Disney Movies: The Adventures of Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad

This one was an interesting one for me, considering I enjoy reading these kinds of tales, and had actually quite enjoyed the Legend of Sleepy Hollow as it was originally told. So — number huit:



Background: This movie was released in 1949, so right before Disney’s famous Cinderella and 50s era. I feel that most don’t actually know about this movie. I hadn’t known about it until I had looked up the list of Disney’s movies for my wee project here. The thing is, this movie is a compilation of two “beloved” tales, one set in England and the other set in New England, as it were. Both written much earlier than 1949. Mr. Toad’s story is straight from “Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame, while Ichabod Crane’s story is from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving.


Even though we have two stories combined into one, I didn’t feel as if there was much of a conflict between the two or lack of consistency. We have a narrator who, like with Snow White, takes us into each story by first opening the actual storybook the tale is found in. This is a nice touch and it is, consistently, done between each new story. We then develop a “battle” between the Motherland and the New Land. Which story is better? Which story contains the more “intriguing” character? And, within each story, we see a high level of consistency that follows the original tales almost to a T. There is really nothing confusing or off-setting about either of these renditions and same goes for the in between that brings them both together into one film. Probably the most inconsistent thing is the fact that the movie title announces Ichabod Crane first, suggesting that his story will come prior to Mr. Toad’s, when in fact, it is the other way around in the actual film. Which is a bit upsetting, especially for an English Lit. major. I mean, basic thesis writing Disney, come on! Not to mention that the main picture for the movie only features Ichabod Crane, which is also a little depressing. If Mr. Toad’s story isn’t that important to you, then don’t feature him! It’s probably because his was the English one…


Now, ironically we see more character development within Mr. Toad’s story than within Ichabod Crane’s. What I did like about Ichabod Crane’s story, however, is the fact that no one actually speaks in it. The characters’ lives are told to us via a (not annoying, for once) narrator, as well as through song and sudden instrumental dramatics. But this also provides for less character development because we see the characters as they are and that is basically it; they do not change. I mean, Ichabod Crane was obviously the most interesting character and probably the only one that was an actual character. The others were more like blank shells – especially Katrina – who stands out as the extreme archetype for the “beautiful, American bell with blond hair” and who has no actual personality at all. Sadly, I was not surprised that this was the classic “American” tale that Disney chose to feature and that they chose to portray Katrina in this way. For the featured English tale, we get to hear the characters speak and each one has his own specific character traits. Of course, there are no female characters, which is probably the reason behind this, but even still, each one starts out a specific way, goes through a brief transformation, and then, even if they go back to how they were before (hint hint Mr. Toad and his mania), we see that there has been thought put into them either way. I for one loved the attention Disney put into the various accents. My favorite, as anyone who knows me can guess, was Angus MacBadger, considering he was a well-structured attempt at a Scotsman.


The animation for this movie is better since the atrocity of Song of the South, but it also doesn’t quite live up to the standards that Disney has already set for himself. I’m starting to wonder if there were some movies he just didn’t care about as much and so let them fall to shit a bit. The animation for this movie comes across as very silly, which goes along with the actual story line of the whole movie. However, the animation itself portrays a certain level of deliberate detail. Like how Katrina looks the specific part of a stereotypical Swedish beauty, how Ichabod looks like a scarecrow, and how the animals within Mr. Toad’s part are shaped according to their personalities. For example, Ratty was stuffy, sophisticated, and rather pompous – he looked just like John Watson, actually, with his brown tartan clothes, pipe, tall, stiff demeanor, and old English hat. The music was fairly average based on what, once again, Disney had already achieved. Nothing really stood out to me, except there was a level of over-dramatized instrumental moments.


So I have to admit that this whole movie just came across as rather silly to me. Even the dramatic bits, for both Mr. Toad’s and Ichabod Crane’s stories, came off as not very serious and quite ludicrous. The reason the consistency worked so well is because the stories themselves were fairly simple and almost followed the original tales too well. The only bits that weren’t from the originals were unnecessarily ridiculous moments that were dragged out and overplayed, like when Mr. Toad is running through the water and through bushes with his horse and cart, though I’ll admit that was pretty funny, and when Ichabod was getting chased by the “headless horseman”. With this in mind, I feel like Disney took the original tales and actually dumbed them down for this production. The story is so simplistic and silly that there is not too much point to it, in the end. Neither of the narrators decide which characters were “better” and to be honest, the way the stories were portrayed, I didn’t really feel like they were great characters to start out with. But, perhaps the point of the movie was to be sillier versions of otherwise much more “seriously” told tales. And with that in mind…


What do you think?


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