An evil diesel locomotive named Diesel 10 (voiced by Neil Crone) has arrived on the Island of Sodor, with his goal of destroying the steam locomotives. He plans to locate a magical lost engine and destroy her in order to remove the magic from the Island. Mr. Conductor (Alec Baldwin) is left in charge of the railway while Sir Topham Hatt is on holiday, but his mysterious gold dust that allows him to magically transport from place to place is critically low, and without it there will be no way for anyone to travel to Sodor. Thomas the Tank Engine (voiced by Eddie Glen) along with the other engines help Mr. Conductor find more gold dust. Joining along the quest are Mr. Conductor's slacker cousin named Junior, a young girl named Lily (Mara Wilson), and her grandfather, Burnett Stone (Peter Fonda), who has hidden the secret engine all these years and couldn't get her running.
Tropes featured in the film:
- Amnesia Danger: When Mr. Conductor's magic runs out, he gradually becomes more forgetful. He can't remember the way to the windmill, and later forgets the secret it had. It's vaguely implied that he and Junior will die as a result.
- Another Dimension: The Island of Sodor is this. This also doubles as a Magical Land. This is particularly odd as in the books and TV series Sodor was simply a small island directly besides Britain. The books also established that all the engines in the world, not just the Sodor ones, were alive, unlike in the movie where you can see nonsentient locomotives.
- Apocalypse How: The lack of gold dust will destroy Sodor through the natural foundations cracking and collapsing, as is shown by the viaduct. This indicates Sodor would collapse upon itself if the gold dust was never recovered.
- Audience Participation: A perceptually lazy example has Mr. Conductor casually mentioning that the audience is going to help him later in the film. Then, when he's tossed by Diesel 10 into a pile of burlap sacks near the windmill, he thanks us for putting them there for him.
- "Be Quiet!" Nudge: At one point, Junior picks up a bellflower call meant for Mr. C and uses the opportunity to mess with Sir Topham Hatt. When Mr. C takes the bellflower back, and Junior continues to butt in, Mr. C elbows Junior in the chest hard enough to knock him flat.Mr. Conductor: No, he's not a dog. [...] Well, let's just say he's a puppy in need of a good trainer. [elbow]
- Big Bad: Diesel 10, the main antagonist who wants to destroy all steam engines.
- Big Budget Beef-Up: The characters and sets were all rebuilt from scratch on a massive sound stage in Toronto. This included a life-sized model of Lady built for the scenes by the well and Muffle Mountain.
- Big Damn Movie: For Thomas, of course.
- Big "WHAT?!": Mr. Conductor when Junior reveals that he is also running out of gold dust.
- The Cameo: The base of Cranky the crane can be seen as set dressing at Knapford. Butch (who was still basically an extra before Series 15) also appears.
- Character as Himself: Much like Shining Time Station, the film ends its opening billings with "And Thomas The Tank Engine" (although voice actors are listed in the end credits).
- Continuity Snarl: To the point that it's all but considered an Alternate Continuity from any of the previous versions of the characters. In the books and television series, the island of Sodor is off the coast of England. Shining Time Station put it in another dimension. The film placed Sodor in another, magical dimension, kept afloat by Lady and her gold dust, making this the only installment of the franchise to use magic at all. This not only whittled down the show's massive cast to about six, but also did away with all of the regular human characters, including the drivers themselves. It also did away with plot points from previous episodes, such as why Henry needs special coal, which is given a completely different reason here. This was slightly less of a problem in the original script: Lady was only keeping the Conductor Family's Railway alive, which was which connected to Sodor, rather than the entire island itself. It would still have been an island far away, working like a real railway as usual, though it still would have lacked drivers.
- Darkest Hour: Diesel 10 has found the buffers, Mr Conductor and Junior will soon be utterly powerless, and the lack of gold dust will guarantee the destruction of Sodor and the decimation of Shining Time.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Lady was almost destroyed once by Diesel 10, and Burnett Stone kept her locked in Muffle Mountain, doing what he could to repair her.
- Disney Villain Death: While not actually a death, Diesel 10's defeat is brought around by falling off a collapsing viaduct. Fortunately for him, he survives thanks to landing in a passing barge filled with boiler sludge.Diesel 10: Ah well, nice time of the year for a cruise.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?
- The descriptions of what Diesel 10 did to Lady ("he destroyed her", "he broke her", "he used her up", etc.). They make it sound creepily like he had beaten and raped her.
- The Conductors gradually losing their memories as a result of their lack of gold dust and the implication that they'll die (or at least cease to exist) as a result sounds vaguely like the symptoms of dementia.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The gold dust supply is restored, the special universe is saved, Diesel 10 is beaten, temporarily, and Lady is alive again.
- Establishing Character Moment: Diesel 10 gets one. He roars through a station, kicking up dust shouting "Get outta my way! I've got unfinished business here. I wanna finish it FAST!" He also leaves Gordon, of all engines, shaking in fear.
- Eureka Moment: Mr. Conductor realizes he needs Junior's help:Mr. Conductor: Sausage? Bicycle? *hic* Toothpaste? Beach? *hic* Wait a minute...*crunch*...Beach. Beach! That's it! That's it! Ha-ha! Have to find a bellflower. I need to make a call *hic*! [dashes off]
- Fake Interactivity: Unlike the actual series, the audience is supposedly responsible for putting the cushion out to break Mr. Conductor's fall.
- Friendship Trinket: Lily gives her Burnett a friendship bracelet to remind them of their friendship. Later in the film, Lily puts the gold dust Junior gives to her on her bluebird toy, also to remind her of her friendship with Burnett.
- Human-Focused Adaptation: The film contains a large amount of focus on a human man played by Peter Fonda and his granddaughter played by Mara Wilson, as well as Mr. Conductor played by Alec Baldwin. While Thomas and the other engines are in the film, they only have 1/3 of the total screentime. This can largely be blamed on it also being an adaptation of Shining Time Station, which was a framing device for the series.
- I Meant to Do That: This interaction with the diesels: When Toby rings his bell very loudly to distract Diesel 10, causing Diesel 10 to destroy the shed he and his cronies are under.Diesel 10: It's the old teapot! Smash him!
[Diesel 10 knocks down the shed roof with Pinchy, which traps him, Splatter, and Dodge inside]
Dodge: Uh, Boss? Did you mean to let the roof fall in?
Splatter: All the way in?
Diesel 10: Grr...I always mean what I do, ya rattletraps!
- Though in most cases, it seems like a blatant lie on Diesel 10's part. He tries to deny his accidents he unintentionally causes and gets himself into, just to not make him look stupid, though Splatter and Dodge don't buy it.
- In Name Only: The film tries to combine the mythology of both Shining Time Station and the UK standalone series. Not only does it bare only passing resemblance to either as a result but it bares no resemblance whatsoever to any of Rev. W. Awdry's original books, so much so that he doesn't even get a "Based on the books by..." credit.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: George was portrayed as this in the original script. He still chants "Railways are no good! Turn 'em into roads!", but when Diesel 10 wants him to destroy all the buffers on Sodor, he feels worried that he might hurt someone.
- Just a Kid: Gordon mocks Thomas for being a small engine, and boasts about knowing everything because he's a big engine. Thomas defies this.
- Lilliputians: Mr. Conductor and Junior are these at Shining Time and anywhere else in the world. When on Sodor though, they're life-size.
- Mundane Solution: Mr. Conductor scares off the evil Diesel by threatening him with... sugar. Truth in Television though, sugar can easily clog up a fuel tank.
- Mythology Gag: There are exactly two references to any previously-existing Railway Series works.
- Junior excuses himself being late by saying "...but better late than never, I guess." Better Late Than Never was the name of one of the original stories.
- At one point, Bertie challenges Thomas to a race, alluding to the story in which he debuted.
- Narrator: Mr. Conductor.
- Never Trust a Trailer: In the first theatrical trailer, P.T. Boomer is revealed to be the villain rather than Diesel 10, as was originally intended, and he can seen yelling "I'll get you, you blue puffball!" The trailer was released before the executives decided to revamp the plot, so not only is the line not in the final film, but his only role in the finished product is a motorcyclist asking for directions (with his lines re-dubbed).
- Nightmare Sequence: Mr. Conductor's first nightmare is Stacy lamenting outside a worn down and vandalized Shining Time station.
- Noodle Incident:Junior: Thomas! Now don't look so surprised, I know you haven't seen me since...Thomas: You stuffed party poppers down my funnel!Junior: Hey, we had a laugh.Thomas: You did!
- Nostalgic Narrator: Originally, an older Lily would have been featured in this role. The ending would have even featured an epilogue involving Lily showing an album of various pictures of the characters throughout the following years to her children while on a picnic.
- The Power of Friendship: Lady gives us this gem:Lady: And helping each other, brings to life the magic in all of us.
- Power-Up Food: Mr. Conductor eats a carrot an a stick of celery (apparently left by a Rabbit for any weary traveler in need of some inspiration) which give him the idea to contact Cousin Junior for help. See Eureka Moment above.
- Pun: Splatter and Dodge utter one to Diesel 10:Splatter: Liar, liar...
Dodge: ...Pants on fire.
Splatter: Does he wear pants?
Dodge: Well, training pants.
- Remembered Too Late: Mr. Conductor forgets the word "lady" from the windmill's secret, and only remembers it and its significance after Diesel 10 finds Lady and Thomas.
- Roger Rabbit Effect: At least if you consider supermarionation a form of animation.
- Save Both Worlds: Basically the entire plot of the film.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: In the climax, Burnett blows off Diesel 10's threat while he's chasing him and Lady;note Diesel 10: Now I'll get you, Burnett Stone!
Burnett Stone: No you won't, because the magic you refuse to believe in will get the better of you!
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: "I notice you left your thinking cap behind. Try these instead. They're good for the brain. Gone Fishin', Rabbit."
- Supermarionation: Like the show, the trains are all highly-sophisticated remote-controlled puppets, save for a few shots requiring life-sized models.
- Surfer Dude: Cousin Junior, to a T. His introduction scene shows him lazing about on the beach, or as he puts it, "waiting on the perfect wave".
- Talking in Your Sleep: Mr. Conductor, right before the above Nightmare Sequence. Percy overhears it and later mentions it to Thomas.
- Terrible Trio: Diesel 10 forms one with Splatter and Dodge.
- Trash Landing: Diesel 10 lands in a sludge barge after falling off the viaduct at the end of the chase scene. At which point he quips, "Oh well. Nice time of the year for a cruise."
- Vocal Evolution: Patch's voice suddenly sounds deeper in his last scene.
- The Worf Effect: Diesel 10 leaving Gordon shaking in fear in his first appearance works to this effect.
- You Can Run, but You Can't Hide: Used in a TV spot and the actual film by Diesel 10.