51 Days of Disney (Day 11): Ichabod and Mr. Toad

We’re finally here, the end of the package films (but not the end for good, there are technically two more in the future, but they’re both great). The year is 1949 and World War II has been over for four years, so the Disney Studios had finally been able to release some shorts and features into the lucrative international market. That combined with the sudden success of the live action Disney films such as Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart allowed for the struggling animation studio to get some more money. Ichabod and Mr. Toad is easily the best of the 40’s package films and it is precisely because, as has been said in other reviews, the segments are longer. There are only two segments and the bare minimum of introduction or transition between the two. The movie gets right to the point of it, telling the stories of the Wind and the Willows and the Legend of Sleepy Hallow.

Version watched: 2000 DVD release

The first segment follows J. Thaddeus Toad and his highly destructive and addictive personality. Toad puts his ancestral home of Toad Hall into great turmoil with his “manias” that causes him to unintentionally destroy thousands of pounds worth of property and is accused of stealing a motorcar in his obsession of getting one. In all of reality, he trades the deed for Toad Hall to the weasels who actually stole the car and their ringleader, Mr. Winky, who then frames him for the theft. Toad’s friends Mole, Ratty, and Angus MacBadger try to appeal his case, but to no avail. He is sent to jail, but escapes to set things right.

The Wind and the Willows was one of my favourite books as a child, that combined with my love of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, made this segment very memorable for me. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is simultaneously what I love and hate about the standard Disney dark rides. A good amount of the characters and some of the sets look like they are literally just cardboard cut-outs, but the attraction is a bit more thrilling than other dark rides with it’s insistence on going full speed towards something and then moving out of the way just in the nick of time. It’s a fairly cheap attraction, but it is fun nonetheless. I like the newer style of dark ride a bit more, with it’s advanced audio animatronics and large show scenes.

The Bing Crosby narrated second sequence is, of course, based off of the Legend of Sleepy Hallow. Ichabod Crane is the new schoolmaster of Sleepy Hallow and sets the town, and Katrina Van Tassel’s affections, ablaze with his wonderful personality, much to Brom Bones dismay. Fortunately for Brom, Ichabod has a run-in with the legendary Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hallow that doesn’t go particularly well for him.

The segments of this movie feel much more like shorter Disney films than most of the other ones in the other package films. They feel more developed, they’re funnier, and in the case of The Legend of Sleepy Hallow, scarier. Even the animation seems to be better than the more recent movies, but still not quite at the quality of say Snow White or Fantasia. This production had some more money behind it, and the film was a good indication that something genuinely good was coming, but nothing could have predicted the upcoming success from the somewhat mediocre sales of the package films.

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