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Western Animation / The Wind in the Willows (1983)

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The Wind in the Willows is a 1983 Stop Motion Animated Adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's classic novel. Produced by Cosgrove Hall Films for Thames Television, it was first aired on ITV in Great Britain on the 27th of December 1983. Internationally, it was released in cinemas, distributed by The Cannon Group in North America and by Communications and Entertainment Limited (CEL) in Oceania. It was well-received by critics and audiences alike, which resulted in it getting a television series by Thames Television and a sequel, the latter of the two this time focusing on Mr. Toad.

Followed by A Tale of Two Toads and Oh, Mr. Toad.

The film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The book ends with Toad holding a banquet at Toad Hall where he actually behaves quietly and humbly and compensating those he wronged. The film ends on a much more comedic note with Toad flying (an later crashing) an aeroplane.
  • Adaptational Badass: Badger, while always a stonecold but friendly badass, in this version fights the weasels with his bare hands. He brings his blunderbuss only for a warning shot. When the weasels take over Toad Hall, instead of simply overpowering him, they have to sneak up and hit him from behind with a cudgel.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Badger doesn't appear in the book until Mole and Rat go to the Wild Wood. Here, Rat spots him during his and Mole's picnic and invites him to join them, but he blows them off.
  • Adaptation Expansion: After the film was a four season TV show and another film.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the novel, the weasels are cowards who run and only appear in the third act. Here they have a greater presence, and manipulate, steal from, menace, and even attack whoever they can. In a case of Adaptational Badass as well, they stand and fight when the main characters come to take Toad Hall back. Also unlike their book counterparts they aren't "tamed" since in the subsequent TV show they make regular attempts to either kidnap Toad for ransom or con him out of Toad Hall (though they get the occasional Pet the Dog moment).
  • Adaptational Wimp: Toad, very very much. He doesn't even fight the chief like in the book, he just hangs on the chandelier and falls on him.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: It is not shown how Toad escaped from his bedroom.
  • Adapted Out: The character Otter, and the chapters "The Further Adventures of Toad", "Wayfarers All" and "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" were all left out of the film, but subverted by the TV series in which Otter is a recurring character and all three chapters were adapted as episodes
  • Animated Adaptation: Of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
  • Boisterous Weakling: Toad constantly compliments himself on abilities he does not have.
  • Book Ends: The film starts with the opening of a brown leather-bound book and ends with the book closing at the end of the credits.
  • Chandelier Swing: Parodied when Toad spends the battle at Toad Hall swinging uselessly back and forth on the chandelier, until he falls on top of the last weasel standing.
  • Character Catchphrase:
    • Mole: 'Bother and blow'. 'Oh my!'.
    • Rat: 'Oh no!' 'Great Heavens!'.
    • Badger: 'As my dear father used to say...' after quoting a proverb or saying.
    • Mr. Toad: 'Poop-poop'. 'Hello you fellows!'. 'Hahaha!'. 'It's the only thing!'. In the TV series, he also frequently boasts of buying 'the finest <product> that money can buy' to aid his latest craze.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The engine driver who helps Toad escape is first seen during the motorcar montage.
  • Cool Car: Toad's motorcars. Too bad he wrecks them.
  • Cool Old Guy: Badger starts to be seen as this the more the audience gets to know him
  • Crazy-Prepared: Rat always plans ahead for a picnic.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Most, if not all, of the animal characters fall into this.
  • Dramatic Drop: Mole drops a wine glass upon learning from the youngsters that Toad has been arrested.
  • Drives Like Crazy: There is a spectacular montage of Toad's motor car accidents, proving that cars are his worst mania yet.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Much like the novel and all other adaptations, Toad's sentence. Twelve months for the theft of a motor car, three years for dangerous driving, and fifteen years for cheeking the police. Unlike the source material and other versions however, this film adds a cherry on the top by stating the extra year added on to make it a twenty year sentence was because Toad was 'green'.
    Clerk: That adds up to...
    Judge: Nineteen years!
    Toad (in disbelief): Nineteen years?!
    Judge: And another year for being green. Twenty years!
  • Forbidden Zone: It is not advised to go to the Wild Wood, at least not on your own.
  • Gender Flip: The judge is female in this version.
  • Gilligan Cut: Rat objects to accompanying Toad on his caravan trip, confidently assuming that Mole will agree. Mole does…but then admits it could be fun. As “The Open Road” begins to play, we get a close up of Rat, arms folded, looking peeved.
  • Here We Go Again!: Toad learns nothing from his motorcar disaster and takes up a new fad—the airplane.
  • He's Back!:
    • Toad sees his jailbreak as this and displays it as such through singing.
    • At the Battle of Toad Hall, in a Moment of Awesome, the Chief Weasel is surprised to see that Toad is out of gaol.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Rat, upon hearing that Moley has gone off to the Wild Wood to find Badger despite his warnings, drops his carefree and relaxed demeanor, arming himself with two flintlocks and a shillelagh before hurrying off after him.
  • Manchild: David Jason explained in interviews that he played Toad this way, allowing him to be likable despite his wild irresponsibility.
  • Movie Bonus Song: The film includes all the songs from the book, though "The Open Road" was written exclusively for the film.
  • Pilot Movie: The film was described as the "pilot" episode which launched the TV series.
  • Premature Eulogy: When Toad hears that the weasels were "too strong for Badger," he is stunned and begins to tearfully eulogize Badger... before Badger shows up behind him to tell him not to.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Toad's character in a nutshell.
  • Scenery Porn: All the background settings are gorgeous and given lavish attention to detail.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Toad disappears when Mole tries to visit Badger in the Wild Wood, arguably the scariest sequence in the movie.
  • Shout-Out: The film begins and ends respectively with the opening and closing of a book in live-action footage.
    • The book even has the logo of The Cannon Group on the front, and the Cosgrove Hall logo on the back. (This fact however only applies to North American releases. In European and Australian ones, the book has a Celtic and floral pattern on both covers.)
  • Tempting Fate: Rat initially believes that Toad's motor car mania will be a passing phase just like all of his other hobbies were.
    Mole: I really am worried about Toad.
    Rat: Oh, it's just another one of his passions. He'll grow out of it.
    Toad (in the distance): POOP-POOP!
    Mole and Rat both look up nervously
    Rat: I hope.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: In the ending, Toad's plane starts to break down. Rat utters his familiar "Oh, no", Badger resignedly grumbles and Mole meekly says, "Oh, dear".
  • Truer to the Text: This is one of the most faithful adaptations, not only telling the story of the book, but also capturing the tone and feel. The chapters and events the film didn't include where adapted as episodes of the series.
  • Verbal Tic: Whenever Badger is annoyed at something, or someone in Toad's case, expect him to growl in irritation.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Or, more accurately, as Reggie inquired:
    Reggie: I say, old bean. Where's my car?note 

The TV series provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • "Patient: Toad" has Badger discover that Toad's supposed illnesses - armillaria melleanote , botrytisnote  and ranunculus repensnote  - are plant ailments. While amused by Toad's foolishness, he has to stifle his laughter in front of the grief-stricken Mole and Rat to avoid hurting their feelings.
    • "Auberon's Return" has Toad, upon realizing that the main character of Auberon's new play "Oh, Jeremy!" is based on himself, laugh along with the others, who'd caught on much earlier.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Three episodes are adapted from chapters of the book not covered in the film - "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", "Wayfarers All" and "The Further Adventures of Toad". Each one gets additional story material and scenes added to the original plot.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Toad didn't appear in the book's "Wayfarers All". In the TV episode, he assists Mole in trying to stop Rat from leaving.
  • Adaptational Villainy: While the weasels were nasty pieces of work in the film, the TV series ups their antics to such things as robbing children, committing stock fraud and setting dangerous spring-loaded traps as petty revenge.
  • Ascended Extra: Billy Rabbit first appears as an unnamed character in "The Grand Annual Show" and becomes more of a recurring character from season three onwards.
  • Big Eater:
    • Toad, period. Going on an hour's journey, in his opinion, requires equipping oneself with several sandwiches, a cake or two, a few packets of biscuits, a tin or two of soup, etc, etc.
    Rat: You had three cheese sandwiches and a cream cake half an hour ago, Toad!
    Toad: Half an hour? No wonder I feel peckish!
    • Mole himself is often noted as a bit of a gourmand, which explains his tubbiness. Oddly, Toad is much skinnier despite being the bigger eater of the two,
  • Christmas Episode: "The Yuletide Entertainment" and "Tunnels and Tremors". "Fancy Dress" takes place just after Christmas, but clearly before Twelfth Night as Christmas decorations are still in place at Toad Hall.
  • Community-Threatening Construction: A season-long arc about a railway being built through the forest most of the animals called home. Luckily the ground is unstable because of the tunnels made by Badger's ancestors, so it's abandoned.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Rat is given this attribute, but is often more jovial than most examples. Badger also has his moments, especially towards Toad.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Badger confronting the Stranger in "Unlikely Allies", who is implied at the end to be Satan himself. The Stranger immediately decides to move on.
    Badger: Work your evil, I'm sure you will. But not here! Not yet!
  • Dude, Not Funny!: "Toad In Love" has Badger, Mole, and Rat telling Toad the truth about the actress he's fallen in love with. Rat gives Toad some lip about it, but while the others would've laughed at this in other episodes, they don't this time. Mole chides Rat for joking about it while Badger gives him a stern look, to which Rat sincerely apologizes to Toad.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In "Badger's Remedy", when Mole accidentally eats a poisonous toadstool and is gravely ill, even the Chief Weasel helps find ingredients for the antidote. When Ratty asks why he's helping, his response indicates that even he doesn't fancy the idea of somebody dying slowly and painfully, as Mole is at that moment:
    Well, I dunno. I 'spose a straight fight's one thing, or a bang on the 'ead with a cudgel, but...poison...
    • Likewise in The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the Chief Weasel offers the services of the Wild Wood animals to join in the search for a missing child, which is gratefully accepted by the Riverbankers. Except Toad.
  • Everyone Has Standards: In "The Weasels' Trap", Ratty and Mole come to the Chief's aid when he gets his leg caught in a trap. The idea of being trapped at all is so horrific to the animals that they’re willing to set aside their personal prejudices to help.
  • Expy: Billy Rabbit. His voice and mannerisms are remarkably similar to Bluebottle from The Goon Show.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Rat and Mole are the closest to each other. It's implied that Badger and Toad's deceased father were also this.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The TV show often had Toad fall for some con the Weasels cooked up so he would have to give them Toad Hall as payment.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: In some episodes, Toad's livelihood is only saved because the weasels are even more incompetent than him.
  • It's All About Me: Toad is usually guilty of this. Such as the final episode of season 4, where he insists that reading his poem to his guests is more important than helping the two weasels who were stuck down the hole, when Rat was calling for volunteers.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: "The Weasels' Trap" has the Chief Weasel set a potentially lethal beartrap for Badger as revenge for foiling a robbery. He ends up walking into it when his henchman moves it without telling him, injuring himself the same way he'd hoped to hurt Badger.
  • Leitmotif: Each character, e.g. Mole, Toad, has a certain musical theme.
  • Manchild: Toad's flamboyant but short-lived enthusiasm for his varied crazes are akin to a child being initially excited over a new toy, but getting bored with it pretty quickly.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: "The Complete Bungler" has Toad's latest obsession be fishing. While Mole and Rat go "Oh, Toad!" as usual to his fads, Badger - a usually stern and conservative character - surprisingly encourages Toad to pursue fishing. The others are shocked...even Toad, who asks Badger if he's feeling all right.
  • One-Steve Limit: Enforced by most characters being named after their animal species, unless there's more than one (E.g. Mole and his cousin Auberon Mole), but there are two characters named Billy: a field mouse and a rabbit. Billy Fieldmouse is a focus character in "The Great Steamer", but goes largely unnamed after that episode. Starting in "The Grand Annual Show" almost all references to a Billy are to Billy Rabbit.
  • Papa Wolf: Messing with children is one way to anger Mr. Badger. "The Weasels' Trap" has Badger stop the Weasels from robbing Billy Rabbit, daring them to take a sixpence from him instead.
  • Pet the Dog: As horrible as they can get sometimes, the weasels sometimes help our heroes out, such as finding ingredients to cure Mole, looking for Portly and helping to foil the Stranger's attempt to take over Toad Hall. In "The Rescue", they even shelter a lost field mouse boy for a day, giving him food and teaching him to make bunnies out of napkins, though Ratty and Mole suspect they kidnapped him before they discover the truth.
  • Poor Communication Kills: When Badger unwittingly manages to evade the Bear Trap set for him, the Henchmen decides to move the trap to the other path in the hopes of catching him. He fails to communicate this to the Chief Weasel, however, which ends with the Chief, furiously chasing after Badger, to run right into it.
  • Sore Loser: Toad is a terrible sportsman, and effectively throws tantrums when beaten or outperformed at anything.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Mr Toad does tend to be the main focus of most episodes. Most notable in season 4, where his crazes are taking attention away from the story arc about the railway.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Toad gets a blistering one from the others in "Fighting Fit", when it turns out that he'd received consultation letters from the railway company, but stuffed them into his cupboard rather than respond to them.
    Badger: What can one say but...oh, Toad!