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A&E Home Video presents
The Wind in the Willows (1983)

Badger: How's young Toad?
Rat: He's going from bad to worse. Another smasher only last week.
Badger: How many has he had?
Rat: Smashes or cars? Oh, well, it's the same thing with Toad.

- Michael Hordern, Ian Carmichael

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: November 03, 2004

Stars: Richard Pearson, Ian Carmichael, David Jason, Richard Hordern, Beryl Reid
Director: Mark Hall

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:18m:38s
Release Date: October 26, 2004
UPC: 733961714500
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B-C+ C

DVD Review

When I was a child, my favorite book was The Wind in the Willows. The gentle tale of four woodland friends captured my imagination like few stories could, keeping me engrossed until the final page. With a leisurely style and amusing plot, author Kenneth Grahame transported me to the world of Mole, Badger, Rat, and Toad, and brought those creatures so vividly to life, they seemed to me more human than…well, humans.

Filmmakers have also long been attracted to Grahame's novel, with several adaptations of varying quality gracing both the big and small screens. Walt Disney latched onto the reckless, madcap nature of Toad way back in 1949, crafting a "mini-classic" that focused on the reptile's reckless adventures. When Disneyland sprouted up six years later, Walt reworked the film into one of the park's most popular attractions. What child (or adult, for that matter) hasn't squealed with delight crashing through barrels and plowing into an oncoming train on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride? Grahame surely never envisioned such a bastardization of his story, or that it would ever reach such mammoth pop culture proportions.

Lucky for Grahame, however, Mark Hall's beautifully produced 1983 film exists as a testament to the lyricism, tone, and characterization of the original novel. Widely regarded as the best cinematic adaptation, The Wind in the Willows was produced for British television, and preserves the country flavor of Grahame's book. It also faithfully follows the plot, and through highly effective stop-action animation succeeds in immersing viewers in the perils and pitfalls of the Wild Wood.

Sick of cleaning his dank underground home, the Mole (voice by Richard Pearson) indulges a whim and strolls along the riverbank in search of diversion. He soon encounters his friend Ratty (voice by Ian Carmichael), and the two take a pleasant spring boat ride. As they drift into the Wild Wood, they meet up with the irresistibly irresponsible Toad (voice by David Jason), a young heir who'd rather cruise the countryside in one of those newfangled motor cars than tend his estate. Mole, Rat, and their cantankerous friend Badger (voice by Michael Hordern) fear Toad's immature behavior will ruin the reputation of animals everywhere, yet before they can rein him in, Toad takes one wild ride too many and winds up in the clink. How Toad wriggles out of prison and, with the help of his trio of friends, reclaims stately Toad Hall forms the balance of the tale.

Although the animation looks primitive today, Hall achieves a remarkable fluidity of motion with his furry and slimy characters, lending them a lifelike quality that helps draw viewers into their world. The actors are also first-rate, wisely avoiding caricature and giving each woodland creature an appropriate voice. And quite often, those voices read dialogue lifted verbatim from Grahame's novel.

Children may not appreciate the leisurely pacing, but those mature enough to favor character over story should respond to the film. Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad remain endearing and enduring figures, and though their true home will always be the pages of the book, this animated version of The Wind in the Willows does a fine job of capturing their quirks. It may not dazzle or enthrall, but fans of the novel seeking an accurate adaptation (with a few songs) won't be disappointed with this charming, whimsical film.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Ragged title sequences bookend the film, but the body of The Wind in the Willows is relatively free of any visual imperfections. Colors are a tad muted and contrast is soft, but good clarity and nice detail make the transfer pleasant enough.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: No hiss, pops or distortion mar the stereo soundtrack, but it still lacks vibrancy. Dialogue could use a boost, separation is weak, and an overall flatness pervades the audio. But for a TV film from 1983, one would be foolish to expect more.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interview with producer Brian Cosgrove
  2. Toad's Road trivia game
  3. Photo gallery
  4. Character descriptions
Extras Review: A few mildly interesting extras spruce up the disc, beginning with a Q&A with producer Brian Cosgrove, who discusses, among other things, the film's animation style and the challenges the production presented. Toad's Road Trivia Game quizzes youngsters on the story and offers film clips as reward for correct answers, while a skimpy 10 color images comprise the Photo Gallery. A quartet of character descriptions rounds out the supplements.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

A faithful adaptation of a beloved novel, The Wind in the Willows tells the whimsical tale of Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad with typical English grace. While this quiet film may not captivate the youngest viewers, it will please admirers of the book, and introduce new audiences to its wonders.


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