Former Monty Python members Terry Jones, Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Michael Palin were reunited by director Jones for this live-action adaptation of the 1908 children's fantasy classic by Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932). The actors have only slight physical changes to suggest animal characteristics, plus tails protruding from their Edwardian-style costumes. In pre-WW I England, fascist Weasels prowl the countryside, forcing modest Mole (Steve Coogan) from his underground home after the Weasels acquire the meadow from wealthy, waddling Mr. Toad (Jones). Toad's inheritance is leaking away because of his fascination with the recently invented motorcar. After Mole takes shelter with refined Rat (Idle), the two set out for Toad's cavernous mansion. Toad crashes into another vehicle, but unfortunately, his attorney (Cleese) has nothing nice to say in Toad's defense. Toad's behavior in court prompts the judge (Stephen Fry) to give him a century-long jail sentence. Rat and Mole plan to spring Toad with the help of the hibernating Badger (Nicol Williamson), but Toad simultaneously puts his own escape plan into motion. Back at Toad Hall, the Weasels construct a dog-food factory and intend to destroy the main house by blowing it up-so the threatened animals make plans to retake Toad Hall.
Crew members who worked on past Python films include James Acheson (production/costume design) and John Du Prez (original music and songs). Lawrence Van Gelder (New York Times) reviewed, "The Wind in the Willows, brimming with verbal and visual wit and imagination, driven by high adventure, reveling in English eccentricity, enlivened by bursts of song, unafraid of ideas and filled with color and splendid performances, exposes most other movies intended to attract children as out-and-out pap." This film should not be confused with the 1996 animated adaptation which also has Michael Palin in the cast. Filmed at Burnham Beeches (in Buckinghamshire, England). Other earlier versions: the second half of Disney's animated The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949); live-action by the Minneapolis Children's Theatre (1983); stop-motion animation for British TV (1983); 1982 stop-motion animation by John Semper (Spider-Man); and Rankin-Bass animation for U.S. TV (1987).