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The Wind in the Willows (1996 film) facts for kids

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The Wind in the Willows
Wind in the willows dvd.jpg
UK DVD front cover
Directed by Terry Jones
Produced by
  • Jake Eberts
  • John Goldstone
Screenplay by Terry Jones
Music by John Du Prez
Cinematography David Tattersall
Editing by Julian Doyle
Studio Allied Filmmakers
Distributed by Guild Pathé Cinema
Release date(s) 18 October 1996 (1996-10-18) (UK)
Running time 87 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £9.75 million
Money made £1.303 million

The Wind in the Willows (released in the United States as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride) is a 1996 British adventure comedy film written and directed by Terry Jones, and produced by Jake Eberts and John Goldstone. The film stars Terry Jones, Steve Coogan, Eric Idle and Nicol Williamson. The film was released in the United Kingdom on October 18, 1996. The film is based on Kenneth Grahame's 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows.


Mole's underground home is caved in when the meadow above is bulldozed by the Weasels. Mr. Toad, had sold the land to finance his latest obsession: caravanning. Mole finds the Water Rat for solace. Seeing Mole's pain, Rat takes Mole to see Toad. Toad encourages them to join them in his newly bought horse-drawn caravan. A speeding motor car frightens the horse, tipping the caravan over. Toad instantly discards the cart and becomes infatuated with motoring. He is a terrible driver and funds his cars with loans from the Weasels. Their vindictive Chief tries to persuade him to sell Toad Hall.

After an uncontrollable drive into the Wild Wood and destroying a seventh motor car, Toad, Rat, and Mole are lost in the unwelcoming lair of the Weasels. The Weasels attempt to coerce Mole into stopping his friends from interfering with their plans. Toad is also attacked by the Weasels. The three end up in Mr. Badger's underground house. Badger, a close friend of Toad's late father who feels protective of Toad's inheritance, attempts to end Toad's love of motor cars. However, Toad refuses to listen to Badger and is ultimately arrested for stealing and crashing a motor-car outside a pub. During his trial, Toad's defence lawyer is no help at all due to Toad's obnoxious attitude. Furthermore, the Weasels are dominating the public box. The Chief Weasel poses as one of the rabbits in the Jury and manipulates the Jury to give a guilty verdict. After Toad insults the Court and makes a botched escape attempt, the furious Judge gives him a hundred-year sentence in a castle dungeon.

Back in Toad Hall, Rat and Mole are evicted by the Weasels, who have taken Toad Hall for themselves. Rat and Mole tunnel under the castle to free Toad, but he is helped by the kind-hearted Jailer's daughter and her sardonic Tea Lady Aunt. Toad escapes, disguised as the latter. Having left Toad's wallet in his cell, Toad, Rat, and Mole board a train. The police, who have stowed away on the carriages, demand that the train be stopped. Toad confesses the truth and begs the driver to help him evade his captors. Feeling sympathetic, the driver agrees to help. He tosses coal at the police, but gets caught in a mail catcher. Toad takes control of the train, Mole accidentally uncouples the coaches and Rat and Mole are left far behind, Toad eventually derails the engine. Having survived, he sets off again but is abducted by the Weasels.

The full extent of the Weasel's plans are now revealed: they have built a dog-food factory over the remains of Mole's abode and are planning to blow up Toad Hall and build a slaughterhouse in its place, with which they will turn all of the peaceful Riverbankers into dog food. They have also damaged the area near to Badger's home, which provokes him into wanting revenge against them. Badger and Rat attempt to infiltrate Toad Hall disguised as weasels, but are discovered. Along with Toad, they are placed over the factory's mincing machine. The Chief, Clarence and Geoffrey return to Toad Hall to prepare the victory celebration, leaving St. John in charge of the machine. Mole, who has broken into the factory, disables the machine allowing Toad, Badger and Rat to escape.

In a premature sense of victory, Clarence and Geoffrey attempt to murder their Chief using a birthday cake. Clarence and Geoffrey begin to fight each other for leadership, with the other Weasels drunkenly taking sides. This distraction allows the protagonists to stage a raid on the house, leaving all of the Weasels incapacitated in the ensuing fight. It turns out that the Chief has survived the coup against his life. Toad attempts to stop him from reaching the factory, which contains the detonator to blow up Toad Hall, to no avail. Unbeknownst to both of them, the explosives are actually in the factory (Rat had switched the labels on the explosive's containers earlier, leading the Weasels to believe the explosives were actually bone supplies for the factory), and as such the Chief blows himself up along with the factory, leaving Toad Hall intact and Toad's friends alive.

Afterwards, Toad makes a public speech swearing off motor cars and promising to be more mature and less selfish in the future. Mole's home has been repaired. However, Toad is seen secretly talking to an airplane salesman, which shows that he has only moved on to a new craze. Toad flies over the crowd in his new plane, causing mass hysteria and a disappointed Badger swears never to help Toad again. During the end credits, Toad flies across the country and eventually over the sea.


Songs featured in the film

  • "Messing About On The River" (Tony Hatch) – sung at the beginning by Rat, as he and Mole set out for a picnic on the river
  • "Secret of Survival" – sung by the Weasels, explaining that they're only out for themselves
  • "Mr. Toad" – sung by Toad, with lyrics taken directly from the novel, split into three sections (one covering his escape from Toad Hall, one during his trial and one after the train crash)
  • "Friends Is What We Is" – sung by Toad, Badger, Mole and Rat, as they drive the Weasels out of Toad Hall and during the party at the end
  • "Miracle of Friends" – the song played during the end credits

Distribution problems in North America

When the film first appeared in the U.S. under its original title, it got pushed aside due to distributors' problems giving it only a limited release in late 1997 and very little promotional material was published. Takings in the UK had been low because the film had largely been shown only in the afternoon. Subsequently, New York papers wondered why such a wonderful children's film was dumped by distributors. The New York Times published a very positive review by Lawrence Van Gelder. In 1998, however, Disney released the film on VHS and later on DVD in 2004, but they changed its name to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, to tie into their theme park dark ride at Disneyland (the Walt Disney World version of which closed in 1998).

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