Retired pensioner Jim Bloggs (voiced by John Mills) spends the morning in the public library reading the newspapers about the threat of a new world war. Although he and his wife Hilda (voiced by Peggy Ashcroft) moved out to the country for their retirement, he's still concerned about the effects of being caught in a nuclear blast as the news predicts that a major conflict is on its way. He returns on the bus back to his home where Hilda is making him lunch, but she's not interested in his talk of atomic war, no matter how firmly he tries to make his point that there are dark times just around the corner. But is he right? And will their faith in the authorities protect them?
A strong candidate for the most depressing cartoon ever made, When the Wind Blows was adapted by Raymond Briggs from his book which spelt out the futility of nuclear armageddon through the eyes of an elderly couple who thinks that this conflict will be fought just like the last World War, with the same victorious outcome. This was the concern of many people during the eighties and the final years of the Cold War, where it was believed that these might be the last days of civilisation as well and post-apocalyptic fiction was prevalent on television (such as Threads or The Day After), books and film (like Testament).
Jim puts great store by the official leaflets he has collected from the library which outline the correct procedures in the event of an attack, and how to prepare for it. The film makes no bones about the fact that we, the audience, are far more knowledgeable about the impending doom than the two main characters, who are the only people on screen for most of the film, bar fantasy sequences and the opening couple of minutes. Much to Hilda's displeasure, Jim unscrews the doors from their hinges to create a shelter by propping them up against a wall, and begins hoarding tinned food in case there's a shortage.
The casting of Mills is a clever one, as we are so used to seeing him fighting the Second World War in movies; it's as if to say the next world war will dwarf that situation in its number of casualties. The story is sentimental about its main characters and their limited view of the state of affairs, they constantly hark back to their experiences from forty years ago, getting the Germans and the Soviets mixed up and feeling nostalgic about the bad old days they thought they had left behind. Jim speaks in clichés, which he thinks makes him sound as if he knows what he's talking about - "Science is in its infancy!" - but as the film draws on he starts repeating banalities: "I'll pop down to the chemist's in the morning..."
It's no surprise that the bomb drops, but as Jim and Hilda are some distance away from the "epicentre" their house is not completely destroyed and they survive - for a while. They are dismayed to discover that the water and electricity are off, but have faith in the emergency services and that things will return to normal after a few days. When the Wind Blows constantly verges too close to condescending as Jim and Hilda really are clueless, but the obvious affection for them renders the whole thing tragic rather than gloating. The message is that the powers that be would be hopelessly out of their depth in a global nuclear war, and their citizens would be in the same boat but suffering terribly for their governments' mistakes. Music by Roger Waters, with a theme song by David Bowie.
American animator and producer who, after a career in award-winning shorts and documentaries, got his break in feature length movies assisting Roger Corman, notably on The Red Baron. He directed the Star Wars-inspired romp Battle Beyond the Stars before once more turning to animation with the Raymond Briggs adaptations The Snowman (as supervising director) and When the Wind Blows, and Dickens adaptation Christmas Carol: The Movie.