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Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas Retro Review: Opus n' Bill 'A Wish For Wings That Work' (1991) #RobinWilliams

Opus n' Bill In A Wish For Wings That Work
Cast: Michael Bell, Tress Macneille, Frank Welker, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman
Genre: Animated TV Special

Plot: Wrestling with an unfulfilled wish to soar through the air like any other self-respecting bird, Opus the plucky penguin decides there's only one person who can make his aeronautic dream come true: Father Christmas. Bill the Cat coughs up a wild idea that just may bring a holiday miracle, but when ol' St Nick finds himself in hot water on December 24th, the fate of Christmas itself suddenly depends on the kind of heroism that only comes in a penguin-sized package! Will Opus come to the rescue and learn the value of being true to oneself? 

'Made- For- TV Rush Job That Ought To Have Been Longer'

A Wish For Wings That Work is one of the relatively lesser-known animated offerings amidst popular offerings such as the Peanuts Christmas special and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Directed by Skip Jones and produced by Steven Spielberg's animation studio, Amblimation, it is based on the children's book of the same name and this Christmas TV special aired on U.S prime time television on CBS in December 1991, but has since then been relegated to the shelves with very little interest, this put paid to poor ratings and the reception has been less than satisfactory from creator, Berkeley Breathed. Amblimation, or be it Amblin Entertainment were chosen to adapt Wish For Wings That Work. It is a type of yuletide animated film that makes a lot more sense if you are an adult and the humour and tone are kind of on the lines of King of The Hill, The Simpsons and less so on Family Guy. As well as being a fan of the book itself. 

The title character Opus is a penguin who wishes to be able to fly and other notable characters from the book also made an appearance. It is when the appearance of Santa Claus occurs that although things don't quite turn out the way they do, Opus finally is able to fly. 

In view of it in its entirety, I can see why A Wish For Wings That Work didn't really take off and understand why Breathed had issues with it. Robin Williams voices a character going by the name of George the Kiwi, who wears a tie and he is very angry, irritated and shouts a lot. He is a lot different to Genie from Aladdin and Ferngully's Batty Koda. George appears in 2 short scenes, one of them where he loses the plot when he finds out his wife has run off with an albatross (!), and that's about it. He doesn't make an impact on the film. Other than his character shouting a lot, there is really not much going with him: he doesn't really have a personality to speak of. Dustin Hoffman is Miliquetoast the cross-dressing cockroach, and yet I could barely make out that it was Dustin voicing that character. It also dawned on me that in Hoffman as Miliquetoast that it brought back memories of Dustin, as a cross-dresser of some sorts, Michael as Dorothy in the film, Tootsie. Coincidence or what? 

Anyhow, for an animated special at the time, it looks pretty good, & it also has a black and white live action dream sequence. The script is however rushed, not least for a 30- min animated special and it is just too short. The story isn't very compelling or insightful, though it doesn't help that the material and the actual story by Breathed doesn't capture one's attention. I would have liked to have seen more, and a longer and interesting story and with that, more character development. The film packs everything in within 24 mins, yet the interesting moment doesn't happen until towards the end and it just goes by so quickly, one barely gets to know much about any of the characters. It's a shame really. I went into this short and shown interest only because Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman lent their vocal talents and as much as I wanted to get something out of it, it just wasn't there.... because the film didn't do and offer more to make me do that. 

Opus is a character that needed a better voice actor who could convey and bring out his personality to life, and Michael Bell (who voiced Chuckie's dad in Rugrats and Duke in the G.I Joe cartoon so to speak) just didn't really make an impression on me as the main character. Perhaps after several viewings, this view will change and I'm wrong. Who knows?


Pros +

- Having Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman on board
- Animation efforts are good for a TV special of 1991 

Cons -

- Is too short, should have been longer
- Story not very compelling or interesting
- Characters under-developed

Final Verdict:

A 24 -min short has to do everything in that time span to garner interest, yet A Wish For Wings That Work needs a bit more work going into it, and that includes stretching it to say an hour. Despite that the book isn't that well known or popular everywhere, it needed a compelling story, as well as characters you want to root for or favour. But with this made- for- TV short, it doesn't really have that. A Wish For Wings That Work comes across as a rush job more than anything else. 

& given it came out at around the same time Hook was released in theaters and cinemas, along with Dustin and Robin's vocal cameos, it makes A Wish For Wings That Work more concurrent. 

If you are fans of the book, you will get your money's worth here, but for the rest, when it comes to Robin Williams's other notable animated voice-over works, you are better off with Aladdin, Aladdin The King of Thieves and Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.


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