Tuesday, 26 September 2017

S21 Ep.7: Hasty Hannah

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FANBASE

HASTY HANNAH
Written by
Lee Pressman

Directed by
Dianna Basso

Produced by
Micalea Winters

Air Date
26/09/17

Plot 
While Henrietta is getting her seats refurbished, Toby is given a replacement carriage named Hannah. However, she is so headstrong and reckless that Toby gets fed up with her urging him to go faster and faster, and abandons her to visit Henrietta. Meanwhile, Hannah joins up with James and learns to her cost that going too fast for a little carriage is not at all wise.

PRO
- Moral: Best to be safe than sorry
- The relationship between Toby and Henrietta
- Henrietta and Hannah being sisters was a good twist

CON
- If Hannah is Henrietta's sister wouldn't Toby know her too?


I remember how the way this episode was 'announced'. Sometime last year there were these fake title cards on twitter and one them was for this episode and someone on the Thomas & Friends wikia made a whole page thinking it was real. But of course I now think they knew the whole thing after countless emails to Lee Pressman about upcoming episodes and characters. Now I understand the excitement of it all but they, the email writers, need to realise that not all people like to be spoiled about upcoming things and that needs to be taken to account. Plus they are asking a writer about these episodes who was under contract by HIT Entertainment and Mattel, thankfully though he didn't reveal too much info. To me it shows the impatience of fans, yes we all want things now but there is a saying, 'Patience is virtue'. I wait for the product to come out and it's really not that hard to wait. 

Now on with the episode, I quite enjoyed it! The episode did showcase the moral that it's better to be safe than sorry with Hannah's character of course and the voice acting by Lucy Montgomery, who was the voice of Lexi in 'Journey Beyond Sodor', which by the way my review comes out on October 4th after my review of the 13th episode. Her voice was incredible and I enjoyed it. It fits with her personality. 

I also love how Lee Pressman captured the relationship between Toby and Henrietta. They are like a married couple. They need and love each other! They are such a husband and wife duo and the writers capture that so well. It was also a nice twist to know that Henrietta and Hannah are both sisters and I think it was great that they both came from the same railway. A bit like Toby's real railway, the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway. But one thing puzzles me. If Henrietta and Hannah are sisters, wouldn't Toby know her as well? You could create an even better story with the Fat Controller finding her in a scrapyard and gave her new life as a spare coach incase anything happens to any other coach. Toby remembered her very well and just hates her way of thinking. It's not bad but it just a bit puzzling. You might say 'oh they might be from different railways!' the coach that Hannah was made is the same as Henrietta and were built for the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway. 


Episode Rating:
Runaway Engine - 9/10
PA Problems - 10/10
Hasty Hannah - 7/10

Series Rating (So far):
61/70

Monday, 25 September 2017

S21 Ep.6: P.A Problems

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FANBASE

PA PROBLEMS
Written by
Lee Pressman

Directed by
Dianna Basso

Produced by
Micaela Winters

Air Date
25/09/17 

Plot
The Fat Controller splashes out on a new public address system, but the engines and passengers are struggling to hear the announcements. Holidaymakers end up at the quarry, quarry workers end up at the beach and Lord Callan ends up with an unexpected delivery of pigs!

PRO
- Thomas, Percy and Toby together again 
- Edward's branch line still exists
- Great comedy from Reg and the scrap yard workers
- Moral: Just because they're old doesn't mean they're useless
- The clever metaphor with Edward

CON
- Why can't it be other characters aside the Ffarquhar trio?


I might explain my con better in context. I adore that the Ffarquhar trio was seen again even if it was brief moment but why not have other characters as shown in previous episodes? You could have Daisy or James going to the quarry or Callan Castle and still obtain a 'steam team' character such as Toby or Percy or Thomas to go to Harwick beach. Other episodes aren't afraid to show the absents of a 'steam team' character or where they are designated at, take a look at 'Runaway Engine' last week. Hardly any of the main core characters appearing anywhere and the show won't be harmed really since it is called 'Thomas & Friends'. 

But despite that I love this episode with its comedy from Lee Pressman and the episode's moral. It was also good to see that Edward's branch line still exists since S18. A line where a writer can designate Edward at but not engines like Thomas, Toby and Percy on Ffarquhar. But the fact that the moral was about that just because it was old doesn't mean they are useful had quite the clever metaphor as well regarding to Edward. He's an old engine himself but that is useful, you can see that if you understand the character of Edward and just that made like this episode even more! 

But despite that, I still find this episode enjoyable with the comedy of the Fat Controller and Reg and the people too. It was a good episode and a good start to the second week of this new season! 

Episode Rating:
Runaway Engine - 9/10
PA Problems - 10/10

Series Rating (So Far):
54/60

Friday, 22 September 2017

S21 Ep.5: Runaway Engine

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FANBASE

RUNAWAY ENGINE
Written by
Helen Farrall

Directed by
Diana Basso 

Produced by
Micaela Winter

Air Date
22/09/17

Plot
Millie is given extra work around the estate and gets very cross when Stephen and Glynn forget to clear up the garden waste to help her. When Stephen also manages to hurt her feelings and can't find her the next day to apologise, he thinks that she must have run away!

PRO
- Moral: Be careful what you say and do what you're being told
- Stephen/Millie and Glynn's dynamic was great
- Amazing to see no Thomas or any of the steam team characters
- Nice to see some narrow gauge goodness

CON
- N/A


Like many of Helen's stories, this one is heartfelt, down to earth and nice. Stephen and Glynn's dynamic was great to  see again since the Christmas episodes last year and it was even better with the addition of Millie. The dynamic between the three characters were good to watch such as there banter towards each other. It was also great to see that there wasn't any sign of Thomas or the other 'steam team' characters, considering that the concept of the core characters is not really needed given that this and Season 20 had focused on secondary characters. 

Even though they're at the Blue Mountain Quarry again. It was nice to see some narrow gauge interaction, despite being only for a few minutes. I hope we see them again in future with hopefully some brand new sets. The moral or morals are quite relatable to me, mostly the former, 'Be careful what you say.' I can say things that would rather offend people, by accident of course, and I could get quite apologetic in the end. In the end, it was only a misunderstanding by me and of course there is also the 'Do what you are being told' moral. Quite generic but it was done well in this episode. It's good see some sides of Stephen rather than him being the 'old wise engine'. 

Well that's the first week done for S21. So far it's been good and almost feels better than S20 to me. I feel like there are going to be better episodes next week so stay tuned ;) 

Episode Rating:
Runaway Engine - 9/10

Series Rating (So Far):
44/50

Thursday, 21 September 2017

S21 Ep.4: Stuck in Gear

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FAN BASE

STUCK IN GEAR
Written by
Davey Moore

Produced by
Micaela Winter

Directed by
Dianna Basso

Air Date
21/09/17 

Plot
A branch gets stuck in the open gears of his crane, but Harvey is too shy to ask for help. Instead, he tries to fix it himself and ends up derailing himself inside a tunnel.

PRO
- Nice to see Harvey's sensitive side
- Moral: Don't be shy
- Nice foreshadowing at the docks

CON
- N/A


I think the episode was good. Simple but good. I love how they're showing the message about anxiety of asking for help and I can understand what Harvey was going through as I do get a bit shy when I try to ask for help. It's nice to see some depth into his character such as his sensitive side. There were some funny moments too with Salty of course and I do like the foreshadowing that was shown at the docks for Carly the crane. 

There's not much to say, I will admit it was a tad ridiculous of Harvey to swing his crane arm around at the end, but it make sense to show his own growth about not being shy to ask for help.

Episode Ratings
Stuck in Gear - 8/10

Series Rating (So far):
35/40

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

S21 Ep.3: Dowager Hatt's Busy Day

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FAN BASE

DOWAGER HATT'S BUSY DAY
Written by
Lee Pressman 

Directed by
Diana Basso

Produced by
Micaela Winters

Air Date
20/09/17

Plot
While the Fat Controller is sick, his mother runs the railway and creates chaos by getting everyone to do the wrong jobs!

PRO
- Dowager Hatt
- The gags and jabbing at the Miller/Barlow era
- Emily's voice of reason persona
- The dynamic between Emily and Dowager Hatt 

CON
- N/A


Honestly, I never laughed at a Thomas episode throughout! This probably one of the best scripts that Lee Pressman had wrote in the series. Dowager Hatt was excellent and hilarious with her motherly figure, like her scene with Gordon at Knapford station. Her entrance music was just bada** and her voice by Keith Wickham was top notch! 

There were gags most likely going against the Miller/Barlow era with things like an inflatable balloon, collecting a new hat etc. and there were a few gags that gave me a chuckle like Percy taking the express coaches up Gordon's Hill. I was surprised by the use of Emily with her voice of reason persona, telling Dowager Hatt that there are some engines who are good at jobs that they're good at and it was a good pair up of her and Emily working together to put things right. 

This is probably one of the best episodes I've seen coming from Lee Pressman. There was nothing that I could find that was bad! This is a solid script, 'The Green Controller' done right! 

Episode Rating:
Springtime for Diesel - 8/10
A Most Singular Engine - 9/10
Dowager Hatt's Birthday - 10/10

Series Rating (So far):
27/30

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

S21 Ep.2: A Most Singular Engine

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FAN BASE

A MOST SINGULAR ENGINE
Written by
Davey Moore

Directed by
Diana Basso 

Produced by
Micaela Winters

Air Date
19/09/17

Plot
Diesel causes trouble between Daisy and Harvey.

PRO
- Moral: Everyone is unique
- The interaction between Harvey and Daisy
- Diesel making lies again
- The eye of the tiger stare off

CON
- 'My bottom's wet' 
- I think the episode could've been a bit better with its story

I pretty much enjoyed this episode more than I did with this season's opener. Although I'll put out a few cons first. I think the story could've been improved a bit with the idea of Diesel being jealous about Daisy making friends and decides to make up lies about Harvey and Daisy and while everyone was going about the 'real big poo' quote from yesterday's, which I don't find much harm in it since it made sense with Dart had no idea what Daisy means with her french, which by the way I do like that trait with her snobbish and high class attitude, I don't like the quote with Diesel saying; 'My bottom's wet!' it really feels awkward and silly. Why not have him saying 'My undercarriage is wet!', the original line just feels a little low for Thomas. 

But aside from those two cons, I do love the moral about that everyone is unique in their own way and Davey Moore had done a stellar job on choosing the two engines for this story outside of the Steam Team pack. Their interaction was fine with their different personalities and the way they've learned about the uniqueness of each other despite hearing the lies from Diesel, which was a nice little throwbacks to the classic series to me. There was plenty of humour too such as the 'Eye of the Tiger' stare off, although maybe they should've use the wild west stand off music instead? But it didn't bother me in the end.

The episode was good, it's good to see the complexity of Diesel's character still intact. He wants to be useful but still can't get away from his devious habits. 

Episode Ratings:
A Most Singular Engine - 9/10

Series Rating (So far):
17/20

Monday, 18 September 2017

S21 Ep.1: Springtime for Diesel

After the success of S20 that left fans saying it was the best season of this era, fans are now wondering what S21 would hold? We have been given the news back in August that Terence the Tractor is a returning character as well as Flying Scotsman's voice actor stating that his character will return after 'The Great Race'. S21 is also into a new change with Rosie the SR USA Dock tank engine, getting rid of her stereotypical girly pink livery and was given cherry red livery with the North Western Railway logo on her side tanks. Rosie's new looks, voice and job have made its first appearance in the 2017 movie, 'Journey Beyond Sodor', which was released in cinemas in the UK, Australia and New Zealand and on DVD and Digital Download in the US. The DVD will be coming soon in Australia, New Zealand, UK and Netherlands. My DVD and Movie review of 'Journey Beyond Sodor' will be released on October 4th, which is the DVD's release date in Australia.

Now with this year's special out of the way, would S21 be good? Well's let's find out and hope that the episodes don't take long to air by the TV providers in the UK, even though 'milkshake' will be playing 13 episodes until early October. But first:

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FANBASE

SPRINGTIME FOR DIESEL
Written by
Davey Moore

Directed by
Diana Basso

Produced by
Micaela Winters

Air Date
18/09/17 

Plot
Daisy's springs need fixing after Diesel shunts her.

PRO
- Nice to see some complexity from Diesel
- Den not being dumb
- Love the people in the background
- Daisy caring for her passengers

CON
- The episode doesn't seem to be any start of a story arc.
- 'I'm glad I don't have springs', don't all engines do?
- A bit of a continuity error here. 


So here we are, our first episode of the brand new season that is not given to Thomas. I will say that this episode is good. I like how the writers are giving Diesel some complex development, he can be a rude and devious engine but at times he can feel quite guilty at things and he sometime showcases a soft side to things. I would rather have something like that then keep him as a one-dimensional character who would become completely boring in the end if it was used constantly. I also love how Den is not being this dumb engine who doesn't understand what everything means, the whole 'What 'e means is...' schtick is getting quite old and it's nice to see that Den knows what what means now and I hope the Thomas team keeps up with that. I also love the subtle gags that the animators put in like the two passengers bumping into each other. I also like how Daisy, a character who thinks more about herself than others, actually cares for her passengers despite her broken spring. It's good character development and I give credit for Davey Moore for doing that! 

Although fans have been speculating that this might be a story arc considering that there are three Diesel episodes so far this season; this one, tomorrow's episode and the upcoming Christmas one, 'Big Freeze', but I have a feeling that this isn't one. Tomorrow's episode is going to be Diesel taunting Daisy for being one of a kind despite that he was learning to change his ways so he would become Daisy's friend. I know that this may not be the production order as TV stations don't always air it in that order but there hasn't been anything conclusive on what the production order is. Plus I'll wait and see what the outcome is of the second episode.

The episode is also a bit strange with its continuity as well. In 'The Railcar and the Coaches', Daisy said that she was going off to the Dieselworks for her fitter. Yet Den and Dart in this episode act like that this the first time seeing her. Now you might say, 'Maybe Den and Dart weren't there in The Railcar and the Coaches'. I doubt that as the two diesels are always stationed there. I know some people might say it's not a big deal but continuity is important for a series to make all the episodes feel connected. Also and this is a nitpick, I think it was odd that Den said he isn't glad that doesn't have springs yet many engines do for balance. I don't know much about his basis and trying research about these things on google is a bit of a pain to be honest. But the little reference was just kinda odd.

But in the end, the episode was good with Diesel but I kinda liked 'Diesel and the Ducklings' more because that episode didn't try to develop Diesel's character and he goes back to his old ways in the next and it showcases him being sensitive about other things and shows another side of him. 

Episode Ratings:
Springtime For Diesel - 8/10

Overall Ratings (So far): 
8/10

Thursday, 24 August 2017

DVD Review: Team Up With Thomas

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FAN BASE

TEAM UP WITH THOMAS
Written by
Lee Pressman
Davey Moore
Helen Farrall 
Andrew Brenner

Produced by
Ian McCue (HIT)
Tracy Blagdon 
(Arc Productions/Jam Filled Toronto)

Episodes
(NOTE: My opinions may have changed after rewatching these episodes)

Special Features
James the Splendid Engine - Music Video
Accidents Will Happen - Music Video
Learn With Thomas
The Earl's Quiz
Landmarks of Sodor 

Distributed by
Mattel Creations/HIT Entertainment (UK)

Release Date
7/08/17

EPISODES

I have a rewatch and seem to differ some my viewpoints. While I still standby my views on 'Buckled Tracks and Bumpy Trucks' being clunky, I think the presence of Belle and Flynn is entirely pointless and they didn't add anything to the story. You can cut them out and the episode can be fine without them. Maybe have one of the engines travelling on the buckled line and stubbornly refused to report it and saying that it would be fine but the tracks got more buckled and bent and caused a derailment to another engine and while the Fat Controller, in his authoritative nature, would be stern with the engine for not reporting the matter in the first place and learns the lesson and the situation would've be solved with the white paint. That could've been a better plot than what we had on the DVD. 



Another episode that differ to my early views is 'Blown Away'. I'm not a big fan of Skiff as I do find his personality a bit bland and generic and it shows here. Although I think him in 'Skiff and The Mermaid' was probably his best with naive and child-like personality. Yes, the episode's moral is about size and I like that, but the story feels a bit similar to Helen Farrall's other episodes such as 'Slow Stephen' and 'Toad and The Whale'. Character/s is put down for whatever reason from other character/s and proved themselves to others in the end. It's not bad and not good. I think it's on par with 'The Missing Breakdown Train'. 


'Mucking About' was fine when I first saw the episode but now, after recent events in the US, I look at the episode and its message about ignoring others and they would go away whereas in real life didn't deliver in the end. Because in real life ignoring the bullies can only make things worse for everybody else, which the episode shows by the way, but with Max and Monty not learning anything in the end. But the episode still has its upsides in the end such as seeing the two as well as the Pack and I hope we see more of them in the future.

Aside from these three episodes, I still stand by my opinions of the other episodes.  

SPECIAL FEATURES

One of the highlights of the DVD's special features is the two music videos provided. The songs are composed by the classic series composer's Mike O'Donnell & Junior Campbell who had provided music for the classic series from 1984 to 2003. It's also the first time, 15 years since its debut in the US, that the 'James the Really Splendid Engine' song was given a home video release in the UK as the original song was released in other countries such as the US, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, China and Singapore. The music video of course supplies much footage of the red engine himself from the CGI series over the years. 



Another music video is 'Accidents Will Happen' which the song had seen some home video releases before in countries like UK, USA, Australia, Japan etc. of course the music video provides clips of all the crashes during the CGI series. While it was nice to hear these songs again and were given a new breath of life, I think the editing was a little choppy with the song.



Other special features include 'The Learn with Thomas' segments that are usually seen on PBS Kids over in the US after a certain episode had aired. I don't know about the UK ones apart from being on DVDs. Although it was strange that they snuck in a US dubbed one rather than a UK counterpart. To be honest this had happened before on a US DVD back in 2015 on the 'Tales of the Rails' DVD with Mr. Perkins' story time and The Earl's Quiz, both UK dubbed. So it was most likely a mistake made by the Home Entertainment department of HIT Entertainment. 



Others include a 'Landmark of Sodor' segment about the coastline of Sodor and taking about the railway operation during the summer period. Although I was rather confused that they mentioned Toby has a branch line that runs along the coast even though on the Sodor map (the 2014 one) his line just crosses a waterfall and dam.


And of course there is the Earl's Quiz which was standard and good enough for kids to have fun with.


OVERALL


One thing I wish the people at HIT and Mattel should do is their DVD titles. In 2008, HIT Entertainment, prior to their takeover by Mattel, HIT had released a similar DVD title when S12 was about to debut but only for the North American audience though. Despite that, I think they should've gone to be a more simple way with their DVD titling and just call the DVD after one of the episodes, like many previous Thomas videos and DVDs had done in the past. Heck they did it with 'Whale of a Tale' in 2015, even though that wasn't an actual episode title. Not all DVDs need to have a thematic title like the ones that were released earlier in the year, in fact the title 'Extraordinary Engines' didn't really have episodes that fit with that title unlike the previous ones.

Another thing that I think the DVD had lost as a good potential one is holding back the Arlesdale miniature episodes and use them for their own DVD along with other episodes. But in the end, I'm not all that fussed about it and I'm glad that they were at least given a DVD release. 

The DVD does have some bad apples but there are some good ones in the end especially if you're a fan of these episodes. If you're willing to see a few of these episode I suggest going on iTunes but if you're interested in the episodes from S20 and the special features then I recommend the DVD.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

DVD Review: The Complete Series 18

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FAN BASE

THE COMPLETE SERIES 18
Written by
Andrew Brenner
Paul Larson & Laura Beaumont 
Mark Huckerby & Nick Olster 
Davey Moore

Episodes
Old Reliable Edward
Not So Slow Coaches
Flatbeds of Fear
Disappearing Diesels
Signals Crossed
Toad's Adventure
Duck in the Water
Duck and the Slip Coaches
Thomas the Quarry Engine
Thomas and the Emergency Cable
Duncan and the Grumpy Passenger
Marion and the Pipe
Missing Gator
No Steam Without Coal
Spencer's VIP
Toad's Bright Idea
Long Lost Friend
Last Train for Christmas
Duncan the Humbug
The Perfect Gift

Bonus Disc - Dino's and Discoveries
Emily Saves the World
Timothy and the Rainbow Truck
Marion and the Dinosaur 
Samson at Your Service
Samson Sent For Scrap
Millie and the Volcano

Special Features
N/A

Release Date
19/06/17 

Three years after S18's release on television and we finally have a collection of all the episodes from that season along with a bonus disc of the 2015 'Dino's and Discoveries' DVD. Prior to S20, this season was hailed among as one of the best but does it still hold? Let's find out.


EPISODES


Like all season collection DVDs, S18 consists 26 episodes that ran the course of 2014 on television. I bought some DVDs of Thomas & Friends at Rasputin Music and Ameoba Records while I was in California for a couple of weeks in June and some of them had provided booklets telling the consumer what's inside such as episodes and special features and other offers from the brand. 

Since HIT Entertainment and Mattel have paper advertisements in their DVDs to promote things in the UK like books, Drayton Manor etc. why not have a booklet showing us what the episodes are? 


As of the episodes, some still hold up. One of my personal favourites from this season looking back was 'Thomas the Quarry Engine'. The episode is simple and it feels like some early Awdry charm plus the engines singing 'I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside' is perhaps the most Awdry-esque thing to see in the episode. Rev.W.Awdry had always add some old nursery rhymes and things like in his books, although the song is a music hall song but it feels like something the Reverend would've done.


'Duck and the Slip Coaches' is another episode I always think of when I look back at S18. The episode is brilliant. While it showcases some railway practice, it wasn't the sole focus as the story is all about James taking credit about the idea of slip coaches even though he took the idea from Duck and claimed it as his own. It's a fun and charming episode. 


'Last Train for Christmas' is still in my opinion, one of my most favourite Christmas episodes from the season and of all time. What makes it so good is to show about the railway and why it serves the public even during the busiest time of the year, no matter what the weather. You see the engines have commitment on getting the passengers home in time for the Christmas holidays. Connor braves through the bad weather to bring home his last passengers and getting extra coaches so more passengers can fit and you see engines from the Fat Controller's railway ploughing the snow off the track so that Connor can get through. It's such a great episode.


I look back at 'Old Reliable Edward' and despite the reuse of Edward is old and not useful but he had proved his worth cliche. But I think it's good to showcases the younger generation of Thomas fans Edward's true character after years of him being such a downer about his old age, hating a crane and being a show off, watch 'Edward's Exploit' or 'Saved from Scrap' and then 'Saving Edward', 'Edward Strikes Out' and 'Steady Eddie' and you would see the major difference in his character. I quite like that the episode showcases Edward's sarcasm and teasing towards Gordon, a trait that needs more exposure. 



There are some episodes that I do considered as duds from this season ever since they were new back in 2014. 'Signals Crossed' is still the episode that was a good idea but had the wrong character choice. When I think back to the episode, I think it could've been better for Mavis rather than Toby. Although Mavis isn't the character that we've known since S3, she did say she's up in the quarry all the time. So why not have being nervous about signals? Mavis hardly had any episode to herself and it could be quite refreshing to see rather then seeing another engine from the steam team having an episode to themselves. 


I pretty much have mixed thoughts about 'Marion and the Pipe' ever since the episode first began and looking back, it wasn't bad but it certainly wasn't the most interesting episode. The writing felt it was all over the place as Marion found out that she had burst a water pipe and then realised it in the end that it was one the whole time. But it was great seeing Marion and she was a great character in the episode and the entire series. 


Another thing that makes the DVD collection at bit different compare to the rest is the added bonus disc of the 2015 DVD, 'Dinos and Discoveries' which consists six episodes from the 18th season. Some fans are bit critical about this idea and while they have their own opinions, I can see two sides of this. First off it's the idea. In the previous series collection (Series 17), the episodes from 'Spills and Thrills' were all part of one disc and are showcased in the production order. Why release the 2015 DVD when so many fans (young and old) two years ago had already bought it? But there's another side to this as well, not many kids would have the DVD when it came out in 2015. Sure there could be plenty of kids wanting the DVD and getting out of their parents' money but I don't think all parents would've gotten it for their kid on the day it came out. Clearwater Entertainment, run by Railway Consultant Sam Wilkinson, said that it's trying something new and could be a better value for money. 


OVERALL

I think the DVD is good value. Although as said before, I think HIT and Mattel should release a booklet containing the episodes since there's no episode listing anywhere on the cover. There are many good episodes in this DVD that would be enough to entertain a child and despite the Dinos and Discoveries disc, kids would at least be more interested that there are more episodes to watch. 

RATING
7/10

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails Exhibit

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FAN BASE 

THOMAS & FRIENDS:
EXPLORE THE RAILS EXHIBIT 

On Saturday, June 17th 2017, I went to the San Jose Children's Discovery Museum at San Jose, California, USA. I went there with my dad while my sister, mum and brother in law went to some shops down town. The Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails exhibition was created by the Minnesota Children's Museum in 2014 and it's an interactive and STEM exhibition for young children.


The activities include climbing on Thomas and pulling his whistle, fix Percy's 'wobbly wheels' at the Steamworks, be a ticket collector and plenty of other things. The highlight for me though was 'The Evolution of Thomas' exhibit that showcases the history of Thomas from the Railway Series books to the multi-million pound brand that it is today.


One of the biggest attractions to see, if you had grown up with the models that were used in the show before the CGI switch, was the Thomas and Emily models that were used on the show in their respective display cases although with a bit of wear and tear, although not as bad as Drayton Manor's treatment. But despite that they were kept in the best of their condition and it was amazing to see them up close and personal after seeing them on the screen for so many years.



Other things in the exhibits they had were clips from the model era with episodes from 'Thomas & Gordon' or 'Thomas Gets Tricked' as known in the United States, 'Henry and the Elephant' and 'Emily and the Rubbish' which is also known as 'Emily and the Garbage' in the US. They even played clips from the CGI episodes which are the Brenner and McCue era episodes such as 'Not So Slow Coaches' and 'Thomas' Shortcut' and they even played a clip from 'Shining Time Station' the show that started Thomas' success in the USA with Ringo Starr as Mr. Conductor. Other videos include Mattel creating toys for Thomas & Friends, which was for the revamped Trackmaster line, this exhibition was created in 2014 so it's not all updated to the recent years. It also has a small audio story narrated by Keith Wickham, although it was quite hard to hear due to the crowd.


The exhibition had other little things for kids to play with, such as the large wooden railway play table and a little play area for younger kids. There was even one part of the exhibition that I played with for a bit, which was this little play table and you release a wooden railway toy down this small roller coaster thing. I thought it was fun as it reminded me of exhibits at another place like this I use to go to back in my home country, Australia. It's called 'Questacon' which is a science and technology centre which is also in the same guise as this museum that I went to. The place is centred in Australia's capital Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory (A.C.T) and it's still running to this day. 


They also have a small Knapford station and one of them have small posters that were used for promotions for the show in the style of British Railway posters. There was even one for a weekend getaway to Misty Island, now who wants that? *crickets chirp*, no surprise.



It's a small exhibition, but just right for any young child. After the exhibition, we take a look around the museum and I thought it was quite fun even for an adult who is young at heart. One of my favourites was this air suction tube, you place a little soft felt ball and you see it being sucked around the tubes and fall into a basket. That thing had also reminded me of things that were at another museum that I go to in Sydney, my home city, called the Powerhouse Museum. In the 90's there were many fun things to play there as a kid and I still have fond memories ever since. 

After an hours worth at the museum, we stopped by the shop. The shop has things aimed what they have at the museum and they even have Thomas merchandise such as DVDs, Wooden Railways, Books etc. I manage to buy quite a lot in the end. One thing to make your visit interesting is that there is an exclusive Wooden Railway toy that you can only get at the museums that hold the exhibition and that is called 'The Sodor Mint Car'. 

It's a small wagon with plastic coins inside with the exhibition logo on the side and you can switch it around as it was shown on the box. I ended up getting two, one for display and one to open. I also bought two books which are 'Trains, Cranes and Troublesome Trucks' and 'Goodnight Thomas' both published by Random House and a 'Day Out With Thomas' cap for my little nephew and I bought the DVD 'Tales on the Rails'. 

In the end, the exhibition and the museum are great to visit. If you have children or young at heart, I recommend going to the museum it's great fun for everyone. The Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails Exhibition will be at the San Jose Children Discovery Museum until September 10th and will be travelling around the United States as far as 2021 according to the schedule provided by HIT Entertainment. Check it out to see if there's one heading to a museum near you.


Friday, 12 May 2017

NWR Editorial: Journey Beyond Sodor trailer

THESE ARE SOLEY MY OPINIONS AND ARE NOT INFLUENCED FROM THE THOMAS & FRIENDS FAN BASE

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

NWR EDITORIAL:
JOURNEY BEYOND SODOR TRAILER


After months of waiting, we finally got the trailer for the upcoming 2017 special, 'Journey Beyond Sodor'. In this special, Thomas goes to the mainland again! That is if you count 'Thomas and the Special Letter' and the book 'Thomas and the Great Railway Show' and if you count it as one despite that the 2016 special would not have any impact on S21, except for Flying Scotsman and Vicarstown, 'The Great Race'.  

The trailer opens up with a beautiful shot of Arelsbrugh harbour and then Thomas, possibly on the mainland and then Duck and Oliver chuffing and then we cut to James wondering about Thomas. In the UK trailer we hear that James gets a new voice from Rob Rackshaw. Even though I'm pretty much warmed to Nigel Plinkgton's voice for Percy despite being critical back in 2015, I will be waiting for the entire special to hear his new voice. 

Then we cut to Thomas going across the mainland and saying that there's a lot of new things to see while a truck, with a new face and narrow gauge based, says all he can see is another truck's backside. Although I'm not a fan that they still use US voices in a UK dub as it sounds out of place with an entire cast of UK voices, I don't have anything against the US audience or the dub here.

We then meet our new characters at the Steelworks, Hurricane and Frankie and then we meet the experimental engines such as Lexi, Theo and Merlin and a new crane named Beresford, who I think would not add much to the story TBH. We then see James at the Steelworks too and was being chased by Frankie and Hurricane for some reason. 

Then we see the most unexpected thing happening to Thomas, being carried over and dropped to a melting pot.

One thing though is this, some people are complaining, this is in no way of attacking anybody and if it is I apologise in advanced, that the animation looks bad, despite being Jam Filled's first feature length special. This happened back in early 2013 when the 'King of the Railway' trailer was released and when we saw Arc Production's animation for the first time, there were some unfinished shots like when the Earl introduced us and the engines to Stephen. The lighting was not there in the trailer but was there in the final product and when Thomas and Percy were careering down the hill from the castle and the grass in the trailer was flat and bland and in the final cut it was detailed and I believe the shot after that we see no dust on Thomas too but he had it in the final cut. 


This also happened in the 'Tale of the Brave' trailer such as Gator at the docks being all bright and sunny and in the final cut it was dull, cloudy and grey. There's more to it than that, I suggest going onto the Wikia for it. This also happened last year when an Australian news site was showing Shane's profile video for last year's special. On there we see that the lighting was different and he wasn't pulling any trucks and when his video was released on the offical YouTube channel and the DVD, the lighting was better and he was pulling trucks. So while yes that some sets are a bit flat, I'll await for the final cut.

Some people complain that a truck made a butt joke or maybe that the truck was self-aware. I get it that you will never hear a butt joke in anything that is Thomas but that joke could be about anything. Plus I kinda hear that line from the troublesome trucks. 

The trailer was also released alongside with a Behind the Scenes video with more footage from the special. One of the other things that some are complaining about is the engines bouncing around, mostly the experimental ones. To be honest, the bouncing may seem odd but it feels like they are expressing themselves more, heck Kevin bounced in S19 where was the backlash? Or even in model era such as Gordon shaking when Diesel 10 was first seen in Magic Railroad! I can see there point though, the fans. When it comes to competing against other kids brands such as Cars, you might say Chugginton but I think that show is slowly dying considering that here in Australia there is hardly any merchandise or DVD available. The only countries that are keeping Chugginton alive are America and Japan, heck the latter country has a store dedicated to it! Mattel are now the owners of HIT's brand and they see Thomas as the number one brand and would do anything to appeal to kids today. This is a side effect of being a successful children's brand.


Even though I would love to see realism in the show, I think I can take the engines bouncing about when it comes to a good quality story. Because story is more important as long as its entertaining and makes sense to audiences. A bouncing engine is more tame than a stupid pointless bridge jump to sell an expensive train set.


One thing that I'm surprised to hear about this special is the addition of Hugh Bonneville as the voice for Merlin, who I believe would be the leader of the experimental group. If you are not familiar with him he was also in the popular BBC drama 'Downtown Abbey' and the 2014 film 'Paddington' the bear. Looking at him I think he was a great choice as he brings some fun and a eccentric feeling to his character that makes him as the engine who thinks he's invisible but not. 

In conclusion, I think Journey Beyond Sodor might be better than last year's special but maybe not as good as Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure. But we'll wait and see when its out. 

JOURNEY BEYOND SODOR
COMING TO THEATERS ACROSS THE UK, AUGUST 25TH

COMING SOON TO DVD, SEPTEMBER 2017.