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In 1938, shortly after the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, James Bodrero and Campbell Grant pitched to Walt Disney the idea of making a feature film of Kenneth Grahame's 1908 children's book The Wind in the Willows. Bodrero and Grant felt that The Wind in the Willows, with its anthropomorphised animals, could only be produced using animation. Disney was skeptical, however, and felt it would be "corny", but acquired the rights in June that year. While trying, his writers kept getting hung up by the Hays Code. In the original story, Mr. Toad steals a car and escapes from jail. This wouldn't do for the animated feature. The Hays Code strictly said that the audience wasn't supposed to feel sympathy for a wrong-doer. Finding they couldn't get the movie made while following the original story, they changed it to make Mr. Toad framed for stealing the car by the Weasels instead.

By early 1941, a basic script was complete, along with a song written by Frank Churchill called "We're Merrily on Our Way". Although it was intended to be a low-budget film (much like Dumbo), Disney hired many animators from the prestigious Bambi (which was nearly complete) and production began in May that year. Within six months, 33 minutes of the film had been animated. However, the studio's ability to produce full-length feature films had been drastically diminished, because World War II had drafted many of their animators into the military and had cut off their foreign release market. Thus, in October 1941, Disney put the production of The Wind in the Willows on hold.

Then in December 1941, the United States became embroiled in the war after Pearl Harbor was attacked. The US government then asked the Disney studio to produce several propaganda films to help rally support for the war effort. During this time, much of Disney's feature output was made up of so-called "package films". Beginning with Saludos Amigos in 1942, Disney ceased making feature films with a single narrative due to the higher costs of such films, as well as the drain on the studio's resources caused by the war.

Walt Disney and his artists felt that the animation of the cartoony anthropomorphized animals in The Wind in the Willows was far below the standards of a Disney animated feature. They then decided that The Wind in the Willows would be better off being part of a package film.

Walt Disney started up production again in 1945. Many scenes in The Wind in the Willows such as Mr. Toad buying several cars before his allowance is cut off, Rat and Mole visiting Mr. Badger in a hospital, Mr. Toad making an elaborate escape from his bedroom and Mr. Toad tricking a washer woman into helping him escape from prison had not yet been animated. Therefore, in order to condense the story for a package film, Disney cut these scenes and completed the remaining animation.

Finally, The Wind in the Willows was released as part of the 1949 film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, along with a adaptation of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and re-released on its own as a featurette in 1978.

Moley and Ratty make an appearance as the charity men in Disney's 1982 version of A Christmas Carol (starring Scrooge McDuck as Scrooge). Mr. Toad makes a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit as a fireman, and the weasels in the movie are modeled after the ones in The Wind in the Willows. Mr. Toad can also be seen at Disneyland, having his own ride, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. This used to be a ride in Disney World, but was replaced a few years ago by a Winnie the Pooh ride. The statue of Mr. Toad that adorned the entrance to the ride can now be found on top of one of the gravestones in the pet cemetery outside the Haunted Mansion.

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