Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Wind in the Willows - The Complete First Series|
Actors: Richard Pearson, Peter Sallis, Michael Hordern, David Jason, Ian Carmichael
Directors: Chris Taylor, Jackie Cockle, Mark Hall
Genres: Action & Adventure, Kids & Family, Television, Animation
Kenneth Grahame's classic adventure continues with The Wind in the Willows: The Complete Series, the first of five delightful seasons featuring the further adventures of Toad and company. With amazingly detailed sets that... more »
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FINALLY! Let the Fun begin!
C. Schrawder | United States | 02/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After years of whaling and nashing our teeth (and much begging and pleading with various companies over the years to release all the episodes), finally the great Cosgrove/Hall project of their Stop Motion Animation Wind in the Willows series is starting to get released on DVD (don't forget to pick up a copy of the first Feature Length Episode already previously released on DVD). The set you are looking at is for the first of about 5 volumes to be released by A&E Home Video (approx. 13 episodes each 2 disc set for each of the 5 seasons this series ran, remember most British TV seasons only last on an average of approximately 10 episodes). Hopefully all 5 seasons will eventually be released. The reason I mention that is because in years past all us fans have been sorely disappointed to find out no one who ever had the rights to it ever went to the bother to release ALL the episodes (being that there are a total of 65 twenty minute episodes, with also an approx. 78 minute feature length one more so based on the original book). And yes, you heard that right. There have been "65!" episodes made in the early to mid 80's (wish they could make more). We only discovered this wonderful tid bit of news a couple of years or so ago when trying to poke around the internet to see if we could make sure we had all the episodes in our tape collection. We have been denied the great pleasure of being able to own all the episodes at least once in all these years since 1983 when Cosgrove/Hall productions first started making them. Only a total of 19 episodes were ever released over the years on VHS tape (along with again of course the feature length one), leaving 46 episodes stuck in the vaults collecting dust. The last time we ever remember seeing any episodes aired on television in the US. was on PBS back in the early to mid 90's. Mostly here in the US. HBO video was the only ones to really release much of anything. The first time around many years ago they released the feature length episode, and then 9 more of the first season's episodes on 3 other tapes. Then several years later around 1996 HBO video released a 4 tape set dubbed "Four Seasons". Basically it was a reissue of 2 of the episodes they released before, plus a seemingly random selection of 10 other episodes from different seasons.
Well, at the very least the first volume is finally here, and we have enjoyed it immensely since we received it. This first volume actually contains 14 episodes, different from what the basic description has. The extra episode is on the second disc in the special features section because it is actually from the second season. It also has the 4 basic character descriptions in the special features section. Apart from that this set lacks in any other kind of extra's most DVD's have these days. But what it lacks in extra's, it more than makes up for in good family fun that we have all remembered from years past. Plus now for the very first time we've been able to view 4 episodes never before released to the general public.
Episode Guide (WARNING, some thing's in them could be considered spoilers, but not that it matters much, each episode is still loaded with lots of repeat viewing fun):
"The Further Adventures of Toad" -- "Badger makes Toad send letters of apology" (basically a flashback episode to reintroduce everyone to some of what happened in the original feature length episode, with a few tid bits of other things that happened).
"The Kidnapping of Toad" -- "Toad walks into a trap, but the weasels get more than they can handle" (Toad is invited to a literary evening by the Weasels, so no big surprise there as to what's up. But then the Weasel's realize no one is going to give in to ransom demands for him, and basically get sick and tired of Toads ramblings, so they abandon him in the woods before they go insane).
"The Ghost at Mole End" -- "Mole and his guests are perplexed by strange, spooky noises" (A naturally slightly paranoid Mole gets more and more startled by strange noises in his home, especially so after Toad tells stories of supposed ghosts haunting Toad Hall (another nice little song ensues for Toads tale). Turns out it's not as bad as all that, just a hedgehog who fell down a cavity in the tree above Moles home and got stuck, and was knocking and knocking to try and get help).
"The Great Steamer" -- "A steamboat passes and Rat and Mole must rescue a drowning mouse" (A nice little tale of rescue of a poor little mouse child who gets stuck clinging to a floating bottle in the river by Ratty's home, and nearly goes over the weir (waterfall for those of you who don't know what that is). But thanks to some extra help from the other mouse children and Mole, they save him in the nick of time).
"Buried Treasure" -- "Badger has till noon to vacate his home" (The Weasels hatch a plot to purchase a portion of the Wild Wood and basically try and evict Badger from his home using legal means. But low and behold when Badger and Mole are clearing out some of the last of Badgers thing's, Mole discovers an extremely old small chest containing an ancient scroll document from Roman times giving the Badger Family the lands around Badgers home, basically being an older land deed claim than the Weasel's more recent one).
"Mole's Cousin" -- "Mole is nervous about his visiting cousin" (Mole's cousin, whom he has never met before, sends a letter asking if he can come by for a visit. Mole's cousin (Oberon) is basically considered more of a high society individual (coming to this knowledge after they discover Oberon is mostly only coming because of Toad's invitation to a gathering at Toad Hall), and Mole's friends try and persuade Mole to clean up his place and mannerism's to what they think Oberon would be more accustom to. Eventually Mole doesn't take a liking to all this and refuses to change himself or his place. Turns out that's all Oberon would like to have, just a basic quiet simple time with simple things, and with family and getting to know them better).
"The Grand Annual Show" -- "The Weasels win the silver cup for their enormous pumpkin" (A yearly harvest festival for the area encourages everyone to put together some of their best things to show everyone. The Weasel's hatch a plot to basically use some kind of balloon that looks like an extremely large pumpkin. Toad fails while trying his hand at trying to create the perfect wine (which blows up in his face), and winds up scheming to try and cover up labels of other wine from his cellar. In the end some mouse children arrive in the nick of time with their prize winning watermelon to get the silver cup and put an end to all that nonsense of cheating to win prizes).
"The Open Road Again" -- "Toad, Rat, and Mole help field mice who have lost their home" (New fangled technology strikes again in the community, putting the farmer's horse out of work for the harvesting season. Toad's latest fad is hiking, but can't make it a mile down the road before complaining about tiring out. They soon discover that the Caravan (from the feature length episode) is still resting broken on the side of the road, and make plans to fix it up and hit the open road again for adventure's and give the farmer's horse something to do with all his free time. Not soon after the mouse children come along crying that their homes in the farmer's field were destroyed as the farmer's new harvester machine came along. As caring as Ratty and Mole are (along with them putting pressure on Toad), they offer the Caravan to the mouse children to stay in for several days till they can get a new home. Several days later Ratty and Mole come along with their gear to make for the open road on the caravan again, only to discover the mouse children still haven't found a new home. Ratty and Mole make excuses telling them that they only came along to tell them that their plans were off, the farmer's horse can't go either because the farmer's harvester machine breaks down and needs the horse to help him finish, and basically tell the mouse children that they can stay in it as long as they want).
"Wayfarers All" -- "Will Rat leave the comforts of home for a life of adventure and mystery?" (Late summer is approaching the area, and Ratty seems to notice all kinds of activity going on with all the other animals. Everytime Ratty tries to make plans to do something with someone, everyone else is so busy preparing for the coming months of fall and winter. While Ratty rests by himself near his home a strange rat traveler comes along. The traveler tells tales of his adventures on the sea and all the various lands he goes to, and in turn brings adventurous spirits buried deep in Ratty's conscience to the surface. Ratty gets into a trance and is persuaded to follow the traveler to go traveling the world and leave his home (possibly forever). Mole and Toad discover this, and in one of Toad's automobile's go chasing down the road to the docks after Ratty before he gets away. In the nick of time they catch up with Ratty and pull him away from the ship, telling him that they would miss him so much and that it's probably not a life for him and he would miss his home too).
"The Weasels' Trap" -- "The weasels set a trap for Badger, but it catches someone else" (The Weasel's are up to their usual nasty habits and are trying to steal money from a poor rabbit child on his way to school, and Badger intervenes. The Weasel Captain really starts to get irritated, and when one of his lackeys stumbles upon a nasty old animal leg trap, he hatches a plan to hurt Badger to get him out of the way. After setting the trap Badger comes along, but just before he gets caught in it, a rabbit child comes along for Badgers help with a dispute between the rabbits and hedgehog's. They dimwitted lackey then tries to hatch a change in the plan and move the trap to another spot to catch Badger on his way back. The Weasel Captain starts to get irritated when his lackey doesn't return to tell him he caught Badger, and sets out to where the trap is supposed to be. In his travel he stumbles into the trap and gets himself caught (a horrifying scream happens, which is to be expected when anyone would get their leg caught in one of those terrible traps). The other animals rush to the scream after his lackey starts looking for help. In the end Badger comes along to help them all and free the Weasel Captain, despite the fact Badger found out that he was supposed to be the one caught in the trap, showing that it was the right thing to do no matter what).
"Burglary at Toad Hall" -- "Mrs. Carrington-Moss opens Toad Hall, and the Weasels try to ruin the festivities" (Toad decides to open Toad Hall to the general public and show off his mansion and all his valuable goods. As everyone takes the first tour with Toad, the Weasels gradually steal things in the background so no one notices. Ratty, and Mole are naturally suspicious of the Weasels and keep an eye on all the exits, while Badger goes off to do some watercolor painting in the hills nearby. Ratty and Mole had forgotten about the secret passage behind the statue on the stairs (as seen in the feature length episode), which is what all the weasel's were using to stow away all the treasures they stole till they could make a quick break for it with all their loot. Badger being up in the hills was actually nearby the secret entrance and quickly discover the weasels in the tunnel and drives them back into Toad Hall with their booty. In the end the Weasels are forced to put everything back and clean up).
"The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" -- "Otter's son goes missing, and the search leads Mole and Ratty to Pan Island" (Everyone is enjoying a nice day out and about, and then it starts to get late when Otter discovers is tiny little adventurous son has gone missing. After a little while when Otter is searching and can't find him, everyone else starts to get worried and offer to help search (even the Weasel Captain, who owes Badger a favor from helping him before, plus the fact that he has a son of his own too that enjoys a bit of fun with Otters son). Well, after dark almost everyone is forced to give up the search, while Otter waits on the dock where him and his son always hang out. Ratty and Mole can't rest till they find him and go off on their own in Ratty's boat along the river to continue the search in the dark. Seeing a light in the distance on an island in the river, they head to Pan Island where no one really goes because of strange stories about it. The light being as dawn is approaching, Ratty and Mole discover Otters son found his way to the island and fell asleep under the Statue of Pan that is there (Pan being a protector and guide to the animals). A touching reunion with Father and son ensues).
"The Yuletide Entertainment" -- "Badger produces a Christmas variety show that is nearly sabotaged" (A fun little variety show type of episode where all the animals get together for the holidays and perform for each other. Toad of course is arrogant and boasts about his singing and performing talent, but in the end gets himself into trouble and swallows his false mustache to get caught in his throat and loses his voice. Some other animals don't perform all that well, but it's basically an amateur hour type of show anyway and everyone enjoys it. Mole in the end fills in for some of Toad's performing time and comes across nicely).
BONUS EPISODE from season 2:
"Gadget Mad" - Toad gets into technological trouble "Again" This time lots of various new inventions attract Toads attention. Toad invites everyone over to Toad Hall for him to introduce them all, the basic theme is the introduction of Electricity to the area. The first major invention is Toads new Lift (Elevator for those of you not very british slang literate). The next is Toads new "Doorbell", more like a fire alarm actually, which won't shut off till it blows itself up. Then toad turns on the lights (an awful lot of them and not very appealing with all the bare wires all over). And finally Toad turns on the electric to the other appliances he has, which he apparently forget to check that he had them switched off. Chaos of course ensues till the generator finally fizzles out and everyone is left in the dark, and the Toad falls down the empty open Lift Shaft. Another lesson learned by Toad (or so we think).
All these episodes are performed by various brilliant British actor's:
Ian Carmichael - Narration (His career has had many roles for him, mostly in british roles, back as far as 1947 - has a well known and pleasant voice)
Peter Sallis - "Ratty" (His career has had as many notable roles, but his varied a lot more - His other more well known recent roles a voice as "Wallace" in the Wallace and Gromit series of small films (and even the couple of games they did) - also keep an eye out for another Wallace and Gromit episode coming hopefully by 2005/2006 (WOO HOO!), his career spans back to 1947 as well, he has a much more well known and extremely wonderful voice)
David Jason - "Toad" (An even much more well known voice throughout britain and elsewhere. Some of his other famous voice-overs were for other Cosgrove/Hall productions Count Duckula and Dangermouse (hopefully to also be out on DVD sometime in the near future). Such a super lovable voice as Toad, and you can almost picture him getting into the same mischief as him. His career spans back to around 1967)
Sir Michael Hordern - "Badger" (One of my other most favorite voices to listen to, and exceptionally famous throughout britain and the world. He's famous for both his voice-overs as well as numerous Acting roles through several famous films. I personally will always think of him as "Gandalf" from a BBC radio dramatization they did for Lord of the Rings many years ago. It was a crying shame that he passed away in 1995, would have loved to have had him in the Lord of the Rings movies for most anything (even if it couldn't have been Gandalf). His career spans back as far as 1938 appearing in mostly Films through out most of his career)
Richard Pearson - "Mole" (Not quite as recognizable of a voice, but still quite wonderful. His most recent and recognizable voice-over role in a famous film occurred in Men In Black 2 as "Gordy". His career spans back to approx. 1950 appearing in a lot of british roles)
Various other people did voice-overs in some minor roles, but not quite as notable. They all did wonderful jobs for the most part expressing all the british culture and language.
You should not miss out on this super wonderful Family Fun series. I continue to hold on to 4 other VHS video tapes released in 1996 for 9 other episodes that are not on this set, just mostly because of fear that they might stop production of DVD's for this series (you never know what might happen, but hope springs eternal). Plus at every opportunity if you could give kind praise to A&E Home Video, and encourage them to continue to have faith in the series, which in turn would make certain that they would produce all the other DVD's for all the other episodes in this series. They apparently got the rights to all kinds of various Thames Television productions for over many years (another being loads of episodes of one of my favorite and adorable British Comedians Benny Hill, plus hopefully we might eventually see another Cosgrove/Hall stop-motion production I've loved - "Fool of the World and the Flying Ship"), and they are going through them trying to produce many things on DVD as carefully and quickly as they can. The last place to have had the rights to this series was Time Life UK video, which didn't seem to put much any effort or faith into producing much of anything a few years ago (not to mention no effort to put anything out over here in the US.). So, I raise my glass to A&E Home Video, and will continue to pray they can get everything out on DVD sometime in the near future (Hurry, Hurry, Hurry Guy's, LOL)."
A delight not to be missed
B. FILBERT | Oregon, USA | 04/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first volume of this series (on two DVDs) comes as a pleasant surprise. All but three of the episodes have been available in the past on VHS, but with four more volumes to go, there appear to be many as yet unexplored delights ahead for fans of this excellent series. Due to the age of the original, there is a slight murkiness to some of the scenes, but the sound is quite clear.
This series was extremely well done. The original adaptation of the book adhered to the original fairly well - omitting a few parts, which were then taken up in some later episodes in the series. The artistry of the Cosgrove Hall team was first-rate throughout, with detailed scenes, subtle gestures, and great care taken to evoke the atmosphere found in this classic tale. The incidental music is one of the highlights; much of it sounds as if they dug up previously unknown works by the great Edwardian master Sir Edward Elgar. The songs composed for this series were very charming and memorable. I find myself humming them often! The vocal characterizations for each of the characters fit admirably (I don't think Badger or Toad could have been better chosen).
For the most part, the various episodes that followed the adaptation of the book were very much in the spirit of Kenneth Graham's original. There is much good humor, and a number of well-taken, gentle lessons about life and how to live it well.
All-in-all, this is one of the finest series available on DVD for families. Our family has adopted many of the phrases found in it for our shared life; indeed, it has become something of a staple. It won't appeal to those who live on caffeine and constant noise: it is for those who enjoy or desire quiet, compassion, and the simple things of life."
ENTER A COZY AND MAGICAL PLACE
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 04/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
One of my guilty pleasures is the cozy, simple, wise and sly world of Kenneth Graham's THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES (A&E) as adapted in the superb stop-motion series. The incredibly detailed sets (Wild Wood, Mole Hall, Toad Hall) in which the polite Toad, Mole, Rat and Badger live their lives, manage their adventures, and discuss problems over tea and jam is a wonder.
I admit a fondness for the always lurking and annoying weasels but I greatly admire the life lessons in a world where the simple things in life are valued. If only humans could treat each other with such grace and compassion. First time on DVD, the 13 episodes include a bonus episode: "Gadget Man."
An Absolute Delight
Bruce J. Helsel | Orlando, FL | 08/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To have this series finally come to DVD. I remember watching it first in America on the Disney Channel, so many years ago. I have always wanted to watch it again, as many of us wish to see again the television programs that so enthralled or delighted us in years past. What memories of peaceful Sunday mornings with a hot cup of coffee and some toast smeared with jelly and watching Mr. Toad, Badger, Ratty and Moley in their adventures. Reminded me of a simplier time, when nature and humanity were more in balance and the tides of time and seasons were measured in the warmth of friends and stories from the past, not in personal gain or the accumulation of worthless possessions. I truly hope that the first series is not the last."