Opus N' Bill in a Wish for Wings That Work review, Opus N' Bill DVD review
Starring
Joe Alaskey, Michael Patrick Bell, John Byner, Tress MacNeille, Andrew Hill Newman
Director
Skip Jones
Opus N' Bill in a Wish for Wings That Work

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

()

F

or politically aware comics readers of the ‘80s, Berke Breathed’s “Bloom County” was the more whimsical, anthropomorphic alternative to “Doonesbury.” Using a cast of characters that included a number of (mostly) cuddly talking animals, Berkeley took swipes at everyone from Tip O’Neill to Mary Kay to Tipper Gore, often with such a light touch that the strip had a strong cross-generational appeal. Given that two of its main characters were a rotund, big-nosed penguin named Opus and a hairball-spewing Garfield spoof named Bill, “Bloom County” was easily one of the most merchandisable comics of the decade – an opportunity that Breathed, for whatever reason, mostly failed to exploit.

Even “A Wish for Wings That Work” represents something of a missed opportunity. It originally aired in 1991, two years after Breathed walked away from “Bloom County” and started the weekly Opus-centric Sunday strip “Outland.” But aside from a long-ago VHS release, the 24-minute holiday special hasn’t been particularly well cared for. This is a shame, really – even if “Wings” isn’t a Christmas classic on a par with the Rankin-Bass “Frosty the Snowman” special, it’s still worth trotting out every December. Talking animals, brightly colored animation, a heartwarming moral to the story…what else could you possibly want out of a holiday ‘toon?

The story goes like this: Opus, long chagrined by his flightless-bird status, scribbles off a letter to Santa asking for – you guessed it – wings that work. This being a Breathed production, “Wings” isn’t nearly as treacly as you might think – there is, after all, room for an uncredited appearance by Dustin Hoffman as a cross-dressing cockroach – and the animation is of a distinctly early ‘90s vintage. Still, if you’re looking for some fun holiday viewing for the family, and you can’t bear the thought of watching “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” one more time, this could be just the alternative you seek.

It’s unsurprising (but disappointing nonetheless) that this is essentially a straight reissue. Though the box boasts “digitally remastered picture and sound,” the differences are mostly very minor. It’s a budget title, so you can feel good about buying it even if you already own it on VHS, but still – would it have been so hard to add something to the reissue? A commentary track? Promos from the original airing? Storyboard art? Ah, well. Your kids won’t care, and if you were a fan of the strip, the nostalgia you’ll feel while watching this is probably still worth the $13 it’ll cost you. Cue up that old Billy & the Boingers 45 and let the good times roll.

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