Ranking Disney: #42 – The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is — just that. The adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. One of the most self-explanatory Disney titles there is.
It’s a tough movie to rank, since, half the film is amazing and classic, and the other half, nobody knows. The “Sleepy Hollow” segment has been used loads of times by Disney in their video shorts packages and tapes and DVDs and whatever. If you grew up with Disney, you’ve seen that one. But the “Wind In the Willows” segment is rarely seen. So you have these two pieces, and they’re the entire film. So what do you do with it? Where do you rank it?
This is a package film, though like Fun and Fancy Free, it only has two parts.
The first, narrated by Basil Rathbone, is about Mr. Toad from “The Wind In the Willows.” He’s a rich adventurer, who likes traveling to “Nowhere in Particular.” And his friends try to talk some sense into him (since he doesn’t care about his money and spends like crazy), but to no avail. But one day he sees a car and decides he must have one. And shortly after, he’s arrested for stealing a car.
Then during the trial, he explains that he exchanged the deed to Toad Hall (his place of residence) in exchange for the car. But he is framed by the man who sold him the car and sentenced to twenty years in prison. He then escapes and returns to Toad Hall. And the dude who swindled him has now taken it over with his gang. And he and his two friends go and steal the dead back and his name is cleared. And then they say he’s reformed, but then we see him in a biplane, up to his same old tricks.
The second half, narrated by Bing Crosby, is “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Ichabod Crane, an itinerant schoolmaster, arrives in Sleepy Hollow. He’s very charming, and succeeds in winning the town over.
Then he meets and falls in love with Katrina van Tessel, the daughter of the richest man in the county. And he finds himself competing with Brom Bones, who is basically like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, only where Gaston was actually a prick, Brom is generally good-natured.
And one night, at a party at Katrina’s father’s farm, Brom, knowing Ichabod is afraid of ghosts, tells a story about the Headless Horseman. It’s actually quite a catchy little tune, the way he tells it.
And then Ichabod rides home at night, terrified of running into said horseman – and there’s a great cacophony of scary sounds that may or may not be real. They do a terrific job with this section.
Then Ichabod reaches the graveyard, where he runs into the Horseman (which may or may not be Brom in disguise, we never learn the truth), who chases him over the forest and through the woods (not to grandmother’s house), to the bridge, where it is said that the Horseman cannot cross.
And as he crosses it, the Horseman throws a flaming pumpkin, which shatters on the screen into a ball of flames. And the next morning, all they find outside that bridge are Ichabod’s hat and a broken pumpkin.
Love the image of that pumpkin flying directly at the camera.
Shortly afterwards, Brom marries Katrina. Some say Ichabod ended up marrying a rich widow in a distant town, others say he was carried of by the Horseman.
And that’s how the movie ends. Well, actually it ends with Bing Crosby saying, “I’m gettin’ out of here.” Which is a nice touch.
The film is actually pretty good. That is to say, I like the second half and the first half is all right. It’s actually a lot like Fun and Fancy Free (though I like it more than that. It just feels less cumbersome). This was tough for me to rank, since I like the Ichabod segment so much, but the film feels weighed down by the first half. But fortunately, all the films I ranked below it are either pretty flat overall or have major problems, so I was able to sneak it up here. I couldn’t go higher than this, though, since it’s really not a complete film. But still, I feel it ended up doing pretty well for itself, all things considered.
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Official Disney Number: #11
Run Time: 68 minutes
Release Date: October 5, 1949
Box Office: N/A (None of these package films seem to have any kind of money information out there.)
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- “Merrily on Our Way (to Nowhere in Particular),” performed by Eric Blore and J. Pat O’Malley in the first segment
- “Ichabod,” performed by Bing Crosby in the second segment
- “Katrina,” performed by Bing Crosby in the second segment
- “The Headless Horseman,” performed by Bing Crosby in the second segment
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I love that Crosby does the entire Ichabod segment himself. All voices. (Though Pinto Colvig, the voice of Goofy, does provide Ichabod’s screaming voice.)
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- The original title to this film was “Two Fabulous Characters.” I think they did better with this title.
- This film took a long time to create. The idea of “The Wind In the Willows” was pitched after Snow White, and was originally going to be a standalone animated film. They even managed to create 30 minutes of the film by 1941. Only, after the war started, they had to cut back on their spending, and the film was shelved. Then, by 1945, when they started up production again, they decided it was better off as part of a package film. And before the film was “Two Fabulous Characters,” it was “Three Fabulous Characters,” with them trying to pair it with “Mickey and the Beanstalk” and an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The Gremlins.” Then “Mickey and the Beanstalk” went in Fun and Fancy Free and by that time, Disney was animating “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and bam — this film.
- Katrina was modeled after Grace Martin in Make Mine Music and also resembles Slue Foot Sue in the “Pecos Bill” segment in Melody Time.
- The last of Disney’s package films.
- Thurl Ravenscroft (“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” the vacuum from The Brave Little Toaster) was originally going to sing “The Headless Horseman.”
- There’s a story that an animator working on the “Wind In the Willows” segment quit to join the army, and that when the war was over, he returned to that exact same sequence.
- This won a Golden Globe for Best Color Cinematography
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1. One shot you see a lot in Disney (I’m not sure if I’ve had it in this section yet or not) is the shot of a character or characters framed by two objects (usually trees) that are inside the edges of the frame of the film. Here, you’ll see the bookshelf where “Sleepy Hollow” is being framed by books from another shelf. Same idea as all the other Disney frame shots, just with books. Trust me, by the end of this list, you’ll have seen this framing a dozen times.
2. I love this shot. Brom is drinking a beer, and he looks through the bottom of the glass (somehow), and as the beer level lowers as he drinks, we see Ichabod come into focus. It’s a brilliant shot, even if physically impossible.
3. Ichabod interacts with his thought bubble. Genius.
4. During the cacophony of sounds sequence (which I’ve already praised up there), there’s a great shot of the moon and what seems to be a hand around it. It’s a great image. I just wanted to share it.
I felt like I had more, but apparently not. I’m sure there’s more great stuff here, like all the films. I just want to remind you that this is only stuff I noticed/caught/wanted to share. There’s always going to be more.