Monday, 5 September 2016

Movie Review: The Great Race (SPOILERS)

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

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS

THE GREAT RACE
Written by
Andrew Brenner

Directed by
David Stoten

Produced by
Ian McCue

Special Features
Will You Won't You - Sing-Along Music Video
Streamlining - Sing-Along Music Video
Full of Surprises - Sing-Along Music Video
You Can Only Be You - Sing-Along Music Video
Guess Who? Puzzles
20 Character Shorts

Release Date:
5/09/16 - UK
7/09/16 - AUS
13/09/16 - US

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

Welcome new fans of steam, welcome fans of speed, welcome one and all to this year's Thomas and Friends DVD special review!! After the successful and well-received words for 'Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure' last year, fans are now wondering about 'The Great Race' the new special for 2016. With this year being an Olympic year, the special is coincided with the Rio Olympics and this year we see another RWS newbie or (sort of) classic series returnee, the world famous Flying Scotsman, which this year the real life counterpart had just been restored back in January 2016 by Ian Riley and Son and the National Railway Museum. 

The special had gotten some criticism from people, especially from 'Daily Mail (Fail)' readers, thinking that Thomas had 'lost' its Britishness due to the multicultural theme it's having, saying that it's political correctness going mad! I had written a few words based on that in my editorial of the trailer. Despite that, many parents had criticised the show for its lack of multicultural theme. 

This special had also taken the route that last year's special had gone through and that is having the characters sing! This time with four brand new songs written by Andrew Brenner. Speaking of music this special is also is the debut of the new composer, Chris Renshaw, who had composed for the 4D 'Bubbling Boilers' movie and was sound engineer of the 2014 & 2015 specials. Meaning last year saw the finale of Robert and Peter Hartshorne's 12 year composition with Thomas & Friends, ending at S19. 

So will this special be better than the epic 2015 film? Allow me to introduce to you to the movie!

PLOT


The special opens up with Thomas pulling into Kellsthorphe Road station with his local train. After he collected his passengers to take to Vicarstown, along with the CGI render of Rev.W.Awdry, we see him challenging against Gordon who is taking the express and had a little race as far as the next signal box along the mainline. Thomas won and carried on with his work. While the yearly specials always make an excuse for Thomas on why he needs to be the lead role, and yes I'm glad that the writers always do that unlike in the previous specials when he was just there. However 'The Local' just seems pointless considering that in various episodes he's on the mainline for whatever reason. You could at least say that he was needed to shunt trucks in the yards with Philip considering that he was shunting trucks throughout in the movie. TOTB and SLOTLT had gave him a good excuse to be away from his branch line and I would like to see more of that rather than 'The Local' excuse. I don't hate that idea having a local train but there could've been better excuses for Thomas to be away from his branch line.



Next we see Thomas pulling into the beautifully rendered Vicarstown station and met with Gordon and his brother the 'Flying Scotsman' who calls Gordon his 'little brother'. There he gave Gordon news that he's to participate in the Great Railway Show on the mainland in the great race. 


After knowing about 'The Great Railway Show', we then come to our first song of this musical 'Will You, Won't You' showcasing us a wide variety of characters following the Fat Controller about wanting to go to the railway show. I will get to the songs later. However he hadn't decide who to take and said that they still have a railway to run. Yet he's OK with Thomas cancelling the local train just to get a repaint later on in the movie.


So after the song, the engines went back to work and Thomas is now seen shunting trucks towards Henry in the yards talking with Percy and Philip. While Thomas wants to go to the railway show, he doubt that he would be chosen to represent Sodor. But the little boxcab said to Thomas that he can do anything if he just put his mind into it. 


The next day, Thomas was pulling Annie and Clarabel once again and thought what Philip had said. This is where we come into our next song 'Streamlining'. With Thomas imagining himself being a streamlined tank engine. To be honest they do actually exist. After the song, we see Thomas giving out the idea but the Fat Controller decided to streamline Gordon. Much to Thomas' disappointment. 


Despite the excitement, work still meant to be. While Thomas is still sad that the Fat Controller had chose Gordon instead of him, we then see our first look of the international engines coming for the Great Railway Show. However the ferry that docked them had stopped at the wrong place. I wonder why the captain decided to drop off the engines on Sodor? The world will never know.


After knowing the wrong place, the international engines backed up to the ship, only to leave behind Ashima from India! With Thomas in the way, she bumped into Thomas and is leaving Thomas dangling at the edge near the sea. But thankfully he was saved but Thomas was cross thinking that Ashima was a pushy engine. 


That afternoon as Thomas pulled into Kellsthorphe Road station with the local, Thomas met up with Ashima again. She was looking her way to the mainland for the Great Railway Show. Despite Annie and Clarabel offering her Thomas to go with her to the railway show, Thomas declined, don't worry this isn't a 'shipping' thing, I don't have anything against another person's interest I just don't see that stuff through Thomas and I can't stand the obsessive ones who make their 'OTP' (One True Pairing) life and sadly they give them a very bad name. 


While Thomas is heading to his next stop, he was wondering to his two coaches why Ashima is going despite being a tank engine. The two coaches suggested that she's going because she's beautifully painted. While Thomas sees it as no big deal it came to him as an idea and decided to be repainted. Meanwhile Ashima met up with Annie and Clarabel after Thomas cancelled his train, seriously just to be repainted. 


At the Steamworks, Gordon is being streamlined and Thomas puffed in asking Victor to be repainted for the railway show, with a nice little reference to the late and great David Bowie, I approve of that reference. Meanwhile Diesel had a plan. He decided to use Paxton, Den and Dart as trucks to show the Fat Controller that he can be stronger than Henry. Then we come to our third song 'Full of Surprises'. Afterwards we return to the Steamworks with Thomas' repaint not going to plan as the Fat Controller came to see how Gordon is getting on. Thomas then told him another idea about being repainted and that gave the Fat Controller another idea. 


'But you don't have a branch line to run?' I thought Thomas was looking after the local? But despite that it turns out the best decorated engines would be Emily and James much to Thomas' disappointment and Ashima was taking Annie and Clarabel along Thomas' branch line, much to Thomas' anger but Annie and Clarabel soon scold him. 


Thomas then admitted that he wanted to be repainted and Ashima brings us our fourth song 'You Can Only Be You'. With some great surreal visuals. After the song Ashima then told Thomas that he should be in the shunting competition. The next day, Thomas went straight to the yards to get ready for shunting. While Diesel shunted his 'trucks'. 


Thomas decided to move Diesel's 'trucks' himself since they were in the way. As Thomas whistled, Paxton, Den and Dart all thought it was Diesel's signal and after pushing Thomas through the yards, Thomas crashed into Norman. 


We then move to the Steamworks where all the engines are ready to take part in the 'Great Railway Show'. We're even introduced to Gordon in his streamlining form, or as he's known as 'The Shooting Star'. Back at the Dieselworks, Diesel was very cross with the three other diesels foiling his plans.


However, despite being angry, an old crate landed hard onto Diesel. Despite the comical look of it it does remind me of the crate falling down onto Percy from season three. As the turntable came down, Diesel was still dangling and went away with the crate jammed right on top of him. 


Back at the Steamworks, Thomas is seen dented and broken after his accident with Norman. The Fat Controller told him that he was suppose to be representing Sodor in the shunting competition. But after his accident, Percy is to be the engine to represent the shunting contest. 


At Vicarstown we see the engines being led by Philip on their way to the Great Railway Show with a bit of the original Thomas theme in the music. The engines arrived at the show on the mainland and saw all sorts of engines from all corners of the globe. 


Back at the Steamworks, Thomas is still being repaired and while Victor was cheering him up, it turns out that Gordon's safety valve wasn't installed and without it Gordon's boiler could burst. So despite Thomas not being repaired, Thomas raced through Vicarstown station and...jumped over the bridge.


Despite the illogical situation it does serve a purpose when it comes to a friends' soon to be boiler explosion. But it also contradict to what happened to him in last year's special when Thomas landed hard on the ground and then was all broken. But if we don't have that (the bridge jump) then there's no conflict. But the scene also feels pointless a bit like the pirate ship chase that went as far as the small railway in last year's special. I'll get onto that scene later, the bridge. 


After his jump he noticed that he was on the wrong track and was heading towards Connor, Hiro and Sidney, by the way his face moved when he screamed Sidney's name and how would be land on the wrong track? Back at the show, Percy is nervous about being part of the shunting competition while Gordon is ready to be part of the Great Race. As Philip backed down, he was in the way of Vinnie the North American engine and Vinnie threatened him that he'll be..recycled, a pretty weak threat. 


I'll get to Vinnie later. Meanwhile Thomas arrived at the show and was looking for Gordon. Although he had mistaken Freida the German engine as Gordon. Meanwhile Henry took part of the strength competition going against Vinnie, Shane the Australian engine, Freida and...Hiro? 


Seriously Hiro was there despite heading towards Sodor earlier. Meanwhile the parade of engines came past as Thomas is still catching up to Gordon, although why is Carlos in that competition yet he's not even decorated? Afterwards Henry finished the strongest engine contest and came fifth out of fifth. Although we never knew who won the contest, although most likely Vinnie considering that he was ahead of the other engines. 


Meanwhile the best decorated winner is being announced and despite James' vanity, Rajiv from India won. Much to the red engines' displeasure. As Thomas crossed the yards, he met up with Henry, Percy and Philip and told them the situation about Gordon and his safety valve. 


Soon all the engines for the Great Race are a lined up with Etienne from France, Spencer from the mainland, Axel from Belgium, Flying Scotsman from the mainland and Gordon from Sodor. At last Thomas arrived but thanks to Gordon's arrogance he left without the safety valve. 


This brings us to our reprise of 'Streamlining' but during the song Gordon's face turned red and then his boiler had burst and is now disqualified. The winner of the race was Etienne from France and I like it that an electric engine won the race as considering whatever the timeline it's set in, be the 1960's, electric engines were quite the revolution.


Soon it's time for the shunting competition and while Philip was calling out to Thomas, he bumped into Vinnie and he chased him around the yard for no reason. While that was happening, Emily and Percy were telling Thomas about the shunting contest and while Thomas was telling Percy that he must be who he is, Thomas learned it himself.


Despite being Sodor's only hope, Thomas accepted the challenge and so it begins. Thomas though was going good and was winning and then we were seen Vinnie chasing Philip right near the turntable well. However Thomas and Ashima saved him by pulling Vinnie and the big American engine crashed into a power pole. 


Meanwhile back at the shunting competition, Thomas and Ashima were neck and neck until Thomas forfeited the race as Ashram's track was blocked by Gina's derailed flatbed caused by Vinnie earlier. Meanwhile Philip called her trouble despite she saved him from being bullied by Vinnie earlier, pretty ungrateful of him. Thomas' reason is because he wouldn't find it fair if he had won because of Ashima's blocked track. Despite that the judges had decided to give the prize to two winners. Ashima won for the fastest time and Thomas for helping Ashima.


However Ashima disappeared for whatever reason and meanwhile elsewhere Gordon, with his burst boiler, seems to move under his own steam. Flying Scotsman came by and now thinks Sodor engines are made of sterner stuff then he thought. However he still called Gordon his 'little brother' much to his frustration. 


As the day drew to a close and the railway show over, the engines all head back to Sodor with Ashima, Thomas and the other engines giving us the final song, a reprise of 'You Can Only Be You'. 


During the credits we see Den, Dart and Paxton looking for Diesel only to find that he's...


BEING SHIPPED AWAY!

END!


CHARACTERS
Even though that there were 13 new international engines, let's be honest, most them are just background fodder and only had a few lines here and there. So it's hard to put down their persona despite given one. It happened in 'Day of The Diesels' were they have given the newbies five years ago some persona through a small promotional booklet in North America but gave them no purpose in movie. Here though at least they all had a purpose despite the background fodder. So I've chosen the three characters that had a much more bigger role in the movie:

FLYING SCOTSMAN
Whatever you want to call him, a RWS newbie or classic series returnee, this was the character I was hoping to see one day in Thomas since the introduction of the show into CGI. It was great timing too to have Flying Scotsman in the series as the actual engine had returned in steam in February 2016. In comparison to him in the book 'Enterprising Engine' he barely had any persona in the book. All we know about him is that he's famous and is Gordon's brother and that is it and what they gave him in this special is a lot better. I can see he's very brotherly by jabbing at Gordon by calling him a 'little brother' but he looks out for him as all brothers do, I should know considering that I have one as well. He wasn't there in the special entirely but I do hope they give him more time in the TV series, would be great to see him alongside Gordon and Spencer. 

One problem I had with him though was that while he was concerned about Gordon and his streamlining problem is that while he was sorry that his boiler had burst, he kept on racing. You think maybe he should've stopped and forfeit the race and push him to the finish line and had him talking about that he was always a great engine in his own way, could've helped with the moral about being yourself and showcase sportsmanship and brotherly love!

While I do love his presence in the movie, I feel what they should've done to make Gordon's subplot even better is to make Gordon feel jealous that his brother's famous and he wants to be better than him. Yes we know in the Railway Series books he's proud of his brother and that Henry was the jealous type because of two tenders. But despite the respect the team has with Thomas' history, the TV series does look like it's trying to be its own thing and I think it makes better sense to have Gordon feel jealous of his brother and his fame, consider it's like a sibling rivalry. Plus it could've added an extra moral saying that everyone is famous in their own way. 

His smoke deflectors moving well to be honest I don't really mind that. It's a small thing to worry about. Plus I don't mind that they gave him two tenders and smoke deflectors as it feels nice to have two eras of his design from what he was back in 1967 to who he is now in 2016. Let's be honest though if he weren't given the deflectors he would just be a green Gordon with an extra tender.

In the end I like it that he's now part of the TV series and I hope we see him in future episodes, after all he is considered a mainland engine and not just being part of the ferry. 

ASHIMA 
Hands down she is an alright character from this special and it's a shame that she's a one-off, yes she went back to Sodor but Thomas said she would catch the ferry at Brendam docks, so it possible that her role was in the movie. But who knows? Her voice actor Tina Desai gave her such a gentle, warm and kind voice. We see her motivating Thomas for being himself in sort of like a sister or a friend would. It's a shame as she has potential with her feistiness showing that despite being a tank engine she has spirit and her being proud for who she is, like despite being all painted and decorated she went for the shunting contest instead showing us that we can do more than just being pretty. But in the special she clearly had no flaws, which could make her a 'Mary-Sue' a trope of a character that has no flaws (e.g - Superman) and more of a life coach. You can say Gator was like that too but at least he had a flaw and that was him being afraid of heights. 

Her design work is beautiful especially given the indian design work.


VINNIE
Vinnie is sort of a big deal character at the moment with people in the fan base, but after watching the special he barely had any character development and he didn't add much to the story as an antagonist. He felt forced in. He had shown that he can be a bully with his insults and rudeness but when it comes to the scene between him and Philip it didn't really go anywhere and felt forced. We never see him having a rivalry with Philip to begin with or being aggressive towards the small engines, heck they could've had him stay on the Island with Ashima and give some proper character development. Maybe making Thomas to believe that Ashima was trouble. Also Philip should've been standing up to himself for being small rather then him being a wimp, it derails what the story is trying to convey since Vinnie was calling him 'shortie' and all. Vinnie got his comeuppance in the end by ramming into a power poll but he didn't really learn anything when it comes to small engines. You can say Diesel can be the same but at least he also learns his lesson when it comes to his teasing and bullying it's just that he just doesn't want to admit it. Heck even his Christmas episode from last year made him learn about not being a Scrooge on Christmas.

I'm not against the idea of having a steam engine antagonist but so far there hasn't been a good one. Yes Spencer was one in 'Hero of the Rails' but he lacked the motivation on why he wants Hiro scrapped and Vinnie was really redundant. But I will say he has a great looking basis and an awesome whistle. But when it comes to his character he's nowhere near great as Sailor John, I may have said he was overrated but at least he felt like a bully and villain when it comes to his treatment of Skiff, heck he even threaten to be driftwood, and despite the lack of reason for the treasure at least he had a purpose of being the bad guy and showing kids what happens to bad guys when it comes to people like him. Even James in 'Tale of The Brave' is better than him, Vinnie, when it comes to the bullying persona. James did it out of fun towards Percy and then he took it to extreme measures when the other engines teased him about being scared of Gator but in the end he had learned his lesson after the incident at the clay pits and after that he didn't tease Percy again. Yeah he acted like bully and not many people like that, but it worked.

Maybe he could've worked as a villain if he was a cheater over the years at various railway shows and was never once called out on it because of his popularity. It pretty much happened towards Starlight Express character 'Greaseball' an American diesel engine. Also with him chasing Philip around the show ground and being angry at him, he had no reason to chase around Philip. Yes he was in his way but that's just petty and stupid. Why not have him lose the strength competition and put his anger and bitterness out on Philip, you could've at least have a small moral saying don't take your anger out on someone or don't be a sore loser? Or having him win the contest and give the moral of not being a sore winner?


SONGS & MUSIC


It's kind of funny that this was a musical movie with the theme of racing and it reminded me of Andrew Lloyd Webber's idea of having an animated Railway Series musical for TV that he had planned back in 1973. Which then turned into the 1984 musical 'Starlight Express' after creative differences between Awdry and Lloyd Webber. 

The songs that were placed within the movie all felt part of the story rather than being disjointed and redundant. I think the best song from the movie was 'Be Who You Are, And Go Far' as it felt very relatable to me. I was bullied in school for liking Thomas the Tank Engine and some people act like idiots to me such as questioning as if my personal interests harms them like it was disease and if I digress here, if anyone is reading this and scoffing about mine or anyone's personal interest in Thomas or anything else, here's something I like to say to you, I don't care what you think of me. You don't know me, my interests don't harm you so don't go make a big fuss about it. Everyone has their own interest in something and if you want to make a rant video about someone's interest that you find 'disturbing' then by all means waste your time ranting. Thankfully though I have friends and family who are all good with my interests.  

To be honest I did kind of choke up listening to the song as it just felt so relatable but not just to me but to everyone who is in the same boat as Thomas or anything else. 

The other songs 'Will You Won't You' is another favourite. It could've worked with dialogue but the singing pretty made it all the more interesting and fun. Although I do feel bad for the US voice actors who at least tried. I'm not a fan of Henry's US voice especially his singing, it just sounds off key and I even find it odd that in the US dub they gave Stanley Norman's voice. 

'Streamlining' was good with its beat rock music sound and it was fun in the end. It kind of reminds me of 'Crazy' from the 1992 version of 'Starlight Express', coincidence I think not!

I do like 'I'm Full of Surprises' and it has that Monty Python feeling towards it. The visuals provided for the song sequence was great as well and Kerry Shale did a great job with Diesel's singing voice and yes he is the voice actor for Henry in the US dub!

'You Can Only Be You' was a nice song and it reminds me of 'Never Overlook a Little Engine' with its surreal visuals and its relation towards the target audience, the song. Some might say it's a bit preachy but I don't see how it is. It's nice to have a song that kids would listen too and understand Thomas' dilemma. Although some might say the 'break me, shake me, tear me all apart!' lyrics can lead to context on the subject of suicide. Which escalated Thomas' emotions from his depression. Although I don't think of it in that context.

This also Chris Renshaw's first special to compose his music since Robert Hartshorne and his son left the series, as HIT wants someone new. To be honest I actually enjoy Renshaw's composition the beat and tempo were really good and tone felt different too in comparison towards his predecessor, especially the brass band style music at the railway show. So I look forward to more of his music in the future.

ANIMATION


What can I say about the visuals? It's Arc Productions what do you expect! They live up their game during each special. The shading has that realistic tone and at that make it feel like something out from the model era and when it comes to the close up of the characters, the camera bobs up and down as if it was really filmed. The best sets they did so well as Vicarstown station and the railway show sidings. With Vicarstown they gave it such a grand looking building despite that in the Reverend's history book about Sodor saying that Vicarstown is a now a small station since the agreement with the LMS in 1925 to use Barrow-In-Furness and the Railway Show sidings was a really good design with various sidings and engines to see. It's a shame that this would be their last since they are now bankrupt and there assets are now owned by Jam Filled Productions so they did go out on a high note!

OVERALL


'The Great Race' has flaws and a mixed bag within the fanbase. Not many aren't fans of the songs that were in this special due to the dragging of the pacing and to be honest I can see that. But the songs do add a connection to the story and they weren't really pointless, unlike 'Quest for Camelot' where there songs were just there and are just forgotten or feel right out pointless. However despite the musical numbers I think it might be a one-off thing for experimentation. In my opinion I do like them and the voice actors are very good at their singing.

When I first saw this movie at Hoyts cinemas back in August I actually enjoyed it and while I still do I definitely think like many fans don't see this beating the likes of 'Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure' or even 'The Adventure Begins', not bad but it just didn't really live up to the 2015 special. Last year's special (SLOTLT) was a more grand epic tale with some action and great music and animation and felt like a movie despite the 60min limit. The same can also be applied to 'Tale of The Brave' but it suffered from flaws too, although it flowed rather nicely within 60 mins. While the mini special (TAB) was pretty much a retelling of Thomas' origin story based on the books by the Rev.W.Awdry and it flowed really nice with a 45min limit. But time limitation is not the main problem here.

Talking about the international engines, I think the yearly specials should expand over the 60 minute limit to the usual 1hr and 45min stage like most kids films. Because if there are more yearly specials that will try to be bigger and better than the last one with how many newbies they'll be, you think maybe the writers should expand it more. I mean look at this special for example, you have all these international engines with good backstories that could have some good potential within the series. Look at Yong Boa from China. He had an interesting back story and he could work in this film about his size and strength to Thomas along with the help from Ashima.

Frieda is another good character too, she could've been given her own subplot about gender stereotyping and how girls shouldn't be considered as weak, some might say that's a tad mature for a kids film though but when it comes to that moral watch 'Zootopia'. It might even work with Gina too, the gender stereotyping moral. I don't know what you could do with the others but maybe with Shane I think with his carefree ways he sees big and small engines as both great it would make Thomas feel better about himself when it comes to his size? I think expanding the time even further would be better if they want to make a bigger story and expand more to the characters rather than being background fodder. 

As much as I like Gordon being streamlined, it felt a bit contradicting when it comes to the continuity of the show. Remember in S17 and KOTR how he was snooty about Streamlining? Yes it is there to showcase the moral about being yourself but within his character Gordon is already proud for who he is so there was no need for him to learn that moral. Maybe his subplot should've been about trying to be better than his brother because of his fame of say his speed records and Gordon trying to top him and implement the streamlining plot until he learns from his brother that he's already famous with the people of Sodor. It could've brought some character development in for him. 

The Streamlining Gordon plot felt very anti-climatic. It just feels like it was just there but looking these two scenes I think it was quite hard for Andrew Brenner to end this special with two climatic scenes. But despite that and here comes the realism stuff again, but when an engine burst their boiler steam escapes and the locomotive looses it. How Gordon is able to move on his own while his boiler had burst seems to be illogical. However Gordon's subplot would've worked miles better than Thomas', as TheUnluckyTug02 said in his review of the movie. It feels natural and more interesting and fresh too.

But at least this special doesn't have loose ends in the plot. 'Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure' was a good movie too but even that had problems with the 60 minute mark. Heck when I first saw the movie I felt that they should've added more to the story. One problem was Henry's subplot, he just acted like a wimp giving no end to the story about his fear of 'The lost pirate' and considering that the movie happened AFTER Season 19 with Henry redeeming himself in 'The Beast of Sodor' by standing up towards the Fat Controller snowman, it feels like they had some ups and downs with his character. Maybe have a scene with him confronting Skiff at the opening of the new extension or seeing Sailor John being arrested or something. But I digress.

Diesel's subplot was a bit on and off. It was just here and there but at least it had an ending but maybe have Diesel with a subplot as well about wanting to go to the railway show and have them both in the shunting challenge but Diesel would cheat and lose instead, maybe sabotaging Ashima's chances of winning, Thomas saving her and give the moral that cheating is wrong. The only special that did the three character plot line, in my opinion, was 'Tale of The Brave', the characters such as Thomas, James and Percy had great amount of focus with the subject of bravery and they all had an ending.

As UnluckyTug02 said in his video as well about Diesel's disguise trick, it could've been better if it were him, Paxton or Sidney, if he was added in, being painted up in the EWS livery rather than being crates and sneak into the railway show and get there comeuppance later on. Also it's the use of the 'Steamie VS. Diesel' plot. It was overused and really not worth the attention but maybe what could've been better is that Diesel went to the show to prove that Diesels can be better at things too. 

The bridge jumping scene really didn't do much. Yes there was climax when it comes to Gordon and his safety valve but it could've been better if it was just Thomas darting over the bridge when it stayed down, Golden Book and Egmont's adaptation (the latter just took Golden Book's adaptation) did that as well. Pretty much it's there to promote the Trackmaster train set but I'm so glad that they scrapped the idea of Harold carrying Thomas to the bridge because that just sounds too stupid. As I said before it is the equlivant to the pirate ship chase scene in last year's special and yeah fans loved that scene but even to me that part of the chase felt a bit pointless, the pirate ship maybe they could've changed it with the small railway engines missing Skiff and Sailor John and blocking Thomas instead by accident or if Skiff was rogue and was abandoned by Sailor John maybe he would've learn about knowing what a real friend can be, considering they were going with the friendship moral. But that's not saying that the chase scene in the 2015 special was bad by any means. But I digress again.

Another thing too is Percy being scared of taking part in the shunting challenge. Why not focus the special on him? They did with 'Tale of The Brave' and despite how horrendous the latter is, 'Day of The Diesels'. It could've at least provided the moral that losing is OK as long as you tried your best. His portrayal in the film just sort of contradict what he did in the 2014 special about being brave, which I thought it was really good for his character development.

However the story had provided a very relatable moral no matter how old you are and no matter what the situation is, you are for who you are and should be happy about it. But the Thomas plot felt forced and around the second act it made the first act a bit pointless as we and the main character knows that he's good at shunting in the end that this movie doesn't seem like it fits in for Thomas. As I said before it could've been focused on Percy or Gordon and previous specials had proved that aside from Thomas that any character can hold a special. 

I'm happy to see coming from HIT Entertainment and Mattel it is the time frame for the DVD release. This is the first time that we've seen dates for Thomas DVD specials released close to one another, a lot like the Pokemon games. Over the years Australia, North America and the UK have these DVDs released but all seperate, look at last year with 'Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure' countries like the UK didn't get until much later in September 2015. With a timeframe like this, HIT and Mattel, take a hint Mattel, take a hint! They should keep this up not just for the yearly specials but with generic releases and exclusive episode releases too. 

But if there's one thing that I think that should be treated fairly is the cinema screening of the movies in the US. The last one of the Thomas specials was shown in American cinemas was 'King of The Railway' at The Grove in Los Angeles (LA) in 2013, although it was with special guests. But ever since then there wasn't any other special showing since. Beforehand though 'Kidtoons' use to showcase the yearly specials in American cinemas since 'The Great Discovery' in 2008 right up until 'Blue Mountain Mystery' in 2012. Then they didn't have the license since then, although I have heard that there wasn't much of an audience during BMM, maybe it was due to lack of advertising from Kidtoons? HIT Entertainment should try and find another sponsor to provide cinema screenings for the Americans rather than for the fans to await for the DVD and Blu-Ray in September, yes I've said  it before that it's better to be patient and it still is. But give better advertising for it and release around the same time as the UK, the cinema screenings, it would be a much better option than to let one country have the movie before another and resulting it to illegal cinema recordings and place it up on YouTube. Yes you can say that you aren't bothered by it, but at the end of the day it is still an illegal move. If America can have the episodic releases first before the UK, I'm sure HIT can give them the specials in the cinemas as well like the in UK and Australia and New Zealand. 

Although I'm happy that they added an Australian engine in this special, I think the ABC and the Australian Press were making his debut too much of a big deal. Especially with a huge logo on the DVD talking about him and yet he was just a cameo here and there. I'm OK with the international engines as background fodder as of course that was there only purpose regardless of the story. 

The 'controversy' behind this special is still stupid to this day. People are loosing their cool because of international engines coming into view for a railway olympic game style event, thinking that it's all to bow down to political correctness. The Olympic games are an international event where the world comes together to compete but no one complains about it, except with the cost of it, people being booted out of their homes to make way for an Olympic village, the living conditions for the Olympians, protests against a country's controversial policies, health etc. but not once do people complain about countries coming together to compete and so with a railway style one it makes sense to do that as well with an Olympic style event. There is nothing wrong with teaching kids cultural diversity through Thomas as it shows that there is a big world out there and is filled with many different engines and it should come to no surprise to many people that Thomas is loved by children all over the world so having these international engines could get kids to understand that basis of these engines and having a representative for their country, like Shane for us Australian fans, despite that he had zero partake in this special. Although it doesn't seem to talk about that too much, the multiculturalism side of it, but at least the DVD had released 20 character shorts to at least let the audience understand their purpose. You can say Thomas is 'losing britishness' because of this but Thomas still obtains a British voice (depends if you live in the UK, Australia or New Zealand), set on a British Island, with some locomotives and rolling stock based on British ones. So Thomas had never lost his Britishness at all. 

As for the DVD itself, I think it's good that they have the 20 character shorts that were released on the official Thomas YouTube page. They may not have character development or screen time but kids would know there names, country of origin and their purpose. It makes a ton of sense for the younger viewers and it would get them interested in that particular country's locomotive. 

The music videos of the songs don't have any S20 footage as many of these music videos had in the past when it comes to the specials. To be honest they're just footage taken from the movie with the engines singing which you can see already in the movie. 

And the Guess Who puzzles are Ashima, √Čtienne, Flying Scotsman, Philip, Rajiv, Shane, Vinnie and Yong Bao and are the usual puzzle pieces and are good for kids to enjoy.

However the DVD menu that was provided for both Australia and the UK is a pretty lazy design too, maybe they should put some more effort into it.

In the end the special was good but it had its flaws like many Thomas specials. Well now that's all done what's next to look forward too, well of course there's the 20th season airing on UK television in a few hours on September 5th and the upcoming Christmas episodes from that season as well on the UK's 'Thomas' Christmas Carol' DVD and the US' 'Tinsel on The Track' DVD as well and who knows what the 2017 special will be in the new year, we just have to wait and see.

OVERALL RATING:
6/10