And finally we’re to the end of the package films. Ichabod and Mr. Toad was definitely a good way for us to go out of this set however. Much like Fun & Fancy Free this film at least limited itself to two segments and as such, was able to capture and maintain interest far better than the shotgun blasts of 5 minute shorts many of the others have.
Although the title implies that Ichabod and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow is first, the adventure of Mr. Toad was the first of the two shorts. Each of the segments is introduced by a short narration in a library discussing the best character in English or American literature. The narrator lists several prominent characters before deciding on Mr. Toad which is an odd choice in my opinion. The book from which the character comes, Wind in the Willows, was written in 1908, so the book was only about 40 years old. While that’s certainly a fair amount of time, it often takes a great deal of time for history to truly sort out which characters are memorable.
From our perspective more than 100 years after the publication of Wind in the Willows, I would have to say that while it has fared better than many stories, it is not one that has had much staying power. The only familiarity I have with it is from this animated depiction. Meanwhile, other characters the author named are ones that resonate much more culturally. I’m curious as to whether this is simply an American perspective, however, and if in the UK, Wind in the Willows is a more prominent story.
Regardless of its popularity, the story is one that stuck in my mind from childhood. Immediately upon hearing the title, the image of Mr. Toad making car noises and “pip-popping” around on his rump holding his imaginary steering wheel comes to mind. I couldn’t recall the story at all, but Disney did a fantastic job of bringing the character to life. I’d forgotten about Rat, Mole, and Angus MacBadger, the friends of Mr. Toad who try to dissuade him from his mania of stagecoaches by locking him in his room only for Toad to escape to pursue his new mania of motorcars. Toad ends up trading his estate, Toad Hall, for a stolen car and when he is caught, the thieves with whom he’d made the exchange frame him for stealing the car so they can have the mansion.
Toad is sprung from prison by his horse Cyril, and it’s discovered that the weasels (literally) that stole the car had taken over the mansion. The friends then venture to the property to retrieve the deed and exonerate Toad. After a bit of a runaround they succeed and Toad is cleared of the charges since he can prove that he did indeed attempt to purchase the car and had not been the thief.
The second piece is the well known (in America at least) Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This story definitely has a larger presence in the American mindset and has been the subject of many adaptations, including one of my favorite Johnny Depp films.
It’s been quite some time since I’d seen this particular version, but seeing it as an adult, I think it may well be one of my favorites. One of the traits that endears me to Disney movies is that the protagonist isn’t always the brawny but-brainless alpha male. This is definitely the case for Ichabod in his romantic rivalry against Brom Bones. Ichabod bests Brom at every turn, not through brute strength, but through his other skills: quick thinking, dance, singing, and the like.
Of course, Ichabod’s character is still questionable because it remains clear that a large part of his interest (and presumably the interest of anyone else in the town) is in her father’s riches. While this does somewhat diminish the character, I have to say it also makes him more tangible. After all, who wouldn’t have such things in their mind at such a point in time when women would come with dowries? It’s hardly a Romeo & Juliet type love, but it does add a complexity to the character that makes him a bit more real.
Which is exactly what you’d want in a ghost story: a layer of realism to suck you into it.
But at the same time, there were definitely things that pulled me out of it. Pies magically appearing in books was one of them (Happy Pi day this week by the way). Another was this fella.
This guy (left) pops up for just a moment while Brom is telling the tale of the Headless Horseman but, having already mentally drawing parallels between Brom and Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, struck me how much he looked like Monsieur D’Arque (left) from Beauty and the Beast as well. Sarah and I speculated that they were related with Sleepy Hollow coming later (I’m presuming Gaston had illegitimate children being how “cute” he was).
My overall review of this set of films is that it’s my favorite so far. I don’t expect this will remain for long as we’re about to hit the stretch of many of the most classic movies with single plots.