We come to the final of the wartime package films, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Released in 1949, this 11th entry in the Disney Canon was composed of only two segments unlike many of the previous package films. The first segment was based on the children’s novel by Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, while the second segment was based on the short story by Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Since as early as 1941, the Disney Studios had planned on making an animated feature based on The Wind in the Willows and had even completed a basic script. But WWII would put this project on the proverbial back burner. After the war ended, the Disney Studios went back to the film and realized that it would be more suitable as a segment in a package film rather than its own feature-length film.
The next step was trying to decide which other animated segment(s) to pair it with. The Disney Studios tried pairing it with segments such as Mickey and the Beanstalk, Pecos Bill, The Brave Engineer, and The Gremlins (an original story written by Roald Dahl specifically for Disney which never ended up being made into a film), but nothing came out of it. It wasn’t until Disney started working on an animated adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that the studio realized the short run time of the segment would make it a perfect pair to the The Wind in the Willows segment. And that’s how The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was born!
The first segment is narrated by actor Basil Rathbone and is basically the classic The Wind in the Willows story. Our main character, J. Thaddeus Toad, voiced by Eric Blore, is incredibly rich and incredibly obsessed with the latest fads or manias as they’re referred to. His interests drive him almost to the brink of bankruptcy, and his latest mania, motor mania, gets him framed in a nasty court case! It’s only with the help of his friends, Ratty, Moley, and Angus MacBadger, that he can try to clear his name once and for all!
The overall English charm is what holds this segment together. The characters are enjoyable and even relatable. We all know someone like Toad who always wants the new fads. We all know someone who needs to protect their friends from getting themselves into trouble. And we all know someone who would sing the We’re Merrily on Our Way song all the time when they’re driving!
The animation of this segment is also pretty good for a package film, in my opinion. Interestingly enough, some of the animation was recycled for a later Disney film, The Jungle Book.
The second segment is narrated by the legendary crooner, Bing Crosby, who also does the voices of all of the characters. This one is also your classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: a schoolteacher named Ichabod Crane moves to a new town and falls in love with the local beauty, Katrina (not to mention with her father’s money, as well). This angers the local town hero, Brom Bones who also wants to win Katrina’s affections. But the part of this segment that everyone remembers best is when Ichabod Crane comes face-to-face with a ghostly being known as the Headless Horseman!
This segment has all the spookiness of a light-hearted Halloween special that you’ll be expecting along with great animation and an enjoyable song about the Headless Horseman sung by Bing Crosby himself! What more could you want?
And if Bing Crosby’s light voice doesn’t cut it for you, there’s also a version of the song sung by the deeply-voiced Thurl Ravenscroft.
In short, I think this is the best package film of this time period. Although only having two segments, the quality of both makes this film truly whole, at least in my opinion. If you haven’t seen this film yet, I would suggest doing so right now. And if you’re interested, see what Morgan, Mason, and Chelsea thought of this film by listening to the Animation Addicts podcast of the film here.
Have you seen The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad? Tell us your thoughts down below!
Edited by: Kelly Conley