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Universal Studios Home Video presents
A Wish for Wings That Work (1991)

"...and stinkbugs might like to dance the watusi in my undershorts, but you gotta draw the line somewhere!"
- Opus (Michael Bell)

Review By: Ross Johnson   
Published: December 06, 2007

Stars: Joe Alaskey, Michael Patrick Bell
Other Stars: John Byner, Tress MacNeille, Andrew Hill Newman
Director: Skip Jones

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:24m:00s
Release Date: November 06, 2007
UPC: 025195009515
Genre: holiday

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Here's a rarely seen holiday gem: Opus 'n' Bill's A Wish for Wings that Work first aired back in 1991, and has rarely been seen outside of extended basic cable in the intervening years. Being a huge fan of writer/creator Berkely Breathed (of the Bloom County/Outland/Opus newspaper strips), I had fond memories of the special, but hadn't seen it in years. Though Breathed himself has expressed ambivalence over the half-hour special, I found it (and still find it) to be a charming and fast-paced visit with these characters in their only TV appearance.

Tormented once again by the local pigeons for his useless penguin wings, Opus has only one Christmas wish: he wants to fly, by gosh. He discovers, pretty quickly, that there aren't all that many options for a big-nosed penguin with replaceable hindquarters and wings that just won't work. In one of the cleverest moments, Opus dreams himself in the plane-crash scene from Frank Capra's classic Lost Horizon. Even in his dreams, he can't quite believe that a penguin can fly. His flightless-fowl support group quickly descends into chaos with the addition of an albatross-obsessed bird (voiced by Robin Williams), and all of his attempts are complicated by his buddy Bill the Cat, the hairball-spewing goofball, rescued from a science lab where his brains had been replaced with tater tots. It's looking like it's going to be a sad and lonely Christmas for both of them, until Santa's sleigh blows an axle and is forced to make an unscheduled landing in Bloom County. Opus is voiced by voiceover veteran (and how!) Michael Bell, best known, perhaps, for his work in 1980s shows like Transformers and G.I. Joe, but with a resume that spans almost a half-century. If you don't recognize the name, you'll recognize the voice, and he makes for a fine Opus. There's always a bit of dissonance when a beloved literary or comic character is brought to the screen, and it's always a bit different than you imagine, but Bell brings a warmth and appropriate melancholy to the character. The animation style, additionally, can't match the distinct line work of the script, but it's certainly a cut above the cheap animation that was so prevalent at the time.

There are the trademark Breathed throwaway gags: a cross-dressing cockroach (voiced by an uncredited Dustin Hoffman) in cameo, "Stormin' Norman's War Toys" open for holiday business (it's 1991, after all), etc., but there're no politics or social issues, and it generally shies away from being referential: this is a slight but warm-hearted adventure starring an exceptionally neurotic penguin. The material might be just a bit edgier than the traditional Christmas special, but that's really not saying all that much. Like in his newspaper adventures, Opus's touches of cynicism and self-doubt only make you root for him all the more. I'll admit that I'm a sucker for a well-earned happy ending, but when Opus does get his wish, after a fashion, it's all the more touching.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The transfer wasn't spectacular, and there was a bit of grain, but I was actually a bit impressed by the overall quality. My expectations were low for this bare-bones packaging of a sixteen-year-old-special, but the image is generally quite nice throughout.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Without being spectacular or flashy, the Dolby 2.0 track is clear and full.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Not a thing.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

What's this? A Christmas special that you haven't seen a million times already? A Wish for Wings That Work hasn't been seen much since it's 1991 premiere, and it's kind of a shame. The story is slight, but it's a nonetheless charming tale of a world-weary penguin who only wants to be able to fly for Christmas. Fans of creator Berkeley Breathed should enjoy seeing his characters making this brief and single jump to the screen, while parents and softies of all kind should appreciate the warmth and fun.


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