‘The Wind in The Willows’ with Weta

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August 1, 2010 by Chris Reynolds

Cover Art for "The Wind in the Willows" illistrated by Ernest H. Shepard.

As I mentioned earlier, special effects company, Weta Workshop (Lord of the Rings and Avatar), is hard at work on Kenneth Grahame‘s classic children’s story, “The Wind in the Willows.”

The current teaser for this film shows very little, except the wealthy Mr. Toad cackling and hopping away. According to an interview with Weta’s head specialist, Richard Taylor (via firstshowing.net), the characters in this movie are to have computer animation aspects within them, but also another more traditional animation method.  Animatronic puppetry and actors wearing suits. Retro.

Now if you are not familiar with “The Wind in the Willows” story, it involves a cast of anthropomorphic animals who wear cloths. Mr. Mole is the main character, and lives his life in his home until one spring day, he decides to have some adventure in his life, and ventures to the outer world. Here he meets Ratty, Mr. Toad, Badger, and other animal based characters as he experiences new cultures and whacky antics.

I can only assume with what Weta has planned, we can expect to see something similar to “Where the Wild Things Are.” This means actors wearing animatronic suits and computer animated facial features. In the interview Taylor also said live action was to play a part in the movie. I would imagine this would be somewhat along the lines of scenery and models, again, much like ‘Wild Things.’

My hope here is that this brand of animation comes off as lovable, not scary as bits of ‘Wild Things’ did. And I know it was supposed to be scary at some points, but even the parts that weren’t supposed to be, gave me the heebity jeebities.

But I have faith in Weta. They are masters of traditional styles of animation and actually had a large animatronics department nearly 15 years ago, according to Taylor. Lets hope the cobwebs have cleared away, so the mole can play. Or some childhood gibberish like that…

What do you think? Will Weta do this story justice? Are animatronic suits and animation a good blend for these characters?


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