Saturday, 29 December 2012

Series 16, Episode 20 Review: The Christmas Tree Express

Well, I Had a brilliant Christmas, and I hope you all got lots of Thomas stuff to. One of my presents I got was the Wooden Railway Blue Mountain Mystery Grinding Gravel Set, of which (ironically after watching The Christmas Tree Express that morning) came with Rheneas, as you can see above. My two big presents were Large Scale Bachmann Percy and a Nokia camera(of which I took the picture with).
But what did I make of The Christmas Tree Express? Yes, it was very, very sad seeing the end of Nitrogen Studios, who have shown the greatest dedication they could to Thomas, but it was wonderful to know it was the last ever of the Sharon Miller regime.

I had already seen the American version over a month ago, and of course, we knew it was Sharon Miller’s last written episode, because it was the same old 3 strikes, same old errors, and if it hadn’t been for last year, it would have been a Winter Holiday episode. For at least it’s now the Christmas holiday, as those who have also bought the Merry Winter Wish UK DVD will have already known.

Toby was of course the scaredy engine we now all know him as, and like with many Sharon Miller episodes, you just think this is the same episode you’ve seen before with the 3 strike rules, only with a few different characters, this was just Happy Hiro with Thomas and Hiro replaced by Toby and Rheneas, and again, if you’ve bought Merry Winter Wish, or got it in your stocking, you’ll know from Merry Misty Island that Toby had been there before.

But as said, this is the last we will ever see of Sharon Miller, we’ve had to put up with the pain of seeing what she was doing to our number one engine for 7 years, but I, like many fans are over the moon with the news that 2013 will see Thomas’ old friend from his glory days, Andrew Brenner, become head writer. I wish him the very best, in fact I’ve sent him one of my Thomas Christmas cards.

Thank you very much as always to all fellow Thomas fans for reading my review, and I wish you all  the best of the rest of your Christmas, and a happy, brave and safe 2013, with the words BRING ON KING OF THE RAILWAY!!!!!!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Blue Mountain Mystery: The Totally Thomas Blog’s Review

Yes, here it is. Like many Thomas fans, I saw it last Saturday, at my local Vue Cinema, and pre-ordered the DVD, and then had to wait for it in the post after it had came out, as well as just before seeing it, ordering Wooden Railway Yellow Victor off amazon, and getting it quicker than the long ago ordered DVD, but now, I’m finally writing my very own review of Blue Mountain Mystery. For I only thought that after nearly reviewing the whole of series 16, I might as well review this year’s Thomas special. So what did I think about it?




Warning: Contains SPOILERS!!!!!!




So let’s start at the beginning. It’s fair to say it started differently than from what we were expecting. It started off with us, seeing the Blue Mountain Quarry for the very first time. We see 5 of the 6 principal engines of the Skarloey Railway, working with Paxton, and our 2 new friends, Merrick and Owen. But then, disaster strikes when Blondin Bridge begins to fall down, just before Rheneas comes down with his heavy train, and as expected, it wasn’t at all realistic how he managed to cross the bridge, but you still hoped nothing very bad happened to Rheneas, and of course, nothing did, but it explained how poor Paxton had his accident.

And then, we had the  normal 2d intro, very good as normal, but I was hoping that because the special was about the narrow gauge engines, Nitrogen would do something clever when it came to when it said; ‘Based on The Railway Series by The Rev. W. Awdry,’ Maybe having it written on some trucks and a guard’s van, behind one of the narrow gauge engines, with the guard looking like Thomas’s creator himself, but I’m sure that’s what Greg Tiernan would have liked to have done.

And then, we find ourselves on Thomas’s branch line, with Annie and Clarabel, like he should be, and it was almost like old times, seeing them trying to keep Thomas in order. I must say they sound very alike to how they did back when they last had their own voices in Thomas and The Magic Railroad.

To think when it opens, with us seeing the leaves on the tree, before watching the screen tilt down to see Thomas’s branch line, and following Thomas as he runs with his two coaches, really does just show what Nitrogen can do, and that’s why it’s been so brilliant to have had Thomas in their hands in the past 4 years, and to have had them bring him into the world of CGI.

We are then introduced (properly) to Winston, who brings the Fat Controller to tell Thomas about his new job at the Blue Mountain Quarry. It’s fair to say Winston has a rightful existence as the Sodor track inspection car, something that I know British Railways had a few of, back in the day. I thought Thomas and Winston’s secret joke was a good thing to see, and I suppose you could say it’s a nod to continuity in the Fat Controller being a bad driver, because of when his driving capability was last brought up in the series 6 episode, Elizabeth the Vintage Lorry.

Thomas arrives at the Blue Mountain Quarry, which I must say, really is a testament to just how much love and respect Nitrogen have for Thomas, and Greg Tiernan’s especially for narrow gauge railway, for it’s probably the most detailed we’ve ever seen a brand new destination, since one introduced in the original series, and far more than just the basis for the new playset that will be on every child’s Christmas wish list this year.

Rheneas begins to go on about having a coat of paint, I don’t think I can say it for him in this special, but I think Skarloey breaths much more of his original personality than he has done in previous years. But I must say for a special that surrounds the narrow gauge railway, it didn’t focus as much as I hoped on Skarloey, Rheneas, Sir Handel, Peter Sam, and Rusty. They all look great in CGI, being given features that they were never given on their models. Many other people have already pointed out Peter Sam’s special funnel, being the same as how it was in The Railway Series and on his old Ertl model, and despite being just as familiar to his original funnel in the TV series, I must admit how great it is having a nod like that to The Railway Series after all these years. 

The montage of work at the Blue Mountain Quarry, put to the new song, ‘Working Together’ was also a surprise, despite the wonder in whether there would be more than one new song in the special. And so afterwards, Thomas takes his train of slate to the docks, and then goes back to Tidmouth for the night. The next day, Thomas begins to see a little green engine, he has never seen before, running in and out of tunnels. The narrow gauge engines’ secret is reviled, and so, Thomas is told about Luke, who is hiding at the quarry, after doing; ‘something very bad,’ believing if anyone found him, he would be sent away from Sodor forever!

So what are my opinions on Thomas’ new friend? Well, he’s probably one of the best characters introduced in the CGI series for me, ranking with Hiro and Victor. I think Nitrogen used the right prototype for him, he’s based on the Kerr Stuart 'Wren' class 0-4-0ST "Peter Pan" of which any Thomas fan, who was lucky to be at Railfest 2012 at the National Railway Museum, a few months beforehand, would have seen, and I admit his voice does suit him, even though he’s not an Irish engine.

I’m sure most of us who were children of Thomas’ heyday, would say the next bit in the special was their favourite, and was completely unexpected, for when Thomas asked the other engines what did they think was the worst thing an engine could do, I thought; “No, no, no, it’s a Sharon Miller script, they won’t say of anything that happened in the original Thomas series”. But then, Percy’s flashback began, and I saw Percy, on a snowy day, chugging towards the platform, while two porters where crossing the track with a baggage trolley. I couldn’t believe it, I almost wanted to jump up and down in the greatest of delight, but that would have spoilt it from everyone else in the cinema. It was A Scarf for Percy, reanimated in CGI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Of course, nothing will ever beat the original Thomas, no matter how good the CGI can be, but I’m SO glad Nitrogen got to re-enact some of the stories we know as second nature, and I’m sure no one thinks of it as destroying their childhood, after all the things HiT have done to Thomas in the last 8 years.

Henry’s flashback was next, but I wasn’t completely sure if it was going to be The Sad Story of Henry, because it’s probably the famous Thomas story of all, because whenever someone talks to you, knowing you’re a huge Thomas the Tank Engine fan, they always say something on the lines of; ‘the episode I always remember from when I was a child was the one when the green engine got stuck in the tunnel,’ BUT IT WAS!!!!!!!!!!! Made to look very alike to the original episode, even though when they bricked Henry up in the original episode is a great textbook example of why it could never be bettered by CGI. 

 Then we had Thomas’s, of which, I admit, didn’t know what episode it was going to be, but Down the Mine was the first to spring to mind, and it was, made to look like the original as we know so well, but made to look more of the CGI series. But of course, if you had a conversation on what engine has done the worst thing in Thomas history, you’re mind would go to Diesel, and you would properly say, within the Duck and the Diesel trilogy being 3 of the most loved and remembered Thomas episodes of all time, and because it probably was, the worst thing he’s ever done was when he told lies about Duck, and Greg Tiernan has admitted that if he could redo any of Awdry’s stories, he would do Pop Goes the Diesel and Dirty Work, but no, the worst thing Diesel has ever done, was in Misty Island Rescue, when he lost the Jobi logs. Poor Greg Tiernan, for of course, Diesel was sent away for telling lies about Duck (and Henry, if you have also read the Railway Series), but one of the engines could have brought it up, so to make us wonder if what Luke did was as bad as something Diesel would ever do.

The next day, Thomas stops Skarloey from being hit by Rocky, and thanks him for saving him from losing my cab, but not for saving his driver and fireman from getting whiplash. Even thought if Skarloey did lose his cab, we would see him as he looked back in Very Old Engines.

But then, Luke comes out to say sorry to Thomas for hiding from him, and asks to be his friend, and then we see another montage put to Working Together, with Thomas and Luke actually working together, but would it have hurt to have had some more lyrics to the song, or to have thought up another song for the special? But it yet again gave you a chance to see how much detail Nitrogen has put into the BMQ.

Then afterwards, Winston brings the Fat Controller and the Thin Controller, to tell Thomas that Paxton is fixed, and he can return to his branch line. After they leave, Thomas finally asks Luke what he did, without realising Paxton had arrived and was listening to what they were saying. Luke tells Thomas of how he came to Sodor, on a boat with a yellow engine from far away, and when being unloaded, knocked the other engine off into the sea.

Then they realise Paxton was listening the whole time, and Luke goes back into the tunnel, without saying goodbye to Thomas. The next day, Thomas is back on his branch line, but then leaves Toby to look after Annie and Clarabel again, so to let him solve the mystery of what happened to the yellow engine. Yes, even in this, we still have the same old error of Thomas going off, away from his work, to do something else, but maybe I ask for too much.

Thomas looks for the yellow engine, all over the island, at Knapford, the shunting yards, Bluff’s Cove, and Whiff's Waste Dump. All of which, Thomas has been to many times since whenever Luke and Victor arrived on the island.

Thomas then takes Edward’s advice, and goes to the Dieselworks to find the yellow engine. There is a great surprise for Thomas fans as he comes into it, for I knew what engine that was, that formed part of the scrap of old engine parts, it was Marklin!!!!!!!! Thomas then hears Paxton talking to Diesel about Luke. Diesel fools Paxton into thinking that the Fat Controller should be told about Luke, so that he can be sent away from Sodor. I’m sure everyone thought this was go to see, within how many people thought that Diesel, within meant to be being the main villain in the world of Thomas, should have had Spencer’s role in Hero of the Rails. Thomas then goes to Brendem, and asks Cranky about the yellow engine, and is told that all he can remember of him, was he had a broken lamp, so Thomas races to the Steamworks, and asks Victor if he knows anything about the yellow engine, to find out it actually was Victor, and we are given his side of the story.

I always knew after we saw Hiro’s back story in the first CGI special, we would probably hear Victor’s. To think it’s the first time, in the history of the Thomas TV series that we are told a story that revolves around an engine’s back story, I dare say I was hoping we would see Victor working on the Cuban railways, but people might have thought of it as stereotyped, and after Clarkson, we don’t want Thomas to be the next British icon to upset the Hispanics, though I was quite surprised to hear Victor actually speak Spanish. I won’t be surprised if HiT soon brings out the Take ‘n’ Play Talking Yellow Victor that says his lines in Spanish, and I wonder what they will do when Blue Mountain Mystery is actually translated in Spanish. But I do ask why we had Victor’s US voice in the UK dub? Because for those who arn’t famillier with his US voice, like the young Thomas fans of Britain, would be left in wonder to why he has a different voice?

Back to the story, Thomas hurries off back to the Blue Mountain Quarry to tell the narrow gauge engines the good news, but is worried to see Diesel trying to tell the Fat Controller about Luke, before shunting Mavis off to the Dieselworks. Thomas gets to the quarry to tell Luke that he had talked to Victor about him. When only hearing the first part of what he had to say, the narrow gauge engines are cross with Thomas, and then when they hear Diesel coming, Luke hides back into the tunnel, and runs away with the other narrow gauge engines to the upper terraces of the quarry. Thomas feels he’s let Luke down.

Unfortunately, what happens next is what every Thomas fan didn’t want to see, something we had hoped wouldn’t happen, but it did. Thomas asks Rocky to put him onto Owen’s platform, and is lifted up, to then go onto the narrow gauge lines to try to get to Luke. OH NO!!!!!!!! Why Sharon Miller? Why? Everyone who knows anything about Thomas the Tank Engine, or indeed railways or common sense knows that it can’t happen, but then again, you don’t know anything about Thomas.

Thomas knocks into some buffers and finds himself on the edge of a cliff. Luke puffs over, and drags Thomas to safety, and pushes him back onto Owen’s platform. But Thomas is too heavy and goes down, dragging Luke behind him, but the two engines get down safely, though not sure if there would be as little damage as there was. But then, the Fat and Thin Controllers arrive for the last time in Winston, and Rocky is ordered by Mr. Percival to bring Thomas and Luke down. Diesel is about to tell the Fat Controller that he should send Luke away, but then, Paxton comes in with Victor on a flatbed, to see the little green engine he met, long ago, and explains that it wasn’t Luke’s fault for his mishap, meaning Luke could come out of hiding at the quarry.

And so we come to the end of the story, with Luke being officially enrolled as a member of the Skarloey Railway, Diesel being told off, and Thomas and Luke remaining friends. Then, it’s time to hear the Blue Mountain Mystery song; of which I must say, was very different from what we’ve gotten the past few times. But of course it wasn’t over yet, for before the credits played, we saw Thomas, at the Steamworks with Victor and Luke, ready to finally meet the yellow engine, and it turns out to be Rheneas. A very clever way of making a whole special lead up to another new toy in Take ‘n’play, Wooden Railway and Trackmaster, of which us loyal Thomas collectors still fallfor, admittedly.

My finial thoughts:

The big question, was it the best Thomas special ever? Yes! It had a much better story than usual, it referred back to the old Thomas stories, no rhyming, and Thomas wasn’t made to look as stupid as he usually is. I never thought I would say this all about a script written by Sharon Miller, but as many have pointed out, the script editor for the special was her replacement and veteran of Thomas’ heyday, Andrew Brenner, of which I, with the rest of the Thomas fandom, wish the very best of luck to, and good luck in filling big shoes to Arc, who will replace Nitrogen as the animation studio.

Blue Mountain Mystery just showed how far the CGI change has gone. The narrow gauge engines looked brilliant in CGI, and there was soooooo much attention to detail, and am I the only one to realise that the drivers of the narrow gauge engines actually had grey uniforms just like they did back in series 4? It really is what us Thomas fans have been waiting for, thank you Nitrogen, for all you have done for our number one engine! And I wish Greg Tiernan and his team, in what Skarloey might say, in having dry rails and good running for the future!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

RIP Angus Wright

A very great loss to the Thomas world, but we will always remember what he did for our number one engine.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Trackmaster Yellow Rheneas

Yes, that's right, I saw him today in my local model railway shop and I bought him.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Nitrogen's secrets

It's Thomas! I'm sure all fans have found Nitrogen's updated site very intresting, I always thought they were making the series far more in advance, and I thought the picture of the E2 was real when first seeing it. Why arethey replacing them with a new animation crew? For they've proven they can give great quality, I'm sure it's so the animation looks different in the new series, but I'm sure they can make it look different. But anyway, they've done their best on their time with Thomas, and I'm sure Arc will do their best.

Monday, 4 June 2012


Got my ticket for the 1st September showing in Norwich.

And I'm also going to this in a few days time.

Something all Thomas fans will want to go to, for  they've got Mallard, Flying Scotsman, and STEPNEY! (Never acturly seen him yet.) Aswell as Synolda of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, Peter Pan (Luke's basis), Sir Nigel Gresley (Of which I have great memories of seeing with Thomas on the NYMR as a child), City of Truro, and Duchess of Hamilton.