Thomas CGI specials cover the entire range from great to terrible, and I'm happy to say that this one is probably the best (although Blue Mountain Mystery is another contender for that title). It has a huge cast of new characters, and while it sometimes feels like the writers were trying a little too hard to make Thomas the focus of the story, all the engines we know and love are not forgotten by any means.
There's one new character whose wheels and running gear appear extremely unusual. When I first watched the special, I was disappointed in the show for just making up a silly-looking engine with totally implausible workings, especially given how well the show usually incorporates real-life bits and pieces of railway history. Then I looked it up and found out the character actually is based on a real engine, albeit a very obscure one, and the real thing is every bit as bizarre as it looks on screen. I won't say who this character is, to keep this review spoiler-free, but keep an eye out for weird running gear and you'll know when you see the character.
There's one other thing that makes this special my favorite: the music. I usually don't like the songs in Thomas specials very much, but this one has two songs that are actually quite good (although, for adult viewers, all of the songs are still a painfully obvious reminder that the show is intended for little kids). I won't claim to actually enjoy a song from a Thomas special (heck, no!) but I will say that The Great Race has two of the most...tolerable songs of any Thomas special - and for once, these songs actually do help advance the story. I still think these specials would work better if they weren't pretending to be musicals, but these two songs don't feel quite as forced and out of place as most of the songs in other specials. (This special also has a couple of typically clunky songs, as well.)
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