The Wind in the Willows (1995 film)

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The Wind in the Willows
TheWindintheWillows1995.jpg
Distributed by HIT Entertainment[1]
Directed by Dave Unwin
Produced by John Coates
Screenplay by Ted Walker
Based on The Wind in the Willows 
by Kenneth Grahame
Narrated by Vanessa Redgrave
Starring Alan Bennett
Michael Gambon
Rik Mayall
Michael Palin
Music by Colin Towns
Country UK
Language English
Release date 1995
Running time 73 min.

The Wind in the Willows is a 1995 British animation film directed by Dave Unwin and written by Ted Walker, based on the 1908 novel of the same name, a classic of children's literature by Kenneth Grahame. It was produced by the now defunct TVC (Television Cartoons) in London.[2]

Plot[edit]

Tired from spring cleaning, Mole ventures out of his hole for the first time and stumbles across a river and a new-found friend Ratty. The two friends enjoy themselves then call on Mr. Toad, who takes them for a trip on the open road by gypsy caravan until a passing motor car causes the caravan to crash and Toad to develop a mania for driving motor cars. Back at the riverbank Ratty gets a temporary phase of a desire to emigrate but Mole snaps him out of it.

By Winter, Mole ventures and gets lost in the Wild Wood where he had hoped to make an acquaintance with Mr. Badger, Ratty finds Mole and the two friends come across Mr. Badger's house and he invites them in. After their enjoyed stay, the two friends head for home and Mole gets homesick from leaving his hole for too long, but Ratty comforts him with a visit to the place.

When Springtime approaches, Mr. Badger confronts Toad to get him out of his obsession of motor cars which is squandering his father's inheritance money, but to no avail. Toad escapes his house and gets himself in trouble for stealing and crashing a motor car for 20 years in prison. Meanwhile Mole and Ratty row in the river at night in search of Otter's son Portly.

Eventually Toad is helped out of prison in the guise of a washerwoman by the Jailer's daughter. Lacking money, Toad hitches a ride on a train driven by a kind engine driver, who later helps him escape the pursuing police train. Soon Toad comes across a horse towed barge owned by a fat barge woman. Having failed to do some washing up and being thrown off by the barge woman, Toad steals her horse and rides off. When he reaches the road, he sees a motor car; with the man who locked him up in the deepest dungeon in England. The man's driver invites Toad for a ride, but when he takes the wheel he crashes the car into the lake, then he swims to escape the police.

Soon, Toad is united with his friends Ratty, Mole and Mr. Badger, but his home Toad Hall has been requisitioned by the Wild Wooders. Sneaking through an underground passage into Toad Hall, the four animals drive the Wild Wooders out and Toad reclaims his house, receiving a celebration for his return the next day.

Sequel[edit]

The film was followed by The Willows in Winter in 1996. It received positive reviews like the first film, and Rik Mayall and Lorraine Marshall won Emmy Awards for Best Voice Acting and Art Direction respectively.

Set an unspecified amount of time after the first story (Otter's son Portly, a small child in the previous story, now appears to be a teenager), the group have been joined by Mole's recently orphaned, unnamed nephew. Toad temporarily allows him to stay at Toad Hall, but packs him off back to Mole End when Toad sees an aeroplane fly overhead and becomes fascinated with them. Winter comes and one night, just as Mole finally agrees to tell his nephew about how he met Ratty and the others, Portly suddenly bursts in out of the blizzard outside and, having helped himself to a strong drink, falls asleep halfway through telling Mole something about Ratty and Otter. Worried that they may be in trouble, Mole leaves his nephew to look after Portly and ventures out into the night to get to Ratty's house. Having got to the frozen river and with no other way to get across, Mole attempts to walk across the ice, only to fall through a thin patch and be lost from view.

The next day, Ratty and Otter arrive at Mole End looking for Portly, it turns out they simply wished that Mole could join them for a drink the previous night and that Portly ran off to invite Mole without their approval. Horrified that Mole has not returned, Ratty and Otter recruit the aid of Badger to find their friend and Badger intimidates the denizens of the Wild Wood (who now all live in fear and awe of the group following the Battle of Toad Hall) into helping with the search. Meanwhile, Toad has purchased an aeroplane, but is disappointed to discover that he must have a qualified pilot to fly it for him. As it happens, the pilot agrees to keep his head down while flying the plane, so as to make it appear that Toad is flying it himself. Toad goes for a flight over the local area and is seen by Ratty and Badger, who then go to Toad Hall to convince Toad to help them look for Mole. Much to Toad's disappointment, Badger wants Ratty to go up in the plane, leading Toad (who wants to be a hero) incapacitating the pilot and taking the controls himself. By the time Ratty realizes what's happening it's too late, as Toad forgets about looking for Mole and starts doing wild stunts with the plane, causing Ratty to fall out. Luckily, Ratty has a parachute, but on the way down appears to have a near-death experience, becoming convinced that he has seen 'Beyond'.

Badger pays no attention to Ratty's experience when they are reunited, being too angry with Toad (who disappears over the horizon in his plane). The group eventually find a letter that Mole took with him and concealed in the trunk of a tree before attempting to cross the river - the letter contains his will. Badger is consequently left certain that Mole is dead and, despite Ratty's refusal to believe this, arranges a funeral for him. However, Mole is actually still alive and has drifted to a small island downriver (Mole's confused memories seem to imply that the river itself saved him). Ratty's rowboat, having drifted downstream after the river started to thaw, eventually reaches the island and Mole uses it to escape. That night, Badger holds Mole's funeral and delivers a grand eulogy in honour of his friend, but Portly gets bored and wanders off. He sees Mole arrive in the rowboat and, mistaking Mole for a vengeful ghost, panics and runs back to the funeral, where everyone except Badger flees from the 'ghost'. Badger furiously orders the 'spirit' to leave so they can finish Mole's funeral, causing Mole to protest "But I AM Mole!". Everybody then recognizes him and are relieved to discover that they were wrong.

Meanwhile, Toad has crashed his plane into a large greenhouse in town and is horrified to discover that the owner is none other than the judge who sentenced him for dangerous driving in the previous story. Luckily, Toad is unrecognized since he is able to convince them to not remove his helmet while rescuing him and discovers that, since he narrowly avoided crashing into a populated area, everyone believes he did so deliberately and regards him as a hero. Recuperating in the judge's house, Toad is invited to dinner, but will have to remove his helmet and risk exposing his identity, so he blocks up the fireplace in his room and requests a chimney sweep. Getting the sweep drunk, Toad steals his clothes and attempts to escape, but his ego gets the better of him when he hears the household lionizing the 'pilot' and reveals that he, Toad of Toad Hall, is the real pilot. The judge then attempts to arrest him, but Toad narrowly escapes.

The residents of the River Bank read about Toad's adventures in the paper and are shocked to discover that Toad is being denounced as a menace to society (the article implies that Toad murdered the sweep). The group also have to arrange a party at Badger's house for the Wild Wooders (their promised reward for searching for Mole), so they go to Toad Hall to borrow some of Toad's furniture and cutlery. The house is flooding with the spring thaw, so they take everything for safekeeping, Ratty also finds a letter for Toad. Toad, meanwhile, gets roped into attending a wedding to bring good luck, but the judge is the bride's father and, recognizing Toad, has him arrested. Badger reads about Toad's arrest and, knowing things can only get worse if he doesn't do something, writes a letter to an old friend of his, the editor of the 'Times' newspaper.

A miserable Toad appears in court, where he is tricked into forfeiting his right to a have a lawyer, and is denounced by everyone present, including the sweep's supposed widow. Toad tearfully pleads guilty to all the charges, also confessing to having abandoned the search for Mole and possibly killed Ratty, which confuses the court as they knew nothing about Toad's friends. A letter from the 'Times' editor is suddenly delivered, revealing that both he and Badger vouch for Toad's good character, and the judge's butler also testifies on Toad's behalf, revealing that the sweep is still alive and reminding everyone that Toad's actions saved several lives (even if he did it by mistake). Toad is declared innocent and allowed to return to Toad Hall, learning before he goes that the butler knew who he was from the start.

Badger's party is a flop, with everyone missing Toad. Toad returns to his ancestral home and, finding everything missing, assumes the worst. He gets drunk and accidentally sets the house on fire, melodramatically refusing rescue and resigning himself to a fiery death as everyone discovers what's happened. Ratty and Mole, however, use the tunnel under Toad Hall to get in and heroically save Toad. Toad is left miserable as he has no insurance and will be unable to restore Toad Hall, but the letter Ratty found solves everything - a rich American relative of Toad has died and left his vast fortune to Toad.

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