Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Alright, I didn't really want to do this, but this recent wave of butthurt users concerning SIF's actions over the Wikia Answers filth made me think enough is enough.  It's time for someone to actually speak out over this.  And who better than me?  Not to toot my own horn you must understand..!

In September 2005, I joined the world wide web.  It was all pretty new to me back then so I had no idea what YouTube or SIF were, and I didn't know that there were many (grown up) people that liked Thomas and Friends.  I joined YouTube in 2006 and have spent 5 years (on many different accounts :P) on there.  And a lot of issues on there are the amount of trolls on there and the impact that SIF has on the fanbase.  For three years, I was at loggerheads with Ryan for one reason: I was influenced by the YouTube Thomas fans.

When I realised that what I was doing was counterproductive and immature, I tried to reconcile with him, and he gladly obliged.  Once it was settled, I asked to join SIF, to which he accepted.  I was surprised at this.  A lot of heated things were said and he just put that all aside to allow me a spot on the biggest Thomas forum on the internet.  From that day onward, I have respected Ryan and SIF to the utmost.

Then, I see on YouTube people moaning and bitching that they got kicked out of SIF.  To them, I say this: you probably deserved it.  SIF is run like clockwork.  The owners do not ask for much, only that you treat each member of the forum the same way you wish to be treated, and swearing and namecalling is not tolerated.  We are talking about a children's show here people.  A CHILDREN'S show.  Grown ups should act like role model to kids, and that doesn't mean swearing on videos that are aimed at them, or swearing at other people!  I know I'm not the best advocate for this, as I've been known to swear like a sailor.  But I KNOW that it's wrong and I am doing my best to not do it anymore, and being on SIF is helping immensely.  The members aren't doing anything personally, but their rules remind me that there are other things that can be said rather than just constant swear words.

There's another thing that I like about SIF, and it's something I mentioned earlier: respect.  If people are treated with respect, they will get that respect in return.  The only reason Ryan responds to him the way he does is because they constantly run his name through the mud and, to be honest I'm sick of it.  If YOUR name was dragged through the mud in the same fashion as you lot do with Ryan's, I bet you'd act the same wat as he did.  And if you say otherwise you're just lying to yourselves.  From what I know, Ryan has a full time career.  To do that, and run a succesful fansite, an even more successful forum AND a blog, not to mention everything else he does, definately deserves respect.

Not only that though, I feel SAFE on SIF.  I don't have to worry about trolls and bullies like I do on Blogger, YouTube, DeviantART or the Thomas Wikia Answers, because I know that SIF is run properly and they will not tolerate bullying, threatening or disgusting behaviour.  And that gets a round of applause from me.  I love Thomas and Friends, and to have a safe haven to talk about something I love is something of a godsend.

As for what they said about that Answers page, I applaud them for that too.  The messages on there are absolutely disgusting and downright abhorant.  There is no place for filth like that, ESPECIALLY when children are concerned!  They didn't want to run the Answers page, they wanted to bring the problems that page has to the forefront of the administrators of that page.  And it worked, as the admin are acting on questions that promote bullying, or anything that doesn't concern Thomas and Friends.

Overall, if the entire internet, especially YouTube, was run as well as Sodor Island Forums is, the internet would be a much safer place to interact.  And those who have a problem with it have probably been able to get away with a lot of things in their lives because they've had no proper discipline.  You have to learn that life is not like modern day Thomas and Friends, every action has a consequence.  If you do something positive, you get something good in return.  If not, you get negative consequences.  SIF doesn't ruin anything for anyone.  They just have the intelligence to realise that a lot of Thomas and Friends sites need to be run better than they are doing!

Monday, 21 November 2011

UK DVD Prices

Some people are moaning that I am constantly complaining that the UK keeps getting these 4 episode per DVD release US imports.  Well I think it's high time I actually set the whole record straight and explained WHY I think these new DVDs are such rip-offs. 

This is not just an issue that I have.  A lot of parents, and grown up fans on SIF, are sick of paying so much money for these DVDs that are worth £2 if that.  Here is a review from Amazon (from 2010) about 2010 release "Thomas and the Runaway Kite"

"In this day and age, there is really no excuse for this kind of shoddiness. A flimsy four episodes. Not even an hour. When I was young, I had no problem sitting through over 2 hours of Thomas.
These new animated episodes lack the charm and vitality of the live action version, and its sad to see this once great institution reduced to this.
Only the other week, they released a DVD with 28 episodes on. 28!! But this - 4! A total rip-off, Hit entertainmnet should hang their head in shame."

That user rated the DVD 1 star and 26 people (out of 28) found it helpful.  And if you think that was the only one, you're wrong.  This review is for the 2010 release Splish Splash Splosh:

"Perhaps I should've read the small print or something but I actually feel like a a mug for buying this DVD. I ordered it so I could free up some space on my Sky Plus. However, I was pretty shocked to find only four episodes which followed a long advert for Drayton Manor Thomas Land that can't be fast forwarded. What a cheek!!! Please avoid if you don't want to be fleeced."

13 out of 13 found it helpful, and the WHOLE DVD is rated an average of 1.5 stars.  7 people rated it, 4 voted 1 star and 3 voted 2.  While yes, some of these DVDs have been given positive reviews, not one has said the DVDs are value for money, only saying that their children love Thomas and Friends.  That's it.  However the Series 9 release had this review in 2009:

" This DVD is very good value. My friends little boy who is 2 and a half loves to watch this. He is Catalan and can understand and speak very good English and really enjoys Thomas and friends."

That customer rated it 5 stars.  Here's another review, this time for Series 10:

"My 3&1/2 year-old son is a Thomas freak (as are many others out there!) and this Series 10 was an addition is his 20-odd DVD collection. The 28 episodes were a welcome length compared to some more shoddy ones (i.e. Splish Splash Splosh with 4 episodes)by HiT entertainment. Michael Angelis' commentary remains the same and is more welcome than Ringo Starr..."

That was another 5 star rating.  Finally, this was for Series 12:

"As ever, the complete series releases of Thomas are great value. Series 12 is a nice mixture of old-fashioned live action model trains, mixed with some computer animation (trains' faces, for example) and - most importantly - this is the last series where the regular narrator supplied all the voices. So grown-up fans of the 'old' Thomas will still have plenty to enjoy. Personally, I don't plan to buy any later Thomas on DVD, but with 12 series to fall back on, our family certainly has plenty to choose from."

This was a 4 star rating, as she thought there were two issues: one with picture quality when it's played on a TV (it's not a blu-ray, that's all I can say) and the the other is trawling through menus to get to favourite episodes.

Yes, a lot of reviews don't mention value for money, but there are a lot more positive reviews for the Complete Series DVDs than the recent 4 episode per DVD releases.  Why?  Here's the maths:

All Thomas and Friends DVDs are £8 (if you shop around) when they're newly released.  Complete Collection DVDs hold every episode of each series (Series 1-9 and 11 have 26, S10 has 28 and S12 and 13 have 20, as will, if they're made, Series 14 and 15).  The Series 1-9 and 11 DVDs cost 31p per episode.  Series 10 cost 29p per episode while Series 12 onwards (will) cost 40p per episode.  The 4 episode per DVD releases cost £2 per episode.  TWO POUNDS for a DVD that lasts just over 40 minutes and has poor quality episodes!  You can draw your own conclusions but the facts are the facts.

Overall Opinions
I feel like an absolute mug.  Every time I heard that a new DVD with new episodes was being released I got really excited over it.  Now?  I would never go anywhere near them!  I'd rather just buy 25 blank DVDs and record them on Channel 5.  The quality is as good as it is on home release DVDs at a fraction of the cost.  It's even worse in the US as their DVDs are all in fullscreen when the episodes are widescreen on TV.  HiT really should get their act together and release more DVDs that are actually value for money.  They owe it to their fans to produce good quality episodes and value for money merchandise.  If they're going to release episodes on DVD, they should at least include more so that we can feel we're geting much better value for money than we're getting now.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Too Much Thomas

Not really many people talk about this, probably because there are more important issues with Thomas and Friends at the moment :P.  But I was reading a post on SIF's blog concerning whether there should be a "Steam Team" anymore and one of the topics they talked about about is whether there was too much of Thomas on our screens.  And that got me thinking: why IS there so much Thomas?

Fans of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends have always been fond of classic episodes because, in every episode, there would be a different engine having a different adventure on different parts of the island.  In fact, many fan favourite episodes don't have Thomas as the star - or even in the episode/story at all.  Yet during the reboot of the show in 2004, more emphasis was put on the main 7 characters - plus Emily - while other characters were shunted into the sidings.  But most of the emphasis was put onto Thomas.  I've been doing the sums, and here's what I've found.  There have been 186 episodes since HIT's revamp, and only 7 of them haven't included Thomas in any way, shape or form.  While there are some negatives, there ARE, from HIT's point of view, some positives.

  • Sadly, the Thomas and Friends that we know now is not the same show that many people grew up with.  It's no longer a show about talking locomotives, it's not even the brain child of an Anglican clergy anymore.  It is a brand, a franchise if you will.  This means that, basically, success is determined by the amount of profit that is made rather than the popularity of the show (hence the change to CG animation, since the cost of the model series was so high).  By including Thomas in the majority of episodes, the brand will flourish and the toys and merchandise will fly off the shelves - as long as parents can afford it.
  • As Thomas is the star of the show, the more episodes he appears in, the more that kids are going to learn from an episode.  Unfortunately, this can also be a curse, especially with some of the "morals" that are being spewed out these days: always listen and talk to strangers (Misty Island Rescue), you're only successful if you're "normal" (MIR, Thomas and Scruff, James to the Rescue, Diesel's Special Delivery) and playing in workshops is OK (Day of the Diesels, Kevin the Steamie) to name a few.

  • Let's face it, the more Thomas appears, the more people get sick of the sight of him.  It's getting even worse in the CG series as most of his appearances are pointless.  But it's not really that bad (really :P).  While he's only missed 7 episodes since 2004 (and many more besides from Series 1-7), he HAS missed episodes.  Stars of other kids shows like Pingu, Fireman Sam, SpongeBob, even shows like the Simpsons haven't missed one episode since their debut episodes.
  • It means that, after a while, episodes ideas involving episodes starring Thomas are going to run dry and plots are going to be really similar - or even identical - to each other (e.g. Thomas and Skarloey's Big Day Out and Stop That Bus, Creaky Cranky and Stuck on You and The Lion of Sodor and Thomas and the Pigs).  But then again, even those episodes that Thomas doesn't star in are similar - or identical - due to the annoying three strikes formula.  Trust me, I've been thinking of stories to write about where Thomas is the star and I've only come up with one.  THAT'S how overused he is.
  • This, for me, is the biggest drawback, and it concerns the new characters.  In all but one (Whiff's) of the new characters' introductory episodes, Thomas has been the star, or majorly involved.  Because of this, their personalities hardly develop, they're pretty much the same as most existing characters.  Dennis was like Daisy used to be, Billy was like Gordon and even Stanley's a bit like Thomas.  Also, none HIT's characters have ever made an impact, and I think that's because of the Thomas emphasis.  The only character that had a REAL back story was Hiro.  Near enough every other new character just came out of nowhere.
Let me give you some examples of what I mean by that.  In Duck Takes Charge, Duck only appeared in half the episode, but he made such an impact in such little time that he became an instant favourite and you just knew that he's an engine not to be messed with, yet he can be one that you can really get on with.  In Escape (the story rather than the episode) you followed Oliver's journey from certain doom to preservation on Sodor.  You could even connect to Donald and Douglas as you wouldn't have wanted EITHER to leave in The Twin Engines and you felt their despair whenever they did anything wrong and you felt their joy at the end of the book.  Now though you can't feel that way about ANY characters as they have the same personality as everyone else.  And the root cause, for me, is Thomas' involvement.  Because of him, no one else has time to shine.

Overall Opinions
From HIT's perspective, having Thomas in every episode and on every package for merchandise (even Hornby) it is a good move as it boosts sales and profits.  For me?  It's called Thomas and FRIENDS for a reason.  The series is about Thomas AND ALL his friends rather than Thomas on his own with his seven henchmen and other lackeys that are introduced just for the merchandise.  By all means, include new characters, but more thought should go into them and Thomas should stay well away so that the newbies can have a time to shine.

To quote SIF's blog post, I want less of Thomas, more of his friends.