|The Wind in the Willows|
|Based on||The Wind in the Willows|
by Kenneth Grahame
|Screenplay by||Ted Walker|
|Directed by||Dave Unwin|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Running time||73 minutes|
Carlton UK Productions
The Family Channel
The Wind in the Willows is a 1995 British animated television film directed by Dave Unwin and written by Ted Walker, and based on the 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.
The films include live action starting and ending segments with Vanessa Redgrave as the grandmother (who narrates), Alan Bennett, Michael Gambon, Rik Mayall, Michael Palin, Tom Stourton and Barry Foster, which changes into an animated setting as soon as the grandmother opens the book.
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 on a trip along the open road by gypsy caravan until a passing motor car causes the caravan to crash and Toad to develop a mania for 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 gets lost in the Wild Wood, where he had hoped to make the acquaintance of Mr. Badger. Ratty finds Mole and the two friends come across Mr. Badger's house and he invites them in. After a pleasant visit, the two friends head for home, whereupon Mole feels 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 stop squandering his inheritance on motor cars, but to no avail. Toad escapes his house, forcing Ratty, Mole, and Badger to go after him, and gets himself in trouble for stealing and crashing a motor car, and is sentenced 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, Mole and Ratty row in the river at night in search of Portly, who they later find with Pan.
Eventually, Toad escapes from prison in the guise of a washerwoman, aided by the Jailer's daughter. Lacking money, Toad hitches a ride on a train driven by a kindly engine driver, who later helps him escape the police, who pursue him on a train. Soon Toad comes across a horse-towed barge owned by a fat barge woman. Having failed to do some washing up and being laughed at and thrown off by the barge woman, Toad steals her horse and rides off. When he reaches the road, he sees a motor car, carrying the very judge who sentenced him. The judge's driver invites Toad for a ride, but when he takes the wheel he crashes the car into a pond, and is once more pursued by the police. He falls into the river and swims to safety.
Soon, Toad is reunited with his friends, 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.
The film was followed by The Willows in Winter in 1996 based on the novel of the same name by William Horwood. 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, 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, the son of Mole's friend Otter, 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 bought an aeroplane, but is angry that only a qualified pilot may fly it for him. The pilot agrees to keep his head down while flying the plane, to give the impression that Toad is flying it himself. Ratty and Badger spot Toad flying over, then they go to Toad Hall to use the plane to look for Mole. Toad knocks out the pilot and commandeers the plane with Ratty in the back seat. Toad forgets about looking for Mole and starts doing wild stunts with the plane, causing Ratty to fall out. Ratty has a parachute, but on the way down appears to have a near-death experience, becoming convinced that he has seen 'Beyond'.
Badger and Ratty 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. Mole however has drifted to a small island downriver. Ratty's rowboat, having drifted downstream after the river started to thaw, eventually reaches the island and Mole uses it to save himself. 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, and Mole reveals himself, much to everyone's relief.
Meanwhile, Toad has crashed his plane into a large greenhouse in town and to his horror, the owner is none other than the judge who sentenced him to prison for motorcar theft. Toad poses as a pilot trying to prove himself and he is regarded as a hero. Recuperating in the judge's house, Toad is invited to dinner, but does not wish to blow his cover, so he blocks up the fireplace in his room and requests a chimney sweep. Getting the sweeper drunk, Toad switches clothes with him and attempts to escape, but his vanity gets the better of him and causes him to confess who he really is. The judge then attempts to arrest him, but Toad narrowly escapes.
The riverbankers 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 groom's father and Toad is finally caught. 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). 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 manipulated into forfeiting his right to 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 acquitted of all charges 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 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 of $5,000,000 (£3,211,098) to Toad.