Now I can start reviewing Disney movies that people have actually seen again.
- While I’m sure quite a few people have seen the Disney adaptations of Sleepy Hollow or Wind in the Willows growing up, I doubt many kids knew they used to belong together as one complete theatrical film. Personally, I only ever saw Wind in the Willows growing up back when it was on its own separate VHS tape at a rental shop. I knew what Sleepy Hollow was, but I wasn’t interested in checking it out at the time, so this is my first time seeing the other half of the last semi-forgotten Disney animated film.
- Okay yes, I know there are some more on the horizon, but let’s ignore that detail and get onto talking about Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
- As you’d expect, the film is basically these two shorts smushed together into an hour-long theatrical piece with the connection for this go-around being two creepy unseen narrators reading their own favorite tales to us and why they prefer characters like Mr. Toad to more classy choices like Robin Hood. We start off with Wind in the Willows, a story about an eccentric toad named…well…Toad and how his obsession over the latest trends gets him in trouble when he ends up trading the deed to his mansion for a motorcar that ends up being reported stolen. When it turns out the dude he traded the deed to is a crook with a gang of weasels at his disposal, Toad must escape from prison and enlist the help of his friends in order to clear his name and get back his rich lifestyle.
- After that, you’ve got the story of Sleepy Hollow, which is about a lanky bastard named Ichabod Crane as he competes with a local bully for the hand of one of the richest girls in the neighborhood, only to be confronted by the headless horseman on his way home from a party and disappeared from the village forever. And before anyone gets any ideas, the film’s narrator flat-out states that Ichabod was looking forward to being wealthy after the lady’s dad kicks the bucket, so I feel no shame in insulting the dude. It is kinda interesting that Disney made him such a bastard given how Sleepy Hollow interpretations usually are, but I hope no one expected me to be crying when that pumpkin came at him.
- Both tales are enjoyable romps that make the most of their shot timespans, telling us everything we need in order to understand the characters and what’s going on whilst pleasing the eyes with some good visual comedy or creepy headless animation. Not to mention the final climaxes of Wind in the Willows and Sleepy Hollow are pretty intense in their own ways. The former is a big slapstick comedy where every single character beats the shit out of each other trying to get a piece of paper. The latter is a sorta slapstick-y chase scene where Ichabod’s horse just can’t seem to outrun the bigger and blacker stallion coming after him. They really have to be seen to be believed.
- Of the two, I do prefer Wind in the Willows for its livelier characters and overall more light-hearted atmosphere. Toad and his horse companion, Cyril, are just fun to watch in their selfish behavior. Plus I enjoy how confident the former can be, only to see it backfire on him, but he crawls out with a new idea from the ashes. Wouldn’t want him running my estate, but I do have to agree that he’s more fun to watch than Robin Hood in any of the adaptations I’ve seen.
- But I’m not denying Sleepy Hollow’s merits either. The horror visuals in the final chase scene are dark and creepy in all the right ways, but everything leading up to that is alright too. Just because you can’t sympathize with Ichabod doesn’t mean you won’t have fun watching things go his way, primarily because the film seems to be in on the joke that he’s self-absorbed. Plus his romantic rival isn’t exactly the pinnacle of saint-liness either, so I liked seeing him get humiliated from time to time.
- Of the package films that came out of the WWII-era, this is definitely one of the better ones, and both shorts have gone on to become pretty well-known in their own right as individual pieces. As a final farewell to a series of films that almost no one owns, Disney couldn’t have chosen better.
- Yes, I know who the narrators are. Please don’t tell me in the comments section.
- I’d hate to see what would happen if Toad was introduced to a tank.