Saturday, 23 December 2017

A Retrospective of Thomas & Friends DVD in 2017

As we are getting ready to end another year once again, let's take a look back the DVD reviews of Thomas & Friends that were released during the course of 2017. But first here's the warning:

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

TALES FROM THE RAILS
Review Date:
30/01/17

Looking back, not much to say but I still think the DVD had a good amount of episodes, even if some are duds from both seasons. 

Rating:
7/10

EXTRAORDINARY ENGINES
Review Date
6/03/17

The Hugo episodes were a bit disappointing, I don't hate them but I think they could've been better. I get it that the first episode on this DVD, 'Engine of the Future' was suppose to be the don't jump to conclusion moral. But it feels plain in comparison to an episode like 'Harvey to the Rescue', the reason why that episode is better in my opinion is because Harvey proved his worth after the engines criticised him of being different and that was about his crane arm. Hugo didn't do anything to show his worth and never really had much purpose or a reason to be on Sodor. 

The other episodes like 'The Missing Breakdown Train', while not bad, wasn't that great in my opinion. Not much happens in the episode until Daisy's derailment, it was average. 'Hugo and the Airship' could've been better too if the episode didn't feel like it was two seperate stories morphed into one as it felt like a mystery tale at first then Hugo suddenly have this ambition to fly. 'Three Steam Engines Gruff' by far is the worst episode coming from this DVD. The story could've worked with the classic personas of the three Ffarquhar engines or it could've worked with engines like Bill, Ben and Timothy. The latter could've been a much more better episode.

However this DVD had some good episodes, 'Henry in the Dark' is one my favourites as Lee Pressman had turned the tables around for Henry. I still standby my opinion that Henry's scaredy engine persona was handled more better in S19 and 'The Adventure Begins', because one story had something relatable  for kids and the other worked considering that it was during Henry's early years. But prior to that, Henry's wimpy persona was truly awful and it was nice to see that change. 

Skiff and the Mermaid was simple, nice and hilarious too, especially with the Fat Controller.

The DVD doesn't beat the likes of 'Spills and Thrills' and 'Start Your Engines' and I felt this one was less thematic as some episodes aren't really focused on things that are extraordinary. I think it's because of Hugo? But I think his stories weren't really that extraordinary, maybe it would've been better if the Glynn stories were placed on this DVD too in the UK rather than another random DVD. I mean Glynn is a unique looking engine as well.


Rating:
7/10

THE COMPLETE SERIES 18/DINOS AND DISCOVERIES



Review Date
5/07/17

As usual the DVD showcases 26 episodes and an added bonus disc of 'Dinos and Discoveries'. The problem that the series collection dvds have is the lack of episode titles on the rear cover. Of course there wouldn't be enough room to showcase 26 episodes given the room on the rear. So I think the DVDs should be provided with a booklet with a list of 26 episodes and maybe HIT Entertainment and Mattel might add advertisements for their products and other DVDs within the Thomas & Friends brand. 

Rating:
7/10

TEAM UP WITH THOMAS
Review Date
24/08/17

Looking back, the first three episodes of this DVD are pretty much the bad apples in my opinion. Buckled Tracks should've cut out Belle and Flynn as they weren't really needed, Mucking About has the moral about ignoring others despite that in real life they would pressure you more and more and Blown Away really felt like a repeat of Helen Farrall's previous work such as 'Toad and The Whale' and 'Slow Stephen'. 

But despite that there are some good ones here too, despite 'Pouty James' and it was great seeing two classic songs been given the CGI series treatment. The editing feels a bit choppy but I loved them in the end. Although Mattel and HIT should work on better DVD titles and have them with the episode titles with the tag '& Other Stories' beneath it. 

Rating:
8/10

JOURNEY BEYOND SODOR
Review Date
4/10/17

The special did miles better than what 'The Great Race' had done. The story is focused on one thing rather than a bunch of subplots. The songs are fun and catchy and the newbies are pretty interesting such as Lexie, Theo and Merlin. Three of these characters have a great dynamic and balance with Lexie and Theo's pessimistic attitude and Merlin's confident and positivity. The villains, Hurricane and Frankie are a breath of fresh air. Instead of being the typical bad guys, they were villains that need sympathy since they are the only two engines who work at the steelworks and no one else wants to work there. However they do have some flaws and I think one of them is Beresford. He was not terrible but he didn't really add much to the story especially his song 'Who's Thomas' felt unnecessary although it was quite catchy. There were some things such as the movement of the engines and I do have to admit it was awkward in some places but I see where it works such as in the songs and it was subtle when the engines have dialogue. Plus the who the favourite squabble from Thomas and James feels like it came out of nowhere too and there some consistency issues, especially with Percy feeling scared about going onto the mainland despite that we had a whole special dedicated to me about feel scared but be brave. It's not the best special but it is one of the good ones in my opinion.

However with the news of the new revamped series and that S21 is building up to it with 'A Shed for Edward', I feel now like this special is more like what S19 was. It was filler, it was just there. In the first Cranky episode of S21, Thomas had already been to the mainland despite that S21 was set before JBS. It was really confusing.

Rating:
8/10


CHRISTMAS ON SODOR
Review Date
13/11/17

For the first time we have a new Thomas DVD, that is outside of the movies and the tent pole releases, that are in sync with the UK and US. I will say that the episodes like 'Terence Breaks the Ice' is probably one of Lee Pressman's best stories as it feels like there is more story than comedy and the episode feels like something Christopher Awdry would write, like his annual story 'Terence Takes a Bath'. The other episodes are good too such as 'Confused Coaches', 'Emily in the Middle' and 'Daisy's Perfect Christmas'. I will say that 'The Big Freeze' could've been better with frozen water towers than the steam engines having a lack of coal, I pretty much hate that they stop working when they have no coal whereas they have more in their firebox to keep on steaming. But in the end it was a good episode still. 

Of course you have the three S20 episodes, 'Cautious Connor' was good despite some loss of potential and that it's story is not on par with the likes of Edward's or Rheneas'. But 'Tit for Tat' and 'All In Vain' still hold up as great! 

Rating:
8/10

---

And so here we are, the end of 2017! I had this post released early instead of New Years Eve as I will be heading over to America once again to see my sister and her new family. So this will be my last post for the year. 

So what will 2018 bring for Thomas and Friends? I don't know except for the new 'refreshed' series 'Big World! Big Adventure!'. I will be cautiously optimistic about it as the current production staff are still working on the little blue engine and I believe it might have some potential when it comes to the different railways.

But whatever happens will happen and we'll be there to see it. So in the end:

MERRY CHRISTMAS
AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

-NWR1991.

Friday, 22 December 2017

S21 Ep.18: Confused Coaches + Series Overall

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

CONFUSED COACHES
Written by
Helen Farrall

Directed by
Dianna Basso

Produced by
Micaela Winters

Plot
Spencer and Gordon upset their passengers when their competitive behavior gets extremely uncontrollable.

Air Date
22/12/17

---

This episode is a pretty standard Gordon VS. Spencer storyline. But I did find it entertaining with the dynamic between the two characters. The episode also gave me vibes of 'Wrong Road' with the two engines given the wrong coaches. I would've loved it if they had the signalman keeping signals down and points switched for Gordon and signals up for Spencer to complete that vibe. But how the way it came out in the end was good enough. But one of the things that intrigued me by this episode was the fact that this was set on New Years Eve, the first time that it was done in the show's history, not quite ground breaking but it amazed me none the less as I thought this was going to be set during the Christmas rush period. Like the stations are very busy and Thomas and Philip had shunted the wrong coaches due to the busyness of it all and gave the wrong coaches to the engines say Spencer taking Gordon's passengers to the mainland and Gordon stopping at stations with the Duke and Duchess. It wouldn't make much difference though.

As much as I like the comedy of the Fat Controller, I have a feeling that they are overdoing it this season. In this episode it had him falling down and all and I understand it's cartoony and the young audience would find it funny but there needs to be a time that they have to slow it down and maybe showcase more of his authoritative behaviour or add someone else to be the comic relief, like maybe one of his bodyguards or the stationmaster? As I said before, Thomas is more than comedy and it's not good for his character here. It was fine in S19 and S20 because it was balanced but I feel like they haven't balanced it well this season. Heck, he showed his authority side to Gordon at Callan Castle in the end! Can't we see more of that, please?

I love Chris Renshaw's score of 'Auld Lang Syne' it was beautiful and warm given the atmosphere of the end and with Philip being scared of fireworks was pretty adorable as it make him like a little kid being scared of the loud bang and I was one of them when I was young. Although I think it would've been great if they had Donald and Douglas there singing the song as well considering that the song is part of Scottish heritage and that they are from Scotland. The episode is pretty standard and not much happens until the latter part, but it was fine in the end and a nice end to the season and a nice end to Helen Farrall's contribution to the show, her CV showcased nothing for Thomas during 2017 as that is when the new show would be in production. She was one fantastic writer and it's sad that she won't continue on with her excellent writing. She gave the show its simple slice of life feeling towards it and I am very grateful for her for doing that.

SERIES OVERALL

I will say that this season feels a little mixed. It's not that it was bad though. First off it's the continuity. This was suppose to be set before 'Journey Beyond Sodor' but as usual there was no build up but it feels so mixed up bizarrely. In 'Cranky at the End of the Line', Thomas and Edward went to the mainland to pick up Carly and yet in the special, Thomas went onto the mainland (in Mattel's case) for the first time and yet in the special it felt excited like he was on the mainland for the first time! How do these two connect in anyway if you have the series before movie idea? It just makes no sense! It makes me think that the movie was just filler and that S21 was just its own thing so they can get ready for 'Big World Big Adventure' next year.

I also feel like this series had focused more on comedy and while there can be some good out of it, I feel like that they were pushing it a bit too much especially by Lee Pressman as most episodes written by him had much comedy in it. Some of it's OK but I think some were trying hard to make things funny, such as the Fat Controller for example. It's like I said before, Thomas is more than comedy. But there are times were Lee Pressman focuses more on story and less on comedy and 'Terence Breaks the Ice' is a good example of it. The story was simple, there were some action and it feels like something that Christopher Awdry would write. It's not just Lee Pressman when it comes to comedy though, Helen Farrall, who is one of my favourite writers from the show and it's a shame she's not going to take part of the show next year, her CV didn't have any info on S22. But she had implemented some comedy too more on the Fat Controller slipping and bumping into things. It's not as much as Lee Pressman's way but the way she had done for the Fat Controller in 'Confused Coaches' was kind of showing that the slapstick humour was getting old and sometimes unnecessary for him and it's lacking the authoritative nature of him being a railway controller.

I know one of the big 'controversies' is Edward leaving the 'steam team' because he was not 'marketable enough' and that Henry will be leaving too next year. But over the months, I began thinking about Edward, this my opinion and as much as I love the old blue engine, I think he adds nothing new to the table. Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, I am not a huge fan of this idea as I do know that Edward is probably one of the most important characters in history of this brand, he was the first character to come into the Rev.W.Awdry's mind when he was entertaining Christopher while he was sick with measles. But the reason that I said that, the nothing add new to the table business is because most of Edward's stories are just him trying to prove his worth over being old.

I mean in the classic series it was fine because we were just getting to know them. But they've developed his character after that and it wasn't used again until I think by the time of the show's sixth season. The episode, 'Edward the Really Useful Engine' despite being one of my favourites was really the start of the repeatable 'proving his worth' plots for him. The same can be applied for 'Old Reliable Edward' and I considered that to be one of the best episodes for Edward in recent years. To me I think Edward works well as a secondary character more given his personality of being the old but wise engine giving advice to the other engines who are younger than him and with him and Philip being paired together, there is good story potential and character dynamic for the both of them!

Edward had not been 'killed off' as some fans are led to believe. Mattel had confirmed that he and Henry will be featured heavily in the new series so they are still in the show it's just that they aren't going to be part of the main cast anymore and that's fine by me. Edward is out looking after Philip at Wellsworth sheds.

I can say the same with Henry. He had such great character development during the early years with him suffering illness due to his small firebox until he got his new shape. Afterwards he was just this grumpy side character with some traits of him being the friendly giant. I think why they went with the wimpy role during the Miller/Barlow era is to force him some new stories to give him the spotlight and then brought back the special coal stuff as well to make him have a flaw disregarding any continuity from the past! The problem for Henry is that he was forced to have these things onto him even though it had been resolved earlier for him as a character. But these are just my opinions not any actual fact.

The two new engines, Nia and Rebecca, have to prove their worth other than just being these girl characters and I'm willing to give them a chance even though some people are already writing off Nia as bland despite that we don't anything about her yet because the final product is not out yet. Plus I'm pleased that the offical Thomas website stated that Henry and Edward will be featured heavily but that could mean anything. They could have cameo roles or secondary roles and maybe a few episodes focused on them, I don't know what they would do but we would just have to wait. It's a shame though that Henry didn't have a farewell episode like Edward this season but I hope the production team give him a swan song for him in the new revamped series. I don't consider of calling BWBA a 'reboot' considering from the video of the new intro that was released a few months back, there are still things from this season that will carry on (e.g - Carly and Big Mickey). A 'reboot' is unplugging what the show use to be and restructure the whole thing from scratch and adding new things along the way to make it all new. Sort of like S8 but without some past traits like the overused 'steam vs diesel' cliche. The term 'reboot' is more of a buzzword nowadays.

One thing that sort of surprised me was that this season has to be the shortest season in Thomas history since S11-16 had 20 episodes each, that now makes them second shortest. This is all confirmed from Mattel via twitter:

But the one thing that did surprise me was that Mattel had cut down eight episodes of this season! SiF had confirmed this last week on twitter:
And if you look through more of the tweet, Rosie was going to have more than one episode! All because they want room for the development of 'Big World Big Adventure'. I'm not going to be attacking the new show as this is critically towards the higher-ups of Mattel. I feel like fans have been cheated by this because for years they've demanded for Rosie to return with a bigger role and have better characterisation and just having Mattel taking those years of waiting away by not showing more of her character progression feels so much of a let down. There could've been more with the three cranes, Bulgy and I bet Hugo. I remember earlier this year SiF had said there were more plans for Hugo and it's such a shame because we only got two episodes of his last season and they were not good in my opinion. I am annoyed by this move but I just got to take it as it is in the end. I hope with the Sodor portion of the new series we see those episodes having their share of the spotlight. But we just got to wait and see in the end. If not, well I think it's unfair for the hard work that the production team put into writing those episodes and Mattel should've just let S21 go at its own pace rather than abruptly cut it down. At least we know Rosie's job is being a station pilot at Vicarstown as shown in JBS, at least that is her job?

I'm also very sad that this would be Mark Moraghan's last season as narrator. He had such great enthusiasm when it comes to telling a story much more better than what Angelis did during his latter part as the storyteller. Mark had put great effort into his narration and he had that feeling of Ringo Starr, Johnny Morris and Michael Angelis combined. But a part of me is not really put off by the idea of no storyteller next season and I think its because it worked when the show was converted to CGI considering that things can be expressed more better when it comes to emotions. Show don't tell. When Brenner and McCue first started, the narration started to decrease most particularly around S19 and the characters were the ones telling you the story with their dialogue and with the wonderful voice acting and visuals.

I think that the narrator worked well when the show was in its model format. The expressions are static and it works for the narrator to tell the audience how the character is feeling, since it was going for a picture book like feeling when the show started in 1984. I think the idea of Thomas telling the audience is a good idea considering we had those life lesson videos from the official website, DVD releases and on PBS Kids in the US. I do hope they let kids to digest the moral of the story though. I know that the storyteller is one of the key parts that makes Thomas great, but I think the show could work without one. I wish Mark all the very best and to give him thanks for entertaining Thomas fans young and old. I do understand that he said, via twitter months ago, he could be voicing a new character in the new series, I hope so.

It wouldn't just be Mark who would loose the storyteller role. Plenty of non-English narrators will loose their storyteller role too in favour of Thomas such as Jon Kabria from Japan. He had narrated the show when 'Calling All Engines!' debuted in Japan in 2008, three years after the release in the west. But I believe the Japanese fans might be use to Thomas talking to them as shown in their DVDs.

Speaking of voices, I love Colin McFarlane. He was superb as Bulgy with the gruff in his voice, it suits his character very well and it was so different to his Beresford voice in JBS, so distinct. Even Lucy Montgomery was a great new addition to the show as her voices are very different to each other for such characters like Carly and Hannah. But I do think the most disappointing voice was Terence. His voice is just Rex without the Southern english accent. You think with him being a tractor he could have the sound of a farmer, particularly like Johnny Morris' voice in RWS audio books.

Chris Renshaw's music was pretty good but not as good as last season. I feel like last season he can play different styles of music like rock, jazz etc. But this season it was mostly rock and while I like that compare to Robert Hartshorne's filler music, I like his work but I feel like his music was just placed there. Nothing felt thematic. There's got to be more styles of music for him? I mean 'Journey Beyond Sodor' didn't have just rock music it was orchestrated.

In the end this isn't as good as last season. It was clunky, strange and is very unfinished but it was still very good none the less. There were some enjoyable stories and plenty of big surprises along the way such as Big Mickey's face reveal and Bulgy's unexpected return, which I have to say I haven't felt that surprised since Harvey's return in 'Thomas' Shortcut' back in 2013. I do think we will see more episodes with characters like Bulgy next season as the ending to 'Unscheduled Stops' does seem to offer more. Rosie, despite her new colour, really didn't showcase her suppose to be persona. I hope we get more of her in the new series, hopefully next year as she was rather flat. The season isn't quite as good as S20 in my opinion as last season had some terrific stories whereas here it's more comedy focused.

I don't know which episode is the actual conclusion considering that most of these episodes would be out of production order because the episode order is different on the series compilation DVDs. But if 'A Shed for Edward' is, and most likely, the true ending then I can say it was a lovely end to the series and to an era.

So as we conclude S21, I hope 'Big World Big Adventures' offer more than what we were given so far from teasers and press releases. I hope the new characters offer more, unlike some who had written off Nia as a bad character despite that we hardly know anything about her other than being a strong female character, yeah they said that at Cannes, other than she's from Kenya! And that some recently had written off Rebecca now as a 'dumb blonde' stereotype for some reason despite the fact the small clip of her braking is based off the flaws of her actual basis. Look, I understand that no one likes change but it's no boogey man. Sometimes things change for better or worse to keep the show fresh and new instead of rinsing and repeating itself again otherwise it would get stagnant. Getting angry about these new changes and venting about it on social media, in a terrible way, won't solve anything in the end. A bit like Star Wars' fanbase hating some new stuff for some reason in 'The Last Jedi'. I suggest give the new series a try. It's not even out yet and see what the finish product is like. Writing it off based on what little info press releases are saying is not good enough in my opinion because there's so little about the show. We haven't seen the entire finished product yet and that won't happen until later next year. 
---

That wraps up all of S21! Be on the look out for the annual DVD retrospective post which will now come out on December 23rd 2017, which will be my last post for the year!

Monday, 18 December 2017

S21 Ep.17: Daisy's Perfect Christmas

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

DAISY'S PERFECT CHRISTMAS
Written by
Davey Moore

Directed by
Dianna Basso

Produced by 
Micaela Winters

Air Date
18/12/17

Plot
Daisy is sad when Christmas doesn't go as planned.

---

We are given another Daisy episode by Davey Moore who still nailed her persona very well. The theme of the episode is pretty much about adding new things that are not in the traditional mindset and I see this working with Daisy rather well giving her haughty and diva personality. We all want to experience the same thing each year around Christmas all the time because it was fun and we had good memories of it. But sometimes things need to change to make it a bit better and fresher and not many people like that idea because they think it would be ruined forever.

One example in this episode is Daisy not liking the children singing different versions of Christmas carols as she enjoyed what she had experienced over the years and she complains about it because she's only thinking about her wants and needs. But the children don't mind the new changes because they love it in the end as they are more into the spirit of Christmas! It served and it delivered successfully to them. It's a good message too especially now that the show is having a new format next year ending the usual episode run. It was traditional but as Ryan puts it in this episode it's 'just different'. It'll be different and new but they, hopefully, will keep the spirit of what makes Thomas good still as it did before. Davey Moore's writing for these kind of messages feels like he knows about the fanbase or that it was big coincidence. The moral that he'd showcased here is good enough to be learnt by anyone whether they're a child or an adult.

I can relate to Daisy with her dislike of winter. Of course I live in Australia in the Southern Hemisphere so our seasons are different compare to the north as we have our winters between June-August. But anyway, one of things I love about winter is the NSW steam locomotive season as they run tours across the state until the late spring and another thing is the NRL, National Rugby League. I'm sure there might be some people living in the north of England who had heard that sport of course if they're reading this post. If you're in the US and know who Russell Crowe is, it's the sport that he loves. The NRL is different to the AFL though. It's always fun during winter to watch the game and of course the famous State of Origin where players from both NSW (New South Wales) & QLD (Queensland) rivals together every year to win the series. It's almost the equivalent of the NFL's Super Bowl.

I digress here, but the season of winter is not my favourite season. Of course I do like to have the warm heater on and snuggle in my bed in the night but when you go outside it's bleak and cold and damp at times. So I can relate to Daisy here when it comes to winter. Overall this episode was very good and I enjoyed it and it had a good message that traditions may have changed but it's the spirit that counts.



Episode Rating:
Stuck in Gear - 8/10
Series Rating (So far):
134/170

Monday, 11 December 2017

S21 Ep.16: Terence Breaks the Ice

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

TERENCE BREAKS THE ICE
Written by
Lee Pressman 

Directed by
Dianna Basso

Produced by 
Micaela Winters

Air Date
11/12/17

Plot
Terence takes a shortcut across a frozen lake 
while collecting Christmas trees for the holiday market.

Lee Pressman does have some stories this season that were up and down for me and after 'Philip's Number', I was starting to loose interest in his writing as he focuses more on comedy than story, it was fine at first with Dowager Hatt but with comedy being the main focus it was loosing some appeal, I understand it could be under Mattel's control but we don't know much about the facts to be honest. He had written, Lee Pressman, some episodes that were more story than comedy and of course they were 'Kevin's Cranky Friend', 'A Shed for Edward', despite some comedy, and 'Gordon and Spencer'.

With this episode, there was little bits of comedy but there was more story! Terence's comeback was a bit subtle and that is good not big not flashy just small and the flashback that was provided, 'Thomas, Terence and the Snow', was a good way to introduce the younger audience on who and what he is before, I can admit it is obvivously fan service but it works that way to get young kids to understand the history between the two despite that most of it was used to pan out the story as the plot was a bit thin and the setting had that very Season 1 feeling towards it with simple countryside and background and it was nice of Chris Renshaw to remake the little ditty of Thomas being stuck in the snow in the flashback.

I will say the voice for Terence was disappointing. To me he sounds like Rex but without his accent. Why not have his voice to be like a farmer from the west country? Considering he's a tractor that works on a farm as that would make sense.

The rest of the episode was good and it feels like something that Christopher Awdry would write, like his 'Terence Takes a Bath' annual story which has some similarities of this episode. It was simple and it was nice, despite the plot being a bit thin, with a nice moral that it's better to be sensible to be safe. There was a nice balance between story and comedy and it was probably the best story by Lee Pressman since Dowager Hatt's episode this season!



Episode Rating:
Stuck in Gear - 8/10
Series Rating (So Far):
131/160


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

S21 Ep.15: Emily in The Middle

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

EMILY IN THE MIDDLE
Written by
Davey Moore

Directed by
Dianna Basso

Produced by 
Micaela Winters

Air Date
6/12/17

Plot 
Donald and Douglas were called to Brendam Docks to deliver a very long load of steel pipes to Vicarstown, but began arguing of who is to push from behind. As Thomas was leaving, he met Emily, who was on her way to help the twins with the load. He warns her about the twins notorious behavior of arguing with each other, of which she replies that she will be fine with.

---


As much as I like Donald and Douglas in the series, I hope we don't get episodes of just them bickering to each other. We already have a set of twins with that mindset and they are Bill and Ben. The Scottish twins have more than just the brothers that bicker trope they care about each other when things go wrong for each other. Take a look at 'Break Van' when we were first introduced to the character, Donald was cross with the brake van because he causing some trouble with Douglas and his train which could've resulted him to seperate from his brother, as the Fat Controller had only ordered one of them.

Why not have an episode of say Spencer or anyone else saying rude and hurtful remarks about one of them and they stand up for them and play tricks on them? They even have that trope of not being messed with and it shows on one page in the story 'The Missing Coach' where Gordon and Henry were making fun of them because of there whistles, you implement that trope in the idea that I showcased earlier. The episode has some similarity to 'Love Me Tender' from S20 except it didn't have much heart in it. This episode tried but it did flourish.

But there are some good things from this episode and that is Emily she had brought her sisterly/motherly persona into the episode and I think it did make the episode a little better. The subtle humour with Toby gave me a bit of chuckle but I still think the episode feels just like last year's episode. It's not bad but could've been better.



Episode Rating:
Stuck in Gear - 8/10
Series Rating (So Far):
122/150

Friday, 1 December 2017

S21 Ep.14: The Big Freeze

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

S21 returns with the usual Christmas episodes that were released on DVD in the US in October and the UK in November. So let's get right into:

THE BIG FREEZE
Written by
Helen Farrall 

Directed by
Dianna Basso

Produced by
Micaela Winters

Plot
When a big freeze hits Sodor, Diesel finally proves himself to be a hero.

Air Date
1/12/17


I never really liked how that an engine without coal means they can't steam anymore considering they have more they could burn in their firebox. Wouldn't it make more sense to have them run out of water? Yes it was cliched in the 7th season but it was more realistic as it can cause some major damage to the boiler's wall and crown stays. This episode wouldn't make much difference if it you put the idea of water tower's being frozen though but I would prefer it. But how would Diesel prove to be a hero? Easy, keep the railway running. Maybe have the steam engines like maybe Gordon and James think they are superior early in the episode until all the water towers were frozen across the Island.

When the diesel arrived to save the day, you have to admit that there is a serve lack of bigger diesels and this episode could've had the potential for bringing back BoCo as he would provided bigger power than three diesel shunters pulling the express. Although I think it was great seeing a triple header again I think since 'King of the Railway'.

This isn't really the blame on the production team and the writers but the way the 'Christmas on Sodor' DVD puts this as a Diesel episode, it was pretty poor wording. Fans think this was the final chapter in this story arc of Diesel's episodes from the start of S21 but Diesel really didn't fulfill the role until the final few minutes and there was little character growth. This episode is good but I think it could've been a bit better.



Episode Rating:
Stuck in Gear - 8/10
Series Rating (So Far):
116/130

Monday, 13 November 2017

DVD Review: Christmas on Sodor

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

CHRISTMAS ON SODOR
Written by 
Andrew Brenner
Helen Farrall 

Episodes
Terence Breaks the Ice
Daisy's Perfect Christmas
Confused Christmas
Emily in the Middle
The Big Freeze
Cautious Connor
Tit For Tat
All In Vain

Special Features
It's Christmas Time - Music Video
Helping Others - Learn with Thomas
Sleigh and Plough - The Earl's Quiz
How Steam Engines Use Coal - Down at the Station

Directed by
Dianna Basso 

Produced by
Ian McCue (HIT)
Micaela Winters (HIT)

Release Date
3/10/17 - US (iTunes)
17/10/17 - US
13/11/17 - UK

Distributed by
Mattel Creations (UK/US)
HIT Entertainment (UK)
Universal (US)

For the first time ever, HIT Entertainment & Mattel have released a Thomas DVD, barring specials and tent pole releases, without holding back the UK to get it an entire year later! A welcoming change and I hope they do that for other DVDs in the near future. However like last year the US got a lack of DVDs unlike in 2015 and that includes the annual exclusive tent pole DVDs, the yearly special, Christmas DVD and generic release. Usually until 2016, Wal*Mart releases exclusive release DVDs of the upcoming season but it's most likely that the contract between the company that owns Wal*Mart and HIT Entertainment had expired and was never renewed. 

So now with 'Journey Beyond Sodor' out of the way, let's take a look at this year's Christmas release.

EPISODES

Like every other Christmas release, I'm leaving the recent episodes until they've aired during the course of Christmas. But the last three episodes I will say that they are still great episodes even though they are a year old. I think it is sad that they've lost the potential of releasing the Arlesdale episodes as there own DVD but in the end they were at least given a DVD release. 

I love 'Cautious Connor' and on its own it was a good episode but it's not good in comparison to the likes of 'Edward's Exploit', 'Gallant Old Engine' and 'Four Little Engines'. Three of those stories showcased an engine struggling and got injured but carried on like it was nothing. For Edward his crank pins broke (and damaged his splashers in the book) and for Rheneas his valve gear had jammed and despite the pain, he still carried on like a hero, Skarloey broke his springs and carried on to the last station despite his old age. Compare them to Connor who had a broken traction rod it's not really a big thing.

Now don't get me wrong I don't hate the episode but I wouldn't call it the best episode ever though. I still think that the episode has missed opportunities like Caitlin being the engine to motivate Connor as they are both close friends and that maybe either Edward or Rheneas motivate him about their past experiences. Rheneas purpose to be Ulfstead castle could be him delivering passengers or slate from the quarry or Edward could be there delivering passengers to visit the Castle. In the end, it was a good episode but it lacked some missed opportunities.

The other two episodes on the DVD still hold up, I love watching 'Tit for Tat' probably the best of the adapted stories of the miniature engines in my book and I still consider that 'All In Vain' is 'Pouty James' done right with his developed character of putting his jobs first before his vanity. 

SPECIAL FEATURES


So they've released 'It's Christmas Time' again which was seen on the 2014 Christmas DVD 'The Christmas Engine'. To be honest I'm glad because after the release of 'Snow Place Like Home' and 'Glynn's Christmas Wish' I don't blame them, Mattel and HIT Entertainment. Both songs weren't good among fans but for me I don't mind them but they weren't great looking back. So I hope one day we do see a good song from Eggplant that is if they're still contracted or better yet, from the likes of Andrew Brenner. 


Of course there are standard special features within the DVD, such as another 'Learn from Thomas' segment, which is used at the end of each Thomas block on PBS Kids of a moral life lesson from an episode that had aired that day. Then we have the Earl's quiz with clips from two S17 episodes, 'No Snow for Thomas' and 'Santa's Little Engine'. Again, good segements for the younger audiences to learn for their thinking skills.

And of course we have the Mr. Perkins segment, 'Down at the Station', another segment that are seen on PBS Kids in the US and Nick Jr. in the UK. I do like these segments as it show kids about certain parts of a steam engine or a diesel that they see in real life and it's always beautifully shot with the real steam locomotives on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. It also made me realise sadly that we lost Ben Forster earlier in the year! May the good man rest in peace.   

OVERALL


At the time of writing this review, I was reviewing the US copy that I bought from iTunes, I have an account despite living in Australia. 

I know there's another upcoming Christmas DVD releasing soon in America, which is 'Thomas' Holiday Collection'. But despite the addition of the model series episodes, it's a DVD that's not worth getting considering for parents, they would want more CG episodes and less of the old stuff, I know that sounds crazy but it's sadly true by looking at the Amazon reviews on the US site when it comes to the classic series. There are DVDs with the same episodes as the other discs and that, for the older fans' sake, they already have these DVDs when they were released years ago and the CGI DVDs in the collection have terribly written stories! In all honesty why not release another generic release DVD? I don't know how many episodes from S17-20 are released over in the US but you can have that along with maybe two additional episodes from S21 or episodes from the same season that had been released over in the UK recently on television!

Plus the DVDs from that collection are more cheaper to buy on their own than as a bundle they are about $5.00 - $9.00 USD or you can watch them on either Amazon Prime or Netflix through your membership, I know because I have used my sister's account while I visited America.

If you want something for your child for Christmas, I recommend this DVD as they are all brand new episodes and not repackaged DVDs. The special features may be standard but they are good in the end despite some being in previous releases. I know most of my overall is about another DVD that's coming soon but there's not much I need to say about this DVD and I want to get it off my chest as I have no interest in buying it because I already have these DVDs already and I think it's just lazy of Universal to put all these together when there are cheaper copies on their own and that they are up for streaming on streaming services.

RATING
8/10

Sunday, 15 October 2017

NWR Editorial: Big World Big Adventure Part II (UPDATE: 24/10/17)

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

NWR EDITORIAL:
BIG WORLD BIG ADVENTURE PART. II

MIPJunior in Cannes, France had started and with it came the sneak peak of 'Big World! Big Adventures!' the upcoming new movie and series in 2018. Along with a new character who is another new female engine that will join the 'steam team'. Along with it came footage of the upcoming series and what it had to offer. This here is a second part of my previous post which you can read here:

Rebecca:

Along with Nia the African engine in the upcoming movie, we have another female engine to join in the 'steam team' in the new series and of course according to source, she will be one of the replacements for Henry and Edward, I will mention those two later on in this post. One thing that I like about Rebecca is that she's a new British tender engine based on the Southern Railway's 'West Country' class locomotive, a class of loco that I had the obligation of riding on when I visited the UK in 2012. It was 'Wadebridge' on the Mid-Hants Watercress Line. Despite the locos being in BR Brunswick Green in reality, it's quite understandable on why she is given the colour yellow. It makes her stand out! Yes she may look like a yellow banana on wheels but the colour yellow is good for young children as the bright colour is good for their early developed eye sight. Things like Pikachu from 'Pokemon' and of course the Minions from 'Despicable Me' are successful because of it. Plus we have other engines with unrealistic liveries. I mean have you ever seen a blue E2? 

The only known personality of her that we got from news articles is that she's not afraid to stand up for herself and not intimated by the older engines. While I do like that, I hope see more sides of her and if her purpose is to pull the express with Gordon, then it just proves that there can be more than one engine to pull express trains. I look forward to be seeing her in the series. 

Edward & Henry:
So yes those rumours are true, Edward and Henry are officially leaving the 'steam team' most likely because they aren't marketable enough. To be honest, I'm quite sadden that this is actually happening but it's also quite reassuring that they will have the spotlight from time to time, so Mattel and of course the production team do understand that they are important. What I'm hoping for them is that they'll be part of something special. After all in three years time the brand will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020 and these two characters are very important as they started the Railway Series books and the brand, Edward was the first engine that the Reverend came up with in his mind for his son, Christopher, who was sick with measles. Henry applies as well. 

'A Shed for Edward' was a good send off to Edward and it make sense to have him working on his branch line at Wellsworth and I hope in this new series we see more of it and of course with being paired up with Philip it could bring more of his character and maybe it might make kids see some relations between them and Edward with him looking after Philip, maybe he'll remind them of their grandfather and of course we have him saying, 'I'm sure we'll see each other again.' In the episode as well. 

For Henry it's quite hard to know what his future might be. I know they won't be kicking him off the series since we'll see him sharing a bit of the spotlight. I hope the episode we see would be a good send off and I think what it should be is an adaptation of 'Super Rescue' and maybe change up the story maybe have him being repaired at the Steamworks for his broken regulator and decided to stay at Vicarstown sheds to teach Bear their ways on the North Western Railway. But whatever it is, I hope it's a good sendoff. Plus notice how Nia and Rebecca don't have their numbers? I think that might be Mattel saying that Henry and Edward are still important despite them not being marketable. 

Fast Paced Animation and More Jokes and Fantasy Sequences:

With the jokes I hope they are something good and not something that are on the line of poo jokes or anything below that line. Thomas the Tank Engine is better than that. Maybe have a bit of banter and teasing that would be good. While I don't mind fast paced animation it can be quite exhausting and that happened once when I bought a 'Chuggington' DVD. The animation's movement just happens quickly and it can get quite exhausting. With fantasy sequences, I'm fine with some unrealistic stuff to be like that, a fantasy. According to MIPJunior's twitter feed they said that Thomas imagines himself as a rocket ship and him being chased by a dragon. I hope for the latter it's the Chinese dragon. The fantasy sequences is a bit like 'The Great Race' when during the song Thomas imagines himself as Harvey or Stephen or in that trailer back in 2014 when his Macy balloon was to make its debut on Thanksgiving 2014 in US where he imagines himself as Cranky, Hiro, Big Ben and a New York Taxi cab. They are silly but I would rather them being fantasy sequences then actually happening in the show.

I will say from the clip of Nia and her trucks leaning from the side, it was a bit cringeworthy to see that. I can take the bouncing as it was subtle. But I hope I get use to this cartoony behaviour and I hope the production team would find the right balance.

More Merchandise Focused Towards Girls:

To me this is one thing that I love hearing. Outside of the toys and books in the brand, there's hardly any merchandise focused towards girls. There had been plenty of female characters in the past that were never given any shirts or bedding or anything aside from toys and books. The only time I saw something for girls is t-shirts at 'Thomas Land' at Drayton Manor in the UK back in 2012 with a picture of Rosie when she was pink and they are only sold there. Plus this had been an issue in the past, in the 'Daily Mail', although it's a bad clickbait site, a mum from the UK was annoyed that there isn't any girl clothing of Thomas for her daughter. But a woman from Melbourne, Australia made one for her and given it to her to give for daughter for Christmas. So seeing this happening is great thanks to the increase viewership of girls. 

Sodor Will Be Safe:


This was a fearing thing when this revamped series was announced. But after hearing that half of the series will be focused on Sodor this is a big relief. My guess that the first half will be us following on Thomas' world tour and the second half will be Sodor centric and I think next season might be all centred on Sodor. While we know that the Island of Sodor will be safe, I'm quite looking forward to se be seeing other countries in CGI. 

The Animation:

Judging from the clips from news sources, the animation still has some of the flat grounding and textures like in 'Journey Beyond Sodor' and they feel more like dream sequences. I hope these are unfinished animation but I won't be holding my breath for it. 

Climate Change and other UN Teaching Methods:

I will say, I was surprised by Mattel are having help from the United Nations (UN) with teaching methods from them. They even came up with the idea of Nia's name which is Swahili for fun and adventure and the African patterns on her side tanks. One of the things that I find confusing is Climate Change. To be honest when I heard that I thought it was pretty dumb to do that considering kids are learning about it with a steam locomotive that can cause damage to the O-zone layer. It's hard to think how they're going to challenge that to the young viewers. I see other things working like zero hunger. You could have Thomas or an international engine working together to bring food to villagers or something. 

Thomas being 'Stodgy' & Down Toy Sales:

While I don't agree that Thomas is 'boring' according to Mattel, there can be some quite exciting stuff on a railway. But with the toy sales going down, maybe that's because over the years there had been Thomas play sets from the likes of Wooden Railway (Wood), Adventures and Trackmaster is because most of them have sets with only Thomas in them? This had been happening even before Mattel took over Thomas. Maybe kids are bored that all the new play sets they see always have Thomas in them and that they have no variety other than Thomas maybe meeting a dinosaur or a shark. Now yes there had been other sets too with other characters like Luke for example but I hardly see their sets at shops and most of the sets are Thomas'. Mattel should also know that parents would most likely buy Thomas and the other steam team characters separately at a cheaper price and that they would save money on buying a play set with the same character in it! 

Yes I know he's a big seller because he's the titular character but maybe kids just want to see more characters. How about having characters like Daisy or Glynn as exclusives to play sets? You can only buy them with this set and maybe that might sell? You could have sets based on particular episodes like how about a Thomas Wood 'Duck & the Slip Coaches' play set where the slip coaches are the exclusive toys in that set with Duck. Yes Duck may have a Wooden Railway toy but it's rare to find him now unlike in 2013. 

Netflix & Hulu Exclusive:

This is only in the US but I think this is better for Thomas. When I was in the US back in June, I remember Thomas was the first PBS Kids show at 6:00 am in the morning and to me it was bad to put it at that hour as kids are still asleep. Now that it'll be up for streaming purposes only, this could be better. It can be watched at certain hours, plenty of parents nowadays would at least have a Netflix account and most content that are brand new are on Netflix. Dreamworks for example have plenty and I remember reading once that there TV content is doing more better than their movies. 

If HIT and Mattel decided to do this for a worldwide audience, I will be OK with it but they should also think about the people who can't afford a subscription too and maybe let be on TV or have it on YouTube and they, the company, put adsense on it as most shows like 'Postman Pat' are uploading hour  long videos of their episodes. 


---

While these new changes are happening I'm still going to be cautiously optimistic. There had been times when we doubt things from this era such as 'King of the Railway' when the trailer was released and when the movie came out we praised it to no end. I remember the reaction to the episode titles on the 'Railway Mischief' DVD when it was released in the US and in the end we praised them and I remember people were saying that 'Tale of the Brave' was 'Percy and the Monster of Brendam' but longer and once again it was praised. Sometimes we can be proven wrong over many things and to me I admit that I can be wrong on many things so that's why I'm in the cautiously optimistic crowd. Yes these new changes can be worrying and I can understand the frustration on dealing with them. I don't think the autistic fans will respond well considering they have a hard time dealing with change and I hope Mattel and the production team haven't forgotten about them. After all they made Theo with them in mind! 

I will say, I'm kind of seeing 'Journey Beyond Sodor' as filler now. With the way S21 is playing out to be with the continuity such as Edward leaving the sheds. I felt like it's just there to fill in time, I digress. I'm going to wait and see what the outcome is. It might be good or it might be bad I don't know.