Thomas and the Magic Railroad

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Thomas and the Magic Railroad
Thomas and the magic railroad ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Britt Allcroft
Produced by Britt Allcroft
Phil Fehrle
Written by Britt Allcroft
Based on The Railway Series 
by Rev. W. Awdry
Starring Alec Baldwin
Peter Fonda
Mara Wilson
Eddie Glen
Neil Crone
Narrated by Alec Baldwin
Music by Hummie MannScore & Songs
Mike O'Donnell
Junior Campbell Original Score and Songs
Cinematography Paul Ryan
Edited by Ron Wisman
Production
company
Distributed by Destination Films (USA)
Icon Film Distribution (UK)
Release dates
  • July 14, 2000 (2000-07-14)
(UK)
  • July 26, 2000 (2000-07-26)
(US)
Running time 86 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Canada
Language English
Budget $19 million
Box office $19,748,009

Thomas and the Magic Railroad is a 2000 British-American-Canadian adventure fantasy film based on the British TV series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, The Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry, and the American TV series Shining Time Station. The film was co-produced by Gullane Entertainment (a wholly owned subsidiary of Mattel) and the Isle of Man Film Commission and distributed by Destination Films (a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment).[1] It was written, produced and directed by Britt Allcroft.

When it was first released in the U.K. where critics were unfamiliar with the characters from Shining Time Station, the film was accused of "Americanizing" Thomas.[2] Critical reception in the U.S. was somewhat better, but still mostly negative, in stark contrast to the praise given to the original Shining Time Station, which was an award-winning show.[3][4][5] Since the film's release, various specials based on Thomas & Friends have been released, although they are not directly related to this film. This is Mara Wilson's final film appearance to date.

Plot[edit]

Sir Topham Hatt, the director of the Island of Sodor Railway, is on holiday leaving Mr. Conductor (Alec Baldwin) in charge. Meanwhile, while talking at Killaban station, Thomas (Originally voiced by John Bellis/voiced by Edward Glen) and Gordon (voiced by Neil Crone) encounter an evil and cross diesel locomotive named Diesel 10 (Originally voiced by Keith Scott/Also voiced by Neil Crone), who has a claw on top of him who he names "Pinchy." He states he has incomplete work on Sodor. Meanwhile in Shining Time, Mr. Conductor has his own problems as his supply of gold dust, which allows him to magically teleport from place to place, is running low and isn't enough to allow him to travel back from Sodor.

Later that day, while Thomas and James (Originally voiced by Michael Angelis/voiced by Susan Roman) are at Tidmouth Sheds, Diesel 10 arrives and announces his evil plan to get rid of the steam engines on Sodor once and for all since he had hated them for some reason. Thomas leaves to collect Mr. Conductor, who is now running late and is worried that the journey from Shining Time to Sodor has been getting bumpier and bumpier since 'the lost engine' vanished. Unknown to Mr. Conductor, the 'lost engine', named Lady (voiced by Writer, Director and Show creator, Britt Allcroft), is hidden in a workshop on Muffle Mountain above Shining Time. Lady's aging guardian, Burnett Stone (Peter Fonda), has kept her hidden after Diesel 10's last attempt to destroy her. Despite having rebuilt Lady, Burnett was unable to steam her despite using different types of coal. At night, Diesel 10 attacks the shed where the steam engines are sleeping, but Mr. Conductor repels him with sugar after his gold dust fails him and Diesel 10 quickly retreats.

While talking at Knapford Station, Percy (Also originally voiced by Michael Angelis/voiced by Linda Ballantyne) and Thomas conclude that there is a secret railway between Sodor and Shining Time. Diesel 10 overhears them and goes to the Sodor Ironworks to tell his dim-witted hench-diesels, Splatter (Originally voiced by Patrick Breen/Also voiced by Neil Crone) and Dodge (Also originally voiced by Patrick Breen/voiced by Kevin Frank), of his plans to destroy the lost engine and the other steam engines on Sodor which Mr. Conductor, whose gold dust is running out, won't be able to stop. Toby (voiced by Colm Feore) follows Diesel 10 and overhears his plans of destroying the steam engines. He rings his bell to distract him, causing Diesel 10 to knock the roof of the shed where he, Splatter, and Dodge are in. Later, after the song "Really Useful Engine", Henry (Also voiced by Kevin Frank) has bad coal and Thomas is collecting six special Island of Sodor coal trucks for Henry, but he has five according to Bertie (Also voiced by Kevin Frank) because one rolled away towards the Magic Railroad through the Magic Buffers.

Lily Stone (Mara Wilson), Burnett's granddaughter, is being sent from a big city to visit Burnett on Muffle Mountain. While at the railway station, she meets a dog named Mutt who puts her on the Rainbow Sun, a steam train which goes to Shining Time, instead of the right train. On arriving at Shining Time, she meets Mr. Conductor's lazy cousin Junior (Michael E. Rodgers) and station manager Stacy Jones (Didi Conn) who takes her to Burnett's house. The next day, Lily meets Patch (Cody McMains), who has been helping Burnett look after Lady and takes her on a horse ride to Shining Time where she meets Junior again. Junior takes her through the Magic Railroad to Sodor where they meet Thomas.

Thomas, who has been looking for Mr. Conductor, isn't happy to see Junior but agrees to help Lily and Junior and takes them to the windmill where they find Mr. Conductor, who had been captured by Diesel 10, is looking for more gold dust only to be flung to the windmill after cutting one his claw's hydraulic lines. Junior climbs onto one of the windmill sails and ends up being thrown onto Diesel 10's roof; later that night, Percy finds Splatter and Dodge have located the Sodor entrance to the Magic Railroad in a grotto at the end of an old siding and goes to warn Mr. Conductor, Lily and Thomas.

Thomas agrees to take Lily home to Shining Time and sets off. While travelling through the Magic Railroad, Thomas discovers a missing truck of special Sodor coal, which he collects and arrives at the other end of the Magic Railroad, high on a cliff near the summit of Muffle Mountain. Lily goes to find Burnett, leaving Thomas stranded on the mountain; the wind suddenly picks up and Thomas' coupling comes loose from the truck, causing him to roll down the mountain and into a field where he re-enters the Magic Railroad through another secret portal.

Lily finds Burnett in his workshop, where he shows her Lady and explains his problem in getting her to steam. Lily suggests using Sodor coal; Patch goes back to retrieve the truck and Burnett uses the coal to fire Lady up. Now able to steam, Burnett, Lily, Patch and Mutt take Lady back along the Magic Railroad, regenerating both Lady and the railroad in the process. Lady comments that Burnett had never forgotten about Magic; Thomas then arrives and the two engines return to Sodor where they meet Mr. Conductor and Junior, who had used the last of his gold dust to rescue both himself and James from Diesel 10 at the Ironworks just as he was about to kill them both by pushing them into the big furnace from behind.

Diesel 10 arrives with Splatter and Dodge, who finally decide to stop helping him. Thomas and Lady, driven by Burnett, flee from Diesel 10, chasing them towards a crumbling viaduct. Although Thomas and Lady make it safely across but Diesel 10 however falls off the bridge and lands into a barge of sludge where he is carried away and is taken to somewhere else unknown. Later that evening, Thomas, Lady and Burnett return at the grotto. Lily combines water from a wishing well and shavings from the Magic Railroad to make more gold dust, saving Sodor and Shining Time. Junior decides to go to work on sodor and Mr. Conductor gives him his own cap before sending him to another railway, before leaving himself to welcome Sir Topham Hatt home. Lily, Burnett, Patch and Mutt return to Shining Time, while Thomas happily steams back to Tidmouth to tell the other engines about his encounter with Lady.

Cast[edit]

Live-action actors[edit]

Voice actors[edit]

Actor Role(s)
Eddie Glen Thomas
Linda Ballantyne Percy
Kevin Frank Henry, Bertie, Harold and Dodge
Neil Crone Diesel 10, Gordon, Splatter and the Tumbleweed
Susan Roman James
Colm Feore Toby
Britt Allcroft Lady

Original cast[edit]

Live-action actors[edit]

Voice actors[edit]

Actor Role(s)
John Bellis Thomas
Keith Scott Diesel 10
Patrick Breen Splatter and Dodge (Splodge)
Neil Crone Gordon, the Troublesome Trucks and the Tumbleweed
Kevin Frank Henry, Bertie, Harold and the Troublesome Trucks
Michael Angelis James and Percy
Colm Feore Toby
Britt Allcroft Lady

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

As early as 1994, even prior to the launch of the fourth season of the television series of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, Britt Allcroft planned a Thomas the Tank Engine feature film. Then in 1995, Allcroft was approached by Barry London, then Vice-Chairman of Paramount Pictures, with an idea for a Thomas film. His interest is thought to have stemmed from his daughter, then 3, being enthralled by Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.

In February 1996, Allcroft signed a contract with Paramount Pictures to write a script with the title, Thomas and the Magic Railroad, with a release date of 1997.[6] However when Barry London left Paramount Pictures, plans for the film were shelved by Paramount, leading Allcroft to seek other sources of funding.

Then in the Summer of 1998, Allcroft saw an Isle of Man Film Commission advert. They were offering tax incentives to companies wanting to film on the Island. Allcroft visited and felt the location perfect.

Then in 1999, Barry London became Chairman of the newly founded Destination Films. He renewed his interest in the project and Destination Films became the main financial backer and studio for the film.[7]

Filming[edit]

The movie was filmed at the Strasburg Rail Road in Strasburg, Pennsylvania (United States), as well as in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and on the Isle of Man. Castletown railway station on the Isle of Man Railway formed part of Shining Time Station and the goods shed at Port St Mary railway station became Burnett Stone's workshop. Running shots of the "Indian Valley" train were filmed at the Strasburg Rail Road location. The large passenger station where Lily boards the train is the Harrisburg Transportation Center. Norfolk & Western 4-8-0 475 was repainted as the Indian Valley locomotive.

Sodor was realised using models and chroma key. The models were animated using live action remote control, as on the television series. The model sequences were filmed in Toronto, Canada instead of Shepperton Studios, the "home" of the original TV show; however, several of the show's key staff were flown over to participate. The Magic Railroad was created using models, CGI and water-colored matte paintings.

Original version[edit]

In a 2007 interview, director Britt Allcroft commented the finished film was drastically changed from what it was originally going to be the way she had written it, with the original antagonist P.T. Boomer, (originally played by Doug Lennox) being deleted from the film after the US test audiences said that he was too frightening for the younger audience (but still seen in a number of trailers). Lily Stone (played by Mara Wilson) was supposed to be the narrator of the story.[8] Before filming, Thomas's voice would be provided by John Bellis, a fireman and part-time taxi driver who worked on the film as the Isle of Man transportation co-ordinator and facilities manager. Bellis received the role when he happened to pick up Britt Allcroft and her crew from the airport. According to Allcroft, after hearing him speak for the first time, she told her colleagues, "I have just heard the voice of Thomas. That man is exactly how Thomas would sound!" Bellis accepted the role.[9] Unfortunately he lost the role after a test screening. Audiences in Los Angeles disliked Bellis's voice for Thomas due to his Liverpudlian accent claiming that he made Thomas sound too old. Subsequently, Bellis's role was removed and was replaced by Edward Glen, who gave Thomas a lot more of a youthful-sounding voice. Bellis did receive a credit for his work on the Isle of Man, and his voice can still be heard extensively in one or two of the trailers. Bellis said he was "gutted", but wished the film-makers well. "It was supposed to be my big break, but it hasn't put me off and I am hoping something else will come along. "[10]

Release[edit]

Thomas and the Magic Railroad was released theatrically on July 14, 2000 in the United Kingdom and July 26, 2000 in the United States.

Home media[edit]

Thomas and the Magic Railroad was released onto VHS and DVD on October 31, 2000 (Halloween Day).

Reception[edit]

The film was premièred at the Odeon Leicester Square; for the purpose, a steam locomotive, no. 47298 painted to resemble Thomas, was brought to the cinema by low loader on 9 July 2000.

The film earned $15,748,009 in ticket sales, compared to its $19 million budget. During its second weekend of screening in Britain it only took in £170,000.[11]

Thomas and the Magic Railroad received generally unfavorable reviews from critics.[12] The film has a score of 19% on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus: "Kids these days demand cutting edge special effects or at least a clever plot with cute characters. This movie has neither, having lost in its Americanization what the British original did so right."[13] However, it did receive a positive review from Associated Press and Gannett newspapers. Nell Minow of Common Sense Media also gave the film a positive review, giving it three out of five stars and writing that it "will please [Thomas fans]" but that the plot "might confuse kids".[14] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one star out of four, and wrote "(the fact) That Thomas and the Magic Railroad made it into theaters at all is something of a mystery. This is a production with 'straight to video' written all over it. Kids who like the Thomas books might kinda like it. Especially younger kids. Real younger kids. Otherwise, no." While he admired the models and art direction, he criticized how the engines' mouths didn't move when they spoke, the overly depressed performance of Peter Fonda, as well as the overall lack of consistency in the plot.[15] Although the film received negative reviews, Diesel 10's character was critically acclaimed and is considered one of the best villains in the Thomas the Tank Engine Series. It was also praised for its individual voice actors and Mara Wilson's performance.

Video game[edit]

A video game was released based on the film. Thomas & the Magic Railroad: Print Studio was published by Hasbro Interactive and released for PC on August 25, 2000.

Possible prequel[edit]

HIT revealed that its theatrical division would be piloted by a "Thomas" film. Originally targeted for late-2010 release,[16] in September 2009 this was revised to "Spring 2011".[17] As of January 2011, the release date had been pushed back further to 2012 and the name of the production had still not been announced. The initial draft of the script was written by Josh Klausner who has also said that the film will be set around the times of World War II, Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi also helped write the script. [18] On 8 June 2011, Deadline announced that 9 director Shane Acker will direct the live-action adaptation of Thomas the Tank Engine, with Weta Digital designing the film's visual effects.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.gov.im/ded/iomfilm/pastproductions/magicrailroad.xml
  2. ^ Elley, Derek (15 July 2000). "Thomas and the Magic Railroad". Variety. 
  3. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098910/awards
  4. ^ "Thomas And The Magic Railroad". Daily Mail (London). 
  5. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/07/13/thomas_magic_railroad_review.shtml
  6. ^ Thomas makes tracks for a fat-free run along Hollywood lines.Alexandra Frean Media Correspondent. The Times, Thursday, February 22, 1996; pg. 9
  7. ^ "SiF: About the Magic Railroad". Retrieved 06/08/13.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  8. ^ http://www.sodor-island.net/themagicrailroadminisite/brittallcroftmagicrailroad.html
  9. ^ "Thomas finds his voice". BBC News. 16 July 1998. 
  10. ^ "Hollywood vetoes Liverpool accent as voice of Thomas the Tank Engine". The Independent (London). April 29, 2000. Retrieved 27 November 2007. [dead link]
  11. ^ Guardian Wednesday, July 26, 2000 P22, In house stocks, Go off Menu
  12. ^ http://www.metacritic.com/movie/thomas-and-the-magic-railroad/critic-reviews
  13. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/thomas_and_the_magic_railroad/
  14. ^ http://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/thomas-and-magic-railroad
  15. ^ "Thomas And The Magic Railroad". Chicago Sun-Times. 26 July 2000. 
  16. ^ Hayes, Dade (3 March 2009). "Hit Entertainment gets into movie biz". Variety. 
  17. ^ "Hit Entertainment's Hit Movies Division Begins Development Of First Feature Film Based on the Adventures of Thomas and Friends". HIT Entertainment. 30 September 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  18. ^ "Thomas Theatrical Film Pushed Back AGAIN!". (Thomas news). Sodor Island. 5 January 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  19. ^ Fleming, Mike. "'9' Helmer Shane Acker Boards Feature Based on the Thomas The Tank Engine Toys". Deadline.com. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 

External links[edit]