Remember that one day when you could wake up without an alarm? When you would get your favorite bowl of cereal and sit between the hours of 8 and 12? This is a blog dedicated to the greatest time of our childhood: Saturday mornings. The television programs you watched, the memories attached to them, and maybe introducing you to something you didn't realize existed. Updated every weekend.
THE RELUCTANT DRAGON & MR. TOAD
SHOW (ABC, September
12-December 26, 1970) Rankin/Bass
– Tobias, Irving the Bold, Merlin the Magician Jr., Inkley, Mole, Badger, Chief
Weasel, King the Lion, Robin Hood, Sir Lancelot, various
– King Herman the Atrocious, Ugliola, Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Gallahad,
Uncle Charles, Monk the Gorilla, various
– Mr. Toad, Sir Malcolm St. George, Bunkley, King Arthur, Additional voices
– Daisy, Water Rat, Queen of England, Field Mice, Additional voices
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
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
70th anniversary publication of The Reluctant Dragon.
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.
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.
Rankin/Bass' Reluctant Dragon meeting their Mr. Toad.
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.
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.
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
Badger, Rat and Mole look on in worried disbelief as Toad explains his latest endeavor.
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.
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
“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
“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
“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
“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’