Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Engine Movements

This week on Fans Complain About the Pettiest Things..!

Actually, that's not really fair. There is one rebuttal to this that I can completely understand, but let's provide the context first.

The trailer, and behind the scenes peek, for Journey Beyond Sodor was released a couple of weeks ago, and both were great. They actually got me excited for a special that I had no real interest in beforehand. It's action packed, the new characters (besides Beresford) are really interesting and Hugh Bonneville's star power should really help give it more mainstream attention (Theo being autistic and Lexi being gender fluid will also help, but that's another issue for another time).

But the biggest talking point of the whole trailer was the physical movements of the engines. Now this is nothing new; back when Nitrogen animated, they made the whistle budge up and down when they blew, and there's been constant shaking and other movements when engines have braked hard. Heck, even back in the model era, engines shuddered on the odd occasion, while Emily's rocked from side to side slightly whenever she was in motion.

However, these movements are a lot more exaggerated even when they're not in motion. Fans have best described them as "Chuggington-esque" which, to be honest, is tricky to argue against. The only thing they don't do is physically jump (in the trailer at least).

Fans have also said this "goes against the visual storytelling" that the series has been known for which... I agree and disagree with, to be honest. I agree since the show itself has (despite the faces) has been known to have a grounding in reality (you know, despite the boulder, and the whole movie about magic, and the jet engine episode, and all the engine movements I've already mentioned), and this could be the final way of removing that aspect from the show.

I also disagree because... well, look at Daisy and Kevin's Cranky Friend. Both included major character movements, and both displayed (visually) how the character was feeling at the time. Heck, I'd go so far as to say that, without those movements, Kevin wouldn't have been as charming as he turned out to be.

That is, honestly, why I don't care all that much about this whole thing: it adds charm to characters and a show that already had it in spades. Besides which, watch the trailer and behind the scenes stuff again. It's obvious to me that the experimental engines have more exaggerated movements than Thomas, a character that only moves about three times, because they're just that: experiments. Engines who weren't built properly and having them shake around as much as they do is another visual representation of that.

But going back to the "Chuggungton-esque" thing again, the problem with that wasn't the movements, it was... well, everything else. The settings felt like playsets (not in a good way), the characters felt dull (and done better by Thomas) and the stories were generally just "fine" (until around series 3 or 4). The movements just made the show more obnoxious and stupid, which is something I'm sure that everyone involved with Thomas' production want to steer clear of.

Finally, the biggest reason I don't care is simply this: it's a kids' show. Regardless of how many insecure adult fans (who refuse to admit otherwise) whine and moan about all this, to HiT, Mattel and Jam Filled, they are completely irrelevant when it comes to the show's production. Yes, they'll use older fans to sell their merchandise (Thomas Creator Collective), pimp their next big project (those Ryan Hagan-involved interviews) and do most of their focus testing (those SIF polls), but that's because it's easier and cheaper for them to do than try and find random people off the street and possibly pay them to be nice. Our passion for the show helps them to make money, and that's all they care about.

So yes, this is just another example of fans making a big deal over nothing. If you were really that bothered, why not complain after Hero of the Rails when, you know, the movements started? Or, if you're that insecure and petulant about watching a childrens' show that has good storytelling solely because it's aiming at the audience it should be targeting, don't bother watching. So long as the storytelling remains as strong as it has been for the past 4 years, what's the issue?

I'm being serious here when I say older fans are the best and worst thing about the show. Without us, older character like Duck, Oliver, Duncan and Daisy probably wouldn't have returned. They're also the worst because even when they get what they want, they'd still complain. And with the world being as messed up as it is (especially with what happened last night after a concert in Manchester), you just have to wonder: "there's got to be more to life than being whiny crybabies over something that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't matter?". There's enough negativity in the world as it is without adding to the bollocks with a quibble this monumentally petty.