The Wind in the Willows

In the first of these two animated adaptations, both gently narrated by Vanessa Redgrave, Moley, Mr. Toad, and the rest of the right, proper riverbank battalion are portrayed tastefully, wittily, and with charm by the bucketsful. True to the tale, Mole abandons his modest home in favor of an apprenticeship on the ways of the river alongside knowledgeable Rat; Toad’s enthusiasm for motorcars earns him a 20-year sentence; and young Portly the otter goes missing, giving everyone a scare. The lushness of Kenneth Grahame’s writing is preserved throughout—those enchanted by the classic kids’ story needn’t be wary of memory muddling. Next up is the sequel, usually a letdown, but here a thrilling (though less literary) ride. If The Wind in the Willows tugs viewers through the river reeds with its graceful, enchanting words, The Willows in Winter hurtles them along with its bumpy adventures, all linked to the restless, irascible Toad. This time, the wily bugger takes to the skies in a search for Moley, who’s lost in a river-swelling winter storm. Along the way he loops-the-loop one time too many, sending passenger Ratty tumbling. Then there’s the small matter that he swiped the plane he’s piloting, an offense punishable by a lengthy prison sentence. Well-connected, formidable Badger bails him out, but a lesson on humility awaits the shifty amphibian back at Toad Hall. In The Wind in the Willows, Grahame writes, “When I was young, we always had mornings like this.” Viewers of all ages who tune in to this two-parter will come away wishing they did, too.

Run Time: 145

Rating: Not Rated

Year: 1996