With the rather underwhelming reception of Thomas & Friends: Misty Island Rescue (2010), it seemed as though the show was being taken in a direction really none of the original fans wanted. There was too much juvenile type material being thrown in and for no good reason. That didn't mean that special didn't have its fans, but it was far from the most popular entry. However what did leave people intrigued to see what was coming next came at the very end of the special. The reason for that was the surprise appearance of Diesel 10, fore shadowing a plan that was going to be executed soon. The question was, did it pay off? To some degree yeah. This special is better than the last but it still has its hang ups unfortunately. That will be explained shortly though.
|Diesel 10's return|
The plot is actually a tad different from what would typically be expected. The story focuses on Percy, believe it or not. After having a fire on the island, Sir Topham Hatt introduces fire engines Belle and Flynn to the railway engines. With Thomas assigned to show Belle and Flynn around, Percy feels left out and forgotten. Thinking nobody wants him around anymore, Diesel convinces him to visit the Vicarstown Dieselworks. In charge of that area was none other than Diesel 10. As Percy gets reintroduced to him and the other familiar diesels like Mavis, Salty, Arry and Bert, he also meets some new ones. Paxton, Sidney, Norman, Den and Dart are the fresh faces to be seen. There Percy befriends them and figures it would be better to help them since none of the steam engines seem to notice him.
The screenplay to this feature was written again by Sharon Miller, who at this point did not have a good reputation with the older fans of the show. Here though, it seems like she heard some of the complaints. The fact that the story looks more at Percy than Thomas is a good idea. Thomas doesn't have to be at the center of every story so that's fine. Percy is also the second oldest tank engine to be on the island so it's interesting to see him get his own narrative. Being that Greg Tiernan is directing again, at least he's open to go this route. What's most impressive however is the inclusion of Diesel 10 into the story. The last time he was seen was in Thomas & Friends: Calling All Engines! (2005) and that in itself was a surprise. However the negative thing about this is the exclusion of other older characters. There's no mention of Lady, Splatter or Dodge, when in fact, these three could have definitely taken the spots of the new engines (diesel or steam) mentioned before.
It's just strange to insert these old characters without any kind of background to past experiences. Yet this doesn't mean some of the new characters brought in aren't peculiar. Belle and Flynn are the best additions mainly because they do bring up the question of fires on the island. Certainly before them there have been other fires, but just exactly how was it handled? No need to worry now with them on board. The voice cast continues to work well except for one. Teresa Gallagher voices Belle, Rupert Degas voices Dart, Keith Wickham voices Den and Matt Wilkinson voices Diesel 10. Sadly, it's Wilkinson who's the wrong choice for Diesel 10. Someone in the same vein as Neil Crone or Keith Scott would have worked just fine. Here though Diesel 10 sounds less intimidating, his voice is just too high pitched.
|"Hi Thomas, my names Belle!"|
The dialog was also fixed. Thankfully there is no rhyming involved in any scenes. That was one of the more annoying elements of the past feature. As for appearances go, the visuals to this feature are as acceptable as they have been. The new characters all have interesting train designs and Diesel 10's rendering is accurate from past showings. For the locations largely featured in the show, fans will get to see places like the Sodor Search and Rescue Center, the Sodor Steam Works, Brendam Docks, Tidmouth Sheds, Knapford Station and even Henry's Tunnel. The newest place however is the Vicarstown Dieselworks that houses all of Sir Topham Hatt's diesel engines. Quite the contrast to that of the Steam Works. Lastly, the music was largely uneventful unfortunately. Composed surprisingly by Ed Welch, Peter Hartshorne and Robert Hartshorne, the music just isn't that compelling for the scenes shown, and no character themes are heard. The only catchy tune is the Day of the Diesel's rock song at the very end. Too little too late though.
With people falling over from the silliness that was Thomas & Friends: Misty Island Rescue (2010), the quality has made a mild return to form for this feature. While it may still have problems with character backgrounds, and bland music, there are things to like about it. The story decides to focus on Percy instead of Thomas, the are some new and old returning characters to see and the animation is still well done.
Points Earned --> 6:10