Now, something near and dear to my heart. Adaptations. While there are soooooo many adaptations I’m going to choose a few that I really really wish were…well…correct. But first, let’s take a look at the goals of a movie adaptation. (Wiki Adapt ) First off, the idea is to show the same story of the book through cinema, using just the main parts of the story. Because more people watch Television than read, it’s a pretty successful business. From best seller sellouts to classic storytelling over and over and over. Like “Cinderella”. seriously, we can’t beat that mouse-horse anymore. It is beyond dead.
Believe it or not the list goes on…
And our newest…. 2015 Cindy…
But I digress. Let’s get on to what I really want to talk about. The Wind in the Willows. Originally published by Kenneth Grahame in 1908. The story is about a sophisticated group of animals in English society who are all good friends living along the river bank. It begins in the house of Mole, a quiet, pleasant fellow who has just become fed up with Spring cleaning. It has been a long winter and he has decided to go above ground to get a first glimpse of the outside world. When he does he is overjoyed by all the flowers and plants blooming along the river. He is soon greeted by a water rat, who invites him over to his house. The story is a pleasant one that goes on talking about the lives of Mole, Rat, MacBadger and Mr. Toad. All of these characters are charming and form quite the literary joy. The book takes a turn when the adventurous, and quite obnoxious Toad invites them on a crazy adventure across the country in his horse and cart. He enjoys throwing his money away on expensive frivolities that he soon gives up for another wild mania.
The two film adaptations that I have seen have major differences. There have also been live adaptations but I haven’t put myself in the position to see them. The two animated films I have seen are the Disney short film and Dave Unwin’s version (which I prefer)
While I am usually a hardcore Disney fan, even with their extreme story forced changes and deviations from origin tales, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Dan Unwin’s version immediately. First off, it did what Disney actually failed to do with this animated feature; it told close to the whole story. It had emotion, depth, conflict, and real connections with the characters. This could be the closest adaptation that Kenneth could be proud of. Discussing Rat’s deep love and respect for the River where he lives and the great culture he has presented for children to understand. “Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.” Yes- it’s a children’s book. And best of all, actual quotes from the book are lines in the movie!
Disney’s version picks up closer to the end of the story. The narrator has been given too heavy a burden – that is – to tell the entire beginning and middle in just a few paragraphs. While it has a cheerful catchy song, (Meerily On Our Way), I’d rather they have made it a full length feature rather than a short film partnered with the equally skimmed over, story of “Sleepy Hollow”. It starts with MacBadger, Rat and Mole confronting Toad about his foolish spending habits. This is his last warning, as he has been given many before, not that it mentions that in this version. Stubbornly, Toad refuses, and runs away. When he escapes he goes into a pub and trades the deed to his house for a grand and beautiful motor car that he sees some weasels get out of. The next morning his friends see in the paper that he is arrested because he gets caught with a stolen motor car. Surprise, surprise. He goes to trial, and then jail. What happens? Go read the book.
Needless to say, Disney cut out the most “exciting” parts of the book and threw them into a 1/2 hour special. Dan actually took the book for it’s amazing storytelling and retold it word for word. He made it far more likely for someone to read the book because they had seen his version. While Disney does get its pats on the back for getting people to take another look at Grimm’s Fairy Tales and retold stories, rarely does it send the viewers back to the source material. But don’t solely take my word for it, because mine isn’t the only one that matters. Both versions are on YouTube, and I know the Disney one was on Netflix for some time and may still be.
Dan Unwin’s Version (1995) Wind in the Willows
Disney’s Version Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Here are some links to other much loved stories turned into movies. Alice and Inkheart. What;s your most loved or most ridiculed adaptation?
Alice in Wonderland – Disney vs Novel Animated and Not