Off to the mainland without coaches or freight
Please sir, I beg you, you can't tell me no
Will you won't you take me to the Railway Show?
Thomas wants to go to the Great Railway Show, but the big engines only laugh at him. They say he's not strong or big enough to compete from the best around the world, but Thomas is determined to find a way. First, he tries to get himself streamlined, but the Fat Controller decides that it would better be suited for Gordon. Then, he tries to get himself repainted like a brightly colored engine named Ashima, from India. His plans go horribly wrong. Thomas learns how to be himself when he finally discovers a way to compete. Thomas nearly gets to the show when Diesel threatens his chance once again.
The Great Race contains examples of:
- Adaptational Jerkass: Flying Scotsman seemed relatively respectful in his few speaking roles in The Railway Series, but he's much more pompous in the TV series, especially in his interactions with Gordon. In a nutshell, he's an exaggerated version of Gordon. However, he does give Thomas genuine encouragement when the tank engine expresses his desire to return to the mainland and quite graciously admits his newfound respect for Sudrian engines when he last talks to Gordon, albeit still calling the latter "little brother".
- All Just a Dream: Thomas getting streamlined was really in his imagination. It ends as soon as Sir Topham Hatt calls for him to come back.
- All There in the Manual: Some of the international engines whose names were known on the internet and merchandise where not named in the movie itself.
- An Aesop: Thomas learns two. First he thought Ashima bumped him on purpose because she was jealous, when really she wasn't, it was by accident; never judge a book by its cover. The second one (which sets up the major lesson of the film) is he doesn't have to change himself to compete; he just has to be himself, and that's the thought that counts.
- Animation Bump: The animation is much smoother and detailed than before. Also, in several close-ups of the engines as they're moving (such as during the songs and the parts where Thomas races Gordon and when he talks to Annie and Clarabel after his second meeting with Ashima), the view is noticeably wobbling around instead of remaining stationary, to give the feel of a single-camera sitcom.
- Animated Musical: The first special to be such. The special was made this in the wake of the positive reception to "Never Overlook a Little Engine" in the prior special.
- Assumed Win: When the host is about to announce the winner of the Best Decorated Parade, James puffs forward thinking it's him, only to stop when realizing it's really Rajiv who won.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!:Thomas: What is it with all you Railway Show engines?! Charging about like you own the tracks?! What makes you so special, anyway?! Do you think you're better than all the other engines just beca — (Stops as he notices Ashima)
- Ascended Extra: Sidney and Norman, two background characters introduced in Day of the Diesels, receive their first film roles since then (though they'd already been developed in previous Brenner-written episodes). Both diesels sing as part of "Will You Won't You", Norman is involved in the accident with Thomas and Diesel's "trucks" that results in Thomas losing his buffer and nearly missing the Great Railway Show, and Thomas nearly runs into Sidney after jumping the Vicarstown Bridge and ending up on the wrong lane.
- Award-Bait Song: "You Can Only Be You". Also its Triumphant Reprise "Be Who You Are, And Go Far".
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Despite being more pompous than Gordon, Flying Scotsman has his moments where he actually cares for his brother, specifically during the race when he notices Gordon overheating and tries to warn him, and when Gordon refuses, he is seen really worried for him. And after the show is over, he tells him that the engines on Sodor are even better. He also smiles at Gordon as he leaves the yard and returns to Sodor.
- Bait-and-Switch: Ashima's (ahem) very colourful paintwork is commented on by various engines, which even gives Thomas and eventually The Fat Controller the idea of entering an engine for 'Best Decorated Engine', leading up to the assumption that Ashima is going to be an entrant in that category. Turns out it's actually fellow engine Rajiv who also represents India and wins the event, while Ashima was actually entered in the 'Shunting Challenge'.
- Be Yourself: The main moral of the film.
- The Big Race: What sets up the major point of the episode.
- Big Bad: Diesel and Vinnie.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- When the international engines arrive on Sodor, Axel says "Bonjour!", which is French for hello. Similarly, when Étienne overtakes Spencer, he shouts, "Au revoir!", which is French for goodbye.
- When Carlos sees Philip on the run from Vinnie rush towards him, he exclaims, "Fizzling fuegos!" "Fuego" is Spanish for fire.
- Bookends: The movie starts and ends with the engines going to Vicarstown. In addition, the first shot of the movie is an overview of Thomas pulling into Kellsthorpe station, and a similar treatment is given to the final shot when the Sodor team and Ashima arrive at Vicarstown, complete with the same angle and slow zooms.
- Borrowed Catchphrase:
- Thomas steals Victor's catchphrase "my friend" as he arrives at the Steamworks to be streamlined.
- Near the beginning, Flying Scotsman steals Gordon's catchphrase "Express coming through", appropriately titled "Flying Scotsman coming through".
- Bully Hunter: Thomas doesn't stand for Vinnie's nonsense when he was intimidating Philip.
- But Now I Must Go: Ashima tells Thomas she has to catch the ferry home after the show was over.
- The Bus Came Back: Ashima and many of the International Engines are slated to return in Big World! Big Adventures! and Season 22 of the series.
- When meeting Flying Scotsman, Thomas brings up the time the engines all went to the big city together.
- Philip repeatedly mentions the time he had a race with Gordon.
- Thomas says he has a short and stumpy funnel, boiler and dome, and is said to have "six small wheels" as well.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Gordon's safety valve.
- The fact that the rail ferry stopped at the Island of Sodor by accident; Thomas realises that he can spend a bit more time with Ashima since she could just catch the ferry at Brendam.
- Chekhov's Skill: Thomas is shown to be a pro at shunting frequently before the revelation by Ashima that there's an event for that.
- Continuity Nod:
- This isn't the first time Thomas got covered in paint. An engine also loses a buffer again, albiet just ''one'' buffer this time instead of his entire bufferbeam.
- Thomas jumps a rather big gap yet again.
- Gordon once again bursts his safety valve.
- Thomas is jealous of the new engine of the special once more, and in return, befriends them near the end.
- This isn't the first time a steamie imagines themself streamlined.
- Diesel once again tries to prove that he is stronger than Henry by pulling a long line of trucks.
- Costume Porn: Of a non-clothing variety, the 'Best Decorated Engine' is rife with this.
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: It turns out Sir Topham Hatt was planning to enter Thomas into the shunting challenge the whole time, so Thomas shouldn't have become so determined.
- Counterpoint Duet: The last verse of "You Can Only Be You" becomes this.
- Covers Always Lie: The official description for the film refers to the international engines as Thomas' new international friends. Thomas is initially not friends with them at first out of jealousy, and Vinnie is the Big Bad of the group. Also, a Dutch flag can be seen on the cover, but there is no engine representing a dutch country.
- Creative Closing Credits: The first part of the end credits feature the Diesels trying to find Diesel under the crates he used for his flawed plan, set to an instrumental version of "I'm Full Of Surprises". After The Stinger where he is accidentally shipped off, the credits continue with a third-person version of said song.
- Crush Filter: When Ashima is revealed, the background is noticeably pink.
- Darker and Edgier: Gordon goes off in the race without his safety valve, despite Thomas and Flying Scotsman's protests. He comes very close to ACTUALLY EXPLODING. This may have been a way of amending the glaring issue in "Gordon Runs Dry" of Gordon running with a hole in his boiler and not having his fire damped down when he was leaking water.
- Dark Reprise:
- A "danger" remix of the music played when Thomas races Gordon is heard as Thomas is about to crash into Norman. It is heard again as Thomas approaches the rising bridge.
- Gordon's song "The Shooting Star Is Coming Through" ends as this as he struggles to continue in the race without his safety valve. As a result, he overheats and his boiler explodes, and he is out of the race as a result.
- Dashing Hispanic: Carlos, who is even entered in the 'Best Decorated Event', albeit with no decorations, strangely.
- The Determinator: Thomas becomes this throughout the movie.
- Digital Destruction: The digital release is slowed down to 24fps, adding an extra two minutes and resulting in lower-pitched audio.
- Disney Acid Sequence:
- Ashima's Pep-Talk Song has a bunch of these, which are somewhat trippy.
- Throughout "Will You Won't You", the sky appears darker and paler, and everything appears to be glowing. Also in "Streamlining" during the second half, everything seems to be brighter and soft-focused.
- Disqualification-Induced Victory: Ashima ends up winning the shunting race, but Thomas is also made a winner due to his good sportsmanship by sacrificing his victory.
- Distaff Counterpart: Ashima serves as one for Thomas, having almost the same personality and is also a good shunter like him. Her whistle is also in the same key as Thomas'.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: During Thomas' second meeting with Ashima, when Ashima tells Thomas she missed the ferry and can't find her way to the show, Annie and Clarabel teasingly say Thomas wants to go as well, and suggest they'd both go together. In other words, they're telling Thomas to ask her out.
- Double Entendre: While the viewers suspect the movie's title refers to the name of one of the races in the show, it also refers to the fact Thomas is trying to figuratively (and literally) race to the show.
- Earn Your Happy Ending
- Eureka Moment: Thomas has one after Caitlin zooms by, giving him the idea to get streamlined so he can be faster.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: This exchange when Kevin brings Victor Gordon's safety valve after Gordon leaves Sodor to compete in the Great Railway Show:Kevin: I have a question!
Victor: What's so important that you have to keep interrupting?
Kevin: Uh, what, what's this?
Victor: That's Gordon's safety valve mechanism.
Kevin: Yes, that's what I thought it was.
Victor: Gordon's safety valve?! But that means Gordon hasn't been reassembled properly! I told him to wait for his safety check! If Gordon's safety valve isn't working properly, he could overheat, especially at high speeds! Gordon needs that part right now!
- Extremely Short Timespan: The movie is set over the course of three whole days.
- Famed In-Story: The Flying Scotsman and record-holder Étienne make In-Universe guest appearances.
- Fantasy Sequence: The second half of "Streamlining" is this.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing: When Thomas tries to catch the rail ferry at Brendam due to an misunderstanding of location, he points out that there's a space left on the ferry, with an engine noticing this. Cue Ashima.
- The music played as Thomas and Ashima first meet is a riff from their duet that happens later on in the movie.
- When we see Gordon being streamlined, he is singing a part of "Streamlining". It seems like he is rehearsing his "I Am Great!" Song which is to the tune of said song.
- The announcer at The Great Railway Show drops several hints about Étienne's appearance in 'The Great Race'. This also foreshadows Ashima saving Thomas from getting hurt by a live electric pylon knocked over by Vinnie.
- For Want of a Nail: Thomas accidentally gets set up for his accident because Ashima told him that there was a shunting event.
- Full-Name Ultimatum: Sir Topham Hatt yells, "Thomas the Tank Engine!" when he comes upon him right after being announced as a winner along with Ashima when the shunting challenge ends.
- Funny Background Event:
- While Sir Topham Hatt is talking to Thomas at the Steamworks after the crash, Diesel can be seen behind him in the distance, screaming "GET ME OUT OF HERE!" as Den, Dart and Paxton chase him.
- Then, as Emily explains the process of the shunting challenge to Thomas, Philip can be seen behind him, running away from Vinnie.
- An early example: during "Will You Won't You", before James' line, Charlie's driver appears to cue James.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Thomas assumes Ashima is this at first.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: After his plan to go to the show goes wrong, Diesel ends up getting stuck in one of his crates, and he is eventually loaded onto a ship.
- Hope Spot: After Thomas suggests streamlining someone for the show, Sir Topham Hatt thinks it's a great idea...then says Gordon will be good for it.
- "I Am Becoming" Song: At least with Thomas' opening verse of "Be Who You Are, And Go Far":Thomas: I can only be me,
There's nothing else I can possibly be!
And now I'm happy, I am who I am!
I'll be the best me that I can!
- "I Am Great!" Song: "The Shooting Star Is Coming Through", which is sung by Gordon about how awesome it is to be streamlined. It uses the same melody as "Streamlining", and even uses the same "Whoosh!" as before.
- The closing song "Be Who You Are, And Go Far" is this, too.
- Irony: Since "Be Who You Are, And Go Far" is the Triumphant Reprise of "You Can Only Be You", the Sodor team sings about being themselves, though they say they don't need more than six wheels like Thomas. This is quite ironic since Henry, Gordon and Ashima do have more than six wheels, and Percy has four.
- I Just Want to Be Special: Basically Thomas' goal to compete in the Great Railway Show.
- In Name Only: The Great Railway Show in The Railway Series book Thomas and the Great Railway Show was a museum event. Whereas in the film it's closer to the locomotive version of the Olympics. Thomas' bufferbeam is damaged similarly to how it is in the book however.
- "I Want" Song: "Streamlining", the rock and roll song that Thomas sings as he decides to get streamlined for the show.
- Also "Will You Won't You", where all the engines want to be in the show and beg Sir Topham Hatt to take them.
- A minor example is given to Thomas' verses in "You Can Only Be You", where he voices his doubts at being himself and wants to be different.
- Incredibly Long Note: Thomas hits a few during his "I Want" Song.
- Done at the very end of "Be Who You Are, And Go Far" as the Sodor team reaches Vicarstown and gets their picture taken, with Thomas and Ashima front and center.
- Jerkass: Vinnie. The way he's introduced to the series is by rudely telling Thomas to get out of his way.
- Leave Me Alone!: The second time Ashima runs into Thomas, she tries to ask for his help back to the mainland but he refuses.
- Let's Duet: Thomas and Ashima's duet "You Can Only Be You".
- Luminescent Blush: Thomas gets this during his second meeting with Ashima.
- During the Great Race as Gordon begins to overheat, at first he blushes, but then he goes all red in the face.
- Mood Whiplash: Right when Thomas' "I Want" Song ends, he tells Sir Topham Hatt that it would be great to get someone streamlined for the show, but he doesn't specify who. When Sir Topham agrees, Thomas is proud...until Sir Topham announces Gordon will be faster than ever, shocking him.
- When the shunting race begins, Thomas is initially bored and not in the mood (because he thinks he might lose), but when he begins to shunt the trucks his mood shifts from doubt to determination.
- Musicalis Interruptus: Gordon instantly stops singing his "I Am Great!" Song the moment his boiler bursts, resulting in him out of the race.
- Musical World Hypothesis: The Alternate Universe type. "Streamlining" also has a pitch of All In Their Head, while "Will You Won't You" is slightly Adaption.
- Never Say "Die": Thomas sings the line "Break me, shake me, take me all apart" a few times in Ashima's Pep-Talk Song.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer shows Thomas awing at the arrival of the international engines, when really, he is awing at the sight of Flying Scotsman at the beginning; in the actual movie, they arrived on Sodor by mistake. He grows to be a little mad of the international engines, thanks to Vinnie's attitude towards them as they reboard the ferry and Ashima bumping him by mistake.
- The Nicknamer: Flying Scotsman teasingly refers to Gordon as "little brother", despite being younger than him.
- Oh, Crap!: Has happened quite a lot.
- Orbital Shot: Gordon has one when he comes out of the Steamworks in his streamlining form.
- Patter Song: The opening song "Will You Won't You" features the engines bragging to Sir Topham Hatt about wanting to be in the show.
- Pep-Talk Song: "You Can Only Be You", sung by Thomas and Ashima. The latter tells the former the moral that he doesn't have to be different, while the former expresses his doubts at doing so.
- Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Justified; Ashima is pink, Thomas is blue.
- Rule of Three: Thomas' first attempt to go to the show is to get streamlined; that backfires when Sir Topham Hatt gives the idea to Gordon. Second, he decides to get repainted like Ashima, only to get himself in a literal gaudy mess, while Sir Topham Hatt passes the repainting idea onto James and Emily. His final attempt is to show Sir Topham Hatt he is great at shunting, when he interferes with Diesel's plot and ends up getting damaged as a result of crashing into Norman.
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Thomas says "Whoosh!" whenever he speeds during his "I Want" Song.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The international engines immediately return to the ship upon hearing the Great Railway Show is not on Sodor.
- Self-Deprecation: One of Thomas' verses in "You Can Only Be You":Thomas: Every bit of me is short and stumpy!
My funnel and my boiler and my dome!
Can't you see my paintwork's old and frumpy?
That's why I'll be the one who's left at home...
- Shipper on Deck: Annie and Clarabel for Thomas and Ashima.
- Shiptease: Thomas and Ashima.
- Singing Voice Dissonance: In the UK narration, Percy and Emily have their US voices when singing "Will You Won't You".
- Also in the UK, Thomas' voice sounds older than his US voice but it becomes softer and lighter when singing, sounding almost like his US voice (though the US/UK Voices sang their respective dubs).
- Shout-Out: "Streamlining" sounds strikingly similar to "Greased Lightning" from Grease. Thomas is also modified similar to how the T-Birds modify their run-down car in the same song.
- "I'm Full of Surprises" sounds like the Jet Song from West Side Story.
- Soundtrack Dissonance / The Day the Music Lied: Gordon's boiler explodes due to him not having his safety valve. While the damage isn't as bad as it sounds, the buildup is even more jarring when he's singing "The Shooting Star is Coming Through", which sounds more or less like a superhero's theme song.
- The Stinger: During the credits, Den, Dart, Paxton and Cranky try to find Diesel under a crate; only to hear him screaming from a ship that's leaving the island.
- That Man Is Dead: A family friendly version, once streamlined Gordon refuses to answer to his old name. Demanding to called 'The Shooting Star.' It proves to be his undoing when he starts to overheat during the race and The Flying Scotsman tries to warn him but he refuses to answer to 'Gordon'.
- That Reminds Me of a Song: Zigzagged. Towards the beginning of "I'm Full Of Surprises", Paxton says, "Are you singing, Diesel?".
- Theme Tune Cameo: A marching band remix of the original theme plays as the Sodor team goes through Vicarstown to the Great Railway Show.
- Transformation Sequence:
- Thomas has a really good one occur in his "I Want" Song as he is changing into his streamlined self.
- Gordon has a rather slow one when the engineers are preparing to streamline him when Thomas has his second idea.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The end of the official behind the scenes feature on Youtube features a clip from the final song of the film (which shows Gordon battered after the accident during The Great Race itself). Also, the beginning of said video depicts Thomas joining the shunting race, spoiling the fact he does get to be in the show after all.
- Triumphant Reprise:
- "Be Who You Are, And Go Far". It is a reprise of "You Can Only Be You" as the whole company sings together about Thomas finally deciding to be himself.
- And some time before this, Thomas sings a brief reprise of said song after he wins the shunting race along with Ashima.
- Gordon's version of "Streamlining", appropriately titled "The Shooting Star Is Coming Through", starts out as this, but it eventually deteriorates into a Dark Reprise as he begins to overheat without his safety valve, resulting in him trying to catch up until his boiler explodes.
- When Thomas is approaching Vicarstown while going to deliver Gordon's safety valve, a majestic remix of the "race with Gordon" theme is played. It eventually deteriorates into the "danger" remix as he approaches the Vicarstown Bridge as it lifts.
- "Be Who You Are, And Go Far". It is a reprise of "You Can Only Be You" as the whole company sings together about Thomas finally deciding to be himself.
- Unknown Rival: Though Diesel plots to go to the Great Railway Show in Henry's place, the two don't interact with each other at all.
- Unmoving Plaid: The various exotic patterns Thomas is painted in during the beginning of You Can Only Be You.
- The Un-Reveal: When Thomas crashes into Norman, we don't get to see the crash onscreen as it is blocked by the camera zooming in on the red signal light, but we hear it.
- Averted in the books as we see how the crash happens.
- Upper-Class Twit: The Flying Scotsman. He doesn't think particularly highly of Sodor's engines. That being said, rather than hurling insults in their faces like Gordon or Spencer, he talks calmly and dismissively at at the same time.
- Villain Song: "I'm Full of Surprises", sung by Diesel. It has a strong Broadway style in both visuals and musical style.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: While it's never shown exactly who won the strength competitionnote , the only character whose place was revealed was Henry's, as Henry said that he placed fifth. This is not brought up again for the rest of the special.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Basically the moral behind Ashima and Thomas' duet:Ashima: You don't have to try, just be who you are.
And trust your six small wheels to take you far.
- You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: The Flying Scotsman refers to Gordon dismissively as "Little Brother" expect when he first sees Gordon streamlined. Then when Gordon starts to overheat and his boiler is about to burst during the race.
- Your Head Asplode: Or rather, Your Boiler Asplode, as Gordon's boiler explodes due to a misplaced safety valve.