❉ The 20th Anniversary Edition of Thomas and the Magic Railroad, starring Peter Fonda, Mara Wilson, Alec Baldwin.
Thomas and the Magic Railroad might not have been an obvious choice to receive a full-blown 20th anniversary special edition Blu-ray release, much less a We Are Cult review, but the team at Shout! Kids have delivered a features-packed platter, with the film serving as a reminder that simple entertainment can sometimes be the most satisfying for children.
At the time of its theatrical release in 2000, the film received poor reviews from critics, who lamented the changes from the celebrated source material, and the film didn’t make much of a box-office dent (roughly $20 million worldwide vs. its $20 million budget). When it hit theatres, I of course scoffed at its existence – Alec Baldwin and Peter Fonda were messing around with toy trains?
But, I was 20 years old then, and now that I’m 40, and responsible for a five year old son who has demonstrated a clear love for all things Thomas the Tank Engine, I can safely report that this kid-flick will certainly entertain any tyke who holds Thomas and Friends close to their heart.
The plot centres on Lily (Mara Wilson, who a few years prior nailed the titular role in Matilda), who starts to think that her too-cool-for-school grandfather (Peter Fonda, naturally) might hold the magic key which can help to rescue the little trains in his workshop, which is situated on Muffle Mountain. She teams up with Mr. Conductor (Alec Baldwin, a total hoot), and they set out for an adventure on the Island of Sodor, which of course is the famous home for Thomas and all of his buddies. However, trouble pops up when all of the steam engines come under the threat of the mean and nasty Diesel #10, who has a nefarious plan to dominate the other trains by locating and destroying their supply of magical gold dust, which is perilously running out. It’s all as blazed as it sounds, and even if you’re 40 years old instead of five, you’ll marvel over how seriously both Baldwin and Fonda took their roles, especially Baldwin, who appeared to have been having the time of his life.
This special edition from Shout! Kids includes a fun, two-part documentary called Return to Shining Time: Your Ticket to Thomas and the Magic Railroad, which showcases writer-producer-director Britt Allcroft. Interviews with Baldwin, Wilson, co-star Didi Conn (Grease 1 & 2), and composer Hummie Mann are also included, as well as deleted story-lines (for the true Thomas enthusiast!) and a behind-the-scenes reel, which might inspire some interest from little viewers who are curious as to how movie magic is actually crated and crafted. The video image is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, with strong colors all throughout, with consistent sound being felt from speaker to speaker. For over 75 years, the character of Thomas the Train has delighted children all over the world, and it’s easy to see why.
❉ “Return To Shining Time: Your Ticket To Thomas And The Magic Railroad” – Two-Part Documentary With Writer/Director/Producer Britt Allcroft
❉ “Hello Mr. Conductor” – Interview With Alec Baldwin
❉ “Finding Your Sparkle” – Interview With Mara Wilson
❉ “There’s Something About This Place” – Interview With Didi Conn
❉ “The Sounds Of Sodor” – Interview With Composer Hummie Mann
❉ Behind-The-Scenes Reel
❉ Deleted Story Lines
❉ Starring Peter Fonda, Mara Wilson, Alec Baldwin, ‘Thomas And The Magic Railroad’ [20th Anniversary Edition] was released by Shout! September 29, 2020. Available in US & Canada only. List Price: $22.97 USD. CLICK HERE TO ORDER
❉ Nick Clement is a journalist for Variety Magazine and motion picture screenplay consultant, as well as a critic for websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation, and is currently working on a book about the life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.