Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 8 minutes
MPAA Rating: G
Directed by: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi & James Algar
Written by: Erdman Penner, Winston Hibler, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, Homer Brightman & Harry Reeves
(based on the novel THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame and the short story THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW by Washington Irving)
Voices of: Bing Crosby, Basil Rathbone, Eric Blore, Claude Allister, Colin Campbell & Campbell Grant
Aside from releasing well-known animated classics, Disney’s early years also consisted of animated packages. These were anthology films made up of various cartoon segments and included the likes of FANTASIA, FUN & FANCY FREE and, of course, THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD & MR. TOAD. Originally, Disney worked on feature-length versions of both THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS as well as LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW. When both of those projects suffered from various difficulties, the studio took the slightly shortened versions of both and crammed them together into one movie. Even with this dual combination, ICHABOD & MR. TOAD only runs slightly over an hour in length, but what a fun hour it is!
THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS: The first story concerns a trio of animal friends (Rat, Mole and Badger) trying to keep Mr. Toad from ruining his name. Toad Hall was once the pinnacle of their little community, but due to expensive adventures (as well as a new fascination over an automobile), Mr. Toad has been running his name (and finances) into the ground. When a crooked bartender and a band of nefarious weasels frame Toad for a crime he didn’t commit, it’s up to his trio of animal pals to clear his name.
Apparently, Walt Disney wasn’t necessarily sold on the idea of turning WIND IN THE WILLOWS into a feature and I can’t say that I blame him. The idea of anthropomorphic animals seems instantly corny and that’s definitely the case with parts of this segment. In spite of a few cheesy moments, there are plenty of jokes that work and the visual spectacle of it all is worth a watch alone. The showdown at Toad Hall between the pack of weasels and the animal group is still just as exciting and hilarious as it was in its heyday. Also, the character design of Winky is very memorable. This segment is the lesser of the two, but still holds up as a lot of fun. B+
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW: Honestly, I would have loved for Disney to produce a feature-length version of SLEEPY HOLLOW. As it stands, this segment (which runs about 30 minutes) is one of their strongest shorts ever. The story follows Ichabod Crane, a new schoolmaster in Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod is a gluttonous man who manages to maintain an ultra-skinny frame and woos every woman in the small town. All the care of these women set aside, Ichabod aims to win the heart of the beautiful Katrina van Tassel, much to the dismay of Brom Bones (the town bully). However, a ghost story emerges in a way that benefits Brom and terrifies Ichabod.
While WIND IN THE WILLOWS had a lot of dialogue with a bit of narration by Basil Rathbone, SLEEPY HOLLOW has very little dialogue and mostly relies on fantastic narration from Bing Crosby. You might think that a story being told in this style could get boring, but this old-fashioned approach works like a charm. It certainly helps that a handful of songs are very catchy as well. The solid, spooky atmosphere makes SLEEPY HOLLOW one cartoon that’s well worth sticking in every October. The finale in which Ichabod is chased through the woods by the Headless Horseman stands as one of Disney’s creepiest scenes. There is quite a lot of suspense being built that only heightens the intensity of that climactic sequence. I imagine that this ending terrified a lot of children who innocently just wanted to watch a cute, little cartoon. That’s a very big positive in my mind too. A little scare can ignite a child’s imagination with a much-needed spark. A+
Out of all of Disney’s animated packages, ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD still holds up as my favorite. WIND IN THE WILLOWS is goofy fun with great animation, even if it’s a tad corny. However, LEGEND OF THE SLEEPY HOLLOW steals the show and closes everything out on a decidedly eerie note. If you haven’t seen either of these shorts, I highly suggest checking this film out. If you have, you probably know that this vintage Disney package only gets better with age.