The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is a 1949 American animated package film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The film consists of two segments—the first of which is based on the 1908 children's novel The Wind in the Willows by Scottish author Kenneth Grahame, and the second is based on the 1820 short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", called Ichabod Crane in the film, by American author Washington Irving.
|The Adventures of Ichabod and|
Original theatrical release poster
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Music by||Oliver Wallace|
|Edited by||John O. Young|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Box office||$1,625,000 (worldwide rentals)|
The film is the 11th Disney animated feature film, and the last of the studio's package film era of the 1940s, following Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun and Fancy Free, and Melody Time, until The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in March 1977.
Beginning in 1955, the two portions of the film were separated, and televised as part of the Disneyland television series. They were later marketed and sold separately on home video.
As the film's animated segments are based on literary works, they are both introduced in live-action scenes set in a library as a framing device. The first segment is introduced and narrated by Basil Rathbone, and the second segment is introduced and narrated by Bing Crosby. Decca Records issued an album called Ichabod – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow featuring Crosby in 1949 to tie in with the release of the film.
The Wind in the Willows
This segment is based on The Wind in the Willows (1908) by Kenneth Grahame. The story is set in and around London, England, United Kingdom between June 10, 1907 and January 1, 1908. The protagonist J. Thaddeus Toad, Esq. is introduced as an "incurable adventurer" who "never counted the cost". As the story's "one disturbing element", although he is the wealthy proprietor of the Toad Hall estate, Toad's adventures and "positive mania for fads" have brought him to the brink of bankruptcy. As a last resort, Toad's friend Angus MacBadger volunteers as Toad's bookkeeper to help Toad keep his estate which is a source of pride in the community.
One summer day, MacBadger asks Toad's friends Ratty (a water rat) and Moley (a mole) to persuade Toad to give up his latest mania of recklessly driving about the countryside in a horse and gypsy cart, which could accumulate a great deal of financial liability in damaged property. Ratty and Moley confront Toad, but are unable to change his mind. Toad then sees a motor car for the first time and becomes entranced by the new machine, having been taken over by "motor-mania."
To cure Toad's new mania, Ratty and Moley put Toad under house arrest. However, Toad escapes and is later arrested and charged with car theft. At his trial, Toad represents himself and calls his horse Cyril Proudbottom as his first witness. Cyril testifies that the car which Toad was accused of stealing had already been stolen by a gang of weasels. Toad had entered a tavern where the car was parked and offered to buy the car from the weasels. However, since Toad had no money, he instead offered to trade Toad Hall for the car. The prosecutor and judge show disbelief toward the statement, so Toad then calls the bartender Mr. Winky as a witness to the agreement; however, when told by Toad to explain what actually happened, Winky falsely testifies that Toad had tried to sell him the stolen car. Toad is found guilty on the spot and sentenced to 20 years in the Tower of London. As the months passed by, Toad's friends make every effort to appeal his case, but to no avail.
On Christmas Eve, Cyril visits Toad in disguise as his grandmother and helps him escape by giving him a disguise of his own. Toad quickly runs to a railway station and hijacks a Train Engine and drives out of the station heading toward the river bank without getting caught by the police on another Engine. Meanwhile, MacBadger discovers that Winky is the leader of the weasel gang, and that they have indeed taken over Toad Hall; Winky himself is in possession of the deed. Knowing that the deed bearing Toad and Winky's signature would prove Toad's innocence, the four friends sneak into Toad Hall and take the document after a grueling chase around the estate.
The film then ends on New Year's Day with Toad exonerated and regaining his house while it is implied that Winky and his minions have been arrested and imprisoned. As MacBadger, Ratty, and Moley celebrate the New Year with a toast to Toad, who they believe has completely reformed, Toad and Cyril recklessly fly past on a 1903 Wright Flyer; Toad has not truly reformed and has developed a mania for airplanes.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The second segment is based on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving. Although the film introduces the story as Ichabod Crane, later individual releases retained the story's original title. (As a short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was originally published in The Sketch Book with other stories, not as a single volume as pictured in the film.)
In October 1790, Ichabod Crane, a lanky, gluttonous, superstitious yet charming dandy arrives in Sleepy Hollow, New York, a small village north of Tarrytown and New York City, New York, United States that is renowned for its ghostly hauntings, to be the town's new schoolmaster. Despite his odd behavior, appearance, and effeminate mannerisms, Ichabod soon wins the hearts of the village's women and forms good friendships with his students. Brom Bones, the roguish town hero, does his best to bully Ichabod. However, he is very good at ignoring these taunts and continues to interact with the townspeople. Ichabod then falls in love with Katrina van Tassel, the beautiful daughter and only child of Baltus van Tassel, who is the richest man in the village (unlike in most films, Katrina does not have spoken dialogue in this segment). Despite the fact that he is falling in love with her, Ichabod mainly desires to take her family's money for himself. Brom, who is also in love with her, proceeds to compete with the schoolmaster. Ichabod wins Katrina over at every opportunity, although, unbeknownst to him, Katrina, who thinks Brom is too sure of himself, is only using Ichabod to make Brom jealous and force him to try harder for her affections.
The two love rivals are invited to the van Tassel Halloween party where Brom tries to swap a plump woman for Katrina who is dancing with Ichabod but comically fails. While both men dine, Brom catches Ichabod accidentally knocking the salt shaker over and nervously tossing salt over his shoulder. Discovering that Ichabod is superstitious, he decides to sing the tale of the legendary Headless Horseman who was apparently killed by a cannonball in a recent conflict and travels one night each year while searching for a head to replace the one he had lost and that the only way to escape the ghost is to cross an old covered bridge over a brook. Everyone else, including Katrina, finds this amusing while Ichabod, on the other hand, starts to fear for his life.
On his way home from the party, Ichabod becomes paranoid by every animal noise he hears while riding through the dark woods, increasing his fear of the possibility of encountering the Horseman. While traveling through the old cemetery, Ichabod believes he hears the sound of a horse galloping toward him, but discovers the sound is being made by nearby cattails bumping on a log. Relieved, Ichabod begins to laugh with his horse. However, their laughter is cut short by the appearance of the real Headless Horseman riding a black horse (that is, suspiciously, identical to Brom's horse). After the ghost gives chase through the dark forest, Ichabod, remembering Brom's advice, crosses a covered bridge, which stops the ghost's pursuit. However, the horseman throws his flaming head, revealed to be a great big jack-o'-lantern, at a screaming Ichabod from a first-person camera view. Flames appear and the screen dissolves to black.
The next morning, Ichabod's hat is found at the bridge next to the Headless Horseman's shattered pumpkin, but Ichabod is nowhere to be found. Sometime later, Brom takes Katrina as his bride and they marry. Rumors begin to spread that Ichabod is still alive, married to a wealthy widow in a distant county with children who all look like him. However, the people of Sleepy Hollow insist that he has been "spirited away" by the Headless Horseman.
- Bing Crosby as Ichabod Crane/Brom Bones/Narrator (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
- Basil Rathbone as Narrator/Policeman (The Wind in the Willows)
- Eric Blore as J. Thaddeus Toad
- J. Pat O'Malley as Cyril Proudbottom
- John McLeish as Prosecutor
- Colin Campbell as Moley
- Campbell Grant as Angus MacBadger
- Claude Allister as Ratty
- The Rhythmaires
- Pinto Colvig as Ichabod Crane screaming
- Leslie Dennison as Judge/Weasel #1
- Clarence Nash as Ichabod's horse
- Edmond Stevens as Weasel #2
- Ollie Wallace as Mr. Winky
- Billy Bletcher as the Headless Horseman
In 1938, shortly after the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, James Bodrero and Campbell Grant pitched to Walt Disney the idea of making a feature film of Kenneth Grahame's 1908 children's book The Wind in the Willows. Bodrero and Grant felt that The Wind in the Willows, with its anthropomorphized animals, could only be produced using animation. To persuade Disney to approve the film, Bodrero and Grant prepared a Leica reel, which combined storyboard stills with rough dialogue performed by members of the animation staff. Disney was skeptical, however, and felt it would be "awful corny", but acquired the rights in April that year. The film was intended to be a single narrative feature film with the title of the same name.
After some delays due to story rewrites, James Algar was appointed to direct the film. By April 1941, work on The Wind in the Willows had begun as animators and writers had come off from Bambi, which was nearly complete. When the Disney animators' strike was finished in October 1941, Joe Rosenberg of the Bank of America issued an ultimatum in which he would permit an absolute loan limit of $3.5 million, and in return, he ordered the studio to restrict itself to producing animation shorts and to finish features already in production — Dumbo, Bambi, and The Wind in the Willows — but no other feature film would begin work until they had been released and earned back their costs. In response, the studio's feature film production, including early versions of Alice in Wonderland and Lady and the Tramp, were heavily scaled back while The Wind in the Willows was kept in production as animation work had already begun. However, after reviewing the animation footage, Disney decided to shelve the project deciding that "the quality was too far below the standard necessary to be successful on the market."
The Wind in the Willows resumed production in 1946. Following his military service in World War II, animator Frank Thomas was assigned to direct additional footage for Wind in the Willows alongside James Algar in hopes of salvaging the project. Under Walt's strict orders, the film was shortened down to a length of 25 minutes. However, the project was shelved again following layoffs in August 1946. Meanwhile, in December 1946, Disney started production on a new animated feature film, an adaptation of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", which was to be co-directed by Jack Kinney and Clyde Geronimi.
Around this same time, there were plans developed to combine The Wind in the Willows with The Legend of Happy Valley and The Gremlins, an original story developed by author Roald Dahl, into a package film titled Three Fabulous Characters. When The Gremlins failed to materialize, the title was changed to Two Fabulous Characters. Then, The Legend of Happy Valley was cut from the project in favor of pairing it with Bongo in which the two shorts were incorporated under the title Fun and Fancy Free, which was eventually released in 1947. In late 1947, Disney decided to pair The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with The Wind in the Willows into a singular package film as neither part was long enough to be a feature film. The new film was later given its final title The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Well-known celebrities Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby were cast as narrators in order to provide mass audience appeal.
The New York Times praised the film, saying that "Mr. Disney, abetted by his staff, such perfect narrators as Bing Crosby and Basil Rathbone, and a pair of durable literary works, has fashioned a conclave of cartoon creatures, which, by and large, have the winsome qualities and charm of such noted creations as Mickey Mouse, Dumbo, et al." Life wrote that Disney's adaptation of The Wind in the Willows "leaves out the poetry and most of the subtlety, but it still has enough action for the children and wit enough for everybody. It is deft and pleasant, and throughout, ironic and goodhearted. Although the Ichabod part of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is silly and bumbling, Mr. Toad's half is good enough to convince Disney admirers that the old master can still display the bounce and vitality he had before the war." Time particularly praised the first half, writing, "This lighthearted, fast-moving romp has inspired some of Disney's most inventive draftsmanship and satire."
Disney film historian and film critic Leonard Maltin, writing in his book The Disney Films, wrote that the film was "one of Disney's most beguiling animated features: The Wind in the Willows in particular has some of the finest work the studio ever did." Altogether, he claimed "these sequences form a most engaging feature, with as the saying goes, something for everyone. The half-hour length seems ideal for each of the stories, with neither a feeling of abruptness, nor a hint of padding to reach that length. And somehow the two tales seem to complement each other quite well, providing an interesting contrast, notable in style and execution, and more obviously in the change of narrator." M. Faust of Common Sense Media gave the film five out of five stars, writing, "Two classic stories told in the best Disney style". On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad has an approval rating of 93%, based on 14 reviews, with an average score of 7.25/10. Its consensus states "This Disney two-fer may not be the most reverent literary adaptation, but it's remarkably crafted and emotionally resonant."
- Golden Globe Awards
- Best Cinematography Color – Won
The Mr. Toad segment of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was first screened on television, in edited form, as part of the inaugural season of the Disneyland anthology series, on February 2, 1955, under the title The Wind in the Willows. It was paired with an edited version of Disney's The Reluctant Dragon due to the fact that both cartoons are based on stories by author Kenneth Grahame. The Ichabod segment of the film had its television premiere during the following season of TV's Disneyland, on October 26, 1955, under the title The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Notably, for this airing of Sleepy Hollow and subsequent reruns, a new 14-minute animated prologue was added, recounting the life of Washington Irving, the story's author. This prologue has never been released on home media.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was released on its own to theaters as a 33-minute featurette in September 1963. This was the same edit presented on the Disneyland television series, minus the 14-minute prologue and the Walt Disney live-action host segments. Similarly, in 1978, the Wind in the Willows segment of the original film was re-released to theaters under the new title The Madcap Adventures of Mr. Toad to accompany Disney's feature film Hot Lead and Cold Feet.
Once it was split into two segments for airing on the Disneyland television series, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was not available for viewing in its original form for many years thereafter, but was instead screened as two individual items. When first released on home video, the segments retained their names from the Disneyland series (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Wind in the Willows, respectively), having taken their names from the original stories.
Some of the scenes were cut when the segments were split up for home video release. For example:
- The Wind in the Willows
- Part of the introduction was cut because of the new music added.
- The scene where MacBadger confronts the angry townspeople who are suing Toad.
- The newspaper scene regarding Toad's disgrace was shortened by removing the newspaper articles of his friends' attempts to reopen his case.
- When Toad realizes he is underwater after unknowingly jumping into a river to elude the police pursuing him, there is a brief full-body scene of Toad frantically trying to pull out the ball-and-chain he is shackled to out of the floor of the river.
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
- The only thing that was cut was the introduction in the bookcases.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad received its first complete home video release in the UK in 1991 and in the US in 1992, when it was released by Walt Disney Home Video on LaserDisc. A subsequent complete release on VHS followed in 1999 as the last title in the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection line. In 2000, it appeared on DVD for the first time as part of the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection line.
The 1963 theatrical version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was released on VHS in 1982, 1990, and 1994. The 1978 theatrical version of The Wind in the Willows was released on VHS in 1982, 1988, and 1996. This same version of The Wind in the Willows was issued on DVD for the first time in 2009, as part of the fifth volume of the Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films series. Both had been released to video separately in the US in the early 1980s as white clamshell releases even though Fun and Fancy Free had been released in its entirety around the same time.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was released on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and in a two film collection with Fun and Fancy Free on August 12, 2014. It was also released as solely on Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy combo and a stand-alone DVD exclusively to Walmart stores.
The film was available to stream on Disney+ when the service launched on November 12, 2019.
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