Very small viewers can be introduced to Toad and his pals through the Thames TV animated series that ran from 1984 and featured voices by David Jason, Michael Hordern and Peter Sallis, or the lovely animated made-for-TV film featuring Alan Bennett, Michael Palin and Rik Mayall (1995). But the best adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s for all the family is 1996’s barking adventure from former Monty Python star Terry Jones that brings Toad Hall and the riverbank to glorious life.
Poor Mole (Coogan) is mourning the loss of his home thanks to vandalism by nasty weasels. Ratty (Idle) suggests a picnic to cheer him up, but they get waylaid by the motorcar-obsessed Toad (Jones), and soon the whole of their idyllic lifestyle is threatened by Chief Weasel (Sher) and his gang. There are no animal costumes or computer trickery to tell the tale (just a bit of clever make-up), but each actor gets under the skin (or fur) of his character brilliantly, and the laughs come thick and fast. It’s completely bonkers in a delightfully British sort of way, and a must-see for all ages.
The film was released as Mr Toad’s Wild Ride in the US, presumably to encourage audiences familiar with the Disneyland theme park ride of the same name.
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