Yet from the beginning, producer-director Mark Hall and his team have aspired to something beyond historical precision: that is to be faithful not simply to the book, but to the book’s enchantment.. That ambition has taken everyone into uncharted areas of their craft. Designers and model engineers have been challenged to produce characters who’s physical and facial expressions range far beyond traditional puppetry. Animators in turn have exploited this potential fully. Sets have had to escape from their usual cramped confines to provide distant vistas of Toad Hall or views of the river meandering through the hills. And the delicate changes of the seasons have had to be reproduced in sets, models and lighting as the story unfolds. It is this sense of gradual unfolding, from Mole’s first venture up above ground to where Spring and Life are waiting to be discovered that Mark Hall feels is central to the direction and editing of the film.
For THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS is more, much more, than the racy account of Toad’s madcap adventures to which it has often been reduced. It is a gentle, lyrical, countryside idyll set in a forgotten world of vanished manners. Grahame inhabited it with a group of leisured gentlemen, disguised as the unlikeliest of animals. But in its romantic dreams and simple pleasures, its emerging friendships and instant loyalties, its shyness and confidences, enthusiasms and embarrassments, children all recognise unerringly the world which they themselves inhabit, in 1983 as in 1908. No wonder that so many adults have wished to preserve such a masterpiece untouched. No wonder that we still want to try to bring its subtle, entertaining mystery to the screen.
This article was written by John Hambley and originally published in “Books for Your Children”. Reproduced with kind permission.