|Taken from Model Boats July 1990
Chris Tulloch was kind
enough to take the time to answer many of my questions by email over a number of weeks. As one of the Directors, Model Makers
and Voice Actors he made one of the largest inputs to Tugs. Its an honour to be able to bring you this interview.
Where was Tugs
Based and Why?Well, that was a decision made before I joined,
but I know that the Star Tugs are based on San Francisco
tugs, and the Z-Stacks were based on Moran tugs out of NY City.
why the date setting? Well, I guess because it was
the real high time for tug boats and
marine transport; romantic - before regular air services and
cargo-carrying rail networks
really took away the maritime
traffic - and still with mixed overtones of Al Capone and "On The
Waterfront". It also allowed
us to have sail-boats around, and
lots of smoke billowing out of chimneys!! Tugs without smoke wouldn't
have been nearly so
How did you get involved
in working with Tugs?
was working as a modelmaker in
Shepperton Studios, when DM [David Mitton] and RC [Robert D. Cardona] came in. As part of the team, I
researched and designed
the boats, built Ten Cents (the
first) and subsequently Zip and Izzy Gomez. The other tugs were
allocated around the
rest of the team. Before the
Production got underway, RC asked me and Spike (the guy who sculpted
most of the faces)
to go on to the Production. Spike
didn't want to, but I did! Then, about a week into the production, the
Art Director left, so I took over
... and went on from there I guess
How long did it take to make
the Tugs series?
A year and a bit
noticed that The Boats in the harbour didn't
run using propellers, like most
boats, could you shed a little light on how they were actually powered?
if you ever look
at a real tug going through the
water, it's so heavy and meaty that it never really rises or falls with
the waves, it just
ploughs through. So we decided to
make a wheeled chassis to clamp the hull on to. It added that weight and
spent a lot of hours designing
electronic underwater housings with motors and gears, but they never
worked that well. In the
end, we kept the wheeled chassis and
the steering, but binned the motors. Good old fashioned string was
attached to the front
of the chassis and we PULLED the
boats through the water! In Special Effects it's always the easiest
solution that works the
There's a lovely set of
rushes (the full unedited print that the crew views the morning after) -
I can't remember
which episode, but it's possibly
Sunshine. Two tugs were coming all the way in from the estuary. It
required a long even-handed
pull, and the model-makers were
hidden behind the skyline. At the very end of the shot, two enormous
human heads appear from
behind the buildings, still pulling!
required constant vigilance
to make sure the floor was clean and
free from obstructions (there was a lovely shot of Zug taking a leap
"out of the water"
as he hit a small stone!) To have
had the tugs floating (bobbing would be a better word) would have made
them LOOK like models
and would have made the whole thing
totally unrealistic. Although the hulls were watertight, they would
never have floated
anyway; with all the superstructure
and remote-control equipment mounted in the heads they threatened to
turn turtle ....
sometimes (especially in High Winds)
we had to sandbag the trolleys to stop them floating away in the
I do have a vague memory of one or
two of the boats floating in a shot (once) where we ran out of
operational trolleys, but
needed all the boats in shot. Maybe
it was only as a try-out - it would have been early days anyway, as our
water effects" really started to
take-over once we'd perfected them (again - see High Winds). The whole
shoot was pretty
intensive, back to back with no
stopping, and although some things are as clear as a bell, some things
are a bit hazy.
big were the models ?Ten
Cents was 20" long, and his hull (fibreglass)
was the basis for Zip and Zug.
Hercules was about 36" (or something like). All were specially made or
adapted to suit. The
superstructures were perspex and
plastic and the funnels brass (so they didn't melt when we pumped smoke
you do control the Tugs much during the
ha! Yes, of course - I was in the team
that built the things from scratch,
designed the electronics and the mechanics. And yes, many of those eye
movements are mine
or David's - especially in the "lead
actor" of the shot.
have noticed that there were
neumerous explosions during the series, this must have made the special
all the explosions we had a really
good and very experienced Special Effects guy, and yes, we had good fun,
although the smell
of the smoke from the train got a
bit much after a while!
And lots of smoke machines, of course.
really good team, dedicated and
experienced, which I think shows in the quality of the models and the
filming. I remember
seeing a shot from a tug movie
called "Lucky Lady" about tugs in San Francisco (our 'Star' tugs) and
always felt the final
shot of the (real) tug going of
across the bay was no more authentic or well-shot than some of ours,
with models only 20 inches
long! But then we had the luxury of
being able to spend large amounts of time making sure the bow-waves,
the water currents
and the level of smoke was just
were the voice actors in Tugs?It
was Patrick Allen who was the voice of Cap'n Star. Strike me, but I
can't remember the names of any of
the other actors, though (apart from my own that is heh heh heh!)
Sorry I just had to ask this
one... Is there
any part of the Tugs set that you took as a souvenir?
in a warehouse - we all hoped for
(and dreaded at the same time!) a follow-up; these things DO take over
In a way I'm glad it didn't happen
again. I've done a lot of interesting things since Tugs and might have
if I'd been stuck as a "Tugs Person"
- rather in the same way as the Thomas full-timers are .....
no, I would never have taken
anything from the set; they were all pretty mildewy anyway after being
stuck in water 7
days a week for a year!
heard from various people that a second series was planned,
but Britt Alcroft stopped it, could you shed a little light on this?
this thing about a second series? You tell me! It was discussed for a
but then I never heard anymore about
it. If it ever resurfaced I'm sure I would get to hear about it
through the grapevine
(at least I hope I would!)
I was very much hands-on in the series, and any politics that might have happened
were nothing to do with me. The rest I believe you have covered pretty fully."
Do you feel that Tugs reached its full potential?I
always think it a shame that the series never
achieved the acclaim I feel it was due.
was real quality, and was never really given a chance to shine. It's
a memory, but seeing those 35mm film
rushes in the big theatre in Shepperton Studios every morning was quite
an event. No
cheap video rushes, these. They were
real feature-film quality (as, actually, were Thomas when I last saw
them) due in main
to the excellence of Terry Permane.
And the standard of model-making was one of the best in the business.
Were you offered the chance
to do further work
at Shepperton Studios with Britt Alcroft on Thomas the Tank?
The Thomas show was always
Given the chance
would you have worked on TTTE?
it had turned around that way, yes.
you have any other TV credits to your name?I
was one of the creators of
"Dreamstreet", designed many of the characters and helped shape the
storylines and the set design;
but got no credit for it!
what are you doing for a living now?
Running a Diploma course in Film & TV Production in the
finally is there
any chance of Tugs making a comeback in the future?
modern technology and the TV industry like it is, the
chance of ever shooting a series of
such quality again could never happen - it was a little moment in time,
and sadly, it's
unlikely to get repeated!
|Model Boats Magazine July 1990
|The famous Clearwater Periscope Lens System
|As used in both Thomas the Tank Engine and more importantly, Tugs