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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Thomas and the Magic Railroad is a wholesome train movie for the entire family, with messages about the power of believing in yourself and those around you. However, younger and more sensitive viewers might be scared of the mean diesel trains, and there's one scene in which one of the good trains is nearly pushed into a fiery furnace. But like the other films in the Thomas series, it's clearly intended for younger viewers, especially those who like trains. For parents, this is probably the only time anyone will get to see Peter Fonda and Alec Baldwin working together.
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What's the story?
THOMAS AND THE MAGIC RAILROAD follows train and human characters as they find a lost train hidden in Muffle Mountain, uncover magic gold dust somewhere on the magic Island of Sodor, and defeat a mean bully diesel train, all while finding courage, magic, and a sense of responsibility within themselves. Thomas (voiced by Edward Glen) and Mr. Conductor (Alec Baldwin) are faced with lots of challenges. A big diesel train with wicked-looking pinchers is a bully who wants to take over. The only one who can stop him is a train called Lady (Britt Allcroft), who's been missing for many years. Mr. Conductor is running out of the special gold dust that enables him to go back and forth between Shining Time Station and the Island of Sodor. He goes to his surfboard-loving cousin Junior (Michael E. Rodgers) for help, and Junior uses up the last of the dust. Meanwhile, Lily (Mara Wilson) and Patch (Cody McMains) try to help Lily's grandfather (Peter Fonda), who has a secret that just might help.
Is it any good?
The beloved PBS series about the little blue train and his friends moves to the big screen with a story that will please its many fans, though they might find it a little hard to follow. Even adults may scratch their heads at the plot. Series regulars Didi Conn and Russell Means appear briefly, but the filmmakers brought in some real Hollywood talent for the main characters to add star quality. Baldwin, Fonda, and Wilson all give great, sincere performances that help make the story seem real. And the producers wisely stay away from high-tech special effects, so that the trains look just as they do on television.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the meaning of "the three Rs" -- the conductor and the trains must all be responsible, reliable, and "really useful." Family members can give examples of how each tries to accomplish those goals.
How does this Thomas movie compare with others? How odes it compare with the TV show?
Families can also talk about the meaning behind "Little engines can do big things," and what makes some people want to act like bullies.
- In theaters: July 26, 2000
- On DVD or streaming: September 29, 2020
- Cast: Alec Baldwin, Peter Fonda, Mara Wilson
- Director: Britt Allcraft
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Trains
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: April 23, 2021
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