Just to recap the movies done so far:
#14 Peter Pan
#17 One Hundred and One Dalmatians
#25 The Black Cauldron
#44 Brother Bear
During the 1940s Disney released several "package films," movies that were made up of two or more shorter narratives rather than a single, full-length film. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was the last of these films, and starred the twin talents of Bing Crosby and Basil Rathbone. My mother always liked the story of The Wind in the Willows, but the difficulty of obtaining this film (it wasn't released on VHS until I was well into high school) meant that although I'd seen several film versions of the story, I hadn't seen Disney's version until I sat down to watch it with Seanie today. As for the Sleepy Hollow segment, I had seen part of the Headless Horseman's scenes in Disney's Halloween Treat as a child, but that was it.
Pairing these particular stories together is kind of random. I mean, they're both popular stories for children but as far as I know that's the only thing that really connects them. *shrug* The Mr. Toad short is shown first, followed by Sleepy Hollow.
The Adventures of Mr. Toad takes Kenneth Grahame's original story and chops it to little bits. It's narrated by Basil Rathbone, famous then and now for his multiple portrayals of Sherlock Holmes, and adds a new animal character in the form of Cyril Proudbottom, a horse as reckless and calculating as Toad himself. There's only one song, "Nowhere in Particular," which Toad sings with Cyril as they run across the English countryside getting into mischief. The story is super-condensed so every scene feels rushed.
I'm trying to think about what I can say about the movie. I wasn't impressed with it. The characters are pretty bland and two-dimensional. Even the way the characters look was disappointing - look at Toad! He's an odd misshapen pink creature, to be sure, and if someone showed me a drawing of him, independent of context, I'm not sure I'd get 'toad' out of it.
When I watched this movie, I didn't think the production value was noticeably higher than Disney's TV cartoon shorts; maybe that's why I felt so disappointed with it. For a studio that I expect animation innovation from, this was...just blah.
The second film, based on Washington Irving's American classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, follows its source material closely and thus has a stronger plot and better characters. It's also much more experimental; there's very little character dialogue. Bing Crosby narrates and sings the songs - to his fans, I'm sure that's a bonus, but his voice always makes me very sleepy and I nearly nodded off at the beginning, as we watch Ichabod flirt with Katrina.
Ichabod. Oh, Ichabod. Was there ever a more awkward-looking man? He makes me think of a turtle with his long neck and tendency to retract himself into his huge green coat, but that huge hawk-like nose! He's so ugly...eew. Sorry, I know he's not supposed to be handsome but his character design really bugged me.
So the chase between the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane is pretty cool; the best animation in this entire movie is the Horseman and at times the dark shadows can make for some scary sequences. It would have made a pretty awesome Disney ride; I wonder why they don't have a 'Sleepy Hollow' dark attraction at the theme parks? Anyway...
The first three-quarters of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is pretty darn forgettable. I mean, there's a reason it took so long for these films to be released on DVD. They were made on a reduced WWII budget, and it shows. The backgrounds lack the lush detail so characteristic of other films, and to me the animation just looks more like Saturday morning cartoons, not a full-blown movie feature. With the exception of the Headless Horseman, I doubt I'll remember anything from these movies in a few months.
3 stars out of 10 for being generic and mediocre.
Just for fun, one of the songs from the 1996 Wind in the Willows movie. Nostalgia Critic recently ranked it in one of his Top 11 Villain Songs, and as I was writing about The Adventures of Mr. Toad I kept thinking about how much better I found the live action film: