Saturday, 28 December 2013

NWR Editorial: Female Characters

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

NWR EDITORIAL:
FEMALE CHARACTERS

For nearly 30 years Thomas the Tank Engine has been criticised by many as 'sexist' due to the 'lack' of female characters. This issue is nothing new, we've all heard it before since the dawn of the television series as well as when it was just the Railway Series books itself, pre-Britt Allcroft, so it's been done to death. Recently Mary Creagh, MP of the Labor party in England for Transport, is one of the critics who had said that the show as well as the Railway Series books have a lack of female characters and is a 'national scandal', despite she finds the stories wonderful and incredibly popular. 

I will have to admit there is not enough female characters in the series in comparison towards the amount of male characters, but the ones that the Dailymail (the 'Dailyfail' as I called it since there stories are nothing but trash) and other media outlets list saying that characters like Daisy is the sole female character and they have about a few characters listed such as one, two, three or more coaches or human. I have looked up many female characters that were introduced as engines, vehicles rolling stock and humans and pretty much the numbers don't lack. Despite that there are about 67 or more male characters there are about 46 females and they're still counting as HIT Entertainment says that more are in development, this includes characters from the Sam Barlow era of the show. Here are the list of female characters: 
  1. Emily
  2. Millie
  3. Rosie
  4. Caitlin
  5. Molly
  6. Belle
  7. Old Slow Coach
  8. Flora
  9. Elizabeth
  10. Isabella
  11. Duchess of Boxford
  12. Dowager Hatt
  13. Jenny Packard
  14. Alicia Botti
  15. Madge
  16. Mrs. Percival
  17. Annie
  18. Clarabel
  19. Henrietta
  20. Elise 
  21. Isabel
  22. Dulice
  23. Alice
  24. Mirabel
  25. Victoria
  26. Agnes
  27. Ruth
  28. Lucy
  29. Jemmia 
  30. Beatrice
  31. Ada
  32. Jane
  33. Mabel
  34. Bertrude
  35. Millicent 
  36. Catherine 
  37. Daisy
  38. Mavis
  39. Pip
  40. Emma
  41. Lady
  42. Caroline
  43. Bluebell
  44. Primrose
  45. Miss Jenny
  46. Lady Hatt
So while those numbers aren't big as the male characters, it shows that the TV and Railway series in total are not lacking female characters in total, these are characters that either have a big or minor role in the stories. The numbers are still counting as more are in development. Many comments on many news outlets are opposed to the recent news some say that their daughters, in their respects, loved Thomas when they were young and they were in no way to be inspired to be a train driver. As a male I love steam engines and railways and my dream as a boy was to be a driver, but I pretty much forgot about it and just stayed as an enthusiast thanks to Thomas the Tank Engine as well as various railway documenatries. If you're female and love steam engines and want to driver one, don't think that TTTE is the start of it all, just do it. All women are allowed to driver trains if they want or not. It's a children's show and Thomas does not reflect nor focus on politics. But if she's reading this, the transport MP, I believe she needs to think more about Britain's transport rather then a childrens show's 'lack' of female characters. This'll be my last post for the year so I like to wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy and safe 2014.   

  

Thursday, 26 December 2013

S17 Ep.20:The Frozen Turntable

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

THE FROZEN TURNTABLE
Written by
Andrew Brenner

Directed by
David Baas

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

Air Date:
26/12/13

Plot
The engines discovered that the turntable at Tidmouth sheds was frozen! Gordon thinks he should have the accessible berth, but Thomas insisted that they should leave it for Percy as he was taking the mail. While the engines find other places to sleep for the night, Gordon decided to take Percy's berth. But Gordon became stuck himself and he can't pull the express! So James took his job and Gordon realises that he shouldn't be selfish. 

PRO:
-  Moral: Don't be selfish 
- The winter atmosphere looks great in Arc's CGI
- The only episode where you see Gordon's tender facing from the berth

CON:
- The turntable was slightly off centred at the start


I enjoyed this episode, I heard from friends that the episode focuses too much on Gordon's selfishness, which is true, but the selfishness has been centred in one episode from mind and that is 'Off the Rails'. I'm not saying that they are wrong as they have there own opinions about it and that is fair. The episode does have a good moral about not to be selfish and think of others first before yourself. I have a feeling that this episode is based off a magazine story, which I own, called 'Gordon and the Turntable'. It has a few elements from the story about the turntable being broken down, instead of frozen. Maybe it was or not, it's just something that I thought of. In the end, I do enjoy the episode. 

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

S17 Ep.19:The Missing Christmas Decorations

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

THE MISSING CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS 
Written by
Andrew Brenner

Directed by
David Bass

Produced by
Kallan Kagan (Arc)
Ian McCue and Halim Jabbour (HIT) 

Air Date:
25/12/13

Plot:
Diesel 10 steals Christmas decorations from the steam engines! 

PRO:
- Moral: Christmas is a time to be kind to others and giving
- 'The Fat Controller likes all his engines!' 

CON:
- Norman's voice sounds too similar Diesel and Edward's UK voice


One of my favourites from the 17th series. Percy's moral about Christmas being a time to be kind to others and giving is a great way to teach young children about the importance of the celebration and of course giving, such as the end with the diesels giving their Christmas decorations that were given to them (the diesels) by the Fat Controller. Plus the quote from Thomas saying that the Fat Controller likes all of his engines, that definitely brings the end towards the whole 'steam vs. diesel racism' issue that was used in S14-16, despite the rivalry they have in the series' history, the steam engines learnt in the Railway Series that diesels can be useful too and I'm glad they're bringing that towards the recent television series. I like Sidney's voice as well in the episode, it reminds me of Warrior from TUGS but more youthful as Warrior's voice is a bit deeper then Sidney's. Though when it comes to voices, I'm not a big fan of Norman's voice. To me it sounds like a fusion of Edward and Diesel put together, I'm not hating it, but it doesn't feel original nor different. But still it is a nice episode to watch on Christmas and it is certainly better then the other episodes from S13-16. As for the 'twinkle toes' bit, I think some fans take the small things a bit serious for a little reference albeit it could be taken as coincidence really in my opinion, doesn't make it the 'best episode ever', the story is more important then anything else as it helps the characters to develop. Not looks nor any kind of reference.   


Rating: 5/5    

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

S17 Ep.18:Santa's Little Engine

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

SANTA'S LITTLE ENGINE

Written by
Andrew Brenner


Directed by
David Baas 

Produced by
Kallan Kagan (Arc)
Ian McCue and Halim Jabbour (HIT)

Air Date:
24/12/13

Plot:
The Fat Controller was to play as Santa Claus on the last day of the Christmas party at Ulfstead Castle. However the sleigh slipped down the hill and Thomas was rescue the Fat Controller. In the end, Thomas was almost like a Reindeer. 

PRO:
- A human character playing the lead role
- 'Special Special'

CON:
- N/A


If there is one thing that makes me like the episode is that a human has taken the lead role instead of an engine. The story is all focused on the Fat Controller afraid of riding on a sleigh, even though he was never about it it would be good to have a backstory, but I don't think many things need a backstory, unless if it's about an new engine that they've introduced in the 17th series and the special. Last time we saw a human playing a lead role was in S5 with 'Lady Hatt's Birthday Party' and 'Sir Topham Hatt's Holiday'. We definitely need more episodes like these in future, if any of the writers are reading this.  Some people might think that I'm crazy to put the words 'special special' in the pro list, even though that I've despised it in my views on S13-16, there is some goodness in it. Thomas' job IS actually special, he was going to bring a sleigh ready for the party! The 'special specials' we've seen before the 17th series is stuff like pulling loaded trucks is special and not empties, engines pull those all the time, is a definite example.  



Rating: 4/5

Monday, 23 December 2013

S17 Ep.17:No Snow For Thomas

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

NO SNOW FOR THOMAS
Written by
Laura Beaumont & Paul Larson

Directed by
David Baas

Produced by
Kallan Kagan (Arc)
Ian McCue and Halim Jabbour (HIT)

Air Date:
23/12/13

Plot:
Thomas doesn't like his snowplough and so he decided to hide it and pretend he doesn't know. The Fat Controller had no choice but to leave Thomas in his shed and sent Emily out to clear the tracks. But Thomas felt left out when Emily was having fun in the snow with Annie and Clarabel. The Fat Controller was cross and ordered Thomas to clear the tracks for Emily the next day and so that's what he did.

PRO:
- The snow scene
- 'Thomas plays a trick on his driver' instead of his driver as the engine's hands
- Dryaw station in CGI for the first time
- Dryaw station being part of Thomas' branch line again

CON:
- Snow inside the sheds


I find this episode to be good and enjoyable, the snow scene looks so nice and beautiful at night, especially at Dryaw station, which I have to say the station looks really top notch in CGI and it was great seeing how it's now part of Thomas' branch line rather then being a random station for any engine that are on the main line or branch line. I also like it how the Mark Moraghan says that Thomas played a trick on his driver instead of using him as his hands, rather to have an explanation to why he's doing that. Though I do see some similarity of 'Thomas, Emily and The Snowplough', though many people need something to help. But there is one flaw in Arc's animation of 'spot the goof', their is snow inside the shed, either it's an error or the snow from the night time scene came in from the wind. But the episode is good and enjoyable.  

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A Retrospective of Thomas & Friends DVDs of 2013

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

With December being the final month of 2013, let's now take a look a back at all the DVDs reviewed on this blog's first year during the course of 2013 from many different countries such as the UK, US, Japan and Australia from the past and today, you can click on the titles of these reviews to see my full view on theses. Let's take a look at all the Thomas & Friends DVDs from 2013:


MUDDY MATTERS
REVIEW DATE:
5/02/13

The first DVD of the year for the United States and I think it did OK, it had some bad choices of episodes but some decent ones too. The game on this DVD wasn't as entertaining as the one on the Christmas DVD that came out to the US back 2012 but its something fun for the target range. 

Rating:
3/5


GO GO THOMAS
REVIEW DATE:
6/03/13

A surprisingly early release for Australia, as most DVDs either come out months or a year after the release dates in the UK and US. However, I was a bit disappointed with the choice of episodes that this DVD and that is of course the two horrible season 15 episodes, 'Wonky Whistle' and 'Kevin The Steamie'. It would've gone better with the original list, that the UK and US had, and placed an extra S16 episode. ABC should've released the two episodes on a different DVD. However, I'm glad they've kept the three good ones. 

Rating:
3/5

19/03/13

A gem to have in your Thomas DVD collection. Nowadays when it comes to DVDs celebrating an important milestone in the history of Thomas the Tank Engine, it's usually a compilation of episodes that are either remastered or not. This one has interviews with many kids, who would now be at an older age now, talking about their favourite Thomas episodes. It has good games and a great 'Read-Along' of a classic episode with wonderful illustrations by Owen Bell. 

Rating:
5/5

25/03/13

This was a good DVD release. It has simple stories and even though this is the only DVD to have Michael Angelis' narration for the American audiences, which by the way is actually good and much more better then Alec Baldwin's narration in my opinion. A nice catchy song at the end as well. 

Rating:
4/5 

SCHOOL HOUSE DELIVERY
REVIEW DATE:
29/03/13

Not much good episodes in my opinion but the target range would enjoy the episodes from the DVD. The game wasn't that special. Though I don't hate the DVD. 

Rating:
3/5

3/04/13

There are three good episodes on this DVD and two that are not worth the watch. But the DVD release is simple with just five episodes and despite the region code showing 3 (China's release), it's actually all region. 

Rating:
3/5

FELLOW HIRO, SPECIAL CARE
REVIEW DATE:
18/05/13

The DVD is excellent. To me Hiro's a likeable character and its great to see a DVD about him and his popularity in Japan. Despite the bad episodes it was still a great DVD.

Rating:
5/5

BIG PANIC ISLAND OF SODOR
REVIEW DATE:
20/05/13

Another creative DVD, this time about the accidents, races, rescues and runaways in the series. I love the DVD cover as it shows that even the shock faces don't mean any harm, that nowadays most DVDs have a smiley face to boost sales. The entire program shows us in sections of all the panic in the series and end it with 'Flour Power' or as its known in Japan 'The Power of Wheat and Thomas', which was an OK episode. The DVD is great and is recommendable to kids and Thomas fans who love the crashes in the series. 

Rating:
5/5 

THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE CHARACTER ENCYCLOPAEDIA
REVIEW DATE:
27/5/13

The DVD teaches kids about all the different vehicles on the Island. This is one of my favorite Japanese DVDs and sometimes I wish why can't HIT Entertainment do something like this for the english territories.

Rating:
5/5 

65TH ANNIVERSARY OF THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE

REVIEW DATE:

28/5/13

While people in the UK and US get a compilation DVD of Thomas & Friends episodes, Japan released there own DVD to celebrate the anniversary in 2010. I love the comparison of the Railway Series story and TV series story of the four episodes that are featured on this DVD. 


Rating:
4/5


   
25/07/13

The writing is dull and bland and annoying with its three strikes formula and repetition and rhyming. However there were some good episodes that's better then S13 and Nitrogen's animation was fantastic to watch. 


Rating:
3/5


TREAT SIZE DVD PRESENTS...
REVIEW DATE:
10/08/13


With episodes at its prime, these are well worth the money. A nice list of classic Thomas episodes from the early years with Ringo Starr as narrator and for 1.00 pound in the UK at Poundland, I bought these at their one in York. Well worth the money.


Rating:
5/5

RAILWAY MISCHIEF
REVIEW DATE:
19/08/13

A must have for any Thomas fan, this was a Wal*Mart exclusive, so you have to live in America or Canada as Wal*Mart doesn't sell worldwide, but you can get it from sellers on Amazon US or eBay, if you're lucky. The five selected episodes are from the new and improved S17 and they are enjoyable particulary 'Gordon Runs Dry'.


Rating:
4.9/5

KING OF THE RAILWAY
REVIEW DATE:
18/09/13 

Overall this has beaten the likes of 'Blue Mountain Mystery' and 'The Great Discovery' in my book. Andrew Brenner's first DVD special has ended up as the best selling DVD for Children on Amazon in the UK. The backstory of Ulfstead Castle gives Sodor that imaginative feeling to kids that it's real, like the fictional history from the Reverend Awdry's book about Sodor in 1987. The story is written well and can entertain families, kids as well as older Thomas fans.


Rating:
5/5  

SANTA'S LITTLE ENGINE
REVIEW DATE:
10/10/13

Despite the use of 'Snow Tracks' being re-narrated and re-released, the script from three years ago from the episode is still there with its unneeded rhyming and alliteration and stupidity of characters. But the rest of the episodes, from Season 17 were an acceptation. The best episodes that I've find there is 'The Missing Christmas Decorations', it is better then the plot of 'Day of The Diesels' even though it was for an episode. Plus they've fixed up the whole Christmas/Winter Holidays thing from 2012, I won't get into the debatable side of this issue as I have no interest about it.


RATING:
4.5/5  


MERRY CHRISTMAS THOMAS/BIG BANG SURPRISE
REVIEW DATE:
6/11/13

A mixed bag for this DVD. The episodes from MCT are bland or have a poor teaching moral for kids ('Emily's Winter Party Surprise') and the episodes from BBS have some bad and OK/Good episodes, such as 'Percy and the Calliope'. In the end it's mixed but is a great value for two discs of twelve episodes in total for those people in the UK. 


RATING:
3.5/5

NWR Editorial: A Tribute to Hilary Fortnam

NWR EDITORIAL:
A TRIBUTE TO HILARY FORTNAM 

Hilary Fortnam (left) with Thomas (centre) and Veronica Chambers (right) 
at Drayton Manor in 2010.

After a whole decade battling with cancer, Hilary Fortnam (nee Awdry) had passed away on November 25th 2013. Her death was announced this week through British media and passed on towards the Thomas fan base. I never had a chance to meet the woman herself. But hearing about her through friends from the UK and from various people who had a chance to see her, she's very passionate about father's and brother's work. In her lecture in the 1995 documentary, 'The Thomas the Tank Engine Man', in her lecture 'Growing Up with Thomas the Tank Engine' she says that whenever her dad writes a new story, he would get his children to read it and see how it turns out. She may not have written the books unlike her father and brother, but she helped out by giving her opinions about the story and we wouldn't have such great stories today about Thomas and his friends in the Railway Series books. 

In 2011, with the outcry from religious groups, parents and older fans of the series, she criticised HIT Entertainment for the use of the word 'Winter Holidays' used in the recent series instead of 'Christmas'. Now the recent series had re-dubbed the new series with the word 'Christmas' and now in 2013, the recent US DVD 'Santa's Little Engine', with the new production team have added them in the new S17 episodes with the term 'Merry Christmas'. 

It's a shame that someone who had helped creating the phenomenal success of Thomas the Tank Engine had passed on. But her memory will still be kept alive through fans of the television series and of course, what started it all, the Railway Series books. She had approved of 'Blue Mountain Mystery' and I'm sure she would've approved 'King of The Railway'. At least she will rest now in eternal peace knowing that Thomas the Tank Engine are in the right hands of Andrew Brenner and his team. 

I like to give my condolences to the Awdry and the Fortnam family and friends. 

HILARY FORTNAM
(1946 - 2013) 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

NWR Editorial: 50 'Greatest' Kids TV Shows


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

NWR EDITORIAL:
50 'GREATEST' KIDS TV SHOWS

On November 8th 2013, channel five, a television station in the UK had aired their list of '50 Greatest Kids TV Shows'. Although there are shows that deserve the top spots such as Thunderbirds, Bagpuss and Blue Peter, but shows like Postman Pat, Sooty and even Thomas the Tank Engine were being overshadowed and they are of course in the same category, long running and successful UK kids shows (Sooty has been around for 65 years and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for 'Longest running kids show' in the UK, Postman Pat has been around for 32 years and Thomas has been around for nearly 30 years, on the television screens, nearly 70 years with the Railway Series books) and they've been snubbed down in lower positions:

Postman Pat: 49th 
Sooty: 42nd
Thomas: 34th 

Yet an overrated show like Peppa Pig received top spot at 6th position. In my opinion, if there are any parents here who have kids who love Peppa Pig please be advised that I'm having my own critical opinion here about the show, the show's writing is atrocious. It is filled with repetition, the voice actors are bland, minus Brain Blessed, and not much moral value in the show (there may as well be some but what is the moral about shopping?) Yet a show like Thomas the Tank Engine, in the classic series as they were focusing upon that in the show, has better morals that both kids and adults can learn from. There are many good morals that kids today can learn from the show:

The Sad Story of Henry:
- Respect your elders (such as the Fat Controller)
- Vanity comes last 

 Thomas and Gordon:
- Teasing doesn't make you useful/What comes around goes around

   Dirty Work:
- Jumping to conclusions before knowing the truth

Escape:
- Helping someone in need

Oliver Owns Up:
- Pride comes last

These are the moral values that comes to mind and are perfect for children to learn from, despite that 'journalists' and 'experts' bash the first one through the overrated 'communist criticism' over the years. It seems that this 'list' of kids shows only care about marketability of a certain pig instead of long running classical shows and there are some shows, like Fireman Sam, that has been well over looked and so has Wallace and Gromit, they are regarded as something for kids. Fireman Sam should've been on the list for its excellent moral value on fire safety, even today's episodes in CGI have great moral value as well as the classical episodes from the 1980's. Wallace and Gromit have been praised by critics, fans and people alike over the years with its Agatha Christie style story lines too. The BBC's Timeshift programme praise Thomas to bring young children the interest of steam and railway heritage as well as model railways. 

Another thing I don't like from the list were the people who gave their own points and views on TTTE. Even though they have they're allowed to have their opinions, they seem to talk about, for example, why Britt Allcroft hired Ringo Starr. One person giving his point on Ringo talking slowly, which I have to disagree on that cause Ringo had good pacing around the 1st series, but he got better during the second season and one presenter talking about the Fat Controller, 'Are you allowed to say the Fat Controller anymore?' watch the recent series and you'll see, and the woman at the end could've, but to me obviously, been implying that kids aren't smart enough to know what trains (engines) do. When I was a kid I knew what an engine can do; seeing them carrying passengers and freight by going past me and seeing them on video or DVDs. They don't really give their points on the show's writing or moral value and is that what these lists are suppose to be about? But I give credit to milkshake for using the classic intro, if only they aired the classic episodes on their channel as well as ABC here in Australia, last time I saw a classic episode on television is 'Thomas and Percy's Christmas Adventure' in 2004 during Christmas.

In conclusion, this list is not the best and even though I'm a fan of Thomas, I do see brilliance from a children's show by its writing and teachings for children then something, like Peppa Pig, as a marketable show with its bland story lines and voice acting, I know that S13-16 of TTTE had its share of bad story lines from 2010-2012 that lost its touch, but the list show is more focused on what the classical series had done over the years between 1984-2003 and not the recent series and if those people think of the show like that, then they've missed out on some good ones.   

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

DVD Review: Merry Christmas Thomas/Big Bang Surprise

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS THOMAS


Written by
Sharon Miller
Max Allen 
Jessica Kedward & Kristy Peart
Geread Foster
Lizzie Ennever 

Merry Christmas Thomas! Episodes

MCT! Special Features
Down at the Station - Points
Guess Who? Puzzles

BBS Special Features
Guess Who? puzzles
Down at the Station - Engines

Directed by
Greg Tiernan

Release Date:
28/10/13

Distributed by
HIT Entertainment

My theory from last year was correct, in my 'Merry Winter Wish' DVD review, that they'll release this DVD this year. But with all four episodes from 'A Very Thomas Christmas', it's unlikely that the DVD may as well be a US only release like 'Schoolhouse Delivery'. Which means the UK is most likely to have 'Santa's Little Engine' released in time for Christmas in 2014. So since that it's now nearly a month until Christmas, let's see if this DVD is good enough for a Christmas present for the young Thomas fans of the UK.

EPISODES
With the episodes from 'Merry Christmas Thomas' the selection is in a mixed taste. I personally find 'The Christmas Tree Express' to the the worst of the S16 episodes due to its writing and character development, and considering at the time of its television run, the television stations in Australia and the UK had delayed the episode until the Christmas period. But the UK voice actors were good but with the way the script was written it was bland and bad and worth only one watch. 'Ho Ho Snowman' comes second, the whole idea of Henry being scared of a snowman that can 'talk' is just confusing. Charlie was right behind the trucks and Henry would know what he sounds like anyway! Of course there are two episodes from the 15th season, that were originally intended to be released for 'Merry Winter Wish' two years ago, to be honest I don't find these episodes enjoyable either considering that these two are from the worst written series in history of brand. But 'Percy the Snowman' had a nice hinder of S5 nostalgia but it didn't execute the episode well with its blandness and 'Tree Trouble', despite that I find the steam vs. diesel plot fun, it wasn't great episode as well. I kind of enjoyed 'Emily's Winter Party Special' but as Callum Walker (SI3DFilms) says on his views of the episode it is more of a 'fun comes first before work' storyline and it's certainly not a good moral for children of the target range. Plus it has the rehashed feeling of two episodes fused together from S9 or 10?, it's in the episode review but I do see as an OK episode, but the message is kind of wrong for kids when I look back at the episode. 'Salty's Surprise' is another episode that I liked, but not in the style of the classic episodes. I do have to say it was a rehashed plot of 'The Biggest Present of All' and Edward's role would've gone to someone like Percy or Thomas. 

Considering its writing at the time, before the changes in S17, it was nice to hear 'Christmas' again. I don't like to go through a religious or PC debate as I have no interest in the issue. Though it wasn't great hearing 'Happy Christmas Holidays', since I know they just omitted the word 'Winter'. But I'm glad that Andrew Brenner had cleared that up in the 'Santa's Little Engine' DVD that was released last month.

Now onto 'Big Bang Surprise'. There are episodes on that DVD that I don't like. 'Sodor Surprise Day' is weak and stupid. It is more of the Island's version of 'April Fools Day'. 'Thomas and the Sounds of Sodor' was OK but the music scene was just pointless since the people are only hearing the music for a few seconds. 'Happy Birthday Sir!' was a good episode and it shows Thomas has put his work first before fun, but the episode was too repetitive. 'Percy and the Monster of Brendam' is bad. Instead of being at Brendam docks, it's more like it's the 'Monster of Sodor' and I'm not mentioning the working title of the upcoming special 'Tale of The Brave' in 2014. If it were a S17 it would've worked for the Brendam branch line, since that Andrew Brenner and his writing team are focusing the Island with the Railway Series books. 'Percy and the Calliope' is the episode I liked the most, not just because of Hartshorne's rendition of the classic Thomas theme song, but because of it's moral about restoration and it's educational part about Calliope's and of course the vocabulary for the title. But the episode is still have some repetition and Percy did get air headed in the episode, such as putting coal and water in the Calliope and pushing it up the hill, considering that he pushed the whole thing along the main line! To make the Calliope work.

SPECIAL FEATURES
It is the usual on many UK DVDs. Have a segment with Mr. Perkins and then the episode. When you look at the major differences on the DVDs in the UK (this one) and the US (Santa's Little Engine). The US one, from this year, are more better. After a segment with Mr. Perkins we have a transition of silhouette engines and signals and then on with the episode without the theme song and leaving the credits until the end, this may as well go out to the past DVD releases prior the S17 ones. But the Perkins segments are enjoyable and entertaining to watch and I do hope we see the new and improved Perkins segments like in the recent Thomas DVD that was released last month soon. 

Of course we have the 'Down at The Station' segments and they're nice to watch and to let kids learn about what goes on on a real railway. Of course with a segment like 'Engines', it teaches kids about the differences of steam and diesel engines, this segment is used in the 'Big Bang Surprise' DVD. The one on 'Merry Christmas Thomas' is about 'Points', it is simple to showcase about the different tracks on the steam railway. I believe it would've been better if the new writing team (Andrew Brenner) did these segments, there are more things along the steam railway then points. Such as the people who work on the railway (e.g - stationmasters, guards, workmen) but with the Mr. Perkins segments that are written now for use on PBS over in America and hopefully other networks around the northern hemisphere about the steam railway, such as this one, hopefully we see these on DVDs as extras maybe? 


OVERALL
Both DVDs have a mixed bag of episodes that aren't as great as the ones from S17, obviously. But it is great value of two DVDs for the price of one, despite the stories. Now that Michael Angelis had left the series and compare his narration to Mark Moraghan, I think HIT had done the right choice. When you compare MM's narration, as I stated in my 'Railway Mischeif' review, Angelis' narration sound so bland and boring and had lost all enthusiasm and it shows in S16. Moraghan has that fusion of Angelis, Starr and Morris together and had put some enthusiasm towards the series to make the target range entertained. However when it comes to recommending Thomas DVDs for Christmas, I recommend buying 'King of The Railway' as it has a good story and with the history of Sodor at the beginning, it makes the Island of Sodor feel so real at first. Or if you're opened up to Thomas DVDs or if you're from the US, 'Santa's Little Engine' and the upcoming DVD 'The Thomas Way' from the US will be another recommendation as well. 

Rating: 3.5/5

S17 Ep.16: Too Many Fire Engines

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

TOO MANY FIRE ENGINES
Written by
Andrew Brenner

Directed by
David Baas

Produced by
Kallan Kagan (Arc)
Ian McCue and Halim Jabbour (HIT) 

Plot
When a team of railway inspectors came to the Island of Sodor, they question the Fat Controller whether he needs two fire engines? This caused some concern for the fire fighting team, Flynn and Belle. When Belle beats Flynn to two fires in a row, Flynn feels useless and asked Belle to take his place on guard at the Ulfstead Castle Fireworks display and he sulked in the shed. But when another fire started on the same night, Flynn came to put it out. Proving to the Fat Controller that he does need two fire engines. 

PRO:
- Flynn not afraid of the roads
- Flynn's voice
- Moral: Fire's are emergencies 

CON:
- Rocky knowing the emergency
- TFC's US voice sounds forceful and robotic 


With an episode like this, you can tell that Andrew Brenner had experience from his days writing for Fireman Sam, another of HIT's most popular brands. There is a great moral about fire's being emergencies and not episodes like Flynn being afraid of the roads or not knowing what a fire is. Since that Rupert Degas left the series, Flynn had been given a new voice and is voiced by Ben Small, who voices other characters like Thomas, Toby and, in the US, Stanley. His voices sounds much better then Degas' one in my opinion. But there are two cons I have for this episode one is that Rocky still knowing an emergency and not letting one of the workmen telling Flynn or Belle about it. It misses that human interaction with the engines and when you watch the US and UK version of the show, TFC's US voice sound forceful and robotic and that makes him off putting while the UK sounds a bit neutral. But the episode is good and enjoyable.  

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, 10 October 2013

DVD Review: Santa's Little Engine

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

SANTA'S LITTLE ENGINE

Written by
Andrew Brenner
Paul Larson & Laura Beaumont 
Alan Hescott

Directed by
David Baas (Arc)
Greg Tiernan (Nitrogen) 

Produced by
Robert Anderson (Arc)
Ian McCue and Halim Jabbour (HIT)


Episodes

Special Features
- Sir Topham Hatt's Frosty Friend
- Guess Who?

Release Date
8/10/2013

Distributed by
HIT Entertainment/Lionsgate

Another exciting release for the American Thomas fans this year with another S17 DVD release with 'Railway Mischief' being the first in April this year. Plus with the positive reaction that S17 had been in June, with the first ten episodes of S17 aired in the UK, this DVD release of unseen Christmas episodes, minus one, of the new and improved series has made it very exciting to see. So are these stories good? Well then let's find out. 

EPISODES
First off, I don't know why they put 'Snow Tracks' on the DVD? They must be less amount of episodes focusing on either winter and Christmas and even though Mark Moraghan re-narrated the episode, there is no improvement on the episode either, the script is still there from 2010, as for the other episodes, I won't go into too much detail, as I'm awaiting the air dates for the UK so I can keep them in chronicle order, but the S17 episodes are great and recommendable to watch. All written and animated well and it's a great Christmas present for the young and old Thomas fan. 

SPECIAL FEATURES
The Mr. Perkins segments are very different now and very enjoyable too. Instead of him doing something for the Fat Controller or Sir Topham Hatt as he's known in America or something for the other engine drivers such as a magic show or treasure hunt, we see him on the mainland, a heritage railway in the UK, getting all warmed up as a signal man was getting some coal. Instead of the things he needs for a party, he sat down and is telling a story towards the young audience, the story is 'The Flying Kipper' with some newly made illustrations by Loarine Marshall, which recapture C. Reginald Dalby's work very well, along with Dalby's art work as well. It's great to see that Andrew Brenner, who also writes the Perkins segments, is bringing the Railway Series towards a brand new audience and as well as showing the illustrations, hope they stick with this in future DVDs. Another segment of his shows us him reading some mail, which is fan mail from the audience according to sources, one letter is about the history of Sodor, with footage from 'King of The Railway'. There are two activities from the Fat Controller and the Earl of Sodor, one, the Fat Controller's segment, has specially made footage of Percy and the other, the Earl of Sodor, is a quiz from S13 episodes, 'Toby's New Whistle' and 'Tickled Pink'. 

I should also note that at the beginning of the DVD menu, they have the Christmas theme from the Season three episode, 'Thomas and Percy's Christmas Adventure' as well. As with the games, it's pretty much for kids and it has a difficulty level, it looks as though it was made for the Apple products or various mobile products, but it's not bad really and the 'Guess Who?' puzzles are Rocky, the Fat Controller and Thomas.

OVERALL
With such good written episodes, minus one, this definitely a great DVD to have in your collection. The four episodes from S17 are great to watch and I will have more info on them as soon as the UK dates are set. The segments are fun and enjoyable and I highly recommend this DVD as a Christmas present this year. Well all we do now is await the next S17 DVD, 'The Thomas Way' in December. 

Rating: 4.5/5




Friday, 4 October 2013

S17 Ep.15: Bill or Ben?

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

BILL OR BEN?
Written by
Andrew Brenner

Directed by
David Baas

Produced by
Kallan Kagan (Arc)
Ian McCue & Halim Jabbour (HIT)

Air Date:
4/10/13

Plot:
Connor is a new engine on the Island of Sodor. When Bill and Ben met him for the first time, they decided to play a trick on him. They pretended that they were super fast when really it was Bill at the start of the race and Ben at the other. When Connor raced them again, he nearly had an accident! The Fat Controller was very cross and ordered Bill to be repainted so they can be told apart. However, the twins had one last trick up their funnels.

PRO:
- The tint of autumn leaves
- Bill and Ben's blue coats
- The near miss with Connor and Henry 

CON:
- N/A

A second episode written by Andrew Brenner and this time about his favourite characters. This was a fine episode and I do enjoy greatly. Bill and Ben were given great amount of screen time and there was not much of Thomas in it as well. The animation of the autumn leaves are just fascinating to look at, the beautiful tints of the autumn leaves gives it such an autumn feeling. As of the twin's blue coats, they do look fine in it as well, but I prefer seeing them in green as a nice nod to their counterparts, but that is just me being a fan. I especially love the near miss that Connor had with Henry, it was tensed to see such a thing happening and it also shows a good moral to kids about the dangers of railway lines and that safety comes first. In the end, there was nothing bad about the episode and I do enjoy it. However if I might add about the blue paint, I don't think it'll be permanent, these are his favourite characters after all, Brenner, and he has such respect for the Railway Series books as well as Awdry's legacy. The episode is a nice watch and I recommend it.     

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, 3 October 2013

S17 Ep.14:Percy's Lucky Day

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

PERCY'S LUCKY DAY
Written by
Davey Moore

Directed by
David Baas

Produced by
Kallan Kagan (Arc)
Ian McCue and Halim Jabbour (HIT)

Air Date:
3/10/13

Plot:
After a couple of mishaps with the mail and some cargo, Percy feels unlucky. Stephen gave him a lucky charm that regains his confidence. But Percy lost the lucky charm and had to reign confidence for helping Bill and Ben back on the tracks.

PRO:
- Bill and Ben were in character
- Moral: You don't need lucky charms all the time
- The green flag incident reminds me of 'The Wrong Road' 

CON:

- N/A
Another good episode by Davey Moore, when I first heard this episode my money was on Andrew Brenner as Bill and Ben are his favourite characters. Speaking of Bill and Ben, it was great seeing them in CGI for the first time, however it was strange at first seeing them with red wheels, but I tend not to make that a big deal as their basis, Alfred and Judy, have green wheels as well. The twins were in great character, the banter they had and their own arguing are really much like what they were from S2-S7 and there voices are great as well, the twins are voiced by Jonathan Broadbent with their respective Birmingham accents, which really there basis came from Stafford in the West Midlands in England and that it is where Birmingham is located as their admin HQ, though I thought they would be having cockney youth voices, but I think we have enough of those in the show to be honest. However there voices make them sound mature, but there trickish behaviour gets in the way. The episode has a nice moral that you don't need lucky charms to be lucky, you can always be lucky any day. The episode was good and I haven't seen a bad thing about it, though I have to say it was stupid to have Percy moving and yet there's a crew member in his cab getting all worried, but this problem have been mentioned many times and the crew's are now used as the engine's hands. But in conclusion it was a good episode and worth the watch. However some fans are now moaning about BoCo, no personal vendetta against that as I too would love to see BoCo return towards the series but I think right now we should be thankful for what we got right now. Well tomorrow we'll see the twins again in 'Bill or Ben?'


Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

S17 Ep.13:The Phantom Express

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

THE PHANTOM EXPRESS
Written by
Laura Beaumont and Paul Larson

Directed by
David Baas 

Produced by
Kallan Kagan (Arc)
Ian McCue and Haliam Jabbour (HIT)

Plot:
One night James tries to scare Percy by telling him that there's the ghost of Ulfstead Castle. Stephen reassures Percy that there's no such things as ghosts. But James sneaks up to them and tries to scare them both which ended up Percy and Stephen in the moat. James didn't know where they are and when he hears them whistling for help, James thought his story is real! 

PRO:
- The mist is rendered much better
- James' cheekiness returns
- The camera angles
- The mention of Stephen's crew jumping clear

CON:

- Percy's mail van disappeared
- Percy looks slightly off angled when he was at the castle
- Stephen should know what an owl sounds like
 
The episode was good and I do love episodes that are focused onto James and Percy, such as 'Percy, James and the Fruitful Day', and we haven't seen an episode like that since season three! However 'Jack Frost' came into mind when I saw this episode, I would say that was the last we see an episode with Percy and James, but Percy seems to be the main character then James, as he landed a secondary role in that episode. I do love how the mist is rendered now, it's, admittingly, better then what Nitrogen pulled as there fog or mist grows to be more thick. The mist was a bit thick as well in the episode, but you can see better. James' cheekiness had returned, it feels of course like 'No Joke For James' from the third season and the camera angles were great, especially that close up of Percy when hearing more of James' 'ghost' story.
 
However there are some problems with the episode, as usual with Arc's animation. When Percy was telling Stephen about 'The Phantom Express' his mail van disappeared and then reappeared again later on when James pulled into the castle. Plus as Percy was at the castle, he looked angled slightly and of course, with Stephen's old age, you think he knows what an owl would sound like?! However in the end it was a good episode and I enjoyed it and it was great to air it at this time of the month as it's the Halloween month, though in my country we don't celebrate that much. Well tomorrow we witness the return of Bill and Ben in full CGI for the very first time.


Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

S17 Ep.12: The Thomas Way

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

THE THOMAS WAY

Written by
Laura Beaumont and Paul Larson 

Produced by
Kallan Kagan (Arc)
Ian McCue and Halim Jabbour (HIT)

Directed by
David Baas

Air Date:
1/10/13

Plot:
Harold the Helicopter broke down near Callan castle. Duck and Thomas are to take him to the Sodor Search and Rescue Centre to be repaired. Thomas decided to give Harold a tour around the island through an engine's perspective but Duck insist Thomas that there are two ways of doing things: 'The Great Western way or The Wrong way' 

PRO:
- The flashback
- Thomas and Duck were in character 
- No three strikes formula
- Moral: Not everything can go their own personal way

CON:
- Duck being turned around by Rocky
- 'The Great Western way or the Wrong Way' got annoying for a while


Well, we've seen Duck's comeback for ten seconds in 'Henry's Hero' and now we see him making a bigger role for the first time in CGI and for the first time since the fourth season really, 'Fish'. The flashback scene was great and it's also great that they've acknowledge Thomas' history with the use of Duck's season six model and the use of Paddington station in the background, Paddington is actually the London of the Great Western Railway, its headquarters. Nice to see that Andrew Brenner had kept his word of researching the Thomas wikia site and it was nice of the people who are behind the old photograph to have put Duck in the background of the GWR's main station, showcasing the character's roots and seeing some Britishness in the scene and it was a great bonus to see them mentioning Duck's real name, Montague. Thomas and Duck were in great character, Duck is very much like himself from Season 2, telling the engines 'The Great Western way or the Wrong Way', though I have to say it does get annoying at times, but it shows in the end that not everything can go your way, with the mistakes that Duck and Thomas had made on the way to the Search and Rescue centre. 

Plus there is no three strikes formula, the only mistake that the two engines made was taking Harold to Knapford station, the scene of them going through the narrow tunnel is like the final problem on their journey. However there is one con I have with the episode, that is Duck being turned around by Rocky, it would've made more sense if Duck rolled along backwards and Thomas and Harold looking out for him. Plus him saying 'The Great Western Way or the Wrong Way' got annoying for a while. In the end I did enjoy the episode and so far it's on my list of personal favourite S17 episodes.

Rating: 4/5