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20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad’

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is an interesting specimen; it marks the end of the package era but I would be inclined to place it more in line with those that were to come such as Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland rather than Make Mine Music and Melody Time. Not only are the segments better in quality, but they are also based on classic stories. It is easily my favorite of the Disney package films and should not be missed.

Read: 20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Melody Time’

The movie is broken up into two stories.  One of the most prominent things about both of these features is the narration. Though the characters are voiced by actors, the story is largely told to us by Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby, respectively. For many years these two segments were split up and almost never seen together. They had been rereleased separately several times by Disney until it finally returned to its original form when it arrived on home video in 1988. The first segment featuring the titular Mr. Toad is based on The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and the titular Ichabod is from Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. The first segment is distinctly British and the second distinctly American. This is true of all aspects: the source material, the music, even the narrator.

The Wind in the Willows is about an adventurous toad and his less adventurous, but still endearing, friends. I love the character of Mr. Toad. Not only is he hilarious to watch, but he is also incredibly relatable (I have myself been known to have my own “manias”!) This story, too, is very charming. One thing to note: this film marks the first appearance of characters that would play a role later in other cartoons, most notably Mickey’s Christmas Carol. In that cartoon, Mr. Toad’s friends appear as the charitable men and Mr. Toad even appears as Scrooge McDuck’s boss Fezziwig.

Sleepy Hollow tells the tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. Featuring upbeat music, great animation, and a spooky finale sequence, both kids and adults will likely have fun watching this one as well. Modern audiences may only be familiar with Tim Burton’s take on the story. As expected, this is quite different than that adaptation. In fact, Disney’s Sleepy Hollow is a much more faithful take on the traditional Irving story.

In addition to the intriguing stories, the main characters are both well-written which makes this worth the price of admission, so to speak. They are not just fun to watch but both have flaws, one even fatal. Mr. Toad is a manic obsessive and Ichabod is a selfish, materialistic slob. There are lessons to be learned here, something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Together, the film makes for a great watch for the holiday season. The Wind in the Willows for Christmas and New Years, Sleepy Hollow for Halloween.

Live action remake: There is no live action remake in the works for either of these segments. However, in 1996, Terry Jones of Monty Python fame directed an adaptation of The Wind in the Willows starring Steve Coogan. Though not produced by Disney, this version was later distributed by Disney to home video with the reworked title of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad in the theme parks: It would seem that this film might be kept alive largely due to its presence in the parks. One of the classic Disneyland and Disney World attractions, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, is based on The Wind in the Willows segment from this film. It is a dark ride that is similar to the Pinocchio and Snow White equivalents. During the Halloween season, the Headless Horseman from Sleepy Hollow can often seen around the parks.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is available to stream on Disney+.

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