I'm enthusiastic... just like Toad | Adrian Edmondson on a new Wind In The Willows cartoon

I'm enthusiastic... just like Toad

Adrian Edmondson on a new Wind In The Willows cartoon

Toad & Friends, a new animated series based on Wind in The Willows, features Adrian Edmondson as Toad and starts on Discovery’s Boomerang channel on June 1. Here Edmondson talks about the enduring appeal of the Kenneth Grahame classic.

The Wind in the Willows is a classic of children’s literature. Most people know it - I think it’s No13 in the list of children's all-time favourite books. I read it myself as a child and I read it to my own children as a bedtime story. 

And it's a delightful book to read, especially aloud to children. And I thought at the time that my Toad was rather brilliant - which is rather big headed in the same way that Toad’s rather big headed.

He's a very enthusiastic person, which I think I am too. He's an awful liar. (Not me!) And he grabs life by the throat. He really wants everything he can get out of life. 

He can be overbearing, he can be unpleasant occasionally, but he always comes round to being just an enthusiast, you know, and we sort of forgive him because he's still lovable. Because his enthusiasm is real. It's never faked. He loves a new mode of transport, or anything new that he hasn't seen before. 

What kind of people do you want living in the world? People who really like stuff, people who want to go for it. So, I've always loved him and I love playing him.

The weird thing is that The Wind in the Willows is an Edwardian book, written before the First World War, and yet we all still latch on to these characters and understand them very quickly. 

I've done some thinking about this. And I think it's because they're like children in a playground and I think that's why they appeal to children. They have the same basic instincts. They want to be happy. They all want to play. They want something interesting to do today. None of them has a job. They are like children. They can fall out with each other, like kids do in the playground, but by the end of the day, they’ll all be best friends again.

I think the original story is about friendship. It shows Toad going off the rails and his friends gather around and help bring him back and gently point out where he's going wrong. Sometimes you need to give a friend a gentle reminder that they're being impolite or unpleasant or illegal. And he's like that isn’t he? 

So, the series is about being friends as well. At the end of every episode, no matter what happens, they return to the status of being friends living in a kind of idyllic version of Britain. You know, that’s rather lovely.

There have been many adaptations and series of The Wind in the Willows over the years. It's just testament to how good a book it is in the first place. And this has 52 episodes, and they all play with the same kind of vigour and playfulness that the original book does. 

There are modern things in it. There's a film camera, for instance, I don't think that was around then. Maybe it was? But you know, Toad aspires to… anything new. Anything new is what Toad would go for.

So, whilst this new series has some largesse in where it draws its inspiration from, it's all bound by the same kind of rules as the original book.

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Published: 12 Jun 2024

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