Title: Walt Disney Animation Classics, Volume 5: Wind in the Willows
Screen format: 1.33:1 non anamorphic
First released: 1949 as “The adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”
DVD released: May 12th, 2009
Director: James Algar and Jack Kinney
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Eric Blore, J. Pat O’Malley, John McLeish, Colin Campbell, Campbell Grant, Claud Allister
Sound Formats: Dolby Digital 2.0
Length: 78 Minutes (34 minutes for the feature)
Subtitles: English, Spanish and French
Plot: 2.5/5 (for the main feature)
Originally paired with “Sleepy Hollow” to become “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”, Wind in the Willows is repackaged here on a new Disney Animation Classics series as Volume 5. This time it takes the headline and gets packaged in with 5 other classic shorts, each which run 7-10 minutes. Those are discussed under the ‘Extras’ heading for the purposes of this review because that is how Disney have marketed them, however several of them are notable and enjoyable in their own right.
The Wind in the Willows is a classic children’s novel by author Kenneth Grahame and this adaptation focuses on one part of that book, the adventures of Mr. J. Thaddius Toad. Today’s viewers are more likely to be familiar with the now removed “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” from Walt Disney World/Land than they are with the original source material and may be shocked to find that this film is a lot more tame than that ride would suggest.
Toad is a bit of a manic obsessive, and in this adventure he is high on riding roughshod in his horse Cyril (O’Malley), and this mania is only eclipsed when he encounters one of the first Motor Cars. In his quest to own a superfast car Toad runs afoul of the law and a pack of wily weasels and only through the aid of his trusted friends Badger (Grant), Mole (Campbell) and Rat (Allister) will he be able to get his estate back and out of the clutches of this evil gang.
As a fan of both the book and the ride I was a bit disappointed at first in WITW, not having seen it since early in childhood, but a second viewing warmed me up to it a bit. It doesn’t have the spirit or pizazz of many of Disney’s other classics but the duet between Blore and O’Malley going “Nowhere at all” is as good as any of it’s contemporaries and reminded me of the “Modern Major General” song from Pirates of Penzance and other intricate vocal wranglings. Overall I’m glad to have gotten a fresh look at this film and it brought back some great nostalgic feelings.
Sound Quality: 2.5/5
Sound is completely front focused and lacking in bass almost entirely. It’s cleaned up and the songs are memorable on the feature as well as the extras, but there is nothing too exciting at all here.
Visual Quality: 2/5
Visually this release is a bit lacking. While all of the shorts appear to have great coloring and detail there is a considerable pops and scratches and other damage baked into the several of the masters, most of which has not been cleaned up. I felt like I was watching TV reruns here and not theatrical releases and the headlining WITW looks considerably worse than some of those ranked as mere extras.
Extra Features: 2.5/5
While there is absolutely no extra detail about this film to be found on the disk, it is bundled with 5 other classic Disney releases which are all worthy of a spin.
-The Ugly Duckling is a retelling of the children’s classic about a family of ducks who happen to have an unusual looking (and sounding!) offspring and how he discovers his true place in the world.
-The Grasshopper and the Ants is another fable retold, this time featuring a ne’er do well Grasshopper who doesn’t save enough food for winter and the Ants who help him repent.
-The Golden Touch is a retelling of the King Midas fable with Midas tricked into accepting the curse of turning everything he touches into gold and the grave loss he faces when he wants out of the bargain.
-The Wise Little Hen is special because it is the first short to star Donald Duck, who is asked to help a widow hen plant Corn, and learns his lesson when he refuses.
-The Robber Kitten is an obscure (to me) short about a kitten who refuses to take a bath, and sets off to become a great bandit, but when he meets a real villain on the road he quickly learns his lesson.
Overall: 2.5/5 (not an average)
Outside of the overarching ‘lesson learned’ theme of the shorts there is a pretty good collection of interesting takes on these adapted stories. While the quality is a bit uneven the nostalgia factor is high and it was a pleasure to dig in and see these shorts and compare and contrast them to the similar sets of Universal shorts that I have previously reviewed. Overall I’d say they are roughly equivalent and any serious Animation fan will enjoy the time spent digging through this set.