Film Review: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

*All reviews contain spoilers*

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, is property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The author claims no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the author and are not to be viewed as factual documentation. All screencaps are from Disneyscreencaps.com.

Cast

Claud Allister – Rat

Eric Blore – Mr. Toad

Colin Campbell – Mole

Pinto Colvig – Ichabod Crane (screams)

Bing Crosby – Ichabod narrator

Leslie Denison – Judge and First Weasel

Campbell Grant – Angus MacBadger

Alec Harford – Mr. Winky (although some sources credit the role to Oliver Wallace, below)

J. Pat O’Malley – Cyril Proudbottom

John McLeish – Prosecuter

Clarence Nash – Ichabod’s horse, owl, frog and crow

Basil Rathbone – Mr. Toad narrator

The Rhythmaires – Additional voices

Edmond Stevens – Second Weasel

Oliver Wallace – Gang Leader

Sources of InspirationThe Wind in the Willows, a British novel by Kenneth Grahame, 1908, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, an American short story from The Sketch Book by Washington Irving, 1820

Release Dates

October 5th, 1949 in Washington, D.C., USA (premiere)

October 8th, 1949 in New York City, New York (general release)

Run-time – 68 minutes

Directors – James Algar, Clyde Geronimi and Jack Kinney

Composers – Oliver Wallace

Worldwide Gross – For some reason, grosses for the package films are impossible to find

Accolades – 1 win


1949 in History

The first recorded snowfall in Los Angeles, California

The first Emmy Awards are presented at the Hollywood Athletic Club

Clothes rationing ends in the UK

Astronomer Fred Hoyle coins the term Big Bang on a BBC radio broadcast

Newfoundland becomes Canada’s tenth province

The Republic of Ireland leaves the British Commonwealth
Siam changes its name to Thailand, while Transjordan becomes Jordan

The Soviet Union lifts the Berlin Blockade

George Orwell publishes Nineteen Eighty-Four in London

The first apartheid law, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, comes into effect in South Africa

The last six surviving veterans of the American Civil War meet in Indianapolis

The Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb, nicknamed Joe 1

The people’s republic of China (the country we know it as today) is formed

The Dutch acknowledge the independence of their former colony, Indonesia

Births of Pablo Escobar, Ivana Trump, Gloria Gaynor, Billy Joel, Lionel Richie, Meryl Streep, Bruce Springsteen, Sigourney Weaver and Caitlyn Jenner


 

At the end of the 1940s, we come at last to the sixth and final package film, Disney’s eleventh classic, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. That has to be one of the longest titles in the whole canon! Much like Fun and Fancy Free, this one consists of just two stories held together by the loosest of connections – the idea being that both protagonists are prone to disaster. So how did this last package effort come about?

Its origins can be traced back to 1938, when James Bodrero and Campbell Grant pitched the idea of making The Wind in the Willows to Walt. Despite Walt’s initial opinion that such a project would be “corny,” the two men convinced him that animation was the perfect medium for this animal-based tale and Walt eventually bought the rights to it in June of that year.

The basic script was complete by 1941, along with a Frank Churchill song entitled We’re Merrily on Our Way (a similar song did later make it into the film). Disney hired many of the animators from Bambi who began working on it in May of that year, although the film was always intended to be a low-budget affair along the lines of Dumbo. After six months’ work, they had more than half an hour of the piece animated – but then, World War II hit the studio, whisking many animators off to the military and cutting off the European market. With their filmmaking ability hindered (as we’ve already discussed in earlier reviews), production was forced to come to a halt, in October.

Things wouldn’t get going again until 1945, when the script was revisited. By then, several years into package film territory, it was clear that The Wind in the Willows would have to be shortened, so several scenes were cut. These included one where Toad buys several motorcars before having his allowance stopped, one where Rat and Mole visit MacBadger in a Sanatorium (yikes), one where Toad makes a more elaborate escape from his bedroom and one where he tricks an old washer woman into helping him escape the prison. Luckily, these hadn’t yet been animated, so they didn’t lose any of their hard work.

Mr Toad book

Walt now considered partnering the piece with two others under the new title Three Fabulous CharactersMickey and the Beanstalk was one, while the other was an intriguing project called The Gremlins which was intended to be a collaboration with Roald Dahl. Unfortunately, this failed to materialise (it’s no surprise to read that he and Walt apparently couldn’t work together), so the working title became just Two Fabulous Characters. As we know, Mickey and the Beanstalk was then moved to Fun and Fancy Free where it was paired with Bongo (I still think they were mismatched), so Walt needed another piece to put with Willows. He considered Pecos Bill (later to end up in Melody Time) and The Brave Engineer (released on its own in 1950), with yet another title, All in Fun (blech), but nothing seemed to fit.

In December of 1946, production began on a new story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – and finally, it seemed, here was a good match for Willows. Two classics stories, one British, the other American, would pair nicely together; perhaps it was even intended as a kind of goodwill gesture, like the Latin American films. Sleepy Hollow was, at any rate, not long enough to sustain an entire feature by itself, so in 1947 it was paired with Willows for good under the new title The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby, both hugely popular at the time, were cast as narrators to provide a bit of audience appeal.

The use of classic literature, rather than folklore or random music, works in this film’s favour and it’s much more watchable than its predecessors. After this, we won’t be seeing another package film for twenty-eight years, when we reach The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in 1977 (another whopper of a title there), so let’s prepare ourselves one last time and dive into this one.

 

The Wind in the Willows

My first impression is that the opening credits of this feel much cheaper and less ambitious than those of the earlier films, but that’s only a minor detail. There’s just a little bit of live-action linking in this film, but mercifully there are no actors – instead, Basil Rathbone’s pleasant narration comes in as the camera takes us through a library, discussing classic characters of literature. Several of the names mentioned would go on to become future Disney productions, like King Arthur (The Sword in the Stone, 1963), Robin Hood (1973) and Oliver Twist (Oliver & Company, 1988). Apparently, Jiminy Cricket was at one point set to be the narrator in this, but much as I like the guy I’m glad they want with Rathbone instead; it was a nice touch to have a British (well, South African-born) narrator for a British story, and vice versa. Rathbone eventually comes to a copy of The Wind in the Willows, telling us that he considers Mr. Toad to be the greatest literary character ever (disputable, but I get the point). Before this film, the best known adaptation of Grahame’s classic was probably the A.A. Milne play, Toad of Toad Hall – as it turned out, Milne’s own Winnie-the-Pooh character would go on to find wide success with Disney adaptations in later years.

The short begins at Rat’s place, where he’s expecting Mole, who is late for tea. One thing I really enjoy about this short is how it affectionately pokes fun at British mannerisms – honestly, what is more British than being late for tea? Heavens, the very idea. Rat himself (whose name is misleading, as he’s actually supposed to be a water vole) may have been inspired by a bloke called Frederick James Furnivall, who was an acquaintance of Grahame’s, although the Disney version seems to have been based more on Basil Rathbone’s famous portrayal of Sherlock Holmes – Basil, from The Great Mouse Detective (1986), owes his design to him as well.

Angus, Rat and Mole
Left to right: Angus MacBadger, Rat and Mole

They’re discussing the issue of their friend Mr. Toad (full name, “J. Thaddeus Toad, Esq.”), whose spending habits have gotten out of control. Toad’s badger friend Angus tells the two of them that something has to be done to control him, in what was apparently a sly reference to Walt’s brother Roy, who was always complaining to the animators about Walt’s lavish spending! Angus MacBadger… seriously, what have they done to this character? That accent is dreadful, he sounds about as Scottish as I am! Anyway, Angus has volunteered to help Toad run his estate, Toad Hall, as his bookkeeper, but his latest problem is that Toad is driving about recklessly in a yellow gypsy carriage and could cause a lot of expensive damage. He asks Rat and Mole to go and convince him to give it up, so we head off with them to Toad Hall, which we first see in one of the most beautiful shots of the film.

Toad Hall panorama

Toad Hall is variously said to have been based on Hardwick House, Mapledurham House, Fowey Hall Hotel, Foxwarren Park and Fawley Court – wherever it’s supposed to be, it looks gorgeous. (We’re also told in the later court scenes that it’s worth £100,000 in 1909 money – that’s equivalent to almost £11,000,000 today! {Over $14,000,000}). Mr. Toad himself first appears barrelling wildly across the countryside in his carriage, singing The Merrily Song with his horse, Cyril. Once the two have finished butchering the pronunciation of various British town names, they run into Rat and Mole. Cyril introducing himself is a great scene; having grown up in the northeast of England, his panto-style Yorkshire voice is the best thing I’ve ever heard. Rat proceeds to try and lecture Toad on his irresponsible ways, but Toad, in a great gag, simply blocks him out by putting his hands over his ears, which mutes the entire soundtrack!

At this point, Toad is distracted by the appearance of an old-fashioned “motorcar,” which sparks off another of his “manias” (i.e. obsessions). According to Wikipedia, the story is set just outside of London between June 10, 1909 and January 1, 1910 and I love the little touches of history dotted about throughout the short, including the old-fashioned car and its goggled and gloved drivers. Toad was said to be based partly on Grahame’s own son, Alastair, but his mania for motorcars is thought to be based on Francis Cecil Ricardo, a motor enthusiast of the time who offered lifts to locals in his yellow Rolls-Royce. Anyway, once Toad’s seen the mechanical beast go tearing off up the road, he’s hooked and goes “completely mad,” as Rat puts it. He and Mole decide they have no choice but to lock him in his room at Toad Hall, until the mania wears off, while MacBadger cuts his allowance.

Naturally, though, they can’t keep such an energetic character contained for long, and Toad soon sneaks out to try and get himself a car of his own. As we discover during the trial scene, he spots one outside a local tavern and goes in to try and bargain for it; the “owners” appear to be a group of weasels dressed like Prohibition-era gangsters, but they have in fact stolen it, unbeknown to Toad. When Toad realises he has no money, he actually offers them Toad Hall – his eleven million pound estate – for the car, which of course they’re only too eager to accept. The bartender, Mr. Winkie (or Winky) graciously agrees to sign the deed witnessing the agreement – ha, as if you’d trust someone with a moustache like that.

Winkie with the weasels

Naturally, the police soon track down the stolen car and find Toad in possession of it, leading to the trial scene where, in his typical cocky manner, Toad acts as his own lawyer. Rat and Mole don’t do much to help him in this scene; Rat in particular comes across as a real stick-in-the-mud during the whole piece, while Mole is too much of a pushover to commit to either side of the argument. The prosecutor – who doesn’t look at all biased, by the way – has some malicious fun trying to pick apart the case, although Cyril steals the show and runs rings around him when he’s called to the stand (“And what is the honest way?” “A-ha, I thought you wouldn’t know that, guv’nor!”).

the evil prosecutor

Toad seems to have the upper hand and things appear to be going his way when he calls up Mr. Winkie as a witness, confident that the “honest” and upstanding fellow will support him. Instead, as the audience expects, he promptly throws Toad under the bus. Winkie might not be a particularly memorable villain, but the staging of his betrayal is very effectively done – Toad is literally almost over the court doorstep before Winkie tells the Judge that Toad tried to sell him a stolen car. This surprise villain twist would be used again in many later Disney films (including a number of recent ones like Frozen and Zootopia).

Poor Toad is thrown into jail in the Tower of London, with newspapers being used once again as a narrative device to tell us of his friends’ futile attempts to appeal his case. (I didn’t realise the Tower of London was still being used as a prison as late as 1909, but apparently the Kray Twins were the last prisoners to be held there in the 1950s – the more you know!) After a short scene where Toad swears to himself that he’ll change his ways like a recovering alcoholic, he’s then visited on Christmas Eve by none other than Cyril, in disguise as his “grandma” (he looks a lot like Goofy’s horse in Saludos Amigos in that dress). Cyril has another dress with him to disguise Toad with, and it doesn’t take long to convince the amoral amphibian to escape.

We then get several scenes following his desperate dash through the murky streets of London, featuring some impressive cinematography and creative camera angles. He actually steals a train to try and get away from the police, but the coppers simply call up another one (if only our trains were that reliable) and set off in hot pursuit. Toad then leaps from his train into a pond and hides beneath the surface until they’ve gone, but in a funny delayed reaction gag, he then remembers that he can’t breathe and is trapped by the heavy ball and chain on his ankle. The scene is actually played quite dramatically – it’s kind of disturbing seeing Toad’s human-like hands clawing at the water – but has Toad forgotten that he is, well… a toad?  Most toads can hold their breath underwater for anywhere from minutes to hours, but hey, artistic license in the name of drama is fine by me.

The jail escape toad

Meanwhile, Rat and Mole are sadly trying to enjoy a Christmas Eve dinner, but feel terrible about not doing a better job of protecting Toad (as well they should). Then, to everyone’s surprise, in stumbles the jailbird himself! We never find out he got the ball and chain off his foot, but somehow, he made it out. However, he barely has time to collect himself before there’s another knock at the door – believing it’s the police, the upstanding Rat tells Toad he should hand himself in – but it turns out to be MacBadger, who declares that the weasels have taken over Toad Hall. Thus, we get to our big finale, as the four friends sneak back to the Hall to try and recapture the deed from Winkie and clear Toad’s name. The whole sequence is very well done, with lots of tension and some funny gags (at one point, if you look carefully, you can see one of the drunken weasels is passed out in the arms of a figure in one of the portraits on the wall, while another is in the maw of a bear rug!), all building up to the famous melee at the end where everyone’s scrambling around, crashing into each other and making a huge mess. Toad doesn’t help matters by peppering the room with paper planes; soon, everyone is frantically scanning the mass of pages fluttering about as they try to locate the deed. The animation of this sequence might seem familiar, as it was later reused in films like The Jungle Book (1967) and Robin Hood (1973).

The toad hall chase

The group narrowly escape the clutches of the weasels, but they manage to get the deed and soon Toad Hall is back in the hands of its rightful owner once again. Of course, Toad still hasn’t changed his ways, and as the short draws to a close, we see him enjoying his latest “mania” with Cyril as they go soaring over the roof on an old Wright Flyer-style biplane!

Toad and cyril in biplane

On the whole, this is a really superb short. It’s well animated, well staged and paced, and the characters are genuinely enjoyable, especially Toad; you can’t help liking him, for all his frustrating habits. It was clearly a favourite with the animators, too; there’s a legend that one animator who stopped worked on the film to join the Army during World War II returned to continue working on the exact same sequence four years later! If I had to make any criticism, it would be the usual one made when discussing film adaptations of literary works: in such a short time frame, it’s inevitable that some details are lost. I would have liked to see Disney do a full-length feature with this story, as it might have allowed for some better characterisation of certain figures like Rat and Mole, who come across a bit one-dimensional here.

 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow / Ichabod Crane

For the next short, we get a new, American narrator – Bing Crosby. For some reason, he describes America as “the colonies,” even though the USA had been independent for decades at the time the story was originally published. The animators for the segment included Frank Thomas, John Sibley and Blaine Gibson, and they really did a good job with it, especially the final scenes.

As the short opens, the scene is set in the small village of Sleepy Hollow, near Tarrytown, which in turn is near New York City. Tarrytown is actually a real place – it’s a small village in Westchester County, New York State, founded by Dutch settlers in the 17th century (this Dutch influence can be seen in the design of the characters). The nearby village of North Tarrytown was even known as “Sleepy Hollow” before being officially renamed as such in 1996. Washington Irving himself is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, along with a woman named Catriena Ecker Van Tessel and her niece, Eleanor Van Tassel Brush, who may have served as the inspirations for Katrina in the story. Referring once again to Wikipedia, I also found out that the story is meant to be set between October and November of 1790 (presumably these dates come from the original novels, neither of which I’ve read).

olde style map new york

Our gangly, awkward-looking hero, Ichabod, is introduced with a jaunty song: Ichabod Crane. With his spindly frame, huge ears, beaky nose and chinless face, he’s hardly the dashing romantic hero so common to most Disney stories, but it’s actually quite refreshing to see such an unconventional lead in a film from 1949. He’s a schoolteacher looking for work, and in a scene very reminiscent of Belle’s entrance in Beauty and the Beast (1991), we watch him stroll through Sleepy Hollow while the other residents look on incredulously. Actually, Beauty and the Beast seems to owe quite a debt to this short, in the style of many of its characters and shots. Just take a look at the local jock, Brom Bones, and tell me you don’t think of Gaston:

Ichabod with Brom

Apparently, Crosby’s distinctive ears were the inspiration for Ichabod’s – I wonder how he felt about that! Washington actually knew a man named Ichabod Bennet Crane; they met in 1814 and although he never confirmed it, Washington probably borrowed the character’s name from this acquaintance. In this version, Ichabod is presented as a rather unsavoury chap, shrewd, greedy and cunning, making this a more complex short than anything we’ve seen in the previous package films. All the characters, in fact, are morally dubious at best – the protagonists aren’t role models but simply flawed, ordinary people, making this a much more interesting piece for discussion. As Ichabod settles into his new teaching role at the old-fashioned schoolhouse, we see that he is subtly manipulative, giving preferential treatment to the children whose mothers are the best cooks in the hopes of winning a dinner invitation or two! We also see that he is a superstitious fellow, as he avoids walking under a ladder (which were once likened to gallows scaffolding), picks up a lucky horseshoe (related to an act of St. Dunstan), nervously throw salt over his left shoulder (to banish demons said to be invited by the spilling of it) and appears frightened of a black cat (an omen of death in America, but curiously a lucky omen here in the UK).

Superstitious Ichabod

In the original story, Ichabod’s beliefs are supposed to have been inspired by his reading of the fictional book History of New England Witchcraft, by the real-life writer Cotton Mather, and taking it as the gospel truth. Although Mather never actually wrote such a book, it has been suggested that Irving could have gotten the idea from Mather’s Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions (1689), which he wrote just before his involvement in the Salem witch trials of 1692-1693. Mather was a firm believer in witchcraft and the supernatural and thanks to reading his book, Ichabod appears to be, too – maybe that’s what he’s reading when he first walks through the town. It’s an example of good writing that this characteristic is established early on, as it becomes a plot point later.

The middle of the short is taken up with Ichabod and Brom Bones’s attempts to woo the local sweetheart, Katrina Van Tassel, whose name puts me in mind of the Von Tussles from Hairspray.

Katrina is introduced
Compare Katrina with Sue, the Harp and Grace below

This buxom blonde lass is introduced with a crooning ballad by Bing Crosby, Katrina, with some rather saucy lyrics like “You can do more with Margaret or Helena, or Ann or Angelina, but Katrina will kiss and run,” making it clear that Katrina is a bit of a flirt. In design, she’s yet another Cinderella prototype, the closest one yet – the two of them could easily be sisters – but there’s actually more to her character than any of the earlier package film girls. As I mentioned above, the character was originally inspired by some real residents of the area (in name, at least), and although at first glance her huge pink dress might seem generic and anachronistic, her outfit (and those of the other townspeople) is actually quite accurate. The wide-hipped look was created with a pannier, a sort of forerunner of the crinoline, and the sleeves, neckline and Dutch cap she wears were all the rage in fashion around that time. Ichabod, meanwhile, is shown in a frock coat, breeches and a tricorne hat, a real 18th century dandy, while the less prissy Brom wears a more everyday rustic style, with the coonskin cap more typical of a frontiersman.

Although Katrina doesn’t speak in this narration-only version (unusual, as she did in most other adaptations of the story), she still manages to create an amusing game of cat and mouse between Ichabod and Brom as she playfully teases them and sets them against each other. It’s also worth noting that in the original story, she’s meant to be just eighteen – both men here certainly look a good deal older than that! Despite her games, she’s quite pleasant, with more personality than we’ve seen since the likes of Snow White, so although she’s mainly just there to act as love interest, I still really liked her as a character. Aside from Cinderella, her design may also have influenced a variety of other later Disney characters; I can see elements of Aurora, Bo Peep and Charlotte La Bouff in her, for starters. Her ultimate test for the two love rivals comes when she personally invites them both to her father Baltus’s Halloween party, though she doesn’t realise that Ichabod wants her wealthy father’s fortune just as much as he wants her (or maybe more so).

Katrina at the bureau

At the party, Brom’s efforts to win Katrina’s attentions are thwarted once again by Ichabod, who has been established as an unlikely lothario (it must be because he sings with the velvety voice of Bing Crosby). Brom’s motives and design are, as I said earlier, very Gaston-like, but he does seem somewhat “nicer” and is more of a petty bully than an outright villain. Much like Gaston, you get the impression that he’s used to being the centre of attention because he’s the only attractive bloke in the small town, so Ichabod might be his first taste of competition, and he reacts like a spoilt only child being told they’re about to get a new baby brother. “Brom” is apparently a rare diminutive form of Abraham, with the character’s full name being Abraham Van Brunt (yeesh, who knew?). The name is a nice touch, as much like Katrina and her father he is intended to be another Dutch American, a descendant of the original settlers of the area, which was once known as New Netherland. This might explain Ichabod’s initial struggles to fit in with some of the residents, as he is an outsider.

As the party progresses and the dancing picks up, Brom tries to keep Ichabod busy by pairing him off with another lady, named Tilda. Tilda is a dumpy woman with large arms and a strange choppy black hairstyle, who is subjected to a “revolting ugly woman” joke courtesy of Brom which falls very flat today. For my part, I think she’s a great character, bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Still, Ichabod continues to make his way back to Katrina, leaving Brom at his wits’ end… that is until he spies the superstitious schoolmaster throwing some spilt salt over his shoulder. This gives him an idea – using Icky’s Achilles Heel, he launches into a spirited rendition of the Headless Horseman song, setting up the myth of the local spook and setting Ichabod’s nerves on edge. This song is still considered to be one of Disney’s darkest, and like many other such songs it was nearly cut from the film, but thankfully they opted to keep it. Good thing, too, as the following scenes wouldn’t have the same impact without it.

After leaving the party, still shaken from Brom’s fearsome fireside tale, Ichabod heads for home on his borrowed horse, Gunpowder. However, to get there, he must pass through Sleepy Hollow’s evil-looking forest, rumoured to be the favourite haunt of the dreaded Horseman. In reality, local tradition in the area spoke of the gruesome, decapitated corpse of a Hessian trooper, discovered after a violent battle in the American Revolutionary War. It was said to have been buried in the Old Dutch Burying Ground, a site which Irving was evidently familiar with as it was included in his story. Wherever he came from, the Headless Horseman is definitely up there as one of Disney’s more frightening villains, alongside other underrated classics like the Horned King from The Black Cauldron (1985) and Chernabog from Fantasia (1940). Even today, Disney apparently still receives complaints from parents about the trauma he causes their kids!

Honestly, it’s no wonder: the scenes featuring the Horseman are the scariest Disney had produced since Snow White’s panic-stricken flight through a darkened forest. The cinematography of this part is amazing, perfectly building the chilling atmosphere, the rising tension… then breaking it with a fake-out where Ichabod (and the audience) think for a moment that all will be fine. But no – a maniacal laugh rings out and Ichabod whirls around in terror to find the Horseman himself looming over him, dramatically backlit and riding his evil steed (which looks suspiciously like Brom’s horse, Daredevil). What an entrance! A wild chase then ensues, featuring some great animation as Ichabod and Gunpowder desperately try to reach the bridge which, according to Brom, marks the limit of the Horseman’s domain. After some crazy gaggery, they finally reach it and bolt across, only to find the Horseman behind them, laughing as he hurls his flaming Jack-o’-Lantern head at them. The picture dissolves in a blur of noise and flames, and when it fades back in, all that we see of Ichabod is his hat…

Sleepy Hollow cloudsHeadless Horseman entranceSleepy Hollow chaseHorseman tosses pumpkin

Katrina and Brom PG13
Dayum, get it girl…

The ending is left ambiguous, with Crosby telling us that Ichabod apparently survived and moved to a different county, where he set up with a widow and her children (who look a lot like him). The Sleepy Hollow locals, however, remain convinced that he was spirited away by the Horseman, never to be seen again. (Katrina ends up married to Brom, rather predictably, but then they do seem to suit one another). A popular fan theory is that the Horseman was actually Brom in disguise, mainly based on the fact that their horses seem similar, but I don’t buy that: how did he have time to slip out and don such an elaborate costume, then still catch Icky in the forest before the teacher reached the bridge? Whatever you think happened, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is easily one of the best, most solid shorts to come out of the package era and it’s no wonder that it remains a popular Halloween favourite with American audiences to this day. Mind you, the ending is oddly jaunty considering Icky’s potentially dark fate…

 

Final Verdict

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was something of a return to form for Disney and was widely embraced by audiences of the time, who were thankful both for the higher quality of the storytelling and the lack of live-action segments. Naturally, though, with two such different shorts put together, there was some polarising of opinion, with some viewers loving one short but detesting the other. The Wind in the Willows segment in particular has been subject to some mild criticism for straying from the plot of the novel, but you get that with any film adaptation of literature. Personally, I think this is probably my second-favourite of the package films after Saludos Amigos (I’ve always liked Donald Duck and the history on show in that one is a real treat).

From 1955, the two shorts were usually split up and marketed separately, with Wind in the Willows shown individually on the first season of the Disneyland series in February, 1955, and Sleepy Hollow following in the next season, in October that year. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was rereleased on its own to theatres as a 33-minute featurette in September 1963, with The Wind in the Willows segment then being rereleased to theatres in 1978 under the new title The Madcap Adventures of Mr. Toad, to accompany Disney’s feature film Hot Lead and Cold Feet. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was not available for viewing in its original form for many years thereafter, but finally received its first complete home video release in the UK in 1991 and in the US in 1992, followed by another VHS release in 1999 and a DVD release in 2000.

Toad, Rat, Mole, MacBadger, Cyril and two of the weasels went on to make an appearance in Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983), while Mr. Toad and Cyril Proudbottom made cameo appearances in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), with the Toon Patrol’s designs in that film being based on the weasels from this one. Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World both have a Sleepy Hollow restaurant, which were inspired by this film. In both locations, the exterior of the restaurant is a replica of Washington Irving’s Dutch-style mansion, Sunnyside, on the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York. The Batman villain Scarecrow, whose real name is Jonathan Crane, may also have been partially based on Ichabod.

With the delights of Cinderella now only about four months away, audience appetites were whetted for a return to classic Disney storytelling. The war was behind them, the future looked bright – and the package films were, for now at least, well and truly over. I hope you’ve enjoyed these reviews, and I look forward to seeing you again next week for my review of Cinderella!

My Rating – 3/5

 

References

I consulted my own books to research for this review, as well as some standard web sources:

Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters (1998 ed.) by John Grant

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3891744 – credit for the poster

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Ichabod_and_Mr._Toad – wiki article

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041094/ – IMDB profile

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2 Replies to “Film Review: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)”

  1. I guess it is the longest title until next year’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2”.

    I also am a big lover of the Mr. Toad segment and wish that had been a full-length feature film instead!

    I’m not as in love with the Ichabod segment as most people are, but it’s still a decent segment with good Bing Crosby narration. The best parts are probably the parts with the Headless Horseman. And that Katrina…so devious, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, that’s one of the biggest titles they’ve had in years! I hope it’s good; I heard the D23 announcement about the princess cameos, that sounds promising.

      I agree, the Horseman scenes are the highlight of this one, they’re so well staged. Ah, well once you’ve met that little coquette Katrina…

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