Thursday, 3 April 2014

DVD Review: Spills and Thrills

March 31st saw the release of the second Thomas and Friends DVD this year, and also the second to feature series 17 episodes: Spills and Thrills!

I managed to review these episodes on the day this DVD was released (feel free to check that blog post out here). The episodes featured are:
  1. Away from the Sea
  2. The Smelly Kipper
  3. No More Mr Nice Engine
  4. Gone Fishing
  5. Thomas' Shortcut
  6. The Afternoon Tea Express
As you can tell from the top of the DVD's box art, these episodes have never been aired on British screens, which gives this release a unique selling point compared to others from the CGI era.  I personally love it, and I really wouldn't mind if they did more of these in the future. The episode quality is worth getting this DVD for as well; they're some of the greatest of the CGI era. Two, I'd argue, could be considered some of the best of all time.

Bonus Features
Like The Thomas Way before it, Spills and Thrills has some excellent extras.

Before the disc even gets to the menu, there's a trailer for this year's movie/special, Tale of the Brave, which is looking brilliant. The voices aren't as top quality as on the rest of this DVD, but I imagine that will be rectified come August/September. There's also an advert for the Thomas' Adventure Castle Take-n-Play set. They showed it off really well and it's a nice little set.

As for the actual bonus features, they're the same sort of segments that were on The Thomas Way DVD, but this time Mr Perkins is sending a postcard to a worried passenger about Knapford Station. It is extremely well written, well acted and there were a nice range of clips. The standout one was of a sneak peek into what the station will look like in the future. It looks so much more realistic, so a huge kudos to all who worked on those improvements.

Then, Perkins tells another adapted Railway Series story, this time it's Thomas and Gordon. Andrew Brenner has said that he isn't planning anything huge for this year - the 30th anniversary of the television series - as the Railway Series deserves the most acclimation (let's face it, there'd BE no TV series without the books). But the fact that he adapted the story that would go on to be the first ever episode aired on screens was a nice little touch, regardless of whether it was intentional or not.

And a huge kudos to Lorraine Marshall for the amazing additional illustrations. Her work gives me the impression she has a huge respect for the original artwork, which in turn inspires her own interpretations. I personally think she'd have been excellent at illustrating a Railway Series book, had she been given the chance.

Again, the Earl's memory game is OK, but focusing the segment on episodes that no one is really interested in just doesn't engage me. That said, this is aimed at children, and if they liked the previous edition from The Thomas Way then they'll like this one as well, I imagine.

For this DVD, the Really Useful Engines segment focused on Stephen and Rosie. I personally prefer this edition to the one from The Thomas Way, as this one focused on newer characters. They were described really well, especially since they kept to the same timeframe as the one from the previous release. It is rather unfortunate, though, that while Rosie was featured in this segment, she's featured very little in series 17.

Finally, Who's That Engine featured Hiro. I really like that newer characters are getting love not just in the episodes but in learning segments as well. Again, the animation was specially rendered before they reflected on one of his episodes. Surprisingly, they looked back on Henry's Hero rather than any of his "adventures" from series 13-16. Not that I'm complaining; Henry's Hero is one of my favourite episodes that Hiro stars in.

As usual, the UK release comes in a 16:9 widescreen format. Everything flows very smoothly and it looks brilliant. It does seem that the picture sharpness, that seemed to have dipped in The Thomas Way, has returned to normal here.

The recommended retail price for this DVD is £12.99. Like The Thomas Way, Spills and Thrills can actually be snapped up for as little as £5 if you shop around. Again, my recommendations are Amazon and Asda.

Final Thoughts
Six great, never-before-seen episodes, fantastic bonus features, a free storybook AND a DVD that comes in a card slip with a 3D feel to it? This is my favourite release so far this year, and I doubt it will be beaten until Tale of the Brave comes along. This is a definite must buy, especially if you can get it cheap!

DVD Rating: 9.5/10