To say it upfront: It is my opinion that the package pelikula Disney did during the war time are barely pelikula at all. But a lot of the segments are, if you have a look at them isolated, well worth a watch. And Disney knew that too. When I was a child I never saw the “Wind in the Willows” segment as part of the “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad” movie. Instead I saw it separated with a nice introduction sa pamamagitan ng Walt Disney himself (the downside of this version was that some scenes were cut from it). It wasn’t until way later that I learned how this segment came to be. It also was my first introduction to the story. Therefore I might be a little bit madami forgiving towards the adaptation than I should be. But let’s take a look.
1. The Setting
One reason the original book is so popular are the descriptions of Thames valley. While the Disney version doesn’t really ipakita much of the landscape, it manages to capture the laid back feeling of the original. What doesn’t work so well are the rules of this world. In a way, the book with its anthropomorphic mga hayop is made for an animated adaptation. But at the same time, every adaptation of it looks odd due to its tendency to mix those mga hayop with human characters.
I know, I know, Disney does this all the time. But there is always a clear distinction between the human and the animal characters. Even in Cinderella, the movie which blurs the lines the most, at least the size differences are taken in consideration, and while the mice wear human clothes, they are still mostly mice with mice habits and treated like mice sa pamamagitan ng everyone but Sinderella herself. In The Wind in the Willows, mga hayop can own houses, drive cars, they are subject of the human court, in short it is a really odd mix. And seeing it on screen bring this point across even more. I mean a horse in the witness stand? A toad driving a human (or at least weasel) sized car? Ooooookay…..
2. The Characters
One thing the book does very well is that it gives all its characters faults. Not just small faults, like being a little bit unpunctual, but real faults. They get angry with each other, they make up, in short, they feel like real, layered characters.
In the Disney version, Thaddeus Toad is the only character with a distinctive personality. Angus McBadger, the Ratty and Moley are simply the “good guys” (and is it just me or do the latter ones look as if they are inspired sa pamamagitan ng Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce? I always felt that way, and when I researched this segment I realized that the former one was the narrator of the segment). sa pamamagitan ng simplifying them to the voice of reason, they are way less interesting than in the book. And you can say that about all the characters who turn up, perhaps with the exception of Cyril, who is a bad influence on Toad as well as a good friend. But overall, all the characters are painted in very broad strokes, fairly one-note, only created for one purpose. The role of Cyril is a little bit expanded in order to cut out some of the original characters and the weasels have a slightly bigger role, too, but everyone else is reduced to a shadow of the original book character.
3. The Plot
The book consists of one main story and a couple of short stories. Disney naturally concentrates on the main story only…somewhat. Well, they got the basics right. There is a Toad. The Toad acts irresponsible. It is arrested, flees in the disguise of a woman and finally reaches its friends. Together they get Toad Hall back from a couple of weasels. So far, so good.
The main difference though is that in the book Toad is guilty. He did steal the car. And while the sentence he gets for his crime is way over the top, it does irk me that he simply has to say sorry at the end of the book and everything is okay again. I have to admit, the plot as a whole doesn’t really work for me, I guess it is supposed to be a cautionary tale about appreciating true friends, but the way everything is just okay at the very end feels a little bit contrived.
Disney naturally shuffles the guilt of Toad to another character, and the plot of the segundo half of the segments end up being about proving his innocence. In a way, this works better, if not for one little detail: The whole thing with the contract makes no sense at all! The only way Winky can claim Toad Hall is the contract. He can’t ipakita the contract because this would prove that he lied in court. So why holding onto it in the first place and revealing himself as the boss of the Weasels? As fun as the scene when everyone is hunting for the right contract is, it only works when you don’t think about it too hard.
Another big difference is the ending. In the book, Toad has learned his lesson. The Disney version, he first acts contrite, but ends with yet another crazy obsession nevertheless.
4. The Conclusion
After taking a close look, I have to say that the segment is okay. It is way shallower than the book, but also a little bit madami fun at parts. And despite Toad never being “cured”, I like the Disney version of the character better, because it is madami innocent in its wrongdoings. Disney also shows some understanding why a character like this appeals to people sa pamamagitan ng pointing out that we all wish deep down to be able just to do what we dream of instead of holding ourselves back because of pesky consequences. Perhaps this take on the story would have had madami layered characters and a few kinks less if Disney had been able to do it in a full-length movie instead of just a segment. As it is, though, it is a fun children’s cartoon…but sadly nothing more.