With the release of Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails (2009), productions were definitely underway at that point for the new era of the show. All episodes were being made completely in CGI and the production changed hands. And from an initial standpoint, that specific feature impressed enough to convert even some of the diehard fans. However, that would change drastically with the next feature that came along. Not only did it annoy the fans of the original series, but even some of the newcomers found it to be an odd direction. There were just too many things going in the execution that did not resemble what used to be the show a year ago. Thus in accordance with all other features released, this was considered a very low point. And quite frankly, it is still seen as one.
The story begins with Sir Topham Hatt making an announcement about his new rescue center that is being built. The center will be made of a certain kind of wood that is very special and difficult to retrieve. Of course the engine asked to bring this cargo was Thomas. However Diesel is up to his usual behavior and decided to take the special wood himself, only to cause a total disaster. After that Sir Topham Hatt has Thomas head to the mainland to get more, only to be lost out at sea and land on a mysterious island covered in fog. While there he meets three new engines by the name Bash, Dash and Ferdinand and learns what they do on the island. Written this time completely by Sharon Miller, the writing is unfortunately not to the standard any of any other Thomas feature to come before. This also includes the quality of the tv show as well.
The pros to this feature are really the supporting elements and the voice cast. The actors who reprise their roles as the engines of Sodor continue to do an adequate job for the characters. The problem though is in the writing itself. The structure of the story starts off okay, but quickly degrades and becomes very elementary. After making a decision that gets recognized by Sir Topham Hatt, Thomas begins to get a big head. Every chance he gets from then on, he would brag about how he makes good decisions. This is repeated so much so that it becomes obnoxious. On top of that is rhyming dialog, which was something the show and other features never included. Worst of all is that it's not even continuous rhyming; it's just clumps of lines that happened to be paired and up rhymed occasionally. This doesn't make the experience any more fun.
Bash, Dash and Ferdinand, could have been interesting characters but the way they communicate is also frustrating. All three will speak together to form sentences and Ferdinand will more often than not finish it with a "That's Right" line. This provides no development at all to these engines and turns them into characters no one will care for. Adding to that are contrived sequences that make no sense and goofy gimmicks. As Thomas discovers misty island, the rail bed raft that he's on, docks perfectly in line with the rails of the land. Something like that is never that perfect. Then there's things like the "shake shake" bridge, a construct that is so feeble looking it still manages to let Thomas and other engines cross it. How is that even remotely possible? It's these types of moments that are downright questionable.
Even with Greg Tiernan returning as director to this feature, it feels like nothing could overcome the silliness that was the writing. Also the blame can't be put on narrators Michael Brandon or Michael Angelis because they were just reading what was given to them. Thankfully the animation and music were acceptable. With the show and other features now being fully converted to CGI, there really isn't anything to point out that looks wrong. Iconic locations like Brendam Docks, Tidmouth Sheds and the Sodor Search and Rescue Center are some of the biggest sights to see. As for misty island, when the fog clears the main place to be featured there is the logging station, which is unique but nowhere near is visually pleasing. The music composed by Robert Hartshorne was nice. Although the whole bit of using iconic themes for characters has been kind of forgotten, the cues still work for the scenes at hand. The ending song though to this feature is middling at best. It depends if you like country music.
Of all the Thomas & Friends features to be made, this is weakest. It has good animation, music and all the right voice actors, but the script is what fouls it all up. The new characters are not developed, the dialog contains unnecessary rhyming and several moments feel too improbable to belong to this series.