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Thomas and the Magic Railroad is a 2000 British-American children's fantasy adventure film based on the British children's book series The Railway Series by The Rev. W. Awdry, its televised adaptation Thomas & Friends by Britt Allcroft, and the American television series Shining Time Station by Allcroft and Rick Siggelkow.

The film was co-produced by Gullane Entertainment and the Isle of Man Film Commission and distributed by Destination Films (a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment). It was written, produced and directed by Britt Allcroft (who created both of the previous TV series).

As of October 2020, a second live-action/animated untitled Thomas & Friends film is in development at Mattel, with Marc Forster serving as director.

Plot

Sir Topham Hatt is on holiday, leaving Mr. Conductor in charge. Meanwhile, while talking at Killaban, Thomas and Gordon encounter Diesel 10. Meanwhile, in Shining Time, Mr. Conductor has his own problems as his supply of gold dust is running low and not enough to allow him to travel back from Sodor.

Later that day, while Thomas and James are at Tidmouth Sheds, Diesel 10 arrives and announces his evil plan to get rid of the steam engines on Sodor; Thomas leaves to collect Mr. Conductor. The 'lost engine', named Lady, is hidden in a workshop on Muffle Mountain. Burnett Stone has kept her hidden after Diesel 10's last attempt to destroy her.

Despite having rebuilt Lady, Burnett is 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, Percy 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 Splatter and Dodge of his plans to destroy the lost engine and the other steam engines on Sodor. Toby rings his bell to distract him, causing Diesel 10 to knock the roof of the shed. Later, Henry has a bad cold, so Thomas collects six special coal trucks for him, but he only has five according to Bertie, because one rolled through the Magic Buffers.

Lily Stone is being sent from a big city to visit Burnett on Muffle Mountain. While at the railway station, she meets Mutt, who puts her on the Rainbow Sun instead of the right train. On arriving at Shining Time, she meets Junior and Stacy Jones, who takes her to Burnett's house. The next day, Lily meets Patch, who 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 is not happy to see Junior, but agrees to help Lily and Junior and takes them to the windmill where they find Mr. Conductor. Junior climbs onto one of the windmill sails and ends up being thrown onto Diesel 10's roof; later that night, Percy finds that Splatter and Dodge have located the Sodor entrance to the Magic Railroad and goes to warn Thomas.

Thomas agrees to take Lily home to Shining Time and sets off. While travelling through the Magic Railroad, Thomas discovers the missing coal truck, which he collects and arrives at Muffle Mountain. Lily goes to find Burnett, leaving Thomas stranded on the mountain, but as the wind picks up, Thomas rolls down the mountain and 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 and when Patch goes back to retrieve the truck, 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. Thomas then arrives and the two engines return to Sodor where they meet Mr. Conductor and Junior.

Diesel 10 arrives with Splatter and Dodge, who abruptly decide to stop helping him. Thomas and Lady, driven by Burnett, flee from Diesel 10, chasing them towards a crumbling viaduct. Thomas and Lady both make it safely across, and as Diesel 10 approaches, he applies his brakes, but it is too late and he falls off the bridge and lands into a barge filled with sludge.

That evening, 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 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 home into the sunset.

Cast

Live-Action Actors

  • Alec Baldwin as Mr. Conductor and the Narrator
  • Peter Fonda as Burnett Stone
  • Jared Wall as Young Burnett
  • Mara Wilson as Lily Stone
  • Michael E. Rodgers as C. Junior (Credited as "Mr. C. Junior")
  • Cody McMains as Patch
  • Robert Tinkler as Older Patch (uncredited)
  • Didi Conn as Stacy Jones
  • Russell Means as Billy Twofeathers
  • Lori Hallier as Mrs. Stone (credited as "Lily's Mother")
  • Laura Bower as Tasha Stone (credited as "Young Tasha")
  • Doug Lennox as P. T. Boomer (uncredited, scenes deleted)
  • Mike Stoklasa as Juggler (uncredited)

Voice Actors

Production

Development

In the early 1990s, the character of Thomas the Tank Engine (adapted from the Rev. W. Awdry’s Railway Series into a TV series called "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends" created by Britt Allcroft) was at the height of his popularity following three successful series.

At the same time, a live-action American series "Shining Time Station" (which was also created by Allcroft along with Rick Siggelkow) was made and was also successful.

As early as 1994 (prior to the launch of the Series 4 of Thomas), Allcroft had the plan to make a feature film based on both these series. It was to be a combination between the model trains used in Thomas and live-action from "Shining Time Station."

By 1995, Allcroft was approached by Barry London (then vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures) with an idea for the Thomas film. His interest is thought to have stemmed from his 3 year old daughter who was enthralled by Thomas. The film was to be released in 1997.

However, Paramount shelved the plans for the film after Barry London left the company in February 1996. 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.

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 the location perfect.

By 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.

Filming

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.

Uncut version

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, (played by Doug Lennox) being removed from the film because the character was too frightening for young children.

Lily Stone (played by Mara Wilson) was intended to be the narrator of the story. 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. 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."

Release

"Thomas and the Magic Railroad" was released theatrically on July 14, 2000 in the United Kingdom and Ireland & on July 26, 2000 in the United States and Canada. It was also released in Australia on December 14, 2000 and in New Zealand on April 7, 2001.

Box Office

"Thomas and the Magic Railroad" grossed $19.7 million worldwide compared to its $19 million budget. During its second weekend of screening in Britain, it only took in £170,000.

In the United States, the film opened at #9 at the box office, grossing $4,154,932 during its opening weekend. Domestically, it grossed $15,933,506.

Critical Reception

When "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" was first released in the United Kingdom (where critics were unfamiliar with the characters from Shining Time Station), it was accused of "Americanizing" Thomas.

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."

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".

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.

Trivia

  • This film marked the first of several things:
    • The first Thomas & Friends production to feature Thomas' frightened face since the second series.
    • The first Thomas & Friends production to feature The Coaling Plant.
    • The first production produced by Gullane Entertainment.
    • The first time in the franchise that character dialogue overrides narrator storytelling as the primary manner of telling the story.
    • This is the first Thomas & Friends production to be presented in widescreen.
    • This is the first production to feature Thomas' shocked face without a bucktooth since the second series.
    • This is the first in the series to have a railroad crossing sound effect.
    • This is the first film to feature separate voice actors for the characters in the English dub and the first Thomas production to use this format. This would not be done again until 9 years later, with 2009's Hero of the Rails, the first full CGI Thomas production. The first-person narration would not be reused until 18 years after that, in the twenty-second series, in which it became the standard for all future Thomas productions.
  • This film also marked a few 1-time things:
    • The only time for Thomas & Friends production that Shelley Elizabeth-Skinner worked on involved in production (not counting the sixth series and seventh series).
    • The only production of Thomas' first movie not to have narration by Michael Angelis in the UK until The Great Discovery.
    • The only production of Thomas' first movie to not feature Gordon's Hill since its introduction in the first series.
    • Splatter and Dodge's only appearances to date.
    • The only appearances of Diesel 10's Mountain, The Tumbleweed, Sodor Grain Windmill and Killiban Station to date.
    • The only time which Lady's shocked facial expression are used on screen.
    • The only time where Diesel 10's spooked and worried facial expressions are used on screen.
    • The only production of Thomas' first movie not to feature Brendam Docks since its introduction in the fifth series.
    • The only production produced by Isle of Man Film Commission.
    • The only Thomas & Friends production to use a life-size model.
    • The only production of Thomas' first movie not to have a music composed by Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell although the movie was composed by Hummie Mann worked on scores & songs for the film.
    • This is the only Thomas & Friends film to feature live actors.
    • This was the only Thomas & Friends crossover with Shining Time Station.
    • This is currently the only theatrical Thomas film to get released.
  • This film marked the last of a few things: 
    • The last Thomas & Friends production to be air in the 20th century.
    • Bob and Steve Barges' last appearances to date.
    • Annie and Clarabel's last speaking roles until the seventh series episode Emily's New Coaches.
    • This is the last production where Thomas' original wincing face mask is used. A new one would be gained for the seventh series until The Great Discovery.
    • This is the last time in the franchise where a character says "Stupid" and "Shut Up" since the production teams and script writers were likely accused of using vulgar phrases since the productions of both the second series and the fifth series ended.
  • This film was released in between the episodes "Snow" and "Salty's Secret" between the conclusion of the fifth series and the start of sixth series
  • One of the working titles for the film was Thomas and the Rainbow Railway.
  • Different versions of the original script can be found online.
  • According to David Axford, David Mitton had desired to incorporate characters from the TUGS franchise into the film as a tie-in through a scene where Thomas encountered them on a seaside run by. Many of their models were shipped over from the United Kingdom, but none were ultimately used in the film. [1]
  • This is the only theatrical Thomas film to get released until the Untitled Marc Forster Film. A second theatrical film named The Adventures of Thomas was in development by HiT Entertainment sometime around 2010, but was cancelled after Mattel acquired the company and years of repeated postponement. Many of the CGI specials also received brief theatrical runs.
  • According to Britt Allcroft, the film was partially inspired by the fourth series episode, Thomas and the Special Letter.[2]
  • John Barry originally signed on to be the film's composer, but left the project due to scheduling conflicts. He is still credited as the composer on the 1999 US teaser poster.
  • From this movie until the twelfth series, the bucktooth on Thomas' shocked face mask disappeared.
  • Before the film was released, a sequel was already being developed by Destination Films. However, due to the negative reception and poor box office performance, the sequel was cancelled.[3]
  • The film aired on the US channel Sprout on 3rd July and 11th July 2015 and like with the UK DVD was fitted as a cropped widescreen image.
  • For unknown reasons, when the film aired on the Playhouse Disney channel in Australia in July 2007, the scene with Junior surfing on Diesel 10 was cut after he says "Oh no, my beach bag!"
  • Phil Fehrle and Shelley-Elizabeth Skinner made cameos in the film.
  • Didi Conn is the only actress from Shining Time Station to reprise her role in the film.
  • Edward was never featured in any script of the film. According to Phil Fehrle, there was not enough screen time and opportunity to utilise him in a way that added any real value to the film.[4]
  • John Bellis, the original voice of Thomas, is credited as "transportation coordinator".
  • People that worked on the original series also worked on this film. Namely, David Mitton (as model unit creative consultant), David Eves (as model SFX supervisor), Stephen Asquith (as model supervisor) and Terence Permane (as director of photography for the models section).
  • In the trailers, Mr. Conductor is heard saying "I've run out of gold dust and because of that I'm losing my energy as well", a line originally from the Director's Cut.
  • The English and a couple foriegn theatrical trailers played "The World is New" by Save Ferris, with music done by Nick Phoenix. The same was done with the Japanese theatrical trailer, but it replaced some of the original music with bits of the original Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends theme.
  • In the Australian trailer, P.T. Boomer makes an appearance, a rod is connected to Thomas' coupling hook and Thomas and Diesel 10 have their original voices.
  • Despite his role being cut, P.T. Boomer still makes a few appearances in the final film. He appears lying on top of Diesel 10's roof in the chase scene in one scene, as a connect black cable to Diesel 10 and he makes an appearance in the "crossroads" scene in which Stacy brings Lily to Burnett Stone. Doug Lennox confirmed that the original scene would have seen Boomer confront Burnett about Lady's whereabouts and was re-dubbed when his role was cut out.[5]
  • All of the engines and road vehicles have different whistle and horn sounds. Thomas and Percy still use the same whistle sounds, but are slightly modified. In addition, some engines share the same whistle sound; Gordon and James both use the same whistle, as do Henry and Percy. Also, Toby's bell sound changes the second time since the second series, but this time, another bell sound sounds slightly different. Also, Bertie's horn is the same as series 1-3, but in a higher pitch.
  • In the first teaser for the film, Thomas has his television series whistle sound.
  • According to multiple SiF interviews, several of the models were either damaged or lost in transit after being shipped from Toronto to Shepperton.
  • The film was shot in a 4:3 fullscreen frame and later matted into a 1.85:1 widescreen image for theatrical release; the UK DVD as well as the film on Sprout and Starz airings was rendered in full frame as a letterboxed widescreen image.
  • The only way to get the original widescreen theatrical print is the Digital HD Copy.
  • The top and bottom of the image are cropped in the widescreen release, but some shots and scenes were produced in widescreen 16:9 like when Burnett says "Well done, Thomas! Well done" before blowing Lady's whistle after Thomas crossed the viaduct that was about to collapse.
  • Robert Tinkler is credited for playing "Older Patch," even though it is not clear which scenes he actually portrayed him.
  • The posters of Sir Topham Hatt reading "Sir Topham Needs You" featured throughout the film are a reference to the Lord Kitchener and Uncle Sam recruiting posters.
  • Despite Sir Topham Hatt's voice being unintelligible over the phone, it is still changed in the foreign language dubs.
  • Although human actors are used for the film, Lady Hatt and Bertie's driver still appear as models.
  • Aside from Bertie's driver, Sodor appears to be entirely devoid of people, including the engines' crews, guards and workmen, meaning they're on holiday and made their engines mobile, however the passengers' shadows can be seen in some of the coaches' windows.
  • The town beside Knapford is replaced with trees, but many cottages and houses are seen during the windmill or at Knapford.
  • Scrap models of Thomas, Gordon, City of Truro, Toad and Donald or Douglas appear in the smelters yard scenes.
  • The Hollywoodedge, Air Brake Hiss Truck PE079201 sound effect is heard when Diesel 10 stops.
  • One of Flying Scotsman's tenders, painted black, can be seen as Thomas backs into the siding next to James.
  • Only one scene from the original cut was commercially released: a deleted scene featuring Junior called Sundae Surprise.
  • The Russian dub is a voice-over of the Hebrew dub.
  • This film, Big World! Big Adventures!, Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, Tale of the Brave and King of the Railway are the only known specials to have been dubbed in Hebrew.
  • In the deleted scene of Splatter and Dodge at the Smelters yard, they are both wearing their different masks that did not appear in the final film.
  • Aside the engines' drivers, Burnett Stone somehow, is seen to drive and operate Lady.
  • In the double-length Series 24 episode, Thomas and the Royal Engine, Thomas says "Little engines can do big things" which refers to the film's tag line.

Trailers

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