Animal Stars of TATMR

Thanks to their owners and handlers that we've managed to contact, we are able to pay homage to the professionally trained animal co-stars featured in Thomas and the Magic Railroad...

Mutt

Our research revealed that there were in fact TWO "Mutts" featured in Thomas and the Magic Railroad. The first canine co-star came from England and was featured in the scenes shot on the Isle of Man. You'll find out that this "Mutt" is actually female!  The second canine, a male, was US-born and starred in the Harrisburg Amtrak Station scenes filmed in Pennsylvania, and also the movie's climax scenes filmed in Toronto.

Dita

Our first spotlight will shine on our English canine co-star - DITA. Her breed can be described as a Bearded Collie Cross. We've been fortunate in that her owner/trainer Gill Raddings was more than happy to share additional background details about Dita with the fans. Gill is the founder and owner of Gill Raddings Stunt Dogs and Animals, who offers the services of professionally-trained animals to film and television. Here then, is her story, as told by Gill in a reply received 24 September, 2008...

Hi James,

Dita is about 12 years old. I got Dita from rescue at about 8 months old. She had been in for a while as she was so hyper they were concerned an ordinary pet home wouldn't be able to cope with her. She was still very thin and kept getting raw sore spots on her skin. She wasn't used to a car and not house trained. I decided to take her on - even then she had that spark and I felt that there was a lot of potential there. It turned out to be a very good decision, she is one of my best dogs and still works now. She is on my website 
www.stuntdogs.net .
 
She is pet passported and has worked in Germany (feature film "Creep"), Amsterdam (feature film "Enigma Files", Corfu (TV film "My Family and Other Animals") and America (Stratford Theatre tour).
 
She has been in many feature films including 102 Dalmatians, Gladiator, Children of Men, Sweeny Todd, Wolfman etc.

She has done many commercials and TV work including The Bill, EastEnders, Dalziel and Pascoe, Casualty, Touch of Frost, Who Gets the Dog etc.
 
She enjoyed working on Thomas as she does on all her roles.
 
Attached are some photos and a list of what she is trained to do. She is a loving family pet when not working enjoying her walks and particularly swimming.
 
She has done so much it is a job to remember everything! The trouble is replacing her with the  right look, temperament and working / training ability!
 
Regards,
 
Gill

Gill has provided us with a list of Dita's repertoire of acting skills which includes the following...
  • Go to a mark
  • Sit, down, stand, walk backwards
  • Speak
  • Play dead
  • Crawl on stomach
  • Puts feet up where told
  • Go with an actor off lead on command
  • Hold a paw up and limp
  • Roll over
  • Sit up and beg, stand on back legs
  • Hide eyes with paws

Gill also confirmed that Dita did not star in Cbeebies' 'Come Outside' as 'Pippin' (as mistakenly claimed by Wikipedia)

We've also heard from  Julie Tottman, credited  in the film as the Dog Trainer for the Isle of Man. Julie is affiliated with Birds and Animals Unlimited's UK Branch, and worked with Dita through her scenes during the Isle of Man filming. Julie provides us with some additional insight about Dita...

Hi James,

I provided the dog for Thomas in the UK. We had to double the dog in the USA as back then the pet passport scheme was not up and running, so we could not travel Dita to the US as it would mean quarantine when she returned to the UK.

Dita was a rescue dog found running the streets very under-weight. The rescue centre contacted a trainer and she was taken on as a movies star!

We start by getting the dogs healthy, happy spending time with them so they learn to trust. Then we start the basic obedience sit, stay lye down etc….. Then the fun begins- all the tricks! Dita learnt to hide her eyes, run in circles, hit a mark, limp, shake her head, play dead, beg and much more. We do this using positive reinforcement. This may be a treat or a toy or just simple hugs. She is a very bright dog and very grateful for her new life.

When training we speak to them constantly as well as put a hand signal to what we are asking them to do. We then stop speaking and they understand the hand signal alone.

They do love filming as they love to work and get more attention than you can imagine.  Dita has gone on to do lots more adverts and TV shows.

Best wishes

Julie Tottman

On behalf of SiF and the fans, we offer Gill Raddings our many thanks and appreciation for providing us with information and photographs of Dita. We wish to extend the same to Julie Tottman. We wish them both continued success with their work,  and to Dita, all the best roles for many years to come!
 

BENTLEY

Bentley
The American double of "Mutt" - Bentley

The 2nd  "Mutt" featured in the Harrisburg/Strasburg Pennsylvania and Toronto shoots has been positively identified as "Bentley", a male Terrier-mix who was about 8 years old at the time of filming (1999).
 
Bentley, owned and trained by Ray Beal of Los Angeles, California  for Birds and Animals Unlimited, was handled primarily by Stacy Basil, Dawn Barkan and Brian Gibbs .
 
Thanks to the L.A. office of Birds & Animals, we've managed to contact Ray who has graciously provided us with some additional information about Bentley.

in a reply to J. Gratton, 31 January, 2009

Bentley is a terrier mutt that our California company received from our Florida company back in 1991. He was acquired to play the role of "Benji" in our live show at Universal Studios. He was the first dog I ever trained for our company.

He was a very challenging, but fun dog to train. I believe he trained me as much as I trained him. He was deathly afraid of people and noises which made training him for a live show very difficult. We spent the first six month of training walking around the park and asking every patron we could if they would feed him a treat and pet or stroke him. Then we would do short little training session on the stage until he had the entire routine down.

The first show he did was a disaster because we did all the training without people in the audience. If they clapped, shifted in their seats, or walked in late he would freeze. So a few more months of training out in the park and on stage as people filed out of the previous show. Finally he became confident and really put on great shows. He was a dog who actually looked like he was having fun out there on stage.

His favorite behavior was jumping into my arms at the end of the routine. He worked in a few films and TV shows but was mostly a live show dog. In fact he became so in tune with live shows that we sent him to Japan to help start the live show at Universal Studios Japan. He helped with the transition from American trainers to Japanese trainers and was loved by all. He wowed the audiences for years until he sadly passed.

Bentley is missed on a daily basis but the memories of him will be preserved forever in our hearts and on film. Thank you for your inquiries it brought back many memories.

Ray Beal

All about Capote who portrayed Patch's horse

Patch's horse
Equine star of TATMR "Capote" owned & trained by Tony Smart
Operating out of Berkshire, UK, Tony Smart has a long history providing, training, handling and stunt coordination of  horses for film and television. One of Tony's horses was featured in Thomas and the Magic Railroad, and  in fact  it's thanks to Tony's friend and neighbour - acclaimed stunt man Vic Armstrong that we at long last are able to put a name to Patch's horse. The horse's  name is Capote and he is of the famed Andalusian (Pure Spanish) breed. Vic helped us get in touch with Tony who kindly answered a few of our questions about the horse below.

in a reply to J. Gratton, 20 September, 2012
 
Capote was 8 years old at the time of Thomas and the Magic Railroad. He is now 22 and still working, but has a double for any galloping.
 
We got involved with the film by recommendation, then they called me and offered the job and wanted a grey (white) horse. As far as I can remember Cody McMains was taking riding lessons before he came to the Isle of Man, then carried on as much riding as possible before the filming started.
 
One of Capote's first films was Braveheart, and he's worked on hundreds since; The Guiness advert with the surfing horses, Robin Hood, Trigger in Norway, Snow White & the Huntsman, and many many more. He does go out and works with the carriages when required on films and special occasions.
 
Capote has helped me in my work for many years being very quick to learn what is needed for the script. If you can get a copy of Trigger which we filmed in Norway, you can see how clever he is.
 
Tony Smart

Capote & Daniel Radcliffe EQUUS publicity photo

Another example of Capote's recent work are the the publicity shots of Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)taken in 2007 for the stage play EQUUS. The photos reveal the horse's patience and gentle temperament.
 
So the next time you see a smart-looking white horse in a movie that looks familiar, it could very well be Capote if Tony Smart's name is seen in the credits!
 
Lastly, Capote is indeed photogenic as seen in the photo below of Tony and Vic.

Capote with Vic Armstrong and Tony Smart
A majestic-looking Capote with owner Tony Smart (right) and Vic Armstrong (left) in April, 2011.
Photo posted here with Vic's permission and our thanks.

We would like to express our thanks to Tony Smart for sharing information about Capote with us, and wish him and Capote all our best with present and upcoming film work. Fans are most welcome to visit Tony's website where you can learn more about Tony's work and business. A big shout out also to Vic Armstrong  who writes about many interesting subjects on his website.  If you're curious about the travails of a seasoned movie stuntman, Vic has written a book which is available in hardback, paperback and Kindle from Amazon US and UK.