The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
And so we come to the last of the six package films. Next up: Cinderella!
I like all these films, and this is no exception. It begins with Mr. Toad, taken from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. It is narrated by Basil Rathbone. It was the second movie Disney made from one of Grahame’s books, the first being The Reluctant Dragon. Again, I never read it, but my hat is off to him for making a sympathetic character out of a damn rat. I mean, a mouse is one thing, but a rat? The story has been considerably simplified, from what I just read about it. It could easily have been a feature, but I’m sort of glad it wasn’t. It’s a good story, and the climactic battle with the weasels in Toad Hall is lots of fun, but it’s not my favorite. I don’t want to make a children’s story bear too much metaphorical weight, but Toad is actually pretty awful, and the story is drenched in British class consciousness. He is destructive and fairly stupid, but rich, and thus indulged. He could be a contestant in the Upper Class Twit-of-the-Year competition. The main thing he has contributed to the Disney experience is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, one of the original Disneyland attractions in Fantasyland, and one of the small number still operating. Those cars have been barreling across the English countryside for 55 years now!
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is, of course, based on the Washington Irving story, and seems to be pretty faithful to the material from what I remember of it. Ichabod is an engaging character. It would seem he doesn’t have much going for him, being an 18th century nerd, awkwardly built and bookish, but he’s full of surprises. He eats like a horse, and he’s a good dancer. He is winning the hand of the bodacious Katrina Van Tassel over the big, manly Brom Bones, but his superstition is his undoing. The chase of Ichabod and the Headless Horseman is a real riot, just filled with gags, with images scary enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if young children had bad dreams from it.