Wind in the Willows, The/Willows in Winter, The (1995)

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Released 11-Dec-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 142:57 (Case: 146)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Dave Unwin
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Kenneth Grahame
Ted Walker
Alan Bennett
Emma Chambers
Michael Gambon
Mark Lockyer
Rik Mayall
Michael Palin
Vanessa Redgrave
Enn Reitel
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.95 Music Colin Towns
Marianne McCarney Rasmussen Jensen
Loraine Marshall


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Given that we live right by a beautiful river, and given that I have three grandchildren, I couldn't resist the urge to invite 3 co-reviewers to share our impressions of these adaptations of Kenneth Grahame's classic story. Meet David P (7), Chelsea M (6) and Connor P (4) who will give their opinions if I can keep them still long enough. Today would be a lovely day for "messing about in boats" as Ratty so lyrically says, so if we get this review done soon enough, we may head that way ourselves. First, let's watch The Wind In The Willows (72:04).

     We are first regaled with glorious live vision of a gentle steamboat chugging along a glorious English river. On board, clad in muslin and silk sashes are a party of 3 children and a gentle dowager (Vanessa Redgrave). What's that Chels? Yes, they would get very dirty if they were in those clothes near our river. Be quiet dear, we're trying to hear what she's saying.

     The boating party alights and sit down to a highly civilised high tea sur l'herbe. As they delicately nibble their tasty morsels, the dowager and one of the girls begin to discuss the river characters created by Grahame. No Connor, you can't have a biscuit. The children are all fascinated by talk of Ratty and Mole and Badger and Toad.......... fade to a glorious pencil drawn background with a beautiful animated river flowing by. Look kids! There's Ratty (beautifully voiced by my favourite, Michael Palin). Gossamer dragonflies zip past delicately drawn flowers and fronds of grass.... all is pastoral and peaceful...... No Connor - it's not a flying dragon, it's a dragon fly. No David, I don't think there's any dinosaurs there. Yes Chelsea, you can go to the loo. Shhhh.

     There's Mole! And slowly, we're drawn into the well-loved story. Ratty and Mole forming their fine friendship, Badger, the wise old curmudgeon (perfectly cast with Michael Gambon's voice) and HERE COMES TOAD!!! (Was Rik Mayal suited for anything more than Toad?) Here's Ratty and Mole and Toad, out on the open road with a caravan. What's in Ratty's mouth you say, David? Well my dear, it's er, um, a pipe. Some people use pipes for smoking. Yes, David you're right - Ratty is silly for smoking. Well, hopefully he won't die a horrible death at least until we finish the films.

      We watch enthralled as Toad develops obsession after obsession. Now it's a motor car he must have. "Poop poop" says Toad, mesmerised by all the auto's charms. "Poop poop" repeat all three grandies, delightedly echoing a word that they're convinced has deeply scatological origins. As they merrily segue into a series of "fart jokes," I sit vaguely wondering about the political correctness of allowing three impressionable minds view an amphibian conducting grand larceny before their eyes. Now Toad escapes the law by masquerading as a washerwoman, and I'm experiencing mild guilt palpitations as my three charges cheer on his absconding. Time goes on and Toad now adds equine theft to his list of accomplishments.

      And of course, during his stay in prison, the stoats and weasels have taken over Toad Hall. Now Ratty and Mole and Badger and Toad have to take up arms to thwart the vermin marauders. Guns and muskets at the ready, our four friends take on the intruders to the approving cheers of three little viewers, while Nanna slips into the kitchen for a sly gin before we move on to The Willows In Winter (70:53).

      Act Two - several minutes later. Again, live action of the same 3 children and Ms Redgrave envelope the film, although now we see them in a parlour taking tea before a roaring fire. Yes, David, their scones do look very yummy. No, high tea doesn't mean the table's very tall. Shh, here comes the cartoon bits again.

      As winter takes over the land, Mole comes to believe that his dear friend Ratty is in grave danger. With no thought for his own safety, he dashes out into the snow, succumbing to cracking ice and being swept away to what looks certainly to be his tragic end. No Chelsea, our river doesn't freeze. Well, because our part of Australia is too hot dear. No, it doesn't boil either. Well okay David, I take your point - when dinosaurs were here, things were very different, but that was a very long time ago. Yes Connor, even before I was born (just you wait kid - one day......)

      And here is Toad - now obsessed with aeroplanes. No, aeroplanes didn't have lids then dear - this was a long time ago. Toad and Ratty take a "joy" flight over the village and Ratty falls out of the plane. On his rapid descent to earth, he glimpses "the Other Side" and I brace myself for a deep existential discussion on the existence of heaven from my three co-reviewers. Mercifully, the only comment is from Chelsea is "the colours are pretty," and, big chicken that I am, I mutter a quick non-committal "uh-huh" and promise myself silently to light 3 candles tonight in gratitude.

      Toad's plane comes a cropper through the atrium of none other than the judge who convicted him in the first story. Fortunately for Toad, his aviator's costume obscures his identity, and he's given rest and refreshment in the luxurious home of the judge. Unaware that he's to be feted as a hero for flying his plane away from the village, Toad gets back to his old tricks of swapping identity, this time with a chimney sweep to escape. However, his unmitigated ego gets in the way, and he reveals his identity, giving the chimney sweep time to get away, abandon his wife and house full of children, and run off with the scullery maid. Since no one knows of the sweep's whereabouts, Toad is now pinged for damage and possibly murder! Oh great - now I've got vandalism, infidelity and homicide to explain to my inquisitive charges!!

      In the interim, Toad's home has suffered burst water pipes, and the woods are in mourning for the presumed death of Mole. Badger, in a fit of desperation, writes a letter on Toad's behalf to his old friend, the editor of the Times, London, but all looks bleak and despondent. Toad's trial looks like a disaster, with a series of hanging judges who swindle him out of his right to his own defence. Beautiful, let's just add miscarriage of justice to my list of explanations.

      But, in the land of make believe, miracles can happen, and Toad does beat the rap. He staggers in to his refuge Toad Hall, to find all in rack and ruin. But to his delight, the only things unmolested by the flooding are a bottle of wine, a corkscrew, some biscuits and some matches. Toad proceeds to get utterly shickered (excellent - add alcoholism to my list) and manages to accidentally burn down his own house (and there's arson going on the list as well.)

      Meanwhile, a very moving tribute to Mole is interrupted by Mole himself, but the joy is short-lived as the entire party mobilise to quench the fires of Toad Hall. But alas - all too late. The mansion is completely ruined, and Toad is uninsured and thereby in the same state as his house. (Perhaps I should call in a financial adviser to explain the finer points of bankruptcy and indemnity). But wait!!! Here's a letter from his cousin's lawyer. His cousin in America has conveniently died and left him $5,000,000!! I shift nervously in the seat when I'm asked "How many dollars have you got Nanna?" Surely they could not see my demise as the answer to any of their problems?????

      The films are finally finished. All 142 minutes and 57 seconds of them. Having made a quick mental note to self about being very careful what I watch with these children in the future, I venture to ask their impressions.

David: Okay
Chelsea: I liked the flowers
Connor: Cooooool.

Was there anything they'd have liked to see more of in the films?

Connor: More ducks.
David: A robot
Chelsea: Can we go to the river now?

      Absolutely. So we go to the river, and, as luck would have it, down by the drain there sits a big, fat frog. "TOAD!!!!!!" scream all three of them in unison, and somehow, it all seems to be worthwhile.

"So, what's for dinner Nanna?" Chelsea asks, all blue eyes and innocence.
"Toad In The Hole, kid. Get over it."

    Nanna's revenge is such a b****.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which is appropriate for a television production.

     The vision is absolutely splendid. The live action is rich and lustrous with beautiful shadow details and lovely renditions of highlights. There is no low level noise and the luminance is perfect.

     The colours are of stand-out quality here. In the live action "sandwich" around the animation, the skin tones are perfect, and the colour palette is glorious. In the animation, the pencil backgrounds and the delicate washed colours of the characters are finely rendered and subtle in their presentation.

     There was the slightest hint of grain but never enough to be problematic. Beyond that, artefacts were virtually nonexistent.

     There were no subtitles available on this presentation.

     This disc is dual layered, but presumably any layer changes occurs between the two programmes as there was no detectable layer break.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There is one audio track on this DVD - English Dolby Digital 2.0

      Dialogue quality was excellent with every word clearly audible. Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

      The music by Colin Towns was absolutely delightful - as whimsical and light as could be desired.

      There was a real sense of direction in the 2.0 audio presentation but there was no evidence of any subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There were no extras on this presentation.

Menu

     The menu design is themed around the movie. It features an illustration from the movie and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

     Both versions are equally good, and there is no compelling reason to prefer one over the other, though for R4 viewers, R4 would be the preferred option.

Summary

     Little did I know how tough it was going to be watching these 2 films with three young and inquiring minds attendant to every detail!! It's all there; smoking, alcohol, violence, larceny, spirit-world incursions, arson, vandalism, letchery, bribery - ooooh, the list is endless! Tell me, were kid's stories always like this? Or are we too precious in our PC world? Classics can be tricky, as they don't necessarily adhere to our modern rules - they were told to prepare children for an adult world - and the escapism is in the face of that adult reality. The animations are glorious in this; there isn't the slightest hint of product placement; and, joy of joys, there are no plastic toys or burgers or digital watches for your kids to hassle you to buy from the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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