Saturday, July 15, 2017

Saturday film club: Tugs

"Why are you showing us a 28-year-old kids TV show?, I hear you ask. 

Well, it's from the same stable as the early Thomas the Tank TV shows - in the food days when it was all models and not CGI. 

That and I visited the Star Tugs exhibition at the Midland Railway Centre last week, where there are loads of original models preserved from the series.  

Ten Cents

I couldn't help looking at the boats on show and thinking they would make very practical radio control projects. On screen, the models were moved on trolleys to give them some weight - if they floated then there would be a lot of annoying bobbing around. RC was used to work the faces and a separate feed blew smoke out of the chimney. It took 4 people to work each character!

With 13 episodes requiring a year to film and the series not taking off enough to generate significant merchandising revenue, it bankrupted the studio.

Maybe a long term plan, but making a model of a Tugs model shouldn't be too hard. Even easier if I could break in and take casting from one of the moulds they have in the cabinets for a hull!

Just look at the sets and models though. What a fantasic scene. Like the various Gerry Anderson series, I'd love to have a few hours on the set.


Anonymous said...

Very jealous there Phil, they look amazing.
Have you got pictures of the other boats?
I use to watch that as a kid a long with Thomas the Tank Engine too
So much better than the CGI versions
Was it a private event you went to or are they on public viewing?

I went to Drayton manor to relive my youth and see the Thomas layout but was left disappointed with that and the way it was presented... could have been amazing


Phil Parker said...

Check out:

Amy Bucki Ben Bucki said...

Thanks for posting this, very interesting and bought back happy memories. This was one of those shows from when I was growing up in the late 80's which made me want to make models!
Looking back on it now, it is rather more 'grown up' than "Thomas", with some properly defined villains (who are capable of decency and redemption), some properly scary (for kids) moments, like the Ghost Fleet episode, and some proper action... the episode with the burning Navy freighter, "Munitions" I think it is called, is about as close as we'll ever get to seeing a Gerry Anderson-style episode of "Thomas". They must have destroyed half the set in that one, with some massive "Thunderbirds"-esque explosions, presumably after they found out the show was cancelled and it didn't matter blasting the models to smithereens.

Speaking of "Thomas", a friend of mine who was very much into his trivia with models shows told me that when "Tugs" wasn't renewed, most of the models made their way into the "Thomas" shows; the Marklin tank locomotives which formed the trains for the harbour railways appear in scrapyards, some of the buildings were re-used, and a couple of the boat miniatures were de-faced and used too, along with more generic models like the ocean liner.

Final question, as I know you watched "Terrahawks", and whilst we are on the subject of the 80's shows, have you ever seen a show known as "Starfleet" (also known as X-Bomber)? A kind of Japanese take on Gerry-Anderson-esque shows, which ran about the same time as "Terrahawks"... if you can overlook the fact that most of the male hero characters look like a variation on Ace Rimmer from "Red Dwarf" then there is some excellent miniatures work, and a decent storyline with fairly major character deaths along the way.. The model shots are pretty top drawer for the time.

Phil Parker said...

I never really saw Terrahawks and although I recall a toy ship from X-Bomber, I hadn't seen it at all until I wasted some working time on YouTube just now!

Phil Parker said...

And yes, I will go back and watch more.

Some tugs were re-worked for Thomas, the paddle tug certainly was according to the display.