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Western Animation / The Willows in Winter (1996)

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The Willows in Winter is a 1996 sequel to the 1995 film The Wind in the Willows. It is an Animated Adaptation of William Horwood's unofficial sequel to Kenneth Grahame's original novel. Like Willows, it was produced by the now defunct TVC (Television Cartoons) in London and the two tend to be sold together on DVD. Most of the original cast returned to reprise their roles.

The film begins in the summer with Toad entertaining Mole's recently orphaned nephew with a game of croquet. That is, until he sees a plane fly over Toad Hall... Later in the year, Nephew Mole is back at Mole End with his uncle as a violent blizzard blows outside. Enter Portly, who tries to deliver a message to Mole but ends up getting drunk and passing out before he can stammer out more than Rat has said Mole must come at once. Mole sets off to help his friend and almost makes it to Rat's house, but falls through the ice while crossing the river and is seemingly lost forever...


Like the first film, Winter received positive reviews, and Rik Mayall and Lorraine Marshall won Emmy Awards for Best Voice Acting and Art Direction respectively.

The Willows in Winter provides examples of the following tropes:

  • A Dog Named "Dog": All the original characters plus Nephew Mole who's Mole's nephew.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Toad was doing well after the first film. Until he sees a plane fly over Toad Hall...
  • Alcohol Hic: Toad does this after downing red wine.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Toad, after a few too many glasses of wine, knocks over a candle and sets his house on fire.
  • Animated Adaptation: Of William Horwood's unofficial sequel to The Wind in the Willows.
  • Art Shift: When Rat sees a vision of "the beyond" the animation changes to a different style.
  • Bad Ass Boast: Toad. He'll have you know he's walked unscathed from blazing infernos!
  • Advertisement:
  • The Big Bad: The judge is upgraded to this from the first film.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Prenderghast when he appears to give evidence at Toad's trial.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Toad Hall is burned to the ground, but Toad is officially out of trouble with the law and his deceased American cousin has left him $5,000,000 (which when converted to the pound sterling is roughly £3,000,000), more then enough to rebuild the Hall and still enough for Toad to live in comfort since that has the spending power of £171,180,000 in today's money).
  • Book Ends: Two: the film opens and ends with the live action segments and the animated part opens and ends with shots of Toad Hall.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor:
    • Portly. Justified since he's only a youth and it's probably his first time drinking strong alcohol.
    • The chimney sweep, which Toad uses to his advantage.
  • Character Exaggeration:
    • If Toad was a foolish and irresponsible Small Name, Big Ego in the original, he's twice as bad here.
    • Likewise, the judge, who was an exaggerated parody of the "stern judge" stereotype in the original has become directly villainous in this film.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The letter for Toad that Rat finds halfway through the movie ends up being Toad's salvation during his Darkest Hour.
  • Downer Beginning: The film begins with Mole seemingly falling through the ice and drowning in the river. Fortunately, he doesn't die and is later found by his friends.
  • Decomposite Character: The judge and the chief justice who oversees Toad's hearing are separate characters than in Horwood's book.
  • Drives Like Crazy: In this one Toad flies like crazy.
  • Fat Bastard: The sadistic judge from the first film returns to cause more trouble for Toad.
  • Fatal Flaw: Toad would've had a much easier escape from the judge's mansion had he not let his ego get in the way.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Toad accidentally crashes his plane on the judge's greenhouse and ends up on trial for just about every crime in existence.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Badger and Rat..."ask" the residents of the Wild Wood to help them search for Mole. They agree after Rat promises them a few things and Badger threatens to clobber them if they don't.
  • Heroic BSoD: Toad falls into despair twice. Once when he's put on trial for murder and at the end when his house burns down. He gets over both pretty quickly since he's, well, Toad.
  • Karma Houdini: Oddly enough, Toad is both this and the victim of a Felony Misdemeanor. He flies his new plane like a madman and very nearly ends up getting Rat killed, not to mention almost crashing in the middle of a village. He receives no punishment for either thanks to the judge bungling his trial by trying to implicate him in dozens of other crimes, which leads to him walking away free.
  • Medium Blending: Like the previous film, it opens and ends with live action segments with animation in between.
  • New Technology is Evil: Played with much more than in the original. The message from Winter seems to be that new technology is bad only when it's abused by people like Toad. Even Badger is eager to use Toad's new plane to help search for Mole.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: If the judge had just charged Toad with the crimes he was actually guilty of (escaping jail and dangerous flying over a public area) he would probably have got the conviction to stick. Instead he tries to implicate Toad in just about every crime imaginable, including the murder of a man still alive and working in his (the Judge's) kitchen. Of course Toad's friends rally at the unfairness of this and he ends up saved at the last minute, much to the judge's anger.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several:
    • Badger when he realises Toad is flying the plane rather than the pilot.
    • Toad gets a major one when he realises he's damaged the judge's prize palm tree.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Toad, once again, dons one to escape the judge. This time he dresses up as a (human) chimney sweep and no one thinks it's odd the sweep lost a few feet in height and now has a green face! The sweep's wife immediately recognizes that Toad isn't her husband.
  • Pet the Dog: The Wild Wooders search for Mole with some persuasion and are openly crying at their enemies funeral.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Portly staggers to Mole's house in the middle of a blizzard, only managing to get out "Rat says you've got to come..." before passing out. Mole naturally assumes there's a major emergency and rushes out through a blizzard and onto thin ice to reach Rat's house. It turns out that Rat and Otter were having a thoroughly enjoyable evening at Rat's house, and Rat's offhanded comment of "I wish Moley were here" led the impulsive Portly to fetch him.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Mole's nephew is a main character. He fits into the cast very well.
  • Sixth Ranger: Mole's nephew.
  • Smug Snake: The chief weasel, smugly adding more conditions to the agreement of the weasels joining the search for mole.
    Rat:You'll partake of high tea with Mr Badger himself.
    Chief Weasel:I'll get us more than a tea party. And...
    Badger: *Snarls*
    Rat: Receive a letter of forgiveness from Mr Toad for past wrongs.
    Chief Weasel: In addition to...
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Portly, see Poor Communication Kills for details.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Toad is back to his old ways since the last film.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Toad is often on the receiving end of this. Usually from Badger.
    Badger: SCOUNDREL! Wretched, raving irresponsible animal! You should be HORSE-WHIPPED!
and later...
Rat: Oh yes! I know where you are, Toad! And you can go hang!
Otter: You can go hang!