Western Animation / TUGS


"The tugboat, for its size, is the most powerful craft afloat. And the Starr Tugs are the power behind the docks and waterways that make up the Bigg City Port."

From the makers of Thomas the Tank Engine comes a short-lived sister series. Set in Bigg City Port in The Roaring '20s, it chronicles the adventures of the Star Tugs, a fleet of Thomas-esque boats with faces as they compete for contracts with their biggest rivals, the Z-Stacks.

What really sets this show apart from Thomas is the maturity of the stories. There are dangerous perils that the Tugs have to deal with, such as being crushed by a wayward ocean liner, or the risk of being scrapped.

Clips from the show were later redubbed and used as segments for Salty's Lighthouse.

This show provides examples of:

  • Large and in Charge: Hercules and Zorran. Basically the larger the tug, the more status they tend to have. The small Harbour Switchers Ten Cents, Sunshine, Zip and Zug are almost like the babies of their families. And the huge ocean liners are treated like royalty.
  • Last of His Kind: O.J., the last paddleboat tug in Bigg City.
  • Meaningful Name: The tramp steamer "Krakatoa" from the episode "Munitions".
  • Meaningful Rename: Before Boomer was, well, Boomer, his name was Captain Harry. Unfortunately, like the urban legend goes, renaming a ship gives bad luck...in this case, bad luck to Boomer himself.
  • National Stereotypes: Izzy Gomez has a mustache and sombrero, sleeps a lot, has a very goofy accent and is notoriously cheap.
  • The Needs of the Many: In Munitions, Ten Cents takes a burning petrol barge out to sea, whilst Sunshine uses a fire barge to contain the fire. When the petrol barge explodes, Sunshine is about to leave to help Ten Cents, O.J. tells him to stay at his post, despite how much it destroys them both.
  • New Transfer Student: Sunshine from "Up River". Not a school per se, but has a different paint job until he's accepted at the end of the first episode.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In "Up River", Billy Shoepack uses his dynamite to free Sunshine from a log jam. Unfortunately, the force of the explosion turns the logs into a massive battering ram heading straight for Bigg City.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Zug's voice and appearance is very similar to Peter Lorre.
  • Noodle Incident: It's not entirely clear what happened between Captain Zero and Johnny Cuba, but Zero is still pretty sore about it.
  • Now Which One Was That Voice?: None of the voices for the characters were credited, only through investigation and crew confirmation were any voices identified. Patrick Allen (Captain Star) is a particularly easy voice to identify.
  • Oh, Crap!: Happens twice in "Up River":
    • First, when Big Mac realizes the logs trapping Sunshine have caught fire.
    • Second, when Warrior gets stuck on the wrong side of the barricade.
  • Ominous Fog: "Ghosts".
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Top Hat, again.
  • Re-Cut: The TV versions of four of the episodes differ from the VHS versions.
    • The most infamous example is the episode "Munitions", which, depending on the version, decides whether or not Big Mickey the Crane lives or dies.
  • Scenery Gorn: "Munitions" features a ten-minute sequence of explosions, enough to make Michael Bay proud.
    • The series has quite a few spectacular explosions.
  • Scenery Porn: The harbor, the docks, the boats...
  • Ship Tease: No pun intended, between Hercules and Lillie.
  • Shout-Out: The Line "Goodnight Vienna" is a direct reference to Ringo Starr's album of the same name.
    • At the time, Ringo Starr was cast as the narrator of Thomas the Tank Engine, TUGS sister show.
    • Zug looks and sounds like horror legend Peter Lorre.
  • Sixth Ranger: Near the end of the series, Grampus the submarine joins the Star Tugs.
  • The Smurfette Principle: There are three female characters with lines in the show (Lillie, Sally and Pearl). The liners are always referred to as "she" but that may just be because of the nautical term, as they don't appear to be sentient like the other ships.
  • Speech Impediment: Grampus lisps when he talks.
  • Spiritual Successor: Co-producer Robert Cardona would go on to produce the Canadian series Theodore Tugboat.
  • Suicide as Comedy: Boomer, in an extremely light-hearted example.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Captain Starr speaks mostly in a calm and controlled way but Captain Zero yells at his tugs and shakes his megaphone whenever he speaks.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Not exactly the theme music, but there is a dramatic piece of music played whenever a Tug is acting heroically.
  • Track Trouble: In "High Tide", when Top Hat, Zebedee, and Zak come across a narrow canal with a railway bridge above it, the high tide causes Zebedee's steel rig to damage the bridge. While Zebedee and Zak leave to get help, Top Hat uses Zebedee's steel rig to prop up the bridge whilst Puffa travels across it. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards, the steel rig sinks and the bridge collapses, forcing Top Hat to catch the Goods Engine in Lord Stinker the Garbage Barge when it comes across the bridge.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Top Hat and Bluenose.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Big Mac.
  • Watch Where You're Going!: In "Warrior", The Shrimpers say this to Warrior when he cuts across them. Warrior apologizes and tells them that they should look where they're going.