Thomas and the Magic Railroad
Thomas and the Magic Railroad is an 2000 British-American adventure fantasy film based on the British TV series Thomas & Friends, The Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry, and the American TV series Shining Time Station. This was the first Thomas the Tank Engine feature-length movie. When the film was released, it received overwhelming negative reviews from critics and fans alike because of the acting, special effects, absence of Thomas, the underdevelopment of the human cast, the movie's plot and lack of fidelity to the source material. The movie's budget was $19 million and grossed $19.7 million, making it somewhat successful.
Mr. Conductor's supply of magic gold dust, which allows him to travel between Shining Time and the Island of Sodor, is running low. Unfortunately, he doesn't know how to get more. Meanwhile, Thomas and his friends are fending off attacks by the nefarious Diesel 10 on Sodor. Getting more gold dust will require help from Mr. Conductor's slacker cousin, his new friend Lilly and her morose grandfather, plus the secret engine he's hidden for all these years.
- False advertising for 2 reasons:
- The biggest problem with this movie and why it got hugely brought down is that the title is incredibly misleading. While Thomas is the title character in this movie, he gets very little screen-time with only 11 minutes (and also his Friends), and only 12% of the film focuses on him. In fact, the movie could be written without him and nothing would change, as the movie focuses more on the human characters, both original and from Shining Time Station, rather than Thomas and his Friends. Here's a video showing how little screen-time he gets compared to 85 minutes in the movie.
- One of the trailers shows P.T. Boomer included in the scene were Diesel 10 falls off the viaduct as it's collapsing, but he never appears anytime in the movie due to him being cut from the final product after the trailer aired. (See BQ#5)
- Thomas himself also doesn't get a lot of character development, resulting in him coming off as underdeveloped and difficult to relate to. Eddie Glen's voice while tolerable, doesn't help either.
- Speaking of Thomas' friends, Edward, one of Thomas' closest friends, is absent in this movie. This infuriated fans because he was the first engine in The Railway Series. This absence was due to Edward's model not being finished on time, hinting that this movie was another case of being rushed.
- Poorly written, underdeveloped and uninteresting characters (mostly the human cast). Mr. Conductor (Alec Baldwin) and Junior (Michael E. Rodgers) are fine, but the rest of the live-action cast isn't that good.
- While the acting is alright, it still has its share of issues:
- Peter Fonda sounds and looks really depressed and unenthusiastic in almost every scene he's in.
- Lily (Mara Wilson's character) is a generic, clichéd, uninteresting, bland, and boring character who not only takes away the spotlight for Thomas the Tank Engine, but she also painfully underacts, with her mouth appearing to never be closed. Her acting could actually be comparable to that of Freddie Highmore in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory In fact, this was her final film role before she stepped away from acting to focus on her writing career (though she has since returned for minor roles in television and web shows).
- Didi Conn does a fine job reprising her role as Stacey Jones from Shining Time Station, though she only appears for a few minutes. However, in the dream sequence where she's in a deserted Shining Time, Didi sounds like she's reading off a cue card dangling from the camera.
- James' voice given by Susan Roman is just awful. It sounds way too feminine and unfitting for him being a male character. In fact, her voice makes James sound so feminine, it makes Veronica Taylor and Sarah Natochenny who voice Ash Ketchum from Pokémon, Nancy Cartwright who voices Bart from The Simpsons, and Debi Derryberry who voices Jimmy Neutron look bad in comparison. He was originally going to be voiced by Michael Angelis (the UK narrator for the series at the time), but test audiences said he sounded “too old,” as mentioned below.
- The movie was heavily altered due to negative feedback from test audiences, with many of these alterations negatively impacting the movie's quality.
- The removal of P.T. Boomer, the film's original main antagonist. He was cut due to test audiences finding him too scary for younger viewers, but parts of his character were handed over to Diesel 10.
- Removal of characters, the first being Cranky, who was going to have a small appearance in the movie. Most of his scenes would feature him knocking stuff over onto Diesel 10, Splatter, and Dodge.
- Another character who was cut out was George the Steamroller, who was originally cast as one of Diesel 10's henchmen. Most of his scenes would've featured him destroying buffers in which he wanted to destroy the ones connected to the magic railroad. At the end of the movie, he would have redeemed himself by blocking Splatter and Dodge's way with a boulder.
- Incorrect Voice actor changes for Thomas and his Friends (with the exception of Lady who is voiced by Britt Allcroft). All voiced by Canadians despite Thomas & Friends being a British children's television series. While many of the final film's voice actors are suitable enough for their characters and are mostly decent, James did not get lucky on this end. He and Percy were originally going to be voiced by the show's narrator for the UK dub of Seasons 3-16, the late Michael Angelis, but he was swapped out for Susan Roman and Linda Ballantyne, respectively, because of complaints about Angelis' voice sounding too old for the characters. Percy's final voice is decent and makes some sense since he's the youngest of the Steam Team, but James' final voice ended up sounding way too feminine for him.
- Diesel 10's original voice actor, Keith Scott, ended up getting replaced by Neil Crone because of test audiences considering his voice too scary for younger viewers.
- Despite Neil Crone getting the role, he at first tried giving Diesel 10 a gruff-Russian accent, but the test audiences thought he would sound offensive, so instead he gave Diesel 10 more of a New Jersey accent, which at least the current voice sounds better for Diesel 10.
- Plot holes and unexplained details resulting from scenes being cut that were "too confusing for both critics and audiences. (See the Trivia section). Some of them included the reason why Diesel 10 came to Sodor, why Tidmouth Sheds looks like it's under repair and Burnett Stone (played by Peter Fonda) telling P.T. Boomer during the climactic chase scene "No you won't, because the magic you refused to believe in will get the better of you!" He says this to Diesel 10 in the final version, which creates a massive plot hole because Diesel 10 does believe in magic).
- The film is a crossover of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and Shining Time Station, but the fact that Shining Time Station is not explained well and said show never aired in the UK is confusing for UK viewers. The show never aired on ITV, or even the BBC for that matter (1995 documentary of The Railway Series aside).
- Not only that, but even US viewers who are familiar with the show would find that it isn't very well represented in the movie. The film only has three of the major Shining Time Station characters, these being Stacey Jones, Mr. Conductor, and Billy Twofeathers, of which only Stacey's actress (Didi Conn) reprises her role from the series, with Alec Baldwin succeeding George Carlin as Mr. Conductor (himself succeeding Ringo Starr in the role) and the late Russell Means replacing Tom Jackson as Billy Twofeathers. The station's interior, a new set made for the movie, is similar but not quite the same as that seen in the series. Otherwise, there are very few elements from Shining Time Station, so the movie could just as easily be considered Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends featured in a generic train station in a town story.
- Shining Time is a combination of areas filmed in the US, Canada, and the Isle of Man, which don't mesh together very well.
- One of the songs in the movie, "I Know How the Moon Must Feel" is exactly the same, in the movie version.
- Mediocre to sub-par editing. For example, P.T Boomer, the original villain, can still be seen in some shots on top of Diesel 10 in figurine form.
- While the He's a Really Useful Engine musical number by Hummie Mann is nice, It's set to a very pointless montage of Thomas and his Friends doing stuff, and what makes this weird is that there are zero humans like drivers, firemen passengers and workman to load their Trucks/Freight Cars.
- Also depite being a song about Thomas, it's really misleading because more than half the clips are of his friends rather than him and thus the Mediocre to sub-par editing.
- The Island of Sodor is portrayed by model dioramas, with model vehicles and scenery, just as it is in Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, which looks painfully fake and out of place when the live-action characters are present on the island.
- The engines on Sodor do not have drivers or firemen, who are needed to run the engines in the television series. (There was even an episode where Thomas thought he could do his job without a driver and ended up crashing into a house.) In fact, Sodor appears to be completely devoid of any humans, except for the model figures in Bertie, which raises many questions.
- Lady, a magical engine, requires a driver to move, and that driver is Burnett Stone.
- Bertie the Bus also has a driver inside him, but only a model figure of him, which is really weird considering all the other human characters are portrayed by live actors.
- There are several flaws on Sodor, such as several trains without brake-vans, Thomas seemingly doing whatever he wants rather than working on his branch-line and Henry needing special coal (this issue had long been rectified in the series). Series fans have often criticized HiT Entertainment, who acquired the franchise two years after the movie was made, for these issues.
- Clumsy dialogue, such as "Well, my lady, the lights are all green for you now. Green for glory.".
- Generic Ending.
- The film somewhat deviates from both shows. Magic is never shown in Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and Shining Time Station, as said shows are meant to be realistic, with a few exceptions.
- Some important characters from both Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and Shining Time Station are absent.
- As mentioned before, Edward, one of the main characters of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends is absent in this film because it was felt that there wasn't enough screen-time for him and his model wasn't finished in time.
- Most of the Shining Time Station characters are absent, as described above, not the least of which being Horace Schemer, the show's breakout character. This is somewhat understandable since his actor, Brian O'Connor, retired from acting in the mid-1990s.
- The scene where Diesel 10 tries to literally kill James by attempting to push him into a foundry vat at the Scrapyard can be way too dark for a G-rated film.
- The green-screen effects are awful and clearly visible on many occasions.
- Because Thomas and his friends get very little screen-time in the film and the fact that Shining Time Station takes up the majority of it, there's absolutely no point to them at all other than being used for filler (with the exception of Thomas and Diesel 10).
- This also applies to Splatter and Dodge, who seem to do absolutely nothing to the plot, other than being used for filler, rather than being Diesel 10's quote on quote henchman.
- Although Shining Time Station takes up most of the screen time, there are very few familiar elements from that show, as described in #5 above. The movie actually has more familiar characters and elements from Thomas & Friends.
- You'd think that because it's a movie, and they had a higher budget, they could increase the quality of the cameras, but that didn't happen. It's quite surprising, because the movie had enough of a budget to do so.
- It practically doesn't have any impact on the Thomas & Friends franchise as a whole, as of all of it's events are ignored nor mentioned in the show ever again; its main contributions to the story are the defeat of Diesel 10, Mr. Conductor and Junior getting their gold dust back and the Lady being restored again thanks to Henry's special coal, but even so, Thomas and the Magic Railroad can be ignored. You can still watch Thomas & Friends, ignoring Thomas and the Magic Railroad, and anything important would not be missed. Thomas and his Friends seem to ignore Lily, Burnett Stone, the rest of Shining Time characters and The Magic Railroad after this film and none of them ever bring them up.
- Sparkle sparkle sparkle.
- Despite Thomas' friends being used for filler, the introduction scene to him and his friends in this movie are great, and the interactions are not too bad despite being pure filler, with Diesel 10 perhaps being the best of the new engines. He, Splatter, and Dodge are entertaining villains, despite Splatter and Dodge being filler and having no purpose in the storyline. It does show to be a good movie for kids to get to know Thomas the Tank Engine.
- The climactic chase scene involving Thomas, Lady, Diesel 10 and Burnett Stone is epic, despite the massive hole of what Burnett say's to Diesel 10.
- This film managed to be the very first time that the engines are given actors for the very first time. Though, they don't have them again until 2009 with "Hero of the Rails".
- While it has it's bad (or average) parts for the acting, the acting and voice acting are decent for the most part. Thomas and Percy's voices are tolerable, but Gordon, Splatter, Dodge, Henry, Lady, Harold, Diesel 10, Bertie, Toby, Annie and Clarabel have the best voices in the entire movie. Even Alec Baldwin had a ball working on the film, despite his overacting. Out of all of the performances, it is safe to say that Diesel 10's voice (given by Neil Crone) is the best in the movie.
- Burnett Stone has a very touching backstory that gives out a pretty good reason for why is he depressed for most of the movie.
- While a bit out of place and misleading, the movie's poster does look cool and gives out a somewhat magical vibe.
- Beautiful soundtrack composed by Hummie Mann. The one big highlight includes the cover of "He's a Really Useful Engine", originally composed by Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell.
- There are some pretty funny moments here and there, such as:
- The scene where Harold the Helicopter accidentally blows sneezing powder on Thomas, Splatter, and Dodge.
- The scene where Mr. Conductor talks to a toy ball and a baseball bat.
- Many of Diesel 10's moments, especially in one scene where he wants to show everyone "How to stop being stupid", only for him to get his comeuppance.
- The changing facial expressions on Sir Topham Hatt's office portrait when Mr. Conductor fools around by wearing his top hat for several seconds.
- Mr. Conductor's cousin, Junior (played by Michael E. Rodgers), is a pretty funny and interesting comic relief character.
- While only the script and little footage of it exists, the original director's cut is far superior.
- Thankfully, the lost footage scenes, and shots have finally appeared in the Blu-ray version in 2020.
- Sir Topham Hatt and Lady Hatt are mentioned and we even see a picture of Lady Hatt, taken from Season 5's "Sir Topham Hatt's Holiday".
- The reason for Sir Topham Hatt not being in charge of his railway is simple: he was away on holiday and asked Mr. Conductor to look after the railway for him.
- Had Britt Allcroft and her crew been given more time to work on this movie, or at the very least rewritten the movie to refocus more on Thomas and his friends than Shining Time Station, this could've ended up on the Greatest Movies Wiki (even though it still wouldn't have aged well).
- The movie also would've been a little better if they didn't call it Thomas and the Magic Railroad, unless if elements from Shining Time Station are added. But to be fair, Shining Time Station does take up more of the screen-time more than Thomas and his friends. So it would make more sense to be called something like: Shining Time Station: the Magic Railroad. Which would've been a easily better title for this movie because really, it focuses more on Shining Time Station, rather than Thomas and his friends. So it would make sense to give it a title like that.
- According to the TTTE Wiki, the movie's version of "Really Useful Engine" got translated into French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Indonesian, Arabic, Catalan, Czech, etc.
- Just like Barney's Great Adventure, some Thomas fans might enjoy this movie, and still would during childhood. It goes to show like every other movie considered average or had a majorly diverse reception among critics and other fans, this film has its fans.
- The Japanese dub is excellent, which can be found here. What's even noticeable is that Leo Morimito is the narrator instead of Mr. Conductor.
As of December 2015, Thomas and the Magic Railroad had an approval rating of 21% on RWW based on reviews from 67 critics, with an average rating of 3.9/10. 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 originally did so right." Metacritic gives the film a score of 19 out of 100, based on reviews from 23 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike".
The film grossed $19.7 million worldwide. During it's second weekend of screening in Britain it took in £170,000.
- The film had two dubs in Latin America; Thomas y el Ferrocarril Mágico (which is a literal translation of the original name and was the one released in theaters and home media), and Thomas y el Tren Mágico (which means Thomas and the Magic Train and was a made-for-TV dub). There's also another title from an extremely rare American Spanish VHS called "Thomas y la Via de Tren Magica", but it is unknown if its another Latin Spanish dub or just a VHS release of the theatrical dub.
- After the film was released in cinemas, there were many scenes that were removed from the film for various reasons, with a couple of them even passing into urban legend-like status, prior of one of them finally being shown in public:
- The original antagonist was Pete Tiberius Boomer (also known as P.T. Boomer), played by late Canadian actor Doug Lennox, who was known for his role as Albert the Bartender from the X-Men films and Dirtbag from Police Academy. Boomer was heavily featured in the trailers, but he was removed from the theatrical release and Diesel 10 was made the main antagonist. This was a call purely based on young test audiences getting scared by Boomer, so all of his scenes were cut and even re-dubbed without mentioning him.
- P.T. Boomer has become so popular with the fans that, after footage was found of the original chase scene on YouTube, fans made a ton of fanart of him, even paying tribute to Lennox when he passed away on November 28, 2015.
- Some voice actors of the engines that were featured in the trailers never appeared in the film and were replaced, like John Bellis (an fireman and part-time taxi driver) as Thomas, due to the test audiences thinking that he sounded too old, and Keith Scott as Diesel 10 (who is best known as the Narrator from Disney's George of the Jungle and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle). Like Boomer, he was deemed too frightening for young children, then it was changed to another actor with a Russian accent. The audiences was worried that it sounded too offensive, so then they replaced him with another voice actor who had a New Jersey accent.
- There are some characters are never appeared in the film, such as Edward the Blue Engine, where he was one of Thomas's friends, Cranky the Crane, who dropped an oil drum on Diesel 10, and George the Steamroller, who was Diesel 10's lackey and tried to ram the Magic Railroad's buffers.
- The original footage of the movie became so popular with the Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends fans, that they wanted to see the director's cut version of the movie. If you want to find out about the history of the film, you can check and join on the Lost Media Wiki, Sodor Island, Restore The Magic's Facebook, and the official Thomas and the Magic Railroad wiki.
- A sequel has been planned for this film but due to the failure of this film, it was cancelled and no other worldwide theatrical Thomas films have been released, though there are some other theatrical appearances of Thomas like the specials, some rail excursions and the 2015 film Ant-Man featured a memorable appearance of a Bachmann model of Thomas. Diesel 10 and Lady would appear in later future direct-to-DVD films such as Calling All Engines (Which was the only one that Lady appeared in), The Great Discovery, Misty Island Rescue, and Day of the Diesels. Diesel 10 would appear in one episode of the seventeenth series.