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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Report: 'Tale of the Brave: The Movie' Vue premiere log

Waking up at 7am to catch a 7:53am train from the South Coast to London Victoria paved the way for what would turn out to be a packed but thrilling day at the Tale of the Brave blue carpet premiere.

Turning up at Leicester Square for the 10am arrival, a replica of Thomas and the appearance of The Fat Controller by a VIP arrivals spot was greeted by the PR team at Halpern. My faithful contact Candice, who I had been speaking to in the lead up, directed me to the foyer where the after-party would eventually take place.

Complimentary cupcakes, nibbles, Thomas fruit juice and smoothies from waiters were on offer to all the guests, as a few at a time, several parties made their way into the foyer to the backing track of Engine Roll Call, which I eventually heard looping for over an amassed 30 times! A table of Tale colouring pages were layed out as was a Wooden Railway play area. One guest of which early on was Wilbert Awdry's daughter, Veronica Chambers.
Thomas and The Fat Controller face the music. Taken by Louie Sparkes.

It was a conscious sense not to approach bearing in mind the passing of loving sister Hilary Fortnam. Ten minutes pass and Mark Moraghan in smart casual wear and a leather jacket shows up with his wife and two kids before light entertainment from Sharky & George started to show fun tricks to children, at one point right near a bemused Moraghan!

Presenter Vanessa Feltz makes her way in as a gentleman who I remember from the past walks near me and starts to check his bag. Greeting him, it was Alf Fortnam, widow to Hilary who I encountered along with Veronica and Hilary after the Day of the Diesels premiere in Hamleys Regent Street. Alf recalls this and we get into conversation about each other's hobbies.

He accepts his wife's passing by tributing her tireless work for the Christian faith and mentions the public debate in the press about her attempts in changing the winter holidays scandal. I reply to how the said issue resulted in delaying Merry Winter Wish's by a year, something that he was unaware of but knew about the re-dubbing happening behind-the-scenes.

Another gentleman pops over and introduces himself revealing to be the Awdry's manager, whose name unfortunately couldn't be heard owing to the noisy environment. He comments on Hilary and brother Christopher Awdry's infatuation for their father's work. I question why Christopher doesn't turn up to the premieres.
Entering the pre-show area.

Alf gives an understandable answer that he likes to keep a low profile and wants it to stay that way. I ask if he has anymore Railway stories in mind. Alf again quips, no, he is finished with it. He feels that the last one [No. 43. Thomas and His Friends] was the real closing chapter. It did say "THE END" at the last page. We thank each other for the chat and go to speak to other friends.

Stills from Tale are seen up close on an overaching desk with Tale ham or cheese lunchboxes up for children's grub needs. Next to it's left is a big artwork of Thomas, Percy and James as seen on the DVDs and posters. Mark Moraghan is then interviewed by a small camera crew of two talking about his role and the special.

Five minutes later, I approach him and remembers me from a previous encounter, after performing in 9 to 5: The Musical in Southampton. I share a few tidbits of my week at the time including filming as an extra on a comedy show for ITV2 for late September till we speak of one of his upcoming films, Allies, on its trailer, premise and slightly confusing distribution. We're all called to go downstairs to Screen 5 so the both of us say goodbye.

After starting to make my way to my seat, a familar face greets me. ellsworth who I hadn't seen since The Star Tugs Trust's Battlefield Railway convention in March. We catch-up on how we got to the event, who else is in the room, a few hush hushes on new episodes and the security of spoiling the film before we sit down in our allocated seats as the film is about to start.
Tale of the Brave becomes the event of the week.

Next to me sits a man with his family, similar to my age, who reveals himself to be one of the competition winners. Some talk of our travels, collection of DVDs ensues. Not before the lights dim and who pops in than none other than The Fat Controller to introduce the main attraction. He compères proceedings, encourages the children to feel the excitement and goes on to urge the following.

I have to say this to all of you that there must be no recordings allowed so... please, turn off your phones and you will be all be really useful. Now, are we ready to go? Well without further ado, here it is, enjoy the fim, its time for Tale of the Brave. Bye bye! Four Thomas commercials play out including Thomas Land, Take-n-Play, Day Out with Thomas and TrackMaster before the special's second trailer ends the advertisements. The film starts...

Some laughter, wailing, gasping and open mouths later, the end credits finish and the audience applauds. It was very good. Everyone exits the room after 11am and make their way back upstairs for the after-party. A few minutes later, I rendezvous with ellsworth again as he talks to a woman with the Awdry manager who asks her to sign the Big Golden Book of Tale.

I get puzzled, so she jokes with her presumed celebrity status. I introduce myself and she follows. I'm Sara Fortnam, I'm Alf's daughter. She then remembers her mother and jokes of her father dragging her out in the wet. Trading of what we do, she leaves a few moments later.
One scene from the posters was not in the story.

I then realise that someone is by my shoulder. A voice murmurs and a hand shake is offered. Ryan from SiF greets me after meeting briefly at the above mentioned Battlefield event. This time round, we talked more, as did fellow SiFer Christopher. Ryan comments on how brilliant the film was and of its strength in its story. He then mentions of my departure from the blog saying that for four years.

The commitment was there and I can understand for it to be hard for you to do it when you have your life and career to look forward to in the way. Not every person can be free to keep on going with those fandom projects like us with our ones because we are in the same position too. The subject matter of Martin T. Sherman's departure from the US Thomas voice is brought up.

Ryan tells me more of it which surprises me and another insider, but those things are perhaps best left unsaid. A woman comes over to give us our this time cotton goodie bags with Thomas chocolates, a poster, a Story Library book, a MEGA Bloks pack, a Take-n-Play model but no Tale DVD.

Ryan and Christopher are confused as to why they have a copy each of The Complete Series 15. I go one up by discovering that I have two copies in hand! I then consider to give one to a boy I know near where I live, until Ryan steps in rather manically to prevent me from doing it. Some rude words are shared by him!
The afterparty. The Fat Controller introduces the film. The goodie bag.

We then go to meet a person who remembers the duo and is known as Ian McCue, producer for the show, who went on to explain how hard it is for head writer Andrew Brenner to think up the strengthness of material as witnessed in the film, even going to say that, King of the Railway was the starting point for the new times of the series but Tale of the Brave really packs a lot of punch with the emotion and isolation of the story and characters.

We are then treated tellings of what's to come for the next few years concerning returning characters, what the focus is of the next feature-length special and big plans for the 70th anniversary of the brand. You are all in for a treat, you just have to wait and contain. Big things are coming, one of those is a real game-changer. Ian then directs us to a familiar face who shakes hands with all of us. Keith Wickham.

Keith remembers of my interview he did for me near the blog's beginnings and goes on to say that , the film was great. I had a lot of fun with it. He then queries that Jonathan Broadbent probably based his Bill and Ben voices on a new Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. We then joke of what kind of classic comedians who seem fit for voices for future new or returning characters. I mention Tommy Cooper, to which Ian and Keith get in awe of. It was a matter of time before Ryan chose the inevitable Billy Connolly!

Ryan and Christopher speak of their infatuation with Keith's Yorkshire Stafford being a perfect fit. Ryan jokingly questions of trying to get a Scotsman voice into the series. Keith reminds him of his Harvey voice. We all realise that Ryan did not even know that Keith voices the crane engine! Keith says goodbye, as does Ian.
Friends in SiF. Hamley's Thomas & Friends area. Reuniting with two old mates.

Ryan and Christopher are ready to leave as the former has to catch a plane back to his home of Scotland. He mentions that Louie is outside wanting to talk to him. I realise that this is the same Louie I know of Sparkes [skarlouie], a real friend. He is surprised to see me and I'm surprised to see him with Michael Evans [AardmanMike]. They are pleased to meet the two before hugs are given to see my friends again after a gap of three years.

Posing for photos and joking around, SiF parts company. The remaining three of us have the time to hang out for a much needed catch-up. I share the film without spoiling but tease it rather delicately and what could be store for the three of us, based on earlier comments.

We eat, partly during a quick typhoon of a summer storm for 15 minutes in the square, and lead ourselves to see merchandise in Hamley's and lark about. 6:45pm comes and we decide to part ways in order to get home safely.

With the gleeful excitement that happened and the new friends made in life, it was a fancy day full of gossip and fulfillment, so thank you to the team at Hit Entertainment and the PR folks at Halpern for the day. It was lovely.

See you next year for the next tale.

Tale of the Brave: The Movie rolls into Vue cinemas across the UK from August 22nd to 28th. The DVD is released in the UK on September 1st, the US triple play Blu-ray on the 16th and in Australia and New Zealand on October 1st.

Thomas & Friends' 18th Season premieres on Channel 5 milkshake! in the UK on August 25th at 7:35am, with the episode, Old Reliable Edward.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

'Tale of the Brave' Spoiler-Free Review: The Verdict

There is much reliability to make a special good then to up the stakes for what comes after. But can it disappoint? Sometimes...

This is where it is better to be secretive to others who have yet to see a finished product. If there is a shock or a twist or a joyous moment, it can be a better feeling to be surprised and to have that thrill every now and then. The proper viewing experience, how its meant to be. This is where this review falls, no spoilers. You pay to see the film for the excitement and not to be a complete show-off to the world.

So, be inclined to agree to those who do tend to open their mouths that you would like them to keep schtum. Tagging a first TV debut for Season 18 at the end, here is the Roll Along Thomas spoiler-free review for the Tale of the Brave.

From the moment the first visual appears, it is already fan service, and this is only through an extended pre-titles sequence clocking in at five minutes. The first two visuals in question have already been advertised, but they fit in so perfectly that it is as if the film is saying that you won't be disappointed for what else is in store, and thankfully, that is where Tale hits the mark.
We follow Thomas to re-introduce the Clay Pits, which looks spectacular, and it is here that Arc Productions and Rob Silvestri's guidance show what they can do creatively with the now much bolder and visually dazzling animation. Bill and Ben are back to their tricky selves, the start of Railway Series references, as Thomas struggles to rendezvous with them, leading to a few moments of camera following engine with no narration for 40 seconds!

All that is heard is the chuff chuff environmental soundscape and the atmospheric music by team HartshorneRobert and Peter. Timothy, voiced with a brummy dialect by Tim Whitnall, is given an introduction from a mishap involving his trucks and Thomas, so Bill and Ben are here to stay. This leads to Thomas taking a load away and moving towards the start of an avalanche, one of a few ensuing trouble for the engines.

The footprints discovery is made, but this discovery is not the same "finding a lost or new engine or place and ending with a grand opening", this special is different and has many surprises along the way. But the blue engine gets into trouble, so are they any heroes about?

What follows in the title sequence is something that will certainly make the long-term fans be in awe of, not necessarily in the illustrations, but with the font and the 40s style work to the night theme used. Its a real coo, it promises a lot to come. We find the Steam Team, the clay twins and silent input from a singular Rosie cameo and eventual three timer Stanley in the yards with The Fat Controller encouraging the engines to work down to the coal.
We say hello to Marion in the pits who is informative with her presence. It is as if the pen of Andrew Brenner wants to really educate the audience and he does that a few more times later on. Marion shows colours of bubbliness and companionship while singing songs during work. The BAFTA winning actress voicing clearly had to have a lot of fun with her, not in her occasional screen time, but to provide all that bubbly. Wait for the end credits to learn her name!

The silhouette of our big new accomplice Gator creeps past the screen by a glittering pond and horizon, tied in with in the moment CGI, a fearful piece of soundtrack, a scared frog and again no narration for 25 seconds, this is heavenly spooky direction. Percy gradually takes over as the lead with the start of a scene at a busy workplace involving the mail run.

Moving through the misty hills and hitting the bottom, it is here that the green little un' develops the continuous scared-ness upon finding the moving silhouette creeping towards him. With probably a sense of railway rule forgetfulness, we're back at The Docks to say a humble greeting to the alligator gentle giant, thrown in with a few bits of humour from an accidental Cranky and Thomas.

Gator assures us of his being and having the brave-ness to get on with life, a theme that is reminded in many ways through the hour. But Percy is still unsure of the brave as he fears for his protection in a Tim Burton-esque musical sequence of Monsters Everywhere, boldy going where no Thomas production has gone before, most notably at the end of the interval involving some cartoon-ish imagery.

Percy misses the mark of time and severely affects punctuality, something that Topham Hatt acknowledges. James is back to his teasy ways not long after the events of The Phantom Express, but plays it out as if its an extended version of Scaredy Engines. Gator tells Percy of his past, in another treat from Arc, reminding of his issue with gravity.
Percy takes this into account and, at some point during sunset, tells Thomas about what he feels he should do. If you saw King of the Railway and appreciated the downplay of the special coal issue, wait till you hear Thomas' reply. Its a whoofer of a throwaway line and it will make you laugh!

Continuing to bully No. 6, James finds himself in a diversion and encounters, to quote Blackadder, a twisty turny thing. Reg is unfortunately severely limited in this feature and is just there... just there, its a disappointment. This also applies to Timothy, who even talkative at the first quarter is later relegated to a sleeping scene in the third quarter. Gator however guides Percy through and plays a dominant supporting role in the assurance of confinement.

But Gator's residential status and origins are questioned. Another musical interval follows with the duo travelling together and assuring one another, with the aid of peaceful instruments similar to Blue Mountain Mystery and the return of a vocalist that will make you whoop a little cheer, Tale of the Brave will make you smile and take things in your hearts.

During this, Gator becomes cautious over a long section of track. When Percy passes it, Gator succeeds in brave-ness, then comes an extreme wide shot of the referred location last seen in the 16th Season. It is a big beautiful shot, thank you Arc.

But No. 5 has none of Percy's beliefs and is helped by a considerable sort of henchman to frighten him. He mercilessly taunts the small engine back at sheds, leading to the tender engines to tease him more. It is Emily's moment to shine and a one line delivery will make you love and believe in her more, its brilliant.
Enough is enough for Percy and he proceeds to take matters into his own buffers by lifting his ego away at Brendam. He is cross just like in Day of the Diesels, but he's on form here. With Topham wanting a word, Thomas realises the worst. A punished James is reunited with The Smelly Kipper and lands into a trouble at float, mirroring a highlight from James to the Rescue. Arc this time provides the thrills, and it looks terrific.

Cranky gets his most caring scene ever before a plan is quickly forgotten. The crane is tasked with his strength to commit and is therefore threatened. Its a tense minute and will leave you on the edge of your seat. The climax takes place in the large landscape of... well, that would be telling. Big trouble arrives and the lives of three engines are at risk when one is simply not scared of things, until...

The action steps up a gear and gives Arc a lot to do, a lot. The end of it references a classic 90s episode before an engine is once again in threat. A move by a character, who treads boards early on in the film, becomes a saviour and quotes an ironic line from Shakespeare before a celebration is attended by a recent popular addition for a cameo. One mistake however involves Topham exclaiming two words when someone leaves, shoehorned in and out of character.

The farewell scene becomes a bittersweet moment and hits you in the centre, and it makes one character find an improvement in their-self, it fulfils them and it is heart warming. No end of special music video this time, instead we have Eggplant LF giving us a fast mix while delightfully, the voice cast are given the exposure they've needed for years, perhaps something you might have recalled in The Simpsons Movie.

There's a lot to look forward to in this credible instalment but really the special is about the actions made between Thomas, Percy and James which come full circle. Concerning new blood, Gator is the most prominent and acts as the big friendly giant in directing Percy through. While Marion is given beginning coverage before quietly dropping out until providing faith in the third act, Timothy is limited. The worst offender is Reg who is there for just a few lines.
However, minor quibbles aside, what makes Tale so absolute is the amount of heart that is in the story, the characters, the drama and the throwbacks to old, classic and new material. Blue Mountain succeeded in delivering those goods but Tale doubles it up incredibly. In terms of Arc Productions, it is probably the best ever animation to ever feature in a Thomas & Friends episode and it makes the story worthwhile. Many complex angles, originality and depth.

There are scenes which could well scare younger viewers but it does so in a good way as the whole hour challenges the un-confident to be assertive, and it works. One mystery is the sights of reptile footprints which do tease what's in store for the next endeavours on Sodor. This is the definitive start of a better life for the show and packs many surprises and heart. Its lovely, it really is the Tale of the Brave and its as if the film is saying "and we're back".

Tale of the Brave gets an...

Tale of the Brave: The Movie rolls into Vue cinemas across the UK from August 22nd to 28th. The DVD is released in the UK on September 1st, the US triple play Blu-ray on the 16th and in Australia and New Zealand on October 1st.

Thomas & Friends' 18th Season premieres on Channel 5 milkshake! in the UK on August 25th at 7:35am, with the episode, Old Reliable Edward.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Exclusive: Stars and crew assemble for 'Tale' premiere

Tale of the Brave: The Movie treaded the boards of the United Kingdom with its premiere.

The Vue cinemas event, held in London's Leicester Square on August 10th, greeted passers-by with the appearances of Thomas and The Fat Controller posing for photos outside.
Roll Along Thomas were present as were cast members Mark Moraghan and Keith Wickham, with composer Peter Hartshorne and producer Ian McCue representing the crew.

Railway Series alumni saw Veronica Chambers and widow of the late Hilary Fortnam, Alf Fortnam, alongside the Awdry's management. SiF's Ryan and Christopher were also in attendance.

Meanwhile, famous faces came with the multi-talented actor and writer Danny Wallace, presenter Vanessa Feltz and Radio 1 and 1 Xtra DJ Mistajam.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Exclusive: Hit Entertainment talks future Series 19

Another series of Thomas & Friends remains an open phase, Hit Entertainment have said.

A follow-up to the 18th Season is expected in the near future owing to the greater popularity of the brand and the newer seasons of the show.
Roll Along Thomas spoke with Hit in April, who gave no official confirmation, but teased for a press release.

We are all very excited about the prospect of another series of Thomas & Friends, however, we are unable to share more at this time. We will have more content development news to share later this year.

Five never before seen episodes from 2014 are available to buy in the US on the Trouble on the Tracks DVD.