Disney’s “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad” (1949)

Image: Disney, Wikipedia.org

…And now we come to the last of the Package Films, and one of the most well-known, “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”.

I haven’t seen them both in quite a while so let’s see if they stack up…

First, is “The Wind in the Willows”:

PLOT –

J. Thaddeus Toad (Toad from now on) has an addiction to cars – motormania, and his friends, Ratty, Moley, and MacBadger lock him inside his room to cure it. However, when he is framed for car theft, it’s up to the four to clear his name.

The plot is actually paced pretty well, with the plot following basic story structures of rising action, low points, high points, and climactic scenes. Nothing to complain about, with no scenes that stuck out badly, and with tension near the end. The stakes are clearly set, and the stakes are actually pretty high in this film.

My PLOT RATING for “THE WIND AND THE WILLOWS” is 4 / 5.

CHARACTERS –

Toad (Eric Blore) is a fun character. He’s incredibly selfish, but it’s fun watching him go, even as he racks up property damage, and his way of tricking others to get what he wants is always good for a laugh. In a way, I feel like he was holding back, but with a little more oomph to his delivery, he could be slightly more interesting to watch. Toad is manic, but he should be really out there and just plain insane here.

Ratty (Claud Allister), Moley (Colin Campbell), and MacBadger (Campbell Grant), are kind of just… There, to keep Toad in line, but they don’t really serve a purpose other than getting Toad out of a jam. Ratty is stuffy, Moley is meek and kind, and MacBadger is frustrated and grumpy, and that’s basically what you’ll get here.

The villains, namely the weasels and Mr. Winkie (Ollie Wallace), are all charismatic and underhanded. technically, Toad and the villains are all selfish and underhanded, but the weasels and Mr. Winkie moreso. They basically serve as a threat at the end and provide a pretty raucous chase scene. While he isn’t really a villain and more of an antagonist, the Prosecutor (John McLeish) is fun to watch as he questions the protagonists (he’s also a memorable part of the Wild Toad ride at Disneyland where they literally make him a devil, but that’s neither here nor there).

Cyril Proudbottom (J. Pat O’Malley), the horse, however, is the best character. While everyone else seems normal or somewhat unrestrained, Cyril gets not only the best line, but the most consistent character. He’s cooky, speaks with a cockney accent, and just steals the show. He is the most cartoony character here, when Toad should be, and I just find that weird.

My CHARACTERS RATING for “THE WIND AND THE WILLOWS” is 3 / 5.

DIALOGUE –

The dialogue in this is the best. You know each character from the dialogue, and it helps move the story along organically. The humans communicating with animals isn’t even questioned, and the conversations between characters moves along at a quick clip. The dialogue in this is great, and Cyril gets the best exchange when being questioned with the prosecutor. All of the dialogue is smartly written, and just brilliant.

My DIALOGUE RATING for “THE WIND AND THE WILLOWS” is 5 / 5.

EFFECTS –

The effects in this are really good, namely the smoke effects and lighting effects, but nothing truly special is done with them. There are some good scenes in darkness that work well, but are undone by other scenes in the same lighting. With more polish, the lighting effects truly could have shined.

My EFFECTS RATING for “THE WIND AND THE WILLOWS” is 3 / 5.

MUSIC –

The music in this film is quite memorable, as someone who goes on the Disneyland ride each time he visits the Happiest Place on Earth. “The Merrily Song” is awesome in this, a bombastic romp through the countryside (and the lawns of others), with Toad and Cyril singing their hearts out. The rest of the score is standard, yet competent.

My MUSIC RATING for “THE WIND AND THE WILLOWS” is 4 / 5.

“THE WIND AND THE WILLOWS” OVERALL –

“The Wind and the Willows” is surprisingly good. The dialogue is excellent, the music and plot are great, yet the effects and characters are just missing a certain charm and charisma to them. I really did like this film more than I thought I would and it’s worth the watch.

My OVERALL RATING for “THE WIND AND THE WILLOWS” is 76%

And now for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”…

PLOT –

Selfish and superstitious schoolmaster Ichabod Crane attracts positive attention from the townsfolk of Sleepy Hollow and the eye of one wealthy Katrina Van Tassel. His romantic rival, Brom Bones, tries to scare him off with the story of the “Headless Horseman”, a spirit looking to replace his head with yours. When riding home that night, Ichabod comes in contact with the Horseman, and his survival stands a ghost of a chance!

The plot moves along at a slower clip, and the songs interrupt it, instead of flowing with it. There are places where the film takes it’s time, but I found myself wondering when the Horseman would show up. The build up to him and the song before it are both when the story finally gets good, but the rest is setup, if needed setup to build the relationships through the film, but by the end, these relationships don’t even matter at all. You could start the film from the last song and not really miss or care about the rest.

My PLOT RATING for “THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW” is 3 / 5.

CHARACTERS –

In this segment, he characters are here to fulfill a structure, as opposed to being characters for themselves. The hero (Ichabod), the villain (Brom), and the love interest (Katrina) are all here… Except they’re all incredibly selfish people. No one is redeemable.

Katrina wants the attention of all the men in town so she doesn’t have to lift a finger. Ichabod wants whoever will give him the most, and Brom just wants to spite Ichabod and marry Katrina (yet he is the least awful, possibly actually loving her), and the Horseman…

We’re all here for the Horseman. He’s the best part of this and steals every scene he’s in. The evil laugh (actually a stock sound effect with an unknown source. Good.), the cape billowing in the wind, his jet-black red-eyed horse, sword, and skull-like pumpkin, are all iconic, add to his menace and are just plain cool. The Horseman is the only “evil” character (and a theory speculates that the Horseman is Brom Bones in costume) in this segment, and even then, he’s just trying to get… A head in life!

I must say, watching this as a child and an adult is remarkable. As a child, there are clear-cut good and bad characters. Watching this as an adult, everyone has a grey-coded morality as opposed to black or white. This just makes the characters even more interesting in the long run, as it prompts the question of who you are rooting for after the closing credits.

The Narrator (Bing Crosby, who voices everyone else as well) is somewhat humorous, and provides the singing and speaking voices for most characters, and the only voice in general. He works at lowering his voice for some characters and this kind of threw me off for a moment. He does a pretty good job.

My CHARACTERS RATING for “THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW” is 4 / 5.

DIALOGUE –

The Narrator provides all of the dialogue, and it’s good, but not ground-breaking. He has a few moments where he has a joke or two, and it is kind of impressive that he voices everyone here, but with little variation to his voice aside from a pitch drop here and there. He’s also voiced by Bing Crosby, which is pretty awesome.

My DIALOGUE RATING for “THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW” is 4 / 5.

EFFECTS –

The effects are gorgeous. Color palette backgrounds for some scenes, beautiful countrysides for others, and lighting effects and shadows that truly shine. The fire effects on the pumpkin and everything about the horseman are top notch, and the timing of the visual gags and elements of the first half are all perfect.

My DIALOGUE RATING for “THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW” is 5 / 5.

MUSIC –

The music is particularly good here. Bing Crosby busts some pipes singing here, and the songs are memorable and catchy. Even the whistling Ichabod does is catchy, and the score is kinetic during fast gag scenes. The music also provides mood during the end of the segment during the Horseman sequence, climactic and roaring as it should be.

My MUSIC RATING for “THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW” is 5 / 5.

“THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW” OVERALL –

So, this is somehow worse than I had anticipated, as most of the runtime is just waiting on the end to happen. That being said, this segment does raise the ethical question of what character is in the right by the end. The plot, characters, and dialogue are all pretty standard (an extra point for Bing, though, and possibly the coolest and scariest Disney Villain here) and the music and effects are expertly crafted.

My OVERALL RATING for “THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW” is 84%.

“THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD” OVERALL –

These films both work together as an autumnal viewing, possibly late September or early October. They’re the most memorable of the Package Films, mostly because they have longer runtimes. These films deserve those runtimes however, both having somewhat fleshed out and interesting characters, pretty good plots, excellent-to-boilerplate-dialogue and effects, and memorable iconic music. They both have scene-stealing characters as well, and the autumn / end of the year vibe reminds one that this is the last of the–

THIS IS THE LAST OF THE PACKAGE FILMS!!!

Wow! That was a blast to do! A bit of an uphill battle, but worth it. It’s smooth sailing from here on out! Why, I think I’ll celebrate! I’ll get some slippers! Nah, that’s too simple… I know! I’ll get them made out of glass!

Image: Disney, Disneyhistoryinstitute.com

My OVERALL RATING for “THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD” is 80%

Stay tuned!

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