A Wish for Wings That Work
AuthorBerkeley Breathed
IllustratorBerkeley Breathed
Cover artistBerkeley Breathed
CountryUnited States
PublisherLittle Brown & Co
Publication date

A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story is a children's book by Berkeley Breathed that was published in 1991. It was made into an animated television special that same year. The book and special feature characters from Breathed's comic strips Bloom County and Outland.


The story centers on Opus the Penguin (a main character in all three of Breathed's comic strips and, at the time, appearing in Outland). Opus is downhearted because, as a penguin, he cannot fly. He orders a machine and assembles it, but when it comes time to test the machine by jumping off a three-mile-high cliff, Opus decides to do something less dangerous; he goes home to make anchovy Christmas cookies. He does not give up on his dream, though, and makes a Christmas wish to Santa Claus for "wings that will go!". On Christmas Eve, Santa is making his usual delivery when he loses his reindeer and crashes into a lake. Opus jumps in and uses his natural swimming skills to pull Santa out. To thank Opus for his daring rescue, a group of ducks pick him up and take him flying through the air.

TV special

Opus 'n' Bill: A Wish for Wings that Work
2007 DVD cover
Directed bySkip Jones
Written byBerkeley Breathed
Based onA Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story and Outland by Berkeley Breathed
Produced byPeggy Regan
StarringMichael Bell
Joe Alaskey
John Byner
Tress MacNeille
Alexaundria Simmons
Andrew Hill Newman
Frank Welker
Robin Williams (as Sudy Nim)
Edited byLarry C. Cowan
Music byThomas Chase
Steve Rucker
Distributed byMCA TV
Release date
December 18, 1991
Running time
22 minutes
CountryUnited States

On December 18, 1991, an animated special based on the book aired on CBS.[1][2] It was directed by Skip Jones and was produced by Peggy Regan for Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television for Universal Cartoon Studios.[3][4] It was released on DVD November 6, 2007.


Critical reception

Lisa Horowitz of Variety gave the special a positive review, saying that it "crams a lot of action and intelligence into its half-hour". She also praised the animation and vocal performances.[2]

Breathed, who was credited as the writer and executive producer of the special, was disappointed with the overall results. Asked in 2003 in The Washington Post where a copy of the special could be found on VHS or DVD, Breathed replied:

Hopefully in the rubbish pail. We can do better than that and we will with an eventual Opus film... but I'm glad you enjoyed it. I presume your family was on speed when they watched it. I would imagine it helps.

In a 2007 interview, Breathed said that the reason he disliked the special was simply "unspectacular ratings", and that his humor "wasn't meant for television, even if it was done right". He also blamed his own lack of writing experience, as he wrote the script, and that the director was "way over his head". Breathed said he had wanted Sterling Holloway to provide the voice for Opus.[5] Four years later, Breathed said the director inserted numerous inappropriate jokes into the special's background scenes.[6]


  1. ^ A Wish for Wings That Work (TV Short 1991) - IMDb, retrieved December 8, 2020
  2. ^ a b Variety Television Reviews 1991-1992. Taylor & Francis. March 1994. ISBN 0-8240-3796-0.
  3. ^ DataBase, The Big Cartoon. "A Wish For Wings That Work". Big Cartoon DataBase (BCDB). Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  4. ^ A Wish for Wings That Work - About the Animated Special, Amblin Entertainment, archived from the original on December 8, 2020, retrieved December 8, 2020
  5. ^ Plume, Ken (May 22, 2007). "Interview: Berkeley Breathed". FRED Entertainment. Archived from the original on November 15, 2011. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  6. ^ Zahed, Ramin, Animated People: Berkeley Breathed, Animation Magazine, 16 March 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2017. "[T]he director, who was fired, managed to sprinkle a profane cornucopia of inappropriate flotsam around in the show.... Find a moldy DVD and check out the opening credit sequence: Watch the snowy hills during the pan. Some of them aren't hills. And that train track isn't really going into a train tunnel. Unless it's Sigmund Freud's. It's pretty funny now. Imagine how funny it was when we finally spotted it during final mixing, six days before network broadcast. Keep in mind, this was a Steven Spielberg production of a family Christmas show. I tried but failed to imagine Steven believing me when I tried to disclaim authorship of a woman's snow anus in the countryside. Or the sign in the window of the store that said "For sale cheap: Santa's Balls". Too late to change! This was the pre-digital age. We courageously let it go without telling anyone. I'm glad I'm telling this in a trade magazine and I can feel safe that it won't be going out on the Internet thing".