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- “Why, 'tis a floatin' basket with folk in it."
"Whatever will they dream up next?”
- ―Donald and Douglas
James and the Red Balloon is the fifteenth episode of the sixth series.
It is summer holiday time on the Island of Sodor and the holidaymakers are coming to visit the island. Thomas picks up a special to take to Dryaw Airfield; he tells Percy he is taking a balloon and Percy thinks it is a party balloon, but Thomas corrects him, saying that it is a special balloon and chuffs away.
Thomas arrives at the airfield and the hot air balloon is starting to blow. James arrives and Thomas explains that the balloon is for taking holidaymakers around the island, but James is jealous because taking holidaymakers is a job for engines. He asks what will happen if the balloon takes their passengers and what will become of them. After hearing this, Thomas is not excited about the balloon anymore. The balloon can be seen from everyone on the island.
Later that day, Thomas and James are waiting at a crossing talking about the hot air balloon, until the hot air balloon falls on top of James after it runs out of hot air. James, petrified, lets off a huge burst of steam, which invariably blows the balloon up again. His driver cheers for him, but Thomas and James are upset that it would eventually take their passengers.
James arrives at Dryaw where a lot of visitors and the Fat Controller are waiting. He praises him, but James tells him that the balloon will take their passengers. The Fat Controller laughs saying that he is right, but also reminds him that the holidaymakers will need a ride home in a train. James is relieved, as the engines are now busier than ever taking holidaymakers to and from the airfield for balloon rides. Whenever James sees the red balloon, he whistles hello and sometimes when he is asleep, he wishes he could fly too, just like the red balloon.
- Donald and Douglas
- Sir Topham Hatt
- Duck (does not speak)
- Stepney (does not speak)
- Henry (cameo)
- Annie and Clarabel (cameo)
- Bertie (cameo)
- George (cameo)
- Butch (cameo)
- Big Mickey (cameo)
- Tiger Moth (cameo)
- Stephen Hatt (cameo)
- Bridget Hatt (cameo)
- Jem Cole (cameo)
- Farmer Trotter (cameo)
- Nancy (cameo)
- The Elsbridge Cricket club member (cameo)
- The Storyteller (cameo)
- Cyril the Fogman (cameo)
- The Captain (cameo)
- Toad (faceless; deleted scene cameo)
- Tidmouth Sheds
- Brendam Docks
- The Viaduct
- The Windmill
- The Lighthouse
- Tidmouth Beach
- The Watermill (deleted scene)
- This story may be loosely adapted from the mini book by Christopher Awdry, James and the Balloons.
- This is the first of the six episodes of the sixth series re-narrated by Michael Brandon in the US and Michael Angelis in the UK with music composed by Robert Hartshorne and Ed Welch.
- A faceless Toad model can be seen in a rare picture.
- There is a ride of the same name of this episode at Drayton Manor Theme Park. It opened in April 2017.
- When Percy pulls up next to Thomas, he is pulling trucks. But after that, they disappear. Additionally, the top of the set can be seen.
- The end of the tracks crossing the level crossing are visible, more so for James' side.
- The footage of the balloon collapsing on top of James is reversed, as the smoke goes inward.
- In some shots at Dryaw, the tracks running through lead to bushes at both ends.
- The tracks under the bridge in the last shot lead to bushes.
- When Percy asks, "What have you got there?" Thomas does not have a face. This is only apparent in the widescreen versions.
- In the original American narration, Alec Baldwin does not even attempt a Scottish accent for Donald and Douglas' voices. This was later corrected in Michael Brandon's re-narration.
- In a scene when the balloon is falling on James, his cab roof is out of place.
- When the narrator says, "Duck gazed at it for so long," the balloon is static and not moving.
- In the original British narration, Michael Angelis accidentally uses a Scouse accent for Thomas at the start of the level crossing scene.
- Douglas' coupling is sticking outward when he asks, "Whatever will they dream up next?"
- Books - Thomas, James and the Red Balloon, James and the Red Balloon and Other Thomas the Tank Engine Stories and Thomas, James and the Red Balloon (Germany only)
- Magazine stories - James and the Red Balloon
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