Friday, 15 January 2016

DVD Reviews: Signals Crossed

From episodes that took their sweet time to get here to a DVD that took its sweet time getting here. Anyway, here are my thoughts on Signals Crossed!

And with this release, every series 18 episode has been released on DVD here in the UK!
  1. Signals Crossed
  2. Marion & the Pipe
  3. Duncan & the Grumpy Passenger
  4. No Steam Without Coal
  5. Thomas & the Emergency Cable
  6. Spencer's VIP
  7. Toad's Bright Idea
I really like the episodes on this DVD (except Signals Crossed, which I'm lukewarm towards). However, that doesn't change the fact that it's been over a year between the US and UK releases. And, considering only two DVDs were released at a similar time last year in both territories, this is getting beyond a joke. Yes, the UK gets extra content compared to the US version, but that's really not enough any more, especially since milkshake's website has every episode on there and you can watch them for free! Also, adding extra content on the UK version feels unfair on the US as well as they're missing out on it, or getting it on a later release.

Bonus Features
The bonus segments are nothing new, really.

Mr Perkins' Postcard focused on Sodor's bridges this time around. It was a very good segment showing how important they are, and it showcased a couple that I wouldn't mind seeing again, including the steel one and the main viaduct.

The Story Time segment featured Thomas Goes Fishing. There's not much to say about it, really. The illustrations are good, the story is well told and Perkins is pretty fun.

Who's That Engine? featured Spencer this time around. I've always really liked how Arc have shown off each engine in these segments. The main camera angles are still a bit same-y, but that doesn't detract from the work that went into them.

That being said, it was this segment on the US release that inspired me to vent my frustrations with coach designs in a previous post, and it's an opinion I stand by. I like that they're pushing the idea of Pullman coaches for Spencer, but it would be nice if they had the shapes and proportions of actual Pullmans rather than just using a skin deep design.

Anyway, the episode that was talked about after the reveal was Spencer's VIP which was still a great episode that got the idea of a series 9-16 episode right in a more natural way, as Spencer only screwed up once, got a chance to think about his actions and was given a chance to redeem himself. It feels like an Awdry-esque concept, which is excellent.

There were two Really Useful Engines segments featured: one for James and one for Duck. There's not really much to say about them; they both described the characters well and there was a nice range of footage, although Arc's stuck out quite a bit from Nitrogen's. It also felt weird that they described Duck as a "steam engine". Yes, I know that he is one, but considering how much the show is progressing, I'd have thought that he'd be described as a tank engine, at the very least.

The Earl's Quiz was pretty standard, only this release has two quizzes. Questions this time around focused on Emily Saves the World, Express Coming Through!, Thomas & the Emergency Cable and James to the Rescue. The questions are a mix between relatively easy and a tad more difficult, but they can't all be too difficult; they are primarily aimed at children.

At the start of the DVD was the same trailer for Start Your Engines! (click the title for my initial thoughts) that was on The Christmas Engines. This release, for series 19, is coming to the UK in mid-March. It still feels funny that they're advertising a series 19 release when they've only aired seven of the 25 episodes over here (at the time of writing. Seriously, Viacom and Channel 5, get those episodes on the air if you have them!)

The presentation is the standard fare for Thomas and Friends; high quality animation and a crisp, widescreen picture. If you've seen Sodor's Legend of the Lost TreasureThe Adventure Begins or any episode from series 19, you'd probably think the colours and lighting aren't as natural here, but it's still brilliantly crafted.

The prices are pretty standard: £7.99 RRP, but the cheapest place is Asda for £6. However, if you have an iTunes account, you can get the episodes in HD for £8.99. Although, with the iTunes release, you don't get the bonus features.

Final Thoughts
This is another rather tough one to rate. The episode quality is great, and if that's what matters to you, then I'd recommend it. To everyone else though? Even if you can get it for the cheapest price you can, there are Thomas DVDs out there that have much better value. You can also watch them for free on the milkshake! website if you're not too bothered about missing out on the bonus features.

This, however, is more of a call to HiT's marketing team to pull their fingers out and get newer releases out in the UK quicker. I really don't care which country your market data says has the "biggest support" as it will always be skewed by the fact that North America has one of the largest land masses of any continent in the world. And considering how dedicated Nintendo are getting Pokken Tournament, as well as Red, Blue and Yellow released for the US and Europe at the same time as Japan, should there really be an excuse for any company to try worldwide releases any more?

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