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“The Wind in the Willows,” take umpteen.

“The Wind in the Willows,” take umpteen. (photo)

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Of all the children’s books that have cycled through different movie permutations without anyone ever getting it 100% right, “The Wind in the Willows” may well be the strangest. Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 pastoral is one of the few things involving talking animals that doesn’t insult anyone’s patience, a super-nostalgic celebration of the Country Life, English style (we don’t go out into the Wide World).

It’s been adapted umpteen times, mostly by the British. The most prominent American version to date — the half-hour cartoon produced by Disney in 1949 — was titled “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” celebrating the most “American” (the brashest, most technologically enthused, most derisive of tradition) character. When Terry Jones’ frankly adorable version was finally released in the US, they retitled it that just for safety’s sake.

The news that a new adaptation — live-action and animatronic — will start shooting this fall isn’t surprising (it’s been a whole four years since the last attempt), but it will mark a rare American foray onto this most quintessentially British property. The director will be Ray Griggs, perhaps best known as the man behind this charming little ad:

This would seem to indicate Griggs is not the most liberal guy on the planet, so why he’s messing around with a rethinking of an original property in which “the animals join forces to save their land from a sinister plot that threatens to destroy the uneasy truce between the peaceful animals of the Willows and what remains of Mankind” is anyone’s guess.

06102010_wind.jpgThe rejection of CGI, at least at this point in development, is in keeping with the spirit of the book, which is charmingly anachronistic — and, it has to be said, every single previous adaptation has taken its cues from that stance. There are peaceful stop-motion versions, somewhat shoddy-looking animated ones (Rankin-Bass, natch), the Disney prototype, and — of course — the dearly departed Disney World ride.

My favorite version remains that Jones movie from 1996, which is too little known. It’s a de facto Monty Python reunion (everyone’s there except the late Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam, for obvious reasons). I started watching it to refresh my memory for this post and could barely turn it off.

The Monty Python guys were all fully trained in the Oxbridge university system before setting out to change how humor could work, and this version is one of their few unironic, genuinely nostalgic takes on the British past they set out to trash, while still being distinctively in the old Python rhythms.

[Photos: “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad,” Disney, 1949; “The Wind in the Willows,” Disney, 1996]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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