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The Wind in the Willows

Production Notes

Locations | Costumes | The Cast Comments


The Wind in the Willows was filmed in Bucharest, Romania. Iconic locations such as the Riverbank, the Wild Wood, Toad Hall and the Open Road are brought vividly to life as the shy Mole is introduced to the countryside outside his hole, encountering industrious Ratty, gruff Badger and the irrepressible Mr. Toad.

Producer Gub Neal was delighted with the support he received from the Romanian crew and studios: "I have a long standing fascination with the story and believe our version is a first for television in terms of scale and ambition. (Writer) Lee Hall's translation is utterly faithful to Kenneth Grahame's book and the glorious locations outside Bucharest are perfectly suited to achieving the unspoiled rural world described in the original text.

"Shooting in Romania was a fantastic experience. We found the most idyllic countryside and the perfect riverbank, which you couldn't do in the UK as the Thames is far too littered with pleasure boats. We had reeds, dragonflies and other wildlife, plus the continental weather. We have been able to bathe our locations in a glorious sunshine.

"Our key production team from the UK and Canada is very talented and experienced but the local crew is impressive too. They built a car for Toad in three weeks -- a silver Rolls Royce chassis with rolling gears. They work around the clock and are incredibly enthusiastic. But it is still a quintessentially English story with an English cast."

The technical aspect of the production held many challenges for director Rachel Talalay: "We had big sets and sometimes it was slow going... but the technicians are tremendous and they eased the frustration.

"The biggest challenge for me was the weasels' battle... it was our most expensive couple of days. Toad also has special effects which take place in a montage in his head. And he has to drive the car into a tree and into the river. These were all challenging stunts to pull off."

Production designer Jon Henson wanted to create a faithful adaptation of The Wind in the Willows while also bringing a new look to the story: "Gub wanted the film to be organic but still hang on to the essence of the book. The first ideas were to take it back to nature -- I hated the idea of chintzy Edwardian sets with teapots. But we didn't want to go too rustic, so we stripped it down and brought back some of the original themes.

"I introduced Gub to the original drawings by Arthur Rackham. I think they are rougher and have a bit more texture than some of the other illustrations. For me, the detail is always important -- the texture and color can make or break a set."

"We invented a fantasy sequence so there's not too much footage of driving. Toad goes into his own mind and it's based on a 1920s montage, black and white footage of racing cars in front of his eyes. Suddenly he sees a tree coming towards him and then -- too late. It's just something to get away from the conventional look.

"We hired vintage cars from the 20s and 30s eras but we needed something that would go faster than 10 miles an hour, particularly for Mr. Toad, so we built a car based on a Rolls Royce chassis."

Henson created different habitats to reflect the environments of the four principal characters: "We kept Toad Hall all different shades of green, even his bedroom. The others have more earthy colors. Badger's house is very muddy and smells of the earth. It's a very organic set.

"You can't get many props in Romania; we had to ship a lot of stuff in. But we did have the luxury of being able to build something from scratch and be very specific about it, like Toad's bed.

"Also, because the studios are massive, the scale is great. When Toad is in the dungeon, the set is very high and he looks so small against it. You don't get that advantage in the UK because the studios don't have the space or height."

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