The community of Tugs fans got together, mainly because of a post on the "Watched It" Kids TV forum, this post shows
up on www.google.com
websearches. These posts were left by VJ, who got contacted by non other than Chris Tulloch (roles can be found on the credits
page), all information on this was kindly provided by him for you.
Captain Star------------------------Patrick Allen
Due to the series being over 15 years old, some of the information has gone
missing, so unfortunatly this list can't be updated, until I get confirmation from Chris Tulloch. Since then he has been great
in answering any questions I throw at him and the results are here for you to look over for yourselves.
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.
And 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 and RC 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 original
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
I 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?
Well, 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 realism.
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!
It required constant vigilance
to make sure the floor was clean and free from obstructions (there was a 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 current. However
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 "moving
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 somethings 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 through them).
Did you do control the Tugs much during the
Ha 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 effects fun?
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.
It was a
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 perfect.
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?
Everything was stored
in a warehouse - we all hoped for (and dreaded at the same time!) a follow-up; these things DO take over your life.
In a way I'm glad it didn't happen again. I've done a lot of interesting things since Tugs and might have missed them
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!
I've heard from various people that a second series was planned,
but Britt Alcroft stopped it, could you shed a little light on this?
There was talk of a second Tugs series although it never got any further
then that and this is mostly what I found out chris;
"All this thing about a second series? You tell me! It was discussed for a while
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.
It was real quality, and was never really given a chance to shine. It's now just
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 UK
And finally is there
any chance of Tugs making a comeback in the future?
With 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!
|The famous Clearwater Periscope Lens System
|As used in both Thomas the Tank Engine and more importantly, Tugs