The Great Discovery is a feature based on the popular TV series Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. It was screened at select theaters throughout July 2008 in the US, and will be similarly screened in September 2008 in the UK Thomas and Friends News release - The Year of The Great Discovery for Thomas The DVD is scheduled to be released on 9 September 2008 in the United States and 6 October 2008 in the United Kingdom. It is the first Thomas and Friends production to be narrated by Pierce Brosnan. Thomas and Friends News release - The Year of The Great Discovery for Thomas
The railway is preparing for the celebration of the Sodor Day holiday, and Thomas and James are racing to the wharf to be given a special job by Mr. Percival. Thomas wins, and is sent into the hills to collect lumber with Duncan. Thomas teases the little engine, who decides to pay Thomas out by sending him on a fool's errand - telling him that an old, disused line will lead him back to the wharf faster. After avoiding an old, collapsing bridge, Thomas takes another route at the old junction, and as he journeys farther down the line, he comes across an old overgrown town.
The news of Thomas' discovery spreads, and eventually reaches The Fat Controller. He tells Thomas that the town is Great Waterton - the largest town on Sodor when steam engines first came to the island. The Fat Controller decides that the restoration of the legendary lost town would be perfect for the celebration of Sodor Day, and calls Miss Jenny Packard's construction crew to help with the process. Thomas is told to take charge of the engines working on the lines around the town. Meanwhile, a shiny new tank engine named Stanley is brought to the railway to perform Thomas' regular jobs.
All of the engines take to Stanley, who does a good job and has fun as well. When Thomas sees Stanley doing his jobs and fraternizing with his friends, he becomes jealous. Thomas is furious when Stanley takes his place at Tidmouth Sheds, and the final straw comes when Thomas has a bad accident and Stanley takes his place as the leader of the Great Waterton operation.
When Thomas is mended, he is shunting trucks of stone for Stanley to take away. He decides to make Stanley look foolish by shunting too many trucks, hoping that Stanley would not be able to climb the hill out of the town and look foolish in front of the other engines. The plan backfires, however - as Stanley ascends the hill, a coupling breaks, and the trucks race down the hill. They veer into a siding and crash into the newly-finished tower, which then collapses. The Fat Controller states that this will likely set back the restoration past Sodor Day. Thomas is blamed for giving Stanley too many trucks to pull, and the engines are angry when they realize Thomas does not like Stanley. Stanley, however, decides that Thomas merely missed his friends, and wants to set things right.
At night, Thomas decides to clear the trucks of rubble out of the way at Great Waterton. He is almost finished when he accidentally bumps a truck into an old mine. Racing in after it, Thomas races down the shaft, until he crashes onto a wooden platform and floats down an underground waterway. The engines soon realize that Thomas is missing, and The Fat Controller organizes a search effort. Meanwhile, Thomas continues floating until he reaches an opening to the mine, and is flung across a canyon and down a hill.
Stanley decides to make another search effort before he has to return to work. Thomas, with the bit of steam he has left, sounds a loud, long whistle. Stanley hears it and hurries to where Thomas is stranded beside the track. The two make up for their quarrel and Stanley pulls Thomas back onto the rails. The strain is too much for Stanley, and a valve in his cab bursts. In an effort to return, Thomas is given some dry coal and his fire is started. Thomas pushes Stanley back to Great Waterton, and the word travels across the island that Thomas has been found. As a sign of friendship, Thomas offers Stanley his last job - to bring the mayor to the Sodor Day festivities at Great Waterton. The engines gather at the town for the celebration, and Thomas realizes just how important his friends are.
Once again, the continuity between a stand-alone story and the rest of the series is debated. Various elements were carried over into Series 12, which aired shortly after its release. Both the town of Great Waterton and the character of Stanley appeared in various stories.
The members of the "Steam Team" are all featured in the film at some point. Various supporting characters from recent seasons make cameo appearances, and Thomas and the Magic Railroad's Diesel 10 makes a cameo. Jack and The Pack, introduced in Series 6 and later starring in their own video releases, play prominent roles in the restoration of Great Waterton. The narrow gauge engines, as they appeared from Series 9 through 11, had cameos and ancillary roles.
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