Thursday, 4 September 2014

Thomas & Friends: A Tale of the Not So Brave

We were very lucky to be invited to the VIP screening of the new Thomas & Friend movie: Tale of the Brave at Thomas Land in Drayton Manor Theme Park yesterday.

C is a HUGE Thomas fan and we own the majority of the previous Thomas movies on DVD which she will watch again and again.  I therefore knew this was something we did not want to miss!

Living in Kent, the 370 mile round trip with 2 children under 3 was going to require a bit of planning!  We decided early on that trying to do the journey as a day trip was not going to be feasible.  We therefore booked ourselves a room at Drayton Manor Hotel, right next door to the park.  I mused for a while about whether to pay to extra for the Thomas themed bedroom.  It was an extra expense, but seemed the perfect accompaniment to our special Thomas adventure.

We set off on Tuesday lunchtime and had a very good run up the motorway, arriving just in time for the children’s dinner.  We checked in and were directed to our room on the 3rd floor.  We followed the train tracks along the hotel corridor, checking the numbers on the doors to find our room number.   

Our room was amazing!  On top of your standard 4* hotel room equipment, the Thomas & friends character bedrooms comprise Thomas & Friends themed bunk beds with DVD player, more train track carpet, and beautiful handpainted scenes from the Isle of Sodor on the walls.  Each child is given a welcome pack on arrival and on certain days you are invited to a Thomas themed breakfast in the morning.

The only downside from our point of view as we were given an assessible (wheelchair friendly) room therefore instead of a bath we had a wet room with large walk in shower.  The children always have a bath before bed but I did not even think to request a bath when booking.  After an initial panic I realised one day without a bedtime bath wouldn’t do the children any harm!

Our welcome pack comprised a Thomas toothbrush, some Thomas shower gel, an activity pack with colouring and stickers, a DVD containing a couple of Thomas episodes, and a short Thomas story.

We ate dinner on the terrace of the hotel restaurant.  There was childrens' entertainment taking place in the hotel grounds led by the Fat Controller.  C was a little young to participate however she enjoyed watching the balloon modelling and games from a distance and plucked up the courage to have her photo taken with the Fat Controller at the end.

That night was the first night we have attempted to sleep all 4 of us in the same room.  It actually went a lot better than I expected!  B was obviously tired and went out like a light.  C took a little longer to go to sleep but there were no tantrums and she was happy to stay in her Thomas bed.  Unfortunately B gave us all a slightly earlier start than we would maybe have wanted but at least we all had an uninterrupted night!

Our character breakfast was served from 8am and in our own designated area of the restaurant. Breakfast was self service and constituted a mixture of cooked and continental options.  Unfortunately there was no porridge or Weetabix for B but we were able to make do with some toast and a croissant.  While at our table, we were visited by the Fat Controller who gave the children a certificate.  C was again surprisingly receptive.

At 9:45 we made our way into the main park.  The rides and the movie screening didn’t open until 10:30 therefore we utilised the first 45 minutes to have a wander around the zoo.  C and B were both very interested in the noisy gibbons and the playful black leopard.

At 10:30, I left B with Daddy, and C and I set off for the 4D cinema.  We were offered a drink and popcorn on our arrival and shown into a room with lots of Thomas themed toys to play with.  C headed straight for the Wooden Railway, although there were plenty of other choices for a variety of ages.  It got a little bit fraught as the room filled up, with children squabbling over engines but the reps did a wonderful job at keeping the children focussed.  I was particularly interested to see the Trackmaster in action.

At 11am the Fat Controller called us all into the cinema and we took our seats somewhere near the back.  C looked very grown up sat in her own seat hugging her popcorn and drink.

From the introduction it became apparent that this movie was going to have a few scary moments however as the film progressed even I was surprised just how scary it was.  It seemed totally at odds with the previous Thomas movies we have seen and unnecessarily scary considering the target age of pre and infant school children.   Between spooky eyes gleaming in the dark and the scary music, poor C was a quivering wreck.  These were minor compared with later scenes which made C cry out in fright, something I have never heard her do before. Maybe I should have left at this point but I wanted C to see that the story would have a happy ending and that it was nothing to worry about.  She therefore watched the remainder of the film snuggled on my lap.  We did enjoy some of the songs and C was interested to see the new engines but it made me sad that she did not enjoy the experience as much as I had hoped.  Maybe after watching it a few times, and knowing the storyline better, C will be less scared and able to appreciate the film more.

After the movie, we headed off to find some lunch.  Hubby opted for pie and mash and I was very impressed that they were able to put a bespoke meal together for C who wanted to mix and match different meal options.

After lunch C seemed a lot happier.  We headed over to Thomas Land and I took her on Diesels Locomotion Mayhem and Lady's Carousel.  We then found a quiet corner next to the Blue Mountain Engines so I could feed B, while C went off with Daddy on Winston's Whistle Stop Tour, the Sodor Classic Cars and Jeremy Jets.  She seemed a bit more wary of many of the rides than she was last time we came which I found interesting.   

Next we went to Kapford Station and took a ride on Thomas to Tidmouth Hault at the far end of the park.  Getting to ride on her beloved Thomas was possibly the highlight of the day for C.  She insisted we join the queue at Tidmouth Hault to ride straight back again!

At the end of the day we took a ride on the Polperro Express around the park and I became aware just how much of the park there is outside of Thomas Land that we had not even scratched the surface of.  I look forward to the children being older when we can go on things like the log flume and the river rapids as a family.

Thomas Land is expanding over the winter and I am sure we will be back again next year to see what new rides are on offer…

Disclaimer: We were given free entry to Drayton Manor Park and the VIP Tale of the Brave movie screening for the purposes of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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