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A&E Home Video presents
The Wind in the Willows: Feature Films Collection (1983, 1989)

"The World has held great Heroes, As history-books have showed; But never a name to go down to fame Compared with that of Toad!"
- Toad (David Jason)

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: October 05, 2006

Stars: Michael Hordern, Peter Wallis, Richard Pearson, David Jason, Ian Carmichael
Director: Mark Hall, Jackie Cockle

MPAA Rating: G for nothing objectionable
Run Time: 02h:01m:33s
Release Date: September 26, 2006
UPC: 733961758375
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B BC+B- C+

DVD Review

Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows has been a classic of children's literature since its 1908 publication. The book was adapted into a stop motion animation British television series, produced by the Cosgrove Hall company in the 1980s, and this two-disc set gathers the initial feature-length production and another, roughly hour-long film. Younger kids will likely be bored stiff and confused by the "Englishness" of the stories and the sedate pace, but older kids may find it more to their taste.

The first film, titled simply The Wind in the Willows (01h:18m:38s) adapts a couple stories from the original novel. Both involve Toad (David Jason), the upper-class twit who makes life difficult for his friends Badger (Michael Hordern), Rat (Ian Carmichael) and Mole (Richard Pearson). The first half of the film sees Toad obsessed with cars, driving his friends to distraction as he totals several in his haphazard attempts to satisfy his need for speed. Toad gets thrown in the pokey only to see his home, stately Toad Hall, get taken over by the denizens of the Wild Wood: weasels, stoats and ferrets. The four friends band together to boot the interlopers out, and all is well. The second film, A Tale of Two Toads (52m:33s) has possession of Toad Hall as its goal again, with a Toad-lookalike con artist helping the weasels gain control of that precious real estate once again.

It's pretty easy to see Willows as a blunt portrait of class structure in England; Toad is the aristocrat, who despite his incompetence and utter lack of interest in providing an example of leadership, must be returned to his rightful place in Toad Hall. His friends are the middle class, propping up the rich, and the Wild Wood is the home of the lower classes, seeking only to cheat and steal what isn't theirs, and given stereotypical Cockney accents to boot. American kids won't (I assume) get the social aspects of the films, and it gives the proceedings a bit of a sour taste otherwise. Grahame, a banker before making his fortune on the book, was hardly to going to advocate for socialism at any rate.

The animation is a bit crude compared to later stop motion, but it suits the material in many ways and the design is pleasing to the eye. The voice-acting is all top notch as well. 's Peter Wallis (the voice of Wallace) replaces Carmichael as the voice of Rat in the latter entry. There are a handful of songs in the first film, as there are in the book, and they're pleasant enough. That would be the operative word for me: pleasant. The pace is never too hectic, the problems are never too great, and the characters are never too extreme. It's all very pleasant, and I have to admit the river bank would be a lovely place to be, wending away the days "messing about on boats," eating loads of ham sandwiches, and otherwise having no discernable job. Grahame knew the good life when he saw it.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Adequate, but a little dark and dingy. I don't imagine there were shot on top of the line equipment, so this may be as good as they look, but I would have expected a little better. I didn't notice any obvious problems aside from the somewhat impoverished image as described. There are no subtitles.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Basic two-channel stereo, and it does the job. Clear and free of major defects.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Box Set
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus episode from season 3, "The Paperchase"
  2. Photo gallery
  3. Trivia game
Extras Review: A couple things here. First is a series of seven questions posed to Brian Cosgrove, about his company and the productions (total time 11m:19s). Unfortunately, you must select each question individually, with no "play all" function. Interesting and to the point. The second disc includes the opening episode of the third season of the television program, titled The Paperchase (20m:17s). The titular game ends up setting Toad against the weasels in what is supposed to be a kids game, and sees each party's cheating ways get the better of them. Character descriptions, a photo gallery, and a trivia game are also on hand.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

If you're a fan of the novel and/or the television series, then you'll likely appreciate these two films based on the book. The transfers are nothing to get excited about, but they're adequate for the task at hand.

 


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