Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows

Spring 2005 DVD
Ages: 4 - 12 yrs.
Length: 78 minutes
DVD Price: $19.95
When we love a story, we want it again in different ways. That is the feeling behind product tie-in’s, whether they be Star Wars’ figurines or stuffed dolls based on creatures in Where the Wild Things Are. The recent DVD release of an animated film based on Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows provides an occasion to muse on the different ways we can have a story again and again.

To begin with, there is Grahame’s tale itself and its account of Toad and his madcap adventures, the friendship between Mole and Rat, the apparently gruff but kindhearted Badger, and life along the river. Of all the books of children’s literature, Grahame’s is my favorite. It is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Grahame’s story has also been translated into various films, including Disney’s “Ichabod and Mr. Toad.” Now comes a DVD of the 1983 version from director Mark Hall and editor Chris Taylor. The film makes use of stop-action animation, a painstaking technique that requires minute movements of figures followed by photographs. When successful, such a film is seamlessly smooth; here, however, there is a herky-jerky quality that recalls how a tune played on a music box sounds different from a recording. Moreover, while we may have become accustomed to the trick of a moving mouth on a talking cat in an advertisement, in a television commercial our credulity is only strained for a minute; but in a film of this length, the articulating lips of Mole and Rat and Company are something of a distraction.

Grahame fashioned The Wind in the Willows by telling stories to his beloved son Alastair. In the end, that may be the only completely satisfying translation of this story into a different medium: when a parent reads the book aloud to a child or grandchild.

Jerry Griswold is completing his next book, tentatively titled How Children’s Books Reveal the Ways Kids Think, which is dedicated to his late son Colin.

Read Jerry Griswold’s Variable Winds in the Willows

Jerry Griswold   ©2005 Parents' Choice

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