Movie: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

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In the theme of #31DaysOfHalloween, I wanted to watch Ichabod and the Headless Horseman from my childhood. I forgot that it is combined with Wind In The Willows (which is not spooky, so I am confused).

After all these years, it is still a great cartoon!

Disney’s original title for the movie was, “Two Fabulous Characters.” Apparently, the only reason these two stories are linked together is the fact that their main characters are “prone to disaster”.

One of Disney’s four “Package Films”. During World War II the studio lost a lot of manpower and resources, which left it with countless unfinished ideas too long for shorts and too short for features. So, inventive as Disney was, it stuck short ideas together into feature-length movies. See also Make Mine Music (1946), Melody Time (1948) and Fun and Fancy Free (1947).

The narrators of the film, Bing Crosby and Basil Rathbone, were cast in the film to increase its audience appeal. Crosby was one of the most commercially successful singers from the 1930s to the 1950s. He had acted in several films and had already won an Oscar. Basil Rathbone was better known as the star of a film series about Sherlock Holmes, with 14 films released between 1939 and 1946.

Trivia On Wind In The Willows

  • Rat describes Toad’s latest obsession as “Motor Mania”. This is the title of a classic Goofy short which would be released the following year (Motor Mania (1950)).
  • The Toon Patrol, villains featured in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988), were designed and patterned after the Weasels in the Disney version of “The Wind in the Willows”.
  • There was a legend that said that one animator stopped worked on “The Wind In the Willows” to join the Army during World War II and then returned four years later to continue work on the exact same film sequence.
  • In “The Wind in the Willows”, Angus MacBadger tells Ratty and Mole that something has to be done about Toad as he’s spending too much money. This was a sly dig at Roy O. Disney who was always complaining to the animators about his brother Walt Disney for spending too much money.
  • The original plan for the Disney adaptation of “The Wind in the Willows” (1908) was that it would be a full feature film. When Walt Disney decided to reduce the adaptation to part of a package film, several scenes from the screenplay had to be cut to save time. These scenes were never animated.
  • The inspiration for Mr. Toad’s wayward mischievousness and boastfulness is believed to be the son of his creator. Alastair Grahame was a mischievous child with a tendency to boast about his exploits.

Trivia on Ichabod

  • Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones later became the inspirations for the characters of Lumiere (in human form, possibly) and Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (1991).
  • The song “Headless Horseman” is considered one of the darkest songs written for a Disney film. Much like “Worthless” from The Brave Little Toaster (1987) and “Hellfire” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), it was nearly cut from the film.
  • The Headless Horseman is often cited as being, along with the Firebird in Fantasia 2000 (1999), The Horned King in The Black Cauldron (1985) and Chernabog in Fantasia (1940), as one of the scariest villains in the Disney canon. Disney still receives complaints from parents about the character frightening their children.
  • While the characters are fictional, the place names and landmarks depicted in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1820) are mostly factual. The “Tarry Town” of the short story is the village of Tarrytown in Westchester County, New York. It was founded by Dutch settlers in the 17th century. It is located about 25 miles (40 km) north of midtown Manhattan in New York City. Some of the other landmarks are located in the nearby village of North Tarrytown, which was long nicknamed Sleepy Hollow and was officially renamed to this name in 1996. Washington Irving himself was buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
  • The short story briefly compares the lanky Ichabod Crane to a scarecrow. The comics character Scarecrow, a Batman villain, seems to be partly based on Ichabod Crane, and resembles him in appearance. His real name is Jonathan Crane.
  • Many fans have questioned whether or not Ichabod or Brom is the hero as Ichabod’s ultimate aim seems to be gaining Baltus Van Tassel’s fortune. Greed is a frequent villain’s motivation in Disney films.
  • The information that the Headless Horseman died in a nameless battle of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1784) is not unreasonable. The Province of New York was part of some major campaigns of the War and was the battleground for such battles as the Battle of Long Island (1776) and the Landing at Kip’s Bay (1776). However, Washington Irving probably took his inspiration from the Battle of White Plains (1779), which took place only 10 miles from Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. An American General, William Heath, wrote in his memoirs that he witnessed a Hessian horseman being decapitated by a cannon ball during the battle. The body of the Hessian soldier was supposedly buried in an unmarked grave in the graveyard of Tarrytown’s Old Dutch Church by the townspeople.
  • The horse of Ichabod Crane has a name in the short story. He is called Gunpowder.
  • “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1820) was one of the works that both helped establish Washington Irving as a professional writer and gained a new audience for American literature in Europe. At the time Americans writers had a particularly poor reputation and some of the British readers expressed doubts whether Irving was actually American.
  • It is unclear whether or not the Headless Horseman was a real ghost or was simply Brom in disguise. The original short story written by Washington Irving suggests the latter more overtly than the film. The best evidence in the film to suggest that Brom pretended to be the Horseman is the similarity between the two characters horses. However, if the Horseman was in fact not Brom than Brom’s possible reasons for telling the story in the first place were either to spook Crane enough for him to leave town for good, to actually summon the demonic horseman with his song or to make Crane so paranoid that he becomes careless on his way home end ends up having a serious accident.

Cast of both shorts

Bing CrosbyRelating the Story of Ichabod Crane (voice)
Basil RathboneNarrating the Story of Mr. Toad / Policeman (voice)
Eric BloreMr. Toad (voice)
J. Pat O’MalleyCyril Proudbottom (voice) (as Pat O’Malley)
John McLeishProsecutor (voice) (as John Ployardt)
Colin CampbellMole (voice)
Campbell GrantAngus MacBadger (voice)
Claud AllisterWater Rat (voice) (as Claude Allister)
Jud Conlon’s RhythmairesAdditional voices (voice) (as The Rhythmaires)
Pinto ColvigIchabod Crane (screaming) / Other Townspeople (uncredited) (voice)
Jud ConlonTownsfolk (uncredited) (voice)
Leslie DenisonJudge / First Weasel (uncredited) (voice)
Mack McLeanTownsfolk (uncredited) (voice)
Clarence NashIchabod’s Horse (uncredited) (voice)
Loulie Jean NormanTownsfolk (uncredited) (voice)
Charlie ParlotaTownsfolk (uncredited) (voice)
Edmond StevensSecond Weasel (uncredited) (voice)
Oliver WallaceMr. Winkie (uncredited) (voice)
Gloria WoodTownsfolk (uncredited) (voice)

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