The first images from a $30 million film adaptation of The Wind In The Willows, the newest production to emerge from Wellywood's Weta Digital, have sparked criticism in cyberspace.

A 90-second "teaser" trailer, released online, features a brief image of a dark Toad wading through an eerie swamp before cackling hoarsely and hopping away.

Fans of the cheery, slightly daffy Toad of Kenneth Grahame's 1908 novel are in for a shock.

One online comment says: "This doesn't look like Weta at all. It's a really bad promo, even if it's early." Another described the quality of the animation as "amateur and incomplete".

Herald on Sunday film critic Dominic Corry said he liked the teaser's "dark and grimy" quality but wondered if the film was merely conforming to the "safe" aesthetic popularised by Tim Burton's recent box office hits. "They might have thought that darkening up was the only way to sell the story," Corry said.

Weta wouldn't comment last night.

Academy Award-winning director Burton has had critical and box-office success putting dark twists on cheery children's classics, such as Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The Wind In The Willows, directed by Ray Griggs, will combine digital animation with live action footage shot in New Zealand.

Corry said New Zealand will shoulder a lot of responsibility in doing justice to the "stereotypical English setting".

"The book is an ode to the English landscape, the grassy meadow beside a stream. It's a lot for our country to take on."