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 byBritt Allcroft
Based on The Railway Series
by The Rev. W. Awdry
Starring
Music by Hummie Mann
CinematographyPaul Ryan
Edited byRon Wisman
Production
company
Distributed by
Release date
  • July 9, 2000 (2000-07-09)(Odeon Leicester Square)
  • July 14, 2000 (2000-07-14)(United Kingdom)
  • July 26, 2000 (2000-07-26)(United States)
Running time
85 minutes
Country
  • United Kingdom [1]
  • United States [1]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$19 million
Box office$19.7 million [2]

Thomas and the Magic Railroad is a 2000 British-American fantasy comedy film written, produced and directed by Britt Allcroft. The film stars Alec Baldwin as Mr. Conductor, Peter Fonda, Mara Wilson, Didi Conn, Russell Means, Cody McMains, Michael E. Rodgers, and Eddie Glen as the voice of Thomas. The film is based on the British children's book series The Railway Series by The Rev. W. Awdry, its televised adaptation Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends , and the American television series Shining Time Station by Britt Allcroft and Rick Siggelkow. It was co-produced by Gullane Pictures and the Isle of Man Film Commission. It was distributed by Destination Films in the United States, Icon Film Distribution in the United Kingdom, and ABC Films in Australia. The film tells the story of Lily Stone, the granddaughter of the caretaker of an enchanted steam engine who is lacking an appropriate supply of coal, and Mr. Conductor of Shining Time Station, whose provisions of magical gold dust are at a critical low. To ameliorate these problems, Lily and Mr. Conductor enlist the help of Thomas, who confronts the ruthless and devious Diesel 10 who plans to get rid of the railway's steam engines along the way.

Contents

Plans for an original Thomas and Friends film started with Paramount Pictures but did not pull through. Shortly afterward, Destination Films began funding for the film and started production in 1998. [3] Filming took place at the Strasburg Railroad, Toronto, Canada, and the Isle of Man. It held its world premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square in the United Kingdom on July 9, 2000. The film was condemned by critics, mainly from US upon release, with criticism directed towards the acting, plot, special effects, and lack of fidelity towards the source material. [4] [5] [6] It was also nearly a box office bomb, grossing $19.7 million worldwide against a production budget of $19 million, but still continues with it's merchandising.

Due to the film's performance, Allcroft was forced to resign from her company in September 2000. [7] HiT Entertainment acquired the company two years later, including the television rights to Thomas. [8]

Plot

Sir Topham Hatt and his family have left the Island of Sodor on holiday, leaving Mr. Conductor, the owner of Shining Time Station, in charge of the engines. Gordon complains to Thomas, when Diesel 10 races by, scaring both engines. Meanwhile, in Shining Time, Mr. Conductor is suffering a crisis; his supply of magic gold dust is alarmingly low and not enough for him to travel back from Sodor. At Tidmouth Sheds, Thomas is talking to James, when Diesel 10 arrives and announces his plan to rid Sodor of steam engines by finding and destroying Lady, the lost engine, the key to steam engines living in peace. Thomas leaves to collect Mr. Conductor. Lady is hidden in a workshop on Muffle Mountain after Diesel 10's previous attempt to destroy her. Lady is unable to steam despite trying all of the coals in Indian Valley. That night, Diesel 10 approaches the shed where the steam engines are sleeping, and destroys the side of it with his claw. Mr. Conductor tries to keep him in order, but the gold dust fails and Mr. Conductor scares Diesel 10 away by threatening to pour a bag of sugar in his fuel tanks.

Burnett's granddaughter, Lily Stone, is visiting her grandfather. She meets a dog called Mutt at the railway station. At the sheds, the steam engines express their concerns about diesels to Mr. Conductor, unaware that Diesel 10's oafish diesel minions Splatter and Dodge are spying on them. Lily meets Mr. Conductor's cousin Junior and Stacy Jones before she is taken to Burnett's house. Mr. Conductor calls Junior to help him with his gold dust crisis. While talking at Knapford that night, Percy and Thomas conclude there is a secret railway between Sodor and Shining Time. After spying on their conversation and hearing everything, Diesel 10 goes to the Ironworks to tell Splatter and Dodge of his plans to destroy Lady and the other steam engines. Observing this, Toby distracts Diesel 10 by ringing his bell, causing Diesel 10 to knock one of the supports out from the shed with his claw, which collapses the roof on top of them. The next morning, Thomas collects six coal trucks for Henry, and one of them accidentally rolls through the buffers that lead to the secret railway. Later that day, Mr. Conductor is ambushed by Diesel 10, who scoops him up with his claw and threatens to drop Mr. Conductor off a viaduct unless he divulges the location of the buffers. Before Diesel 10 can drop him, Mr. Conductor cuts one of the claw's fuel lines with a pair of tin snips, and is thrown free. He lands at the Sodor windmill, where he finds a clue to the source of the gold dust.

Lily meets Patch, who takes her to Shining Time, where she meets Junior again. Junior takes her through the Magic Railroad to Sodor, where they meet Thomas. Thomas is not happy to see Junior, but agrees to help him and Lily and takes them to the Windmill, where they find Mr. Conductor. Junior climbs onto one of the sails and is thrown onto Diesel 10's roof. Later that night, Percy finds that Splatter and Dodge have found the Sodor entrance to the Magic Railroad and goes to warn Thomas. Thomas agrees to take Lily home. While traveling through the Magic Railroad, Thomas discovers the missing coal truck, which he collects. Lily goes to find Burnett, leaving Thomas stranded. Thomas rolls down the mountain and re-enters the Magic Railroad through another secret portal.

Lily finds Burnett in his workshop and he explains the problem getting Lady to steam. Lily suggests using a special coal from Sodor. Patch retrieves the truck and Burnett uses the coal to fire Lady. Now steaming, Lady takes Burnett, Lily, Patch and Mutt along the Magic Railroad. Thomas arrives and the two engines return to Sodor, where they meet Mr. Conductor and Junior. Diesel 10 arrives with Splatter and Dodge, who decide to stop helping him. Diesel 10 chases Lady, but Thomas races between them, heading towards the viaduct. Thomas and Lady both make it safely across, but the viaduct collapses under Diesel 10's weight, and he falls and lands onto a barge filled with sludge.

Thomas, Lady and Burnett return to the grotto; Lily combines water from a wishing well and shavings from the Magic Railroad to make more gold dust. Junior decides to go to work on Sodor and Mr. Conductor gives him his cap before sending him to another railway. Lily, Burnett, Patch and Mutt return to Shining Time, and Lady returns to the Magic Railroad while Thomas travels home into the sunset.

Cast

Voices

Live-action

Production

Development

In the early 1990s, the character of Thomas the Tank Engine – adapted from the Rev. W. Awdry's Railway Series into the TV series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends , created by Britt Allcroft – was at the height of his popularity following three successful series. At the same time, Shining Time Station – an American series that combined episodes from the previous series with original live-action characters and scenarios, also created by Allcroft along with Rick Siggelkow – was made, and also successful. As early as 1994, prior to the launch of Thomas's fourth series, Britt Allcroft had plans to make a feature film based on both of these series, and would make use of the model trains from Thomas and the live-action aesthetic of Shining Time Station. [3]

In February 1996, Britt Allcroft was approached by Barry London, then vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures, with an idea for the Thomas film. Britt signed a contract to write the script for the film with the working title Thomas and the Magic Railroad. London's interest is thought to have stemmed from his three-year-old daughter, who was enthralled by Thomas. According to a press release, filming was to take place at Shepperton Studios, in the United Kingdom and the United States, with the theatrical release date set for 1997. However, later that year, after London left the company, Paramount shelved the plans for the film. This left Allcroft to seek other sources of funding. Discussions with PolyGram about the film were held, but not for long, because of the company being in the middle of a corporate restructuring and sale. [3]

In the Summer of 1998, during Series 5 of Thomas's production, 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 that the location was perfect. During that year, Barry London became Chairman of the newly founded Destination Films (owned by Sony Pictures). He renewed his interest in the project, and Destination Films became the main financial backer and studio for the film. [3]

Casting

John Bellis was originally attached to voice Thomas, but was replaced by Canadian actor Edward Glen. Ewan McGregor and Bob Hoskins, had also expressed interest for the role. [9] Michael Angelis was original cast to voice James and Percy, but was later replaced by voice actresses Susan Roman and Linda Ballantyne. Keith Scott was originally planned to voice Diesel 10, but was later replaced by Neil Crone in the final film. Patrick Breen was originally set to voice both Splatter and Dodge, but was eventually replaced by both Kevin Frank and Neil Crone.

Filming

Principal photography began on August 2, 1999, and wrapped on October 15 of that same year. [10] 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 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 Railway was created using models, CGI, and water-coloured matte paintings.

Original version

In a 2007 interview, director Britt Allcroft revealed that the theatrical release was drastically changed from what it was originally going to be the way she had written it, with original antagonist P.T. Boomer (played by Doug Lennox) being removed from the film because audiences at the Los Angeles preview screenings considered the character too scary for young children. [11]

Lily Stone (played by Mara Wilson) was intended to be the narrator of the story. [12] Before filming, Thomas's voice was 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. [13] However, after audiences did not react positively to his voice for Thomas, Bellis was replaced by Edward Glen. 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." Michael Angelis, who at the time was the UK narrator for the Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends television series, was originally cast as the voices of both James and Percy, but the audiences considered his voice too old for the characters, who were subsequently recast with Susan Roman and Linda Ballantyne respectively. Keith Scott originally voiced Diesel 10, but believes he was replaced because his portrayal was too scary for young children. [11]

Music and soundtrack

Thomas and the Magic Railroad Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedAugust 1, 2000
Length48:19
Label Unforscene Music Ltd. / Nettwerk

Thomas and the Magic Railroad is a soundtrack released on both CD and cassette on August 1, 2000. It features twelve music tracks from the feature film composed by Hummie Mann.

Track listing
No.TitleArtistLength
1."He's a Really Useful Engine" Steven Page 1:32
2."Shining Time" Neil Donell 3:18
3."Shining Time (Reprise)" Maren Ord 3:18
4."I Know How The Moon Must Feel" Dayna Manning 3:22
5."Some Things Never Leave You" Joe Henry 2:57
6."Summer Sunday"
  • Dominic Gibbeson
  • Dominic Goundar
  • Rob Jenkins
  • Gerard McLachlan
  • Ben Wright
2:59
7."The Locomotion" Atomic Kitten 3:54
8."Main Title" 3:32
9."Lily Travels to the Island of Sodor" 4:33
10."Burnett and Lady/Diesel 10 and Splodge" 3:28
11."Diesel 10 Threatens Mr. C/Lily & Patch" 4:25
12."Through the Magic Buffers" 6:36
13."The Chase, the Clue and the Happy Ending" 7:43

Release

Thomas and the Magic Railroad was released theatrically on July 14, 2000 in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and July 26, 2000 in the United States and Canada. The film was also released in Australia on December 14, 2000, and in New Zealand on April 7, 2001. The film premiered 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 July 9, 2000. National press coverage was low, as many journalists were concentrating on the launch of the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire book, for which a special train called "Hogwarts Express" would run on July 8–11. [14] [15] [16]

Home media

Thomas and the Magic Railroad was released onto VHS and DVD on October 19, 2000 in the United Kingdom by Warner Home Video, and in the United States on October 31, 2000 [17] [18] by Columbia TriStar Home Video. [nb 1] In 2007, the film was released as part of a double feature with The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland . [20] It was also released as part of a triple feature with The Adventures of Milo and Otis and The Bear. [21]

Reception

Critical response

Thomas and the Magic Railroad has an approval rating of 21% on Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 68 critics, with an average rating of 3.97/10. The site's critical consensus stated: "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." [22] Metacritic gives the film a score of 19 out of 100, based on reviews from 23 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike". [23]

Nell Minow of Common Sense Media gave the film three out of five stars and writing that it "will please [Thomas fans]" but that the plot "might confuse kids". [24] 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's mouths did not move when they spoke, the overly depressed performance of Peter Fonda, as well as the overall lack of consistency in the plot. [25]

William Thomas of Empire was critical of the films special effects, stating, "But, believe it or not, the true villains of the piece are, in fact, the 'special' effects. Quite how – in today's era of slo-mo and seamless digital wizardry – such a shoddy result can have been achieved is anyone's guess. With clunky bluescreen, spot-a-mile-off matte work and an absolute lack of synergy between real-life and animated action, it all conspires to provide an appropriately amateur sheen." [26]

Plugged In stated, "While the animation maintains its simple appearance, the plot is anything but simple. And that's not good news for the many tots who make up the majority of Thomas' audience. Switching back and forth between Shining Time and Sodor, interweaving two relatively complex story lines, may confuse more than it challenges. Parents may well find that their children are squirming in their seats long before Thomas rides his magic rails into the sunset. That said, and the magic notwithstanding, tikes who do manage to grasp the complex story lines, and can sit still for an hour and a half, will learn good lessons about friendship, courage, hard work and being kind." [27]

Box office

The film grossed $19.7 million worldwide. [2] During its second weekend of screening in Britain, it took in £170,000. [28]

In other media

Video game

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

Future

Cancelled sequel and spin-off film

On July 1, 2000, it was reported that Destination Films began development on a sequel, but was quietly cancelled. [29]

Calling All Engines! , a 2005 direct-to-video special and a spin off of the TV series, was produced by HIT Entertainment and released in 2005.

Possible reboot

HiT said that its theatrical division would be piloted by a Thomas film. Originally targeted for a late 2010 release, [30] in September 2009 this was revised to Spring 2011. [31] As of January 2011, the release date had been pushed back further, to 2012. The initial draft of the script was written by Josh Klausner, who has also said that the film would be set around the times of World War II; Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi also helped write the script. [32] On June 8, 2011, Deadline announced that 9 director Shane Acker would direct the live-action adaptation of The Adventures of Thomas, with Weta Digital designing the film's visual effects. [33]

Notes

  1. Renamed Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment in April 2001, then Sony Pictures Home Entertainment between November 2004 [19] and March 2005.

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