Friday, 25 March 2016

Bubbling Boilers

So, HiT have collaborated with a 4D entertainment studio called SimEx-Iwerks to create something special for 4D cinemas in, at least, the UK and US. And it's been called... Bubbling Boilers... OK. Anyway, SimEx have released a 2D version on their Vimeo Pro account, so I thought I'd give it a look over.

This is basically a tale of two elements: the story and the animation.

Let's be frank here, the story sucks. And I'm rather glad, for its sake, that this isn't made for TV otherwise it would have been thoroughly destroyed without mercy. While I will tear this apart... I do feel kind of guilty as this is an experimental project away from the actual show.

For all intents and purposes, this conflict should not happen. At all. Even if Thomas' sandboxes were empty (this is never explained, by the way), the fact that a steam engine is running on bubble liquid is farcical.

The mine scene was also pretty bad. Discounting the fact that the trucks probably wouldn't have rolled that far, it goes on for such a long time that it ends up being a bit dull. Also, where was this mine? Regardless of whether it's the one under Ulfstead Castle or near Great Waterton, it's inexplicably grown (for no other reason than to add more action) since either were last seen.

I also got major Great Discovery flashbacks with the shot at the waterfall. At least with the 4D, this has more of a purpose, but it's still ridiculous.

And that's not to mention the fact that Thomas manages to move immediately after being put back on the track. It happened in series 19, and it was rather annoying there as well. But with the bubbly 4D the shot will create, at least it makes sense here.

That said, there were a few tidbits I liked. Cranky being able to communicate with his seagull friend (which could be similar to the one from Percy's New Friends). It's an interesting trait that, even in the episode I mentioned, was never really focused on. It'll make Cranky a lot more interesting as a character if they decide to expand upon it, rather than just being a grump with no other traits going for him.

It was also nice that the main railway was referenced as the North Western again, and I'm hoping that this becomes frequent from series 20. It's not a big thing, but it makes it feel more real. Also, the shot above with Gordon really interests me. I'd love to see the express make it to Barrow soon.

And then there's this special's biggest strength: the animation is the best of the franchise so far. As a project that relies on the strength of its visuals in order to make the 4D effects feel real, this does an absolutely excellent job of that.

Final Thoughts
This feels a lot like Rusty and the Boulder and Thomas the Jet Engine: the story is utterly terrible, but it's just so much fun to watch that it's rather likeable in some way. The only reason I don't like those episodes as much is that they're part of the actual series and this is just a side project. I do wish that the story was better, but I hope this does well.

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