Tuesday, January 4, 2011

DAF #39 - The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

Title: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Year: 1949
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 8 minutes

Basil Rathbone as Narrator of "The Wind and the Willows"
Bing Crosby as Narrator of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
Eric Blore as J. Thaddeus Toad, Esq.
J. Pat O'Malley as Cyril Proudbottom
Campbell Grant as Angus MacBadger
Claud Allister as Ratty
Colin Campbell as Moley
Oliver Wallace as Mr. Winkie

Plot: A toad with a weakness for manias is accused of stealing a motorcar while a lanky schoolmaster is pursued by a headless horseman.
Based on: "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving.
Setting: English countryside, early 1900's; Sleepy Hollow, New York, post Revolutionary War.

Tagline: Two Tall Tales by the world's top story-tellers in one hilarious All-Cartoon Feature!

First Viewing:
Spring of 2006 on borrowed on VHS from Karen.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad marks several important turning points. First of all, it was the last of The Package Films. (I know, I know, it's a sad day, is it not?)  Like Fun and Fancy Free, the two segments of I&MT were planned to be their own features. I don't know when exactly production for these two features started, but by the time they were finished, WWII had been over for four years. Animators and money were back at Disney and they were just one year away from releasing their first "single story" feature in 8 years, Cinderella.

Needless to say, the sheer quality of I&MT animation-wise, story-wise...just everything-wise is a vast improvement over every DAF since Bambi. And it was honored for it. Ichabod and Mr. Toad has the proud distinction of being the first DAF to be nominated for and win a Golden Globe. Although the Oscars had been honoring the DAF's from the beginning, the Globes held back until 1949.

And what was the award Disney's 11th animated feature won? Drum roll please....


Yes, cinematography. The Golden Globes only had this category for about six years and I&MT was up against one other movie, On the Town, a Gene Kelly-Frank Sinatra musical.

Yeah, the one with "New York, New York". It's not really important, just a weird fact in the history of Disney, the Golden Globes, and film in general.

As for the third turning point, Ichabod and Mr. Toad marks a shift in my ranking. Up to this point you could categorize my ranking as such:

Movies I Hate
Lilo & Stitch

Movies I'm "Meh" About
The Three Caballeros
Melody Time
Oliver & Company
Saludos Amigos
Fun and Fancy Free

Movies I Enjoy for One Specific Reason
Chicken Little (Chicken Little as directed by Michael Bay)
Brother Bear (It's pretty)
Make Mine Music (Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet)
Fantasia (The Pastoral Symphony)

Ichabod and Mr. Toad is a movie I am decidedly split on. I love, love, love the Mr. Toad segment but Ichabod...not so much. If the whole thing was "The Wind and the Willows", it would assuredly rank higher, but alas it is merely half of the film and I must be fair.

So, while "Bongo" and  "Mickey and the Beanstalk" have nothing in common, an attempt to link our segments today is made. Basil Rathbone notes all the great characters of English literature: King Arthur! Robin Hood! Becky Sharp! Oliver Twist! And yes, even Sherlock Holmes! But truly, the greatest of them all is J. Thaddeus Toad, Esquire. A rather charming, but wastrel of a character who owns Toad Hall, the pride of the riverside. Our hero's friends, the proper Ratty (a water rat), the gentle Moley (a mole) and the uptight Angus MacBadger (guess) are worried about Toad's spending habits and his susceptibility to fads and manias.

Toad's latest obsession is a yellow gypsy cart pulled by a cockney horse named Cyril J. Proudbottom. However, their adventures cause much damage to the surrounding area so Ratty and Moley try to persuade Toad to give up Cyril and the cart. But before he can give it up, a motorcar catches Toad's fancy and he develops a new mania: Motormania.

For his own good, and for the good of Toad Hall, Ratty and Moley lock Toad in his bedroom to keep him from doing anything irrational. Nonetheless, Toad escapes and finds himself accused of stealing a motorcar. In truth, he fairly traded the deed of Toad Hall to one Mr. Winkie (who possesses the most shit-eating-grin in the history of Disney Animation) for his motorcar. But come the trial, Mr. Winkie claims that it was Toad tried to sell a stolen motorcar.

While in jail, Toad begins to realize the errors of his reckless ways. But before he can fully repent, Cyril comes for a visit disguised as Toad's grandmother and helps him escape. Toad eventually finds Ratty and Moley who have since learned of their friend's innocence and that Toad Hall had been taken over by Mr. Winkie and his band of weasels.

He's been eating some shit, I'd say.
With a little help from his friends, Toad regains the deed to Toad Hall and clears his good name. He promises to be through with manias from and his friends toast to a "new Toad". However, all are surprised to see Toad's new mania: airplanes.

While it's quite possible that you've seen "The Wind and the Willows" segment on its own, you could not have gone to an elementary school Halloween party without a routine viewing of Disney's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". At the conclusions of Toad's adventures, Bing Crosby takes over the narrating reigns to relate to us his favorite American character: Icahbod Crane, the gangly, greedy, and gluttonous new schoolmaster in the humble hamlet of Sleepy Hollow.

Despite his ridiculous appearance, Ichabod is popular with the ladies, while for the gents, he's an easy target for pranks. Brom Bones (the early model for Beauty and the Beast's Gaston), is the biggest bully of them all. Things get heavy when Ichabod discovers Katrina van Tassel, the most beautiful girl in the land and the daughter of the richest farmer for miles.

Flitatious Katrina views Icky as a means of discouraging Broms (and to make him jealous, if you ask me), but it does nothing but encourage him. Several plans to make Ichabod fall out of favor with Katrina fail until the night of the van Tassel's annual Halloween party. Knowing of Icahbod's proneness to superstitions, Brom tells the tale of The Headless Horseman to show his rival's weakness.

Ichabod rides home alone, exceptionally frightened. The Headless Horseman appears, riding a large black horse similar to Brom's and chases Ichabod across the bridge where the graveyard lies. The Horseman throws a flaming Jack-o-Latern and everything fades to black.

The next day, a shattered pumpkin and Ichabod's hat are found at the bridge. The rumors fly. Some say Ichabod moved to the next county over and married a widow with several children. But other believe he was whisked away by The Headless Horseman. And, of course, Brom and Katrina were wed and the Horseman is never seen again.

The major differences between these two segments is the characters. "The Wind in the Willows"'s are flawed but likable nonetheless: Toad is a wastrel, but he is so passionate and loyal to his friends; Ratty is stuffy, but his moral compass always points north; Moley is naive, but loves his friends in spite of their flaws. However, when it comes to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, no one is likable: Ichabod is a gold digger and he ain't messin' with no broke...broke...or women who can't cook or can pay for someone to cook; Brom is a ne'er-do-well, gold digging bully; And Katrina is a heartless, blue-balling coquette. 

Also, am I the only one who notices this? Disney women 1945-1950 look identical. Feast your eyes:

1. Grace from Make Mine Music 2. The Golden Harp from Fun and Fancy Free 
3. Slue Foot Sue from Melody Time 4. Katrina van Tassel 5. Cinderella
While Mr. Toad teaches the valuable lesson of sticking by your friends through thick and thin, Ichabod gives us a far less satisfying moral: if you frighten your romantic rival, love shall be yours and brawn over brains always wins. It seems like a tale as old as time, doesn't it? Nerd and jock compete for the cheerleader. Of course, if this were a 80's teen comedy Ichabod would surely prevail. Buts since Icky is such a jerkoff, he doesn't win. Indeed, Brom is the bigger jerkoff and so he ultimately deserves an air-headed cocktease like Katrina. Of course, all this stems from Washington Irving's original short story. One can only surmise as to why the bigger asshole wins the girl.

I don't like that I've dwelled so much on "Sleepy Hollow" when really the shining part of this movie is "Willows". But I guess it's always easier to bitch about the negative than accentuate the positive. While I think Ichabod's section is just as long as it needs to be, it would have been terrific to see a full-length treatment of Mr. Toad's adventure. After all, one is based on a short story while the other on a novel.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is easily the best package film. In many ways, it's so above and beyond its predecessors, it shouldn't be lumped along with something like Saludos Amigos. But those are the breaks.


  • “No Where in Particular” - Eric Blore (Toad) and Pat O'Malley (Cyril)
  • "Ichabod" - Bing Crosby
  • "Katrina" - Bing Crosby
  • "The Headless Horseman" - Bing Crosby (Brom Bones)

Favorite Song: “No Where in Particular” - Eric Blore and Pat O'Malley
Favorite Moment: Toad "driving" down the road on his ass.
Favorite Character: Moley...he's so damn cute. Probably the cutest Disney character ever!

Next Film: Fantasia 2000 (1999)

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