Soon to be two time Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais will provide the vocal tones of the plump but lovable Mole (that joke writes itself) in a new cinematic adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's beloved children's fantasy novel, The Wind in the Willows.
RG Entertainment head honcho Ray Griggs is directing the project, which was scripted by Bill Marsilii (Deja Vu) and is being produced by Radar Pictures executive Ted Field (The Last Samurai).
Variety says that Wind in the Willows will be a mix of live-action, animatronics, and visual effects produced by Peter Jackson's company, Weta. The story follows the anthropomorphised Mole as he ventures out from his underground home for the first time and encounters many a strange creature, including the water-loving Rat; the knowledgeable but curmudgeonly Badger; and the rich, jovial, but utterly foolish Toad. These animals must join together to stop a devious plan that threatens to upend the peace between the animals of the Willows and Humanity.
Wind in the Willows is not scheduled to reach theaters until next year, but the team behind the project fashioned a teaser trailer to show off to Comic-Con attendees last summer. While there was naturally no actual footage on display in the preview, it did offer an early glimpse at Toad - who looks to be a much more realistic (re: slimy) amphibian that he was in Disney's classic animated feature, The Adventures of Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad.
Check out the Wind in the Willows teaser below:
Gervais is a welcome addition to Wind in the Willows, which is very much an iconic British story that offers plenty of wit and charm while also teaching kids lessons about the importance of diversity and the risky nature of over-indulgence. Far from being preachy, the tale of Mole and his companions has been brought to life on the small and big screens a number of times before - though most people are only familiar with Disney's traditionally-animated take on the book.
Monty Python's Terry Jones was responsible for a live-action adaptation of Wind in the Willows back in 1996 and that film was also released under the Disney banner. The end result was a... rather peculiar concoction that featured the likes of Steve Coogan, Eric Idle, Jones himself, and several other well-known British thespians playing the animal characters. Considering the talent involved, it's no surprise that the movie was more than a bit warped and off-kilter in design.
Have a look at the trailer for Jones' Wind in the Willows below and see what we mean:
This new version of Wind in the Willows should be a much more straightforward adaptation and will certainly benefit from having Weta onboard to handle the F/X and realize the non-human characters on the big screen. Expect to hear more casting news for this project in the near future.
The Wind in the Willows should make its way into theaters by late 2012.