral 'It's best to work together then competing against each other.' In the end it's simple, good and understandable but it's not one of the greatest episodes.

Rating: 6/10

Written by Helen Farrall
I do like it how they expand the purpose of Stephen. While being a tour guide for the visitors at Ulfstead Castle, he takes tours around the Island. Pretty much like a rail tour that you see everyday. However I find it annoying how the writers are focusing only on Gordon's pompous side, it's not bad but there's more to him. While yes that is his character it's starting to get annoying and tiring to see. It would be nice to see Gordon with his good hearted side, as stated in the Really Useful Engine interval. However the angles on the suspension bridge's collapse was amazing camera work and the bridge's collapse had brought some good intense moments, especially with Stephen crossing the bridge to warn Gordon as he was charging along the line fast. Helen Farrall would have to be one of the best writers for the series and she had captured Stephen's personality very well, he's like a grandfather who has a good sense of humour and very down to earth. Hope she stays on for a while, I know that she had contributed to S20. However the music after the bridge collapse from 'Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure' felt a bit out of place with the sea pirate type of music, I know it's there to be for the reassuring moment but the music works in SLOTLT because of the water atmosphere, but that's just me. 

Rating: 9/10

Written by Andrew Brenner
Everyone has been wondering since S19 came out, mostly on TV in Japan, 'Where's Andrew Brenner?' Many fans have speculated that while S19 was in production, Brenner could've been busy writing for the 2015 special as well as 'The Adventure Begins'. I don't know what really happened behind the scenes but I'm glad that he's still providing us with episodes and I was wondering if he were to introduce Philip as he always write for the DVD exclusive newbies' debut. To me though I don't find this episode great, I will express my views about Philip later. But it was pretty much the ending with Philip saying he promises the Fat Controller that he won't race around again but did it anyway and gotten away with it. Maybe it would've been better if say after Gordon returned with the express on the same day as Philip's arrival, Philip challenges him and the Fat Controller told him off later and then tell him the moral that he needs to obey the rules. Plus Philip should've been punished for irritating Gordon a lot too. It's not a terrible episode but not a strong one. But I have to give credit to Brenner that instead of making Philip feel down for not being fast, he still stays happy and confident that he thinks he's fast, but he could've given him his comeuppance, but we might see if that works for him in 'The Great Race', although it's early. I will also say that it's great to see that Arc Productions had stopped the bogey wheels from having sparks flying out when braking too.

Rating: 5/10

Written by Andrew Brenner
I love this episode. It's great to see an episode focusing on the female characters of the show. It's good to see that Emily is envious about Caitlin but it wasn't done in an aggressive sort of way like Emily is proving herself to be strong or fast, like 'Dream On' and 'Whiff's Wish', but it was rather done in a low self-esteem way. She just feels bad that she's not like Caitlin, a big strong and fast engine and she wants to be that. It feels fresh and new in the show with a storyline like that that brings a good message is that everyone is different and that's good, even if it's a cliche it was nice to see it being in the show for the first time. I especially love the runaway scene with Caitlin and her failed brakes with the great angles and shots of the danger that Emily and Caitlin are in around the Ulfstead castle area. Also their is the streamlined Emily dream, although I was kind of expecting it to be a little day dream scene of Emily racing around Sodor but I think the clip for a few second was OK and while the face seem rather awkward on Caitlin's body, it does look rather nice and the paint job reminds me of 3801, Australia's famous steam locomotive. This episode I think stood out against all other episodes on the DVD.

Rating: 10/10

Written by Andrew Brenner
I think this episode really stood out Philip's character that this could've been his debut episode. Some say he's a clone Thomas from the early years, but to me I think his energetic and enthusiastic attitude stood out much more then his cheekiness. James was in good character too with him hating that such splendid engine like him has to pull trucks and being such a show off, which can be seen in episodes like 'James and The Queen of Sodor'. 

The new location was quite good for the suspension and far more believable then like Neville dangling on the bridge in 'Thomas & The New Engine'. Despite that James had criticised Phillip as a show off, Philip is a good example of helping others in need despite if they said anything negative about you.

Rating: 8/10


I'm going to say this but I love Phillip more than Samson. But that doesn't mean I hate Samson, I find him as a great character with his headstrong behaviour but Samson's character is not really an original one either and he can come off as say Gordon, James or even Oliver (S3), arrogant and overconfident. But I think it was rather clever to have a tank engine being more of a showoff about being strong then another tender engine. With Philip, I love his enthusiasm and over excited behaviour. He feels like that little child that wants attention but in a cute and fun way. Some say he can come as quite annoying and to be honest that was my first impression on him when the episodes aired in Japan but while I was watching the episode for the first time, I can see the relatable side in him that kids would find entertaining. Although I don't like how he comes out on top on Gordon. Some say he's a clone Thomas but as I said earlier his over excited and energetic attitude stood out more then him being cheeky, which for Thomas, the latter stood out more for him. Sure he was like that in 'The Adventure Begins' but the 70th anniversary special made him cheeky and sometimes naive and that stood out for him in the special. The energetic side is there in the special but it didn't show too much. Plus it's great to see that Knapford station has a station pilot again since Duck.  

I love the basis they chose for him as well, an A6 'Box cab' diesel from the Pennsylvania Railroad. I'll also have a say about this subject as well, I don't mind if they introduce American designed locomotives into the series. As Sam Wilkinson, the Railway Consultant, said in an SiF interview, Sodor is like a living railway museum and I can see why. The railway has such unique basis's and of course Thomas is well-known around the world, it feels almost like the Nene Valley Railway, the railway has some locomotives coming from the UK, Denmark and Sweden. So it's good to share for other countries to see their basis in the Thomas universe. Plus like Marion and Timothy, his design could've been from anywhere around the world. When I first saw him through Twitter and Facebook when the guide book from Japan was released last year, I thought he looked more European like he's from Italy or somewhere until they found his basis was from the US. I'm a railway enthusiast and I never knew such design exist. 

In the end, I like Philip and I hope we see more of him in the future.  


The intervals are quite simple in this release like the Christmas one that was released last year. Their is a new Really Useful Engines segment with Bill, Ben and Marion and two segments of the Earls Quiz, one of which is focused upon 'Out of Puff', 'Percy's Lucky Day' and what colour is Henry. The other quiz was 'Percy's Parcel' and 'Pop Goes Thomas' which is one a US release for the first time but was on the UK release of 'Spills and Thrills'. 

However the interval I was quite looking forward too was 'Landmarks of Sodor'. I find these ones very interesting on showcasing all the places around the Island. In this one it's Whiff's Waste dump and the Scrapyard. Showcasing us the purpose and use of the two landmarks and the engines that are in charge, it's pretty much that but I like that they're giving us the history behind them. 

And of course there's the Fat Controller's Tales, which debuted in 'Thomas' Christmas Carol' late last year telling us about Cranky the Crane and recapping 'Kevin's Cranky Friend'. Simple, but it definitely gives good use for the footage from the past some purpose and includes all the intervals. It can feel like the Calling All Engines! interval but now I see that they're just recapping old stories that kids are familiar with, though they could just watch the episode on previous DVDs or on payable streaming sites.

It's sad that there isn't a Mr. Perkins segment, but I think it's because of Andrew Brenner working on the two specials and episodes for the series, plus he has other shows to write for aside for Thomas & Friends. I think the stories 'Thomas and Bertie' or 'Percy and Harold' would work to fit within the theme of the DVD, racing. But I see that they were the 'World Tour Wednesday' videos in 2015, which at least they weren't forgotten. But thanks to Sam Wilkinson on the 'Talk Thomas' Facebook page, yes it's a legit page from him, he said that there will be more of them in future DVD releases, the story time segments on DVD.

The song 'Race with You'. I'll be honest Eggplant's songs can be a hit and miss with fans and while some of there songs can be good (like the updated 'Engine Roll Call' theme and 'It's Christmas Time'), the new song here is kind of meh to OK. The song is repetitive and lack some thought into the lyrics, but the music was quite catchy in all honesty. But if people have a problem with other people not liking the song, they should know that the people who hate the song have their own right of an opinion. However I don't like the use of the steam team being mentioned, it just feels lazy and felt like songs from the days of S13-16. But to be honest it's better then 'Hear the Engines Coming', pull the steam team out and all you get is the song title repeating itself over and over and over again, in my opinion I think that's the worst Thomas song ever written. At least with 'Race with You' they at least added more words in.

Another song that made its debut onto DVD is 'On a Journey Today', the first S17 music video that was discovered through the PBS broadcast of Thomas & Friends in the US in 2013. The song is good and better then 'Race With You', although I think the music has the vibe of something you hear in a toy commercial and it does have a little vibe of using steam team names like the S13-16 songs. I don't understand though why Universal releases a previously released song that was on past DVD releases since they took over the distribution rights from Lionsgate. Honestly 'Race with You' and 'On a Journey With You' are just fine, they never had a home video release before and the third song had been in a few over in the US. The Guess Who puzzles are also the same it's Thomas, James, Scruff and Gordon. 


In my opinion, this did better then 'Spills and Thrills' and 'Dinos and Discoveries'. The episodes do focus on the theme, but not entirely making one kind of story which is 'Character.A Vs. Character.B having a race' storyline, one episode focused on that, while other focused upon about 'what's the best', 'saving another ones life', 'being the best in their own right' and 'helping others in need'. The episodes are good choices and definitely entertaining and fun for fans. 

The intervals are simple but good and the 'Race with You' song was not the best but OK. However I don't think the UK is treated fairly with the DVD releases of episodes. One example is 'Signals Crossed'. The US got their copy in 2014, the same year S18 was released and the UK had just aired them on TV and are on demand websites. However the UK had got their copy in January 2016. Now while I'm glad that the UK had got their copy it's quite unfair given the longitivtiy of the release for those that enjoy to watch in their home. They could've given the DVD a 2015 schedule date, maybe an early month around the first quarter of the year, they did that for 'The Thomas Way' in 2014. 

Other companies have manage to release DVDs around the same quarter. 'The Peanuts Movie' gets its DVD release in America around early March and Australia will get their copy around April of this year. Nintendo is releasing 'Pokken Tournament' on the same day around the world, March 18th as well as re-releasing the first Pokemon games at the same time as Japan for the brand's 20th anniversary, Feb.27th. Despite that the US always get the biggest support in things because the country is one of the largest continent on the planet, some companies manage to release DVDs at a closer time frame, like these themed tent-pole DVDs and the yearly specials. I know that distribution of the DVDs are different in various countries, HIT Entertainment distribute DVDs across the UK as well as Australia and the US but the latter two countries have ABC Kids (Australia) Universal (US) are partners with HIT. But why not have HIT Entertainment distribute for all countries on their own like the other companies that manage to distribute to various countries around the same quarter? Although Japan does get the yearly specials one year after the western world, with the exception of 'The Adventure Begins' that was released there in December 2015. But I believe that's because of the dubbing. It happened to the Pokemon movies back in the height of its popularity from 1999-2003 when it was being dubbed in english, they were released a year after Japan's release. Although some companies have manage to release Japanese films in english dub around the same time as Japan's release during the year, it happened with 'Dragon Ball Z Resurrection F' by Funimation in 2015 as well as the recent Pokemon movies from 2011-present, although they release them in different quarters. 

Now all we got left is the remaining five episodes left of S19 that had aired in Japan as well late last year and earlier this year. 


Episode Ratings:
Lost Property - 9/10
Helping Hiro - 6/10
Two Wheels Good - 7/10
Reds Vs. Blues - 6/10
Slow Stephen - 9/10
The Little Engine Who Raced Ahead - 5/10
Best Engine Ever - 10/10
Philip To The Rescue - 8/10

Series Rating (So far):