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

Reviewed by Jeff Giles



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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