The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Release Date: October 5th, 1949
Inspiration: “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving
Domestic Gross: $1.2 million
Worldwide Gross: $1.625 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
IMDB Score: 7.0/10
Storyline (per IMDB): Two stories. The Wind in the Willows: Concise version of Kenneth Grahame’s story of the same name. J. Thaddeus Toad, owner of Toad Hall, is prone to fads, such as the newfangled motor car. This desire for the very latest lands him in much trouble with the wrong crowd, and it is up to his friends, Mole, Rat and Badger to save him from himself. – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Retelling of Washington Irving’s story set in a tiny New England town. Ichabod Crane, the new schoolmaster, falls for the town beauty, Katrina Van Tassel, and the town Bully Brom Bones decides that he is a little too successful and needs “convincing” that Katrina is not for him.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We have finally come to the end of the package film era with this film and it is also the last Disney film of the 1940s, and needless to say I am ready to move onto the next era of Disney films with what comes right after this one. Having said that, this film is the one package film that most say holds up the best of all the package films that have come out and we will see if that is true.
Voice Cast: We continue our run of having some pretty big names come in to do voices for these package films, and while there weren’t as many this time around as in the previous ones we do have some good name value to help prop the film up. Our two main actors are British actor Basil Rathbone who provides the narration for Wind in the Willows, and then we have legendary musician Bing Crosby narrating the legend of Sleepy Hollow as well as providing the voice for Ichabod and Brom. In what was a pretty smart move, Disney made sure to bring in English actors to play the characters in the Wind in the Willows as we have Eric Blore play J. Thaddeus Toad, and J. Pat O’Malley playing the horse Cyril Proudbottom and Claude Allister playing Rat. We also have Colin Campbell and Campbell Grant playing Mole and MacBadger as well as composer Ollie Wallace playing Mr. Winky, and we have a few lesser known actors filling the roles of the humans and the weasels. For the legend of Sleepy Hollow, we have returning actors Clarence Nash and Pinto Colvig providing Ichabod’s scream and his horse respectively, and finally we have Disney regular Billy Bletcher providing the voice of the Headless Horseman. While most of the dialogue in the film was provided by Rathbone and Crosby, the other actors did a good job in particular with Wind in the Willows since that had the most dialogue.
Villain: So even though we don’t have any heroes or princesses in the film, we do have a couple of villains to contend with even though their level of villainy ranks low for one and somewhat high for another given the legend. For Wind in the Willows, our villain is the bartender Mr. Winky who sells his car to Toad for his home only to accuse him of trying to sell him a stolen car, and he lavishes in his plot until he is discovered and Toad is acquitted. Winky also has a gang of weasels as his henchmen though as we see, they are not too good at their job as they fail to stop Toad and his friends from escaping the home with the deed. On the other side in the legend of Sleepy Hollow, we have the Headless Horseman who stalks Ichabod though we never actually know if he captures Ichabod or if Ichabod manages to escape. We could also make a case for Brom Bones due to trying to get Ichabod out of the picture and take Katrina’s hand, but he didn’t quite make the cut since he was for the most part a nice guy until he tried to woo Katrina away from Ichabod. Much like the other villains from the package films, these villains are more than likely not going to rank high against the other villains from the Disney film canon.
Other Characters: As per the usual when it comes to these package films, we have a set of characters that are set to their specific story and don’t intertwine with each other during the film. Obviously when dealing with two well known stories like the Wind in the Willows and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, these are very familiar characters and you are not introducing new ones to the stories. For the Wind in the Willows, we of course have our main character J. Thaddeus Toad who suffers from mania and his friends Agnus MacBadger, Rat, and Mole who try to help him overcome his mania and then eventually help prove his innocence. We also have the various humans in the story such as the judge, the prosecutor, the police, etc. though they end up playing a very small role in the story. For the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, we have our main character Ichabod Crane who arrives to be the new schoolteacher and is incredibly superstitious, and he falls in love with Katrina though mainly desires her family’s fortune. We also have the aforementioned Katrina who is the daughter of Baltus van Tassel, the richest man in the village and all the men in the village pine over her, especially Ichabod and Brom who try to win her love. We also have the various townspeople of Sleepy Hollow who fill out the background and have mixed feelings about Ichabod with some making fun of him and others becoming friendly with him. It is interesting in that both stories had specific characters that were focused on and the rest were mainly used as background players, but it works since the stories focused on those specific characters.
Songs: Unlike the previous package films, we didn’t have as many songs in this film as the two stories didn’t seem to merit having songs with them. In fact, the Wind in the Willows doesn’t have any songs with it aside from some background noise, but like the previous package films we have a title song for the film though most of the focus was on Ichabod and not Mr. Toad. We also had a trilogy of songs during the Legend of Sleepy Hollow sung by Bing Crosby and they were basically about Ichabod, Katrina, and the Headless Horseman and were named aptly. As I have mentioned in the previous package films, these songs will not rank very high amongst a lot of the other songs in the Disney film canon and these songs in particular may actually rank near the bottom which is saying something.
Plot: Unlike the previous package films which were mainly musical pieces set to animation, here we have two very well known stories brought to life through animation with a brief live-action scene in the middle bridging the gap between them. We first have the classic story of the Wind in the Willows which tells of J. Thaddeus Toad who is irresponsible due to his various manias, and his friends Agnus MacBadger, Rat, and Mole try to reel him in during his manias until he is arrested for allegedly stealing a car and they have to clear his name. On the other side of the coin is the legend of Sleepy Hollow which tells the story of schoolteacher Ichabod Crane who is stalked by the Headless Horseman. Both stories were pretty well known by this point and this happened to be the first film adaptation of Wind in the Willows while it was also only the second adaptation of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and you could say that they served as the basis for future adaptations of both stories in the future.
Random Watching Thoughts: Even a film like this has to have its own theme song, now they are just reaching for straws at this point; Fun fact: Disney had been wanting to do a film adaptation of Wind and the Willows since the late 30s which is interesting to think about, and it was originally going to be paired with “Mickey and the Beanstalk”; The narrator runs down all these famous English characters and then he decides to go with Mr. Toad; Quite the menagerie of friends to have in a badger, a rat, and a mole; It is always unique to see animals who can talk and live like humans actually interacting with real humans like it is normal; Mr. Toad managed to acquire himself a fine establishment for a home; Leave it to a badger to be hired on as a bookkeeper for a toad; Not only is he a badger, but a Scottish badger on top of that; So basically Toad in essence had A.D.D. before it was even around to be diagnosed; Rat and Mole look like they were loosely based on Abbott and Costello; Toad says he’ll never give up his horse and cart only to quickly become obsessed with a motor car; Is there any mania that could be considered “positive mania”?; Rat somehow neglected to think that even by locking Toad in his room that he could still escape via the window; This is perhaps the speediest trial in history; Was it wise to have Toad act as his own defense counsel?; So the only way a gentleman can get anything is the honest way; The weasels were quick to hide and draw their guns when they heard Toad ask who owned the car; That must be the most valuable car ever if he was willing to sell Toad Hall for it; Mr. Winky was super quick to sell out Toad by saying that he stole the car even after Toad pumped him up for his honesty; You would’ve thought Toad had committed the worst crime in the world with the punishment he was given; That is the ugliest dress I have ever seen that Cyril is wearing; So Toad vowed to be a reformed toad only to resort back to his mania when he is given the chance to escape; Just what Toad needed to have another mania about, conducting trains; Those must be some powerful pistols they are shooting if they can reach Toad’s train that fast; Lack of logic here as Toad looks like he is drowning yet as an amphibian he can breathe underwater; What dumb luck that Mole prays for Toad to get out early for good behavior yet he shows up at their doorstep having escaped from prison; Rat was willing to pray for Toad yet was willing to give Toad up when they thought the police were at their door; Toad was quick to nearly ruin their plan by shooting at the weasel guarding the river; Kind of radical for an animated film to show the weasels drinking and then passed out; Of all the people to pick to lower down and get the deed, they had to pick the heaviest one in Mole; Bowling for weasels featuring Mole; Needless to say, the weasels aren’t the best henchmen in the world; The narrator puts Toad over as a reformed toad only to reveal that he hasn’t changed at all when he comes in on a plane; I do like the transition from the English literature to the American literature while staying in the same study; I don’t know if I would want to live in a town that is best known for superstitions and spooky tales; Brom Bones just sounds like the name of the town bully even though this one wasn’t; Sleepy Hollow must not get too many people roaming through if they’ve never seen anyone like Ichabod Crane; They make Ichabod like such a womanizer and yet he looks nothing of the sort; When in any type of movie do you hear a woman being described as “plump as a partridge”?; Katrina was quite the flirt toying with all those men like that; Ichabod quickly let his classroom descend to madness as he became infatuated with Katrina; So we find out that Ichabod is more in love with the money that comes from Katrina’s farm than Katrina herself; Ichabod must either be very lucky or Brom is just very unlucky, or perhaps it’s a little bit of both; Not to jump too far ahead, but Brom looks very suspiciously like a Disney villain we will see in the future, I leave it to you to determine who that might be; That is a pretty low thing for Brom to do to scare Ichabod like that knowing that he is very superstitious, and then all the townspeople and even Katrina join in while poor Ichabod looks petrified to death; Wouldn’t Ichabod want to find a different way to get home?; Forget the Headless Horseman finding him, poor Ichabod looks like he’s about to keel over from a heart attack anytime now; Ichabod went from being completely scared to laughing like crazy when he saw it was the cattails simulating the hooves; Here’s a question, was that supposed to be Brom as the Headless Horseman or is this a case where the legend actually exists?; Did anyone actually stop and think about how the Headless Horseman could be alive if he has no head?; Of all the things to strip the Horseman of his power, it’s crossing a bridge; Katrina moved on pretty quick from Ichabod to Brom; Funny to think that the townsfolk thought Ichabod in essence faked his own death to move onto another town and start a new family.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, we seemingly managed to save the best for last because this was easily the best of the package films, and as a film itself it was pretty good and was entertaining. Obviously, part of the enjoyment is that as I mentioned these two stories were pretty well-known at this point so it was cool seeing them visually adapted, and it was better than the previous package films which just had a bunch of animated segments with no real flow to them. This decade has been a trying one for Disney as they started pretty strong, but then World War II threw a lot of wrenches into the mix and they ended up having to sacrifice some quality just so they could save money and get to the end of the decade. As we embark on the 1950s, we will see how they get back on track now that they can focus on some of the ideas that they had to shelve briefly due to the war and if they will be successful. As for this film, it was a very solid film that closes out the package film era on a slightly strong note amazingly enough.
Final Grade: 6.5/10