The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is the final package film Disney released in the wartime era. Even though the war was already over. It was all worth it to finance feature films again. The most straightforward packaged release is definitely The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. As it’s not just several stories pieced together by music like Melody Time or Walt Disney’s other budget friendly films. It’s still a musical, but the main connecting factor is that both stories are based on famous literary tales. Both ended up being too short to warrant feature films. So instead they were given the final package treatment as Disney’s eleventh animated feature.
The Wind in the Willows – The opening story is based on the children’s book The Wind in the Willows. With an anthropomorphic toad, badger, water rat, and mole as main characters, it only made sense to be given the Disney treatment. It was originally pitched as its own movie, but Disney apparently thought it was too corny. He eventually came around and we very nearly ended up with the movie released right after Bambi. Yet the The Wind in the Willows still proved too light on material. So that’s how it ended up being part of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
The story itself involves a wealthy British toad named J. Thaddeus Toad (Mr. Toad for short). His mania for fads nearly costs him his estate, but his good friends MacBadger, Ratty, and Moley keep him in line. At least until he sees a new fangled motor car. His obsession gets him in trouble with weasels and the shady Mr. Winkie. Farcical hijinks ensue that leave you laughing as well as singing. Although I wouldn’t consider it the most memorable of the two, “The Wind in the Willows” nevertheless gave life to likable creatures in a way only Disney could…
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – The closing story is based on well-known gothic tale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Unlike the previous story, the idea for a movie was always Disney’s intention. It just came up short just like The Wind in the Willows. Despite the darker source material, Disney still managed to keep the tone relatively consistent. When arriving at Sleepy Hollow, new schoolmaster Ichabod Crane makes a name for himself. He’s portrayed as a tall lanky very exaggerated dandy with a big nose and ears. Somehow the ladies fall for him. But Katrina van Tassel is the one he wants.
Surprisingly Ichabod is kind of a jerk who only wants her money. The macho Bram Bones actually isn’t all that bad. However, the true villain appears Halloween night. The Headless Horseman appears in a terrifying sequence that ranks high for scary Disney moments. The Horseman’s cackle will send chills down your spine. With the throwing of a jack-o’-lantern, the story ends on an ambiguous note. It’s the spooky atmosphere and the creepy music filled animation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” that make it stand out the most.
In conclusion, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was something I remember fondly as a kid. Even when it creeped me out. The movie feels like two separate stories that complement each other surprisingly well. Both The Wind and the Willows and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” were already established classics that don’t feel artificially put together. That’s why people only remember “Mickey and the Beanstalk” in Fun and Fancy Free. It also helps that both Ichabod and Mr. Toad recieve stories that are each about 30 minutes. With no unnecessary padding in between. Just the opening of the books and narration by late 40’s stars Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad feels far closer to Disney’s Golden Age material than anything he made in the Package era.