Sunday, August 31, 2014

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

This weekend I watched a beautiful new Blu-ray of Disney's THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD (1949).

The movie came out as part of a new Blu-ray/DVD combination set along with FUN AND FANCY FREE (1947) and THE RELUCTANT DRAGON (1941), which I have previously reviewed. THE RELUCTANT DRAGON is hidden away on the disc as an extra under "Special Features," although it's a full-length feature film!

THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD is two cartoons in one. MR. TOAD is adapted from Kenneth Grahame's THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. Somehow I'd never seen this section of the film before. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and the Storybook Land Canal Boats at Disneyland both now make a whole lot more sense!

Basil Rathbone is the narrator of MR. TOAD, with the great Eric Blore in the title role. It was amusing enough to hold my attention for roughly half the length of this 68-minute film, but for me the story of a blithely naughty, car-obsessed toad who doesn't deserve his friends was the lesser of the two cartoons.

ICHABOD recounts Washington Irving's THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW, and I had seen it multiple times as a child, either at school or on the WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY. However, I hadn't seen it for decades so it was almost like seeing a whole new movie!

Bing Crosby narrates, which is great fun and also helps pleasantly defuse the film's genuinely spooky conclusion. Ichabod is a skinny, homely schoolmaster with a bottomless appetite who falls in love with rich Katrina van Tassel, much to the dismay of bully Brom -- who struck me as amazingly like Gaston in Disney's 1991 film BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

At a party one night Brom terrifies everyone, including Ichabod, with his tale of the Headless Horseman, after which Ichabod has a terrifying encounter with the apparition. Did the Horseman spirit Ichabod away? Or did Ichabod flee and marry a wealthy widow in another county? No one knows for sure.

In addition to Crosby's singing and amusing asides, I enjoyed the backup singing by the Rhythmaires. Vocal arrangements were by Ken Darby, with the songs by Gene de Paul (SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS) and Don Raye.

THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD was directed by Clyde Geronimi, James Algar, and Jack Kinney.

Most of the great Disney animators of the day worked on this film, including Mary Blair, Ub Iwerks, Marc Davis, Claude Coats, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, John Hench, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Wolfgang Reitherman, Eric Larson, Don da Gradi, and John Lounsbery, to name just a few among many.

There's a detailed review of the new Blu-ray DVD set by Gene Ehrbar at Animation Scoop. It was this review which initially clued me in to the presence of THE RELUCTANT DRAGON in the set.

THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD was previously released in a Gold Collection DVD and on VHS.

FUN AND FANCY FREE had a 50th Anniversary VHS release and a Gold Collection DVD.

THE RELUCTANT DRAGON was released on VHS and DVD, and it was also included in the wonderful Walt Disney Treasures DVD set Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studio.

As a postscript, D23 is hosting a screening of THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD on the Disney Studios lot on September 13, 2014. Alas, I have a schedule conflict that date, or I'd definitely be going! Disney historian Mindy Johnson will be sharing information from the Bing Crosby Archive about Crosby's work on the film.


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Always loved ICHABOD. How nice these simple stories are brought back in new releases.

4:12 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It's a fun one, isn't it?! I'm very glad that both the classic story and the classic Disney are being shared with new generations. :)

Best wishes,

3:59 PM  

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