February 10, 2024


(ABC, September 12-December 26, 1970)
Rankin/Bass Productions



Paul Soles – Tobias, Irving the Bold, Merlin the Magician Jr., Inkley, Mole, Badger, Chief Weasel, King the Lion, Robin Hood, Sir Lancelot, various
Carl Banas – King Herman the Atrocious, Ugliola, Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Gallahad, Uncle Charles, Monk the Gorilla, various
Claude Rae – Mr. Toad, Sir Malcolm St. George, Bunkley, King Arthur, Additional voices
Donna Miller – Daisy, Water Rat, Queen of England, Field Mice, Additional voices



            Kenneth Grahame was a British writer that lived from 1859-1932. A good student, he wanted to attend Oxford University, but due to the cost was instead sent to work at the Bank of England, the central bank of the United Kingdom. There, he quickly rose through the ranks to become its Secretary. In 1899, he married Elspeth Thomson and they had a son, Alastair, in 1900. Alastair was born with blindness in one eye and was plagued by health problems, school bullies and an unhappy home life until he committed suicide in 1920. In 1908, Grahame was forced to retire (health was the official reason—the actual reason was he had fought with one of the bank’s directors, Walter Cunliffe, who would eventually become Governor of the Bank of England) and relocated his family to his childhood home of Cookham where they lived in what would become Herries Preparatory School.

70th anniversary publication of The Reluctant Dragon.

            While he was in his 20s, Grahame published light stories in various London periodicals; some of which would be collected and published as Pagan Papers in 1894 and then The Golden Age in 1895. 1898’s Dream Days contained Grahame’s most famous short story: “The Reluctant Dragon”.  The story, set in Grahame’s one time residence of Berkshire Downs in Oxfordshire (where St. George was said to have fought a dragon in legend), featured a young boy discovering and befriending a poetry-loving dragon. The townspeople learn of the dragon’s existence and called for St. George to exterminate him. However, St. George befriends the dragon as well and stages a fake joust between them, which leads to St. George convincing the townspeople the dragon meant no harm. The story was effectively the prototype for all the ones that would present the typically thought-of-as-evil being as a sympathetic character.

The 1st edition of The Wind in the Willows.

            Grahame’s next most famous work would come in 1908, when he turned the bedtime stories he told his son into the children’s novel The Wind in the Willows. The plot centered around Mr. Toad; the rich, jovial, friendly, kindhearted yet arrogant and rash master of Toad Hall whose personality was inspired by Alastair. He was quick to fall into the latest fad and drop it just as quickly in favor of the next one. It just so happened his latest obsession became motorcars; which he routinely crashed, incurred astronomical fines, and had three stays in the hospital. His friends—the timid and thoughtful Mole, the charming boat-loving Rat, and the wise and considerate Badger—attempt to keep him out of trouble, but Toad winds up in jail anyway. This allowed the sinister weasels, stoats and ferrets to take over Toad Hall, prompting the four friends to fight to take it back. Along with this central story, the book contained several short stories independent of it centered around the adventures of Rat and Mole. While initial reviews of the book were mixed, it quickly became popular; with U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne being counted amongst its fans.

Ad for a stage version of The Reluctant Dragon.

            Over the years, both stories have seen reprintings with and without pictures, as well as adaptations into stage (the first of which was written by Milne), screen and radio productions that continue on to this day. Disney would release a film version of both as part of anthology films in 1941 and 1949, respectively, and continues to feature their versions in their parks and productions. On television, there was a 3-year period dedicated to adaptations of Grahame’s works. In 1968, a puppet adaptation of The Reluctant Dragon was performed by Kukla, Fran and Ollie for an episode of NBC Children’s Theater. In 1969, The Wind in the Willows was adapted using still images by artist John Worsley and narration by Paul Honeyman. In 1970, Rankin/Bass Productions took their first stab at adapting the stories; however, they ambitiously decided to do both at the same time.

Rankin/Bass' Reluctant Dragon meeting their Mr. Toad.

            The Reluctant Dragon & Mr. Toad Show debuted on ABC on September 12, 1970. As the title suggests, it featured the adventures of the dragon, now named Tobias (Paul Soles), and Mr. Toad (Claude Rae). However, the worlds of the two characters only interacted during the opening and closing titles, commercial bumpers, and in the story “Toad’s Time Machine”. The series was actually broken up into three different stories: two featuring Tobias at the beginning and end, and a Mr. Toad one right in the middle. The entire series was adapted and written by Romeo Muller and William J. Keenan, music by Maury Laws with lyrics by Jules Bass, characters designed by Paul Coker Jr., and animation duties handled in Japan by Mushi Studios. It was produced and directed by studio founders Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Bass.

Tobias after encountering a daisy.

            The Reluctant Dragon segments opened with royal trumpets blaring before the story title was shown with Tobias behind it. As in the original story, Tobias was a gentle dragon who didn’t want to hurt anyone. However, he was cursed by the wizard Merlin to unleash dangerous fiery sneezes whenever he saw a daisy in any form—from the real thing to a simple picture. It was often a point of great shame when one of these attacks hit; as well as troublesome for the medieval village of Willowmarch where he resided.

Tobias, Sir Malcolm and King Henry in one of many encounters with Ugliola and Iriving the Bold.

            Ruling over Willowmarch was King Herman the Atrocious (Carl Banas); a self-centered and short-tempered royal who frequently tried to get rid of Tobias while at the same time often relying on him to handle certain kinds of trouble. He was often on the receiving end of one of the sneezing fits. Knight Sir Malcolm St. George (Rae) was Tobias’ only true friend and did what he could to protect both him and the kingdom. A little girl named Daisy (Donna Miller)—who claimed to love Tobias—made it her mission in life to get him a bouquet of daisies whenever possible; either being blissfully or maliciously ignorant of the effect they had on him. Additional trouble was often caused by two Vikings from Viking Land: the large Ugliola (Rae) and the diminutive Irving the Bold (Soles). They sought to steal whatever they could from Willowmarch—be it valuables or the entire kingdom itself. They were often stopped by Tobias as much as their own incompetence.

Badger, Rat and Mole look on in worried disbelief as Toad explains his latest endeavor.

            The Mr. Toad segments began with their own brief intro showing Mr. Toad piloting a variety of vehicles before crashing onto Tobias’ tail and giving him a sneezing fit by offering a daisy. Residing at Toad Hall in turn-of-the-century Scotland, Mr. Toad was a carefree and aloof soul who squandered his money on every single whim that crossed his mind. This often put him at odds with his friends—English gentleman Mole (Soles, using a British accent), rough and tumble Rat (Miller, modulated with an Irish accent), and stalwart Badger (Soles, using a Scottish accent)—who were either inconvenienced by his flights of fancy or dragged along on them. Aiding him in his schemes was sometimes a legion of dimwitted and lazy field mice (all Miller). There were also the weasels, who took every opportunity they could to usurp Toad Hall from Mr. Toad’s possession; necessitating Toad and his friends getting it back from them through some elaborate scheme. Although Mr. Toad seemed unbothered by these turns of events, a wink to the camera at the end sometimes let on he was more cognizant than seemed.

Toad being tricked by the weasels into signing over Toad Hall for a shiny new fire truck.

            The Reluctant Dragon & Mr. Toad Show, unfortunately, had trouble finding an audience; it was cancelled and removed from the schedule before it finished airing. It returned to the network on Sunday mornings beginning September 12, 1971 and remained there until the following September. The series has largely disappeared since, with only 7 episodes made available online so far through the Internet Archive. Rankin/Bass would get another crack at Mr. Toad for ABC in their 1987 telefilm The Wind in the Willows, which was a more faithful adaptation of the book again written by Muller. The film was actually completed in 1983 and released onto video in the UK, but was met with several delays before it could make its American debut. This ended up being the last production by Rankin/Bass, as the company would be shut down on March 4, 1987. Rankin and Bass would partner for two more productions before officially dissolving their partnership on December 17, 2001; with all but several projects from their library split between Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Discovery.


“A Cold Day in Willowmarch / Build a Better Bungalow / A Day at the Fair” (9/12/70) – Tobias is unwilling to use his fire to free Willowmarch from Viking Land as it’s against the law to do so. / To keep the mischief to a minimum, Toad’s friends oversee the construction of his new guest house. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“Cowardly Herman / Casey Toad / Daisies Away” (9/19/70) – Sir Malcolm sets up a fake fight between Tobias and King Herman in order to cure the King of his sudden bout of cowardice. / Mr. Toad has taken to playing with a model railroad—using full-sized trains. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“Dippy / Gentlemen's Gentleman / Dragon Under Glass” (9/26/70) – The Vikings use a baby dragon to distract Daisy so that they can capture Tobias and keep him out of their plans. / After losing Toad Hall to the weasels when he spends the mortgage payment, Mr. Toad happily becomes their butler. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“Free a Cold, Starve a Viking / Ghost of Toad Hall / Happy Birthday, Dear Tobias” (10/3/70) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / When the weasels trick Mr. Toad into signing over Toad Hall, he and his friends decide to play ghost and scare them out. / If Tobias can keep away from daisies all day on his 400th birthday, his sneezing curse will finally be lifted.
“How to Be a Wizard / Jack of All Trades / How to Vex a Viking” (10/10/70) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“If It's Wednesday It Must Be Viking Land / Jove! What a Day / Lights, Camera, Action” (10/17/70) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“Merlin the Magician, Jr. / Micemaster Road / National Daisy Week” (10/24/70) – Expecting important visitors, King Herman enlists the aid of Merlin’s son to remove Tobias’ curse. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“Never Count on a Cornflower / Movie Maker Toad / No Bix Like Show Bix” (10/31/70) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / Mr. Toad takes up filmmaking and recruits the weasels as his villains, who in turn sabotage the production. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“Saving the Crown / Polo Panic / Sir Tobias” (11/7/70) – The Vikings come to steal the crown jewels and use a daisy to keep Tobias from stopping them. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / After King Herman banishes him, Tobias decides to try and make London his home.
“Subway Sabotage / Sail Ho-Ho / Taxes Are a Drag on Dragons” (11/14/70) – Tobias comes to the rescue when the Vikings steal the palace through an underground tunnel. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“The Big Break / Sandhogs / The Campscout Girls” (11/21/70) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“The Flying Flagon / The Amphibious Mr. Toad / The Haunted Castle” (11/28/70) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / King Herman forces Tobias to spend the night in a castle that ends up being haunted by King Arthur and some of his knights.
“The Kid's Last Fight / The Demolition Derby / The Purple Viking” (12/5/70) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / The Vikings bring a massive purple Viking to Willowmarch to steal their bridge.
“The Robot Dragon / The Great Bonfire Contest / The Starve Versus Herman, the Atrocious” (12/12/70) – Tobias gets blamed when the Vikings attack Willowmarch with a robot dragon. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“The Tobias Touch / The Great Motorcycle Race / Tobias, the Terror of the Tournament” (12/19/70) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“Tobias, the Reluctant Viking / Toad's Time Machine / Wretched Robin Hood” (12/26/70) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / Mr. Toad builds a time machine that takes him and his friends to medieval Willowmarch. / Tobias and Sir Malcolm encounter Robin Hood, who doesn’t exactly live up to his legend.
“The Toughest Daisy in Willowmarch / Twenty Thousand Inches Under the Sea / The Great Zoo Bust Out” (1/2/72) – Tobias tries to get rid of a daisy in front of his door before he’s supposed to receive an award for not destroying the town for a month. / Mr. Toad’s friends get pulled into an unwitting adventure on his latest invention: a submarine. / King Henry sells Tobias to a zoo where he ends up unwittingly aiding in the other animals’ escape.

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