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Thomas and the Magic Railroad is a theatrical film based on the well-known television series and its American spinoff. The film was produced by Gullane Entertainment, The Britt Allcroft Company, Isle of Man Film Commission and Destination Films and distributed by Destination Films in the US, Icon Productions in the UK and ABC Films in Australia. It was released to theatres in July 2000. It is narrated by Alec Baldwin, who also played the part of Mr. Conductor. It is the only known theatrical film to date that has been released, although several specials have been released in the UK, Australia and New Zealand since, but are not literally theatrical.
The film begins with Mr. Conductor introducing Thomas and Sodor.
At Killaban, Gordon complains to Thomas as he is eight seconds late. Thomas retorts that Gordon is being bossy and says that he has to find Mr. Conductor, who is looking after the North Western Railway while Sir Topham Hatt is taking a holiday. Gordon claims Mr. Conductor is not needed, but changes his mind after an evil diesel named Diesel 10 speeds by, kicking up dust and dirt and leaving Gordon physically rattling in fear.
Mr. Conductor then introduces Shining Time, where we see happy residents, full of life.
Thomas is later talking to James at Tidmouth Sheds when Diesel 10 shows up and voices his plan to destroy a lost engine named Lady and thus establish Diesels as the dominant engines on Sodor. James is confused, but Thomas is worried and goes to find Mr. Conductor.
After seeing Billy Twofeathers' map and noticing some strange lines on it, Patch heads off to Muffle Mountain to see Burnett Stone.
There is something on Muffle Mountain, a secret that Burnett only shared with his childhood friend and future wife Tasha: he promised he would drive an engine and take her with him. When Patch sees the engine, Burnett reveals the engine's past - her name is Lady and she has been sealed inside Muffle Mountain since Diesel 10 nearly destroyed her long ago. Burnett has fixed her up, but she still needs coal to fully run again. Unfortunately, Lady requires special coal to build up steam, which he has not found yet.
At the Quarry, Diesel 10 tells his cronies Splatter and Dodge of his plan. The two bumbling diesels report that Mr. Conductor is coming to Sodor, so Diesel 10 decides to destroy him too, only to humiliate himself in front of Splatter and Dodge when his claw whacks him on the nose.
Mr. Conductor prepares to leave Shining Time. Despite difficulty with his gold dust, he soon meets Thomas on Sodor. Thomas reports on Diesel 10; Mr. Conductor decides to use his gold dust to keep Diesel 10 in order.
Burnett looks at a painting of Lady and starts to have doubts in his belief of magic due to his failure to guard her. Meanwhile, far away, Burnett's granddaughter, Lily, prepares to visit him.
Thomas, James and Gordon begin arguing about who should have taken Mr. Conductor, unaware that Splatter and Dodge are spying on them. Over in the yard, Splatter and Dodge are laughing at the steam engines. Henry tells the other engines about why Diesel 10 wants to find the lost engine. Splatter and Dodge continue to laugh at Thomas until Harold flies by, spreading sneezing powder, set up by Diesel 10, over all three.
At Knapford, Mr. Conductor reads the note Sir Topham Hatt left him. After trying on his top hat (and returning it after he notices the portrait of the Controller appears angry) he receives a phone call from Sir Topham Hatt and receives his instructions.
That night, Diesel 10 creeps up and demolishes the side of the Tidmouth Sheds with his powerful claw. Mr. Conductor reprimands Diesel 10, but then he discovers that he has run out of gold dust. Diesel 10, delighted, tries to get Mr. Conductor to confess to the lost engine's whereabouts, but Mr. Conductor frightens Diesel 10 away with a bag of sugar and threatening to dump the sugar in his tanks to seize him up permanently. Mr. Conductor voices his concern about his gold dust, but tells the engines to go back to sleep.
Later that night, Mr. Conductor has a nightmare of Shining Time in ruins and realises that his universe is in danger and that he needs more gold dust.
The next morning, Mutt goes to Lily's hometown with Billy, as he knows that Lily can help Mr. Conductor, but only if she meets someone special at Shining Time first. To reach that end, he directs her onto the wrong train, placing her on the train bound for Shining Time instead of Muffle Mountain. Meanwhile, Burnett Stone hears the sound of Lady's magic echoing through the mountain.
Back on Sodor, Mr. Conductor is helping make James' itch go away. James notices that Mr. Conductor looks so tired and asks if it is because he is red, but Mr. Conductor happily says that red is bright and cheerful just like his gold dust. He then sends James off to work while he departs to deal with his own problems.
Mr. Conductor goes to the windmill in search of more gold dust, but gets lost. Meanwhile, the engines gather for a meeting. Bertie passes by and tells them to smile, but all have their individual concerns. Thomas heads off to look for Mr. Conductor, apologising to Bertie when he is unable to accept Bertie's offer for a race.
Mr. Conductor finds a note left by Rabbit and tries a carrot and a stick of celery to make him think properly and has the idea of his beach-loving cousin Junior, who has used up most of his gold dust too. He tells Junior to go to Shining Time Station first and get his emergency whistle, then go to Sodor and warns him not to talk to anyone about the buffers. Before he can say anything else, the phone line goes dead.
Lily arrives at Shining Time and Mutt barks at her to get off the train. Lily finds the station empty and meets Junior. After a talk, Lily picks up the gold dust Junior leaves behind. At Sodor, Mr. Conductor is sleeping by a bush when he has another nightmare and wakes up hearing Thomas calling his name. Mr. Conductor tries to reply, but Thomas cannot hear him as he chuffs away.
Lily meets Stacy, who takes her to Burnett. That night, Burnett and Lily hear Lady's whistle coming from the mountains. Patch, who is outside with his horse, hears it too.
As Percy arrives at Knapford with the Mail Train, he and Thomas talk about Mr. Conductor and conclude that he travels to Sodor on a magic railroad. Diesel 10 overhears them and goes to the scrapyards to tell Splatter and Dodge his plan. Toby - who has secretly followed them there - interrupts them by ringing his bell; trying to catch him, Diesel 10 causes the shed to crash down on him, Splatter and Dodge, thus blocking their path.
Thomas finds Henry with a bad cold and offers to get some special Island of Sodor coal to make him better, but while collecting them, fails to notice the sixth truck rolling away into some magic buffers. Bertie passes and greets Thomas and his five trucks; Thomas is confused.
Thomas tells Percy about the missing truck and they realise that the buffers where the truck disappeared are the buffers leading to the Magic Railroad. Thomas tells Percy to guard the buffers while he goes to find Mr. Conductor, citing that Percy is a brave engine.
Meanwhile, Mr. Conductor is wandering aimlessly when Diesel 10 appears. Mr. Conductor is captured by Diesel 10's claw and is dangled over the viaduct. Diesel 10 reveals that he knows about the buffers and threatens to drop Mr. Conductor if he does not reveal its whereabouts. Mr. Conductor notices the viaduct has begun to collapse, just like in his dream and realizes the world is beginning to fall apart without the gold dust. Mr. Conductor escapes by cutting a hydraulic tube to Diesel 10's claw, thus catapulting him to the windmill. There, he sees the words: "Stoke up the magic in the mountain and the Lady will smile, then watch the swirls that spin so well." Splatter and Dodge ask Diesel 10 how come he let Mr. Conductor escape, he replies that he just did it on purpose and was testing to see if he could escape. Splatter and Dodge do not believe him and Diesel 10 decides to attempt to teach them "how to stop being stupid," but knocks coal all over himself. James, Gordon and Henry laugh at Diesel 10.
Lily is introduced to Patch, who offers her a horse ride to Shining Time. There she meets Junior again, who takes her to Sodor via the magic buffers. They meet Thomas, who agrees to help and together they find Mr. Conductor at the windmill. Mr. Conductor tells Junior about his clue to the gold dust and Lily is introduced to Mr. Conductor. Junior then climbs onto the sail and is flung onto Diesel 10. Meanwhile Patch tells Burnett that he has no idea where Lily is and that she was not at the station when he went back for her. Despite Lily having apparently vanished, Burnett is confident she will turn up again.
That night, Percy finds Splatter and Dodge at the magic buffers and races to warn Thomas.
Mr. Conductor and Lily camp out with Thomas. After a conversation, they realise that Burnett may hold the key to the clue of the gold dust.
Burnett reveals to Patch that Lady is magic and they realise that the railroad is vanishing.
Thomas and Percy decide they must get Lily back to Muffle Mountain before Diesel 10 destroys the magic railroad. Thomas wonders how Lily can get home without gold dust, Mr. Conductor reveals that only the lost engine could do so now. Then he has the idea and asks Thomas if he will take Lily to Muffle Mountain. Thomas is not sure but decides that he will try and he and Lily set off. While journeying through the magic railroad, they discover the missing truck. Lily realises the connection between the truck and the clue so Thomas decides to go back for it before setting off again. They soon arrive on Muffle Mountain. Lily leaves to find Burnett, but a gust of wind blows Thomas down the hill and back into the magic railroad through another portal at the bottom.
Lily finds Patch, who takes her to Burnett's workshop. Lily figures out only special Island of Sodor coal can make Lady steam, so she sends Patch to collect the coal from the truck.
Diesel 10, with Junior still on his back, races into the Smelters where he encounters James. Junior tries to whistle both of them out, only to discover that he too, is out of gold dust. Diesel 10 tries to force the two into a melting pit, but Junior uses the last of his extra gold dust to teleport himself and James away to safety. The two arrive near the buffers, where Mr. Conductor is there waiting. James departs, while Mr. Conductor and Junior, both out of gold dust, refuse to give up hope. Lily asks Burnett Stone if Tasha took a ride on Lady and if she loved her as much as Burnett did. Burnett says that she loved it because he loved it, but could not fix her in time for Tasha to take a ride on her before she passed away.
By now Burnett Stone has finally got Lady to steam using special Island of Sodor coal, from the truck Thomas and Lily picked up from The Magic Railroad and along with Lily, Patch and Mutt, they set off into the magic railroad. The magic railroad, receiving energy from Lady, comes back to life, while Lady's face appears. The team encounter Thomas before appearing on Sodor, where they reunite with the two conductors.
Diesel 10 starts to give chase, but Splatter and Dodge, fed up with Diesel 10's ways, abandon him. Thomas offers to help Lady, with Burnett driving Lady. Mr. Conductor warns them about the collapsing viaduct. Just as the engines run away, the conductors realise that Lady is part of the clue to the gold dust.
The chase finally approaches The Viaduct. As Lady and Burnett pass, a gap appears on the viaduct. Thomas manages to make it across the gap before it worsens, but Diesel 10 cannot stop in time and falls off into a sludge barge, and is towed away, not to be seen for a long, long time.
Thomas, Lady and Burnett return, where they and the rest of the team work out the answer to the riddle. Lily mixes water from the well with golden shavings from the magic railroad and with a little encouragement, tosses them into the air, where they form into gold dust. Delighted, the conductors re-supply their whistles, while Thomas thanks Lady.
Patch and Mutt go to look around, while Junior gives Lily some gold dust. Junior tells Mr. Conductor that he wants to work now, so Mr. Conductor gives him his hat and sends him to a railroad with "palm trees and sunny spells." After Junior leaves, Sir Topham Hatt calls and says that he is on his way back, so Mr. Conductor sets off to welcome him, letting Sir Topham Hatt know that everything is under control before he hangs up. Lily offers her gold dust to Burnett, who sprinkles it on her bluebird toy and whispers that they will "always remember their Shining Time together."
With Lady and the Magic Railroad back to life, Shining Time is restored to its former glory. Thomas happily puffs into the sunset and the end credits roll.
The film 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. The 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 Rainbow Sun were filmed at the Strasburg Rail Road. The large passenger station where Lily boards the train is the Harrisburg Transportation Center. Strasburg Rail Road's (Ex. Norfolk & Western) 4-8-0 475 was repainted as the Rainbow Sun.
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 shows' key staff were flown over to participate.
The Magic Railroad was created using models, CGI and water colour painting.
Problems and Changes
The perceived "laziness" in the plot was due to a major villain in the film named Pete Theodore Boomer being cut from the film. His cut was due to test audiences complaining that he was too scary. Thus any traces left by Boomer in the film were left unexplained. In some scenes in the final film, Boomer can even be spotted, one example being during the chase sequence when Thomas, Lady and Diesel 10 race through Henry's Tunnel, P.T. Boomer can be seen on top of Diesel 10's roof without being edited out of that scene. Despite being cut, Boomer strangely was left unedited out of one of the trailers, showing him fall off of Diesel 10 on the collapsing viaduct (which, in the original script was nicknamed "The Big Dipper"). The official Thomas and the Magic Railroad website also had images and information regarding the character before being cut.
Many news articles before the films release announced that an Isle of Man Cab Driver/Fireman named John Bellis was selected to be the voice of Thomas. He was cut from the cast after test audiences complained of his Liverpudlian tone making Thomas sound too old. He was replaced by Edward Glen afterwards.
One theatrical trailer depicted Diesel 10 with a thick gravelly upper class British accent. This was revealed to be provided by Australian voice actor, Keith Scott. He was replaced after test audiences feared his voice would be too scary. He was replaced by Neil Crone, who gave Diesel 10 a Russian accent, though this too was forced to be replaced after the audiences found it "offensive." So Crone recorded them in a somewhat New Jersey accent.
James and Percy were originally intended to be voiced by the British narrator, Michael Angelis. The test audiences as well found his voice unsuitable for them. Susan Roman and Linda Ballantyne replaced Angelis for James and Percy respectively.
Original scripts indicate that George and Cranky were intended to be in the film. George had a major role in the film, doing most of Diesel 10's bidding. His model was never taken across for filming. Cranky had a small non-speaking role. He dropped his load of fruit over Dodge, Splatter and Percy and dropped his load of oil all over Diesel 10. His model was indeed brought over, indicated as his crane leg can be seen in Knapford yards as Diesel 10 leaves, but the role was cut in later script drafts of the film so the model was used for set dressing.
The film premiered at Odeon Leicester Square. For the purpose, a steam locomotive, painted to resemble Thomas, was brought to the cinema on July 9th, 2000. National press coverage was low, because many journalists were concentrating on the launch of the "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" book, for which a special train named "Hogwarts Express" was run on July 8th - 11th.
The film currently 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 [sic]. This film has neither, having lost in its Americanisation what the British original did so right." However, it did receive positive reviews from Associated Press and Gannett newspapers. Common Sense Media gave the film a rating of 3 out of 5 with the consensus: "Will please it's many fans, but plot might confuse kids." Roger Ebert gave the film one star out of four, with the consensus, "(the fact) That Thomas and the Magic Railroad made it into theatres 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 criticised how the engines' 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. It was also accused in the UK for "Americanising" Thomas for the fact that British critics were unfamiliar with the characters from Shining Time Station.
It was also a box office flop grossing $19.7 million worldwide compared to its $19 million budget. During its second weekend of screening in Britain it only took in £170,000.
- Annie and Clarabel
- Henrietta (cameo)
- Cranky (cameo)
- Butch (cameo)
- Sir Topham Hatt (voice only; portrait cameo)
- Lady Hatt (mentioned; portrait cameo)
- George (cut from film)
- Diesel 10
- Splatter and Dodge
- Mr. Conductor
- Lily's Mother
- Stacy Jones
- Burnett Stone
- Billy Twofeathers
- Tasha (voiceover as a child; photo cameo)
- P.T. Boomer (cameo; full role cut from film)
- Island of Sodor
- Shining Time
- Muffle Mountain
- Burnett Stone's Workshop
- The Magic Railroad
- Tidmouth Sheds
- Sodor Ironworks
- The Coaling Plant
- Sir Topham Hatt's Office
- The Watermill
- The Big Dipper
- The Windmill
- Hawin Croka
- Bulgy's Bridge
- Diesel 10's Mountain
- The Magic Buffers
- Sodor Wishing Well
- Rainbow Ridge
- Really Useful Engine
- Shining Time
- Some Things Never Leave You
- I Know How the Moon Must Feel
- Summer Sunday
- The Locomotion
- Old MacDiesel
- Working on the Railway
- The Whistling Song (early draft: not in final cut)
- Night Train (not in final cut)
- Girl in Green (not in final cut)
- The Island Song (original script)
- Thomas' Anthem (original script)
In Other Languages
|French||Thomas et la Voie Ferrée Magique / Thomas et le Magie Ferroviaire||Thomas and the Magical Way / Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|Spanish||Thomas y el Tren Mágico / Thomas y el Ferrocarril Mágico||Thomas and the Magical Train / Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|Portuguese||Thomas e a Ferrovia Mágica / Thomas e a Estrada Mágica||Thomas and the Magic Railroad / Thomas and the Magic Road|
|Dutch||Thomas en de Magische Spoorbaan||Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|German||Thomas: Die Fantastische Lokomotive||Thomas: The Fantastic locomotive|
|Danish||Thomas og den Magiske Jernbanen||Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|Swedish||Thomas och den Magiska Järnvägen||Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|Italian||Thomas e la Magica Ferrovia||Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|Catalan||Thomas i le Ferrocarril Màgica||Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|Hebrew||תומס ומסילת הקסמים||Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|Japanese||きかんしゃトーマス 魔法の線路||Thomas the Tank Engine: Magical Railway|
|Turkish||Thomas ve Sihirli Demiryolu / Thomas ve Sihirli Trenyolu||Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|Korean||토마스와 마법 기차||Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|Slovak||Thomas a Magická Dráha||Thomas and the Magical Track|
|Chinese||托马斯和不可思议的铁路||Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|Russian||Томас и волшебная железная дорога||Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
|Slovenian||Tomaž in Čarobnost Železnice||Thomas and the Magic of Railways|
|Greek||Ο μαγικός κόσμος του Τόμας||The Magical World of Thomas|
|Azerbaijani||Tomas və sehrli dəmir yolu||Thomas and the Magic Railroad|
Awards and nominations
- Nomination - YoungStar Awards - Best Young Actress/Performance in a Motion Picture Comedy, 2000, to Mara Wilson.
- Nomination - Young Artists Awards - Best Performance in a Feature Film - Leading Young Actress, 2001, to Mara Wilson.
- The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland and Thomas and the Magic Railroad