We finally moved on to the eleventh of Disney’s animated features, and the last of the package films for a while, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Contrary to what the title may suggest, the two characters did not adventure together, but rather were the stars of two separate segments. The first is based on Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, but cuts out a lot of the story. Apparently Disney originally wanted to do this as a full-length feature, but when they decided to make it part of a package, they removed pretty much everything that didn’t involve Mr. Toad. It’s been a long time since I read the book, but I know Mr. Mole was the main protagonist, while this cartoon relegated him to a supporting role. I think it was pretty accurate to the part of the book centered on Toad’s obsessions, although they did find a way to make Toad innocent of theft to make him more likeable. One odd thing about the segment was that it never actually showed Toad driving the car, and I’m inclined to think it was a matter of scale. Grahame never bothered to explain how Toad was able to reach the pedals in order to operate the automobile, and perhaps the animators were unable to think of a way it could look at all believable, so they just skipped over it. One of Beth‘s observations about this cartoon was how weird Winky the bartender looked.
It’s interesting that several of the characters from this segment would show up later. Mole and Water Rat appeared as the collectors for the poor in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and Cyril Proudbottom (who wasn’t in the book, but was an amusing addition to the cast) also had a cameo.
Also, the weasels were the models for Judge Doom’s henchmen in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
While I hadn’t seen Mr. Toad’s part of the movie before, I had seen Ichabod Crane’s, albeit in abridged form. It was part of a Disney Halloween special that we had on tape when I was a kid, and watched a bunch of times. The basis for this segment was Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which is often paired with “Rip Van Winkle,” leading to some confusion as the one with “sleepy” in the title is not the one about someone sleeping. Anyway, the adaptation is pretty faithful, with some bits of Bing Crosby’s narration coming directly from Irving. They even kept in the description of Katrina Van Tassel as “plump as a partridge,” despite the fact that she’s wasp-waisted in the cartoon.
While the main protagonist of the tale, I can’t say Ichabod was too likeable. He’s largely motivated by greed, wanting to marry Katrina because of her father’s fortune. This involves him in a rivalry with the town mischief-maker Brom Bones (whose real name in the original story is Abraham Van Brunt), which bears somewhat of a resemblance to Popeye and Bluto fighting over Olive Oyl, only without the spinach. The ending has Ichabod supposedly spirited away by the Headless Horseman, a spooky figure whom I believe was invented by Irving, but bore a strong resemblance to some actual stories. The Irish dullahan, for instance, rides a horse and carries its own head, as did the Green Knight from Arthurian legend. In both the original story and the cartoon, it’s pretty strongly hinted, but never specifically stated, that the Horseman Ichabod encounters is actually Brom in disguise.
I guess my overall opinion is that the feature was pretty good. It wasn’t among my favorites, but both segments held my interest, and drew humor from the characters. I liked Mr. Toad’s better, but I can’t really think of any way Ichabod’s could have been better. Beth mentioned that there was no one in the story you could root for, but that’s basically how Irving wrote it in the first place. Well, anyway, after this it’s back to the full-length movies, starting with Cinderella. I’ve seen that one before (really, who hasn’t?), but not in years, so I’m looking forward to revisiting it.