This was originally released in 1949 (26 years before I was born). It's a "package film" consisting of two separate shorter films. The first is based on Kenneth Grahame's 1908 children's book "The Wind in the Willows," which I've never read. The second is based on Washington Irving's 1820 short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," which I don't recall having ever read... but it's not impossible that I might have, at some point. I've never seen the "Mr. Toad" portion of the movie before, though I may have seen at least a bit of some other animated thing based on The Wind in the Willows, I'm not sure. I've certainly seen the "Ichabod" portion on TV a number of times. It usually got played around Halloween, when I was a kid. (A shortened form was included as part of a Disney Halloween special, which first aired in the early 80s; but I feel like I must have seen the entire film by itself, as well, possibly on The Wonderful World of Disney.) I kind of feel like I may have seen "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" at school, or maybe just listened to a tape along with a "Disney Read-Along" picture book. In any event, that part of this movie is nostalgic to me. And for years- maybe starting in the early 90s- I've been aware that The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was available on video along with the Mr. Toad part, though I had no idea why they were put together under this title. But I finally got the movie on DVD in 2013, and probably for some time prior to that, I had wondered if the two stories had originally been released together in theaters. Now that I've checked some websites to include in my review, I find that, of course, they were. (Oh, and the DVD includes the 1937 short film Lonesome Ghosts as a bonus feature.)
tek's rating: ¾
The Wind in the Willows
So... the bit about Toad is narrated by Basil Rathbone. The story is set in 1906, I guess. I must say, I like the fact that all the animals in the movie are treated as equals in the human world. That's not something one sees very often; usually there are either no humans, or the humans have no idea the animals are intelligent, or maybe only one human knows it. But here... it's just taken for granted by everyone. And J. Thaddeus Toad lives in Toad Hall, a mansion that looks as if it was designed for humans. His best friends are a rat (who puts me in mind of Basil from The Great Mouse Detective, though I'm probably wrong to think that) and a mole and a badger. Incidentally, these animals are all larger than they would be in real life, but still smaller than humans. Anyway, Angus MacBadger is in charge of Toad's finances, a very stressful position, because Toad pays no mind to money at all, and constantly indulges his every whim, regardless of the cost or danger. One day, Angus invites Ratty and Moley to come try to talk some sense into Toad. Currently, Toad is on a new adventure with a horse named Cyril (who is pretty much horse-sized, and despite being used by Toad pretty much the way humans use horses, is intelligent, and a friend of Toad's, with much the same flighty personality as Toad).
Soon, though, Toad becomes interested in a new fad: motor cars. He ends up getting arrested for stealing one, and after his trial, he goes to jail. But Cyril breaks him out, at Christmastime, and Toad goes on the lam. He winds up at the home of Ratty and Moley, and a bit later Angus shows up. Angus has learned that Toad was actually framed for the crime, so the four of them set out to prove it. (It seems to me that they could have done so far more easily and sensibly than the way they try to do it, but that wouldn't have been nearly as much fun to watch.) And I don't want to say any more about the plot. But there were some good chase scenes or whatever, and it was all rather amusing. Still, it's hard for me to really like someone as grossly irresponsible as Toad. We're meant to see him as a lovable eccentric, I guess, but he does rather bring trouble on himself, as well as making his friends' lives more difficult. I really don't know why any of them are friends with him in the first place (except Moley, who seems rather too simple to conceive of the possibility of disliking anyone). So, um, yeah... it was a fun story to see once, but I don't know if I'll ever feel the need to watch it again.
tek's rating: ¼
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
After Mr. Toad's story ends, there's a sort of segue into the bit about Ichabod Crane, which is narrated by Bing Crosby. The story is set in 1790. As I said, this is kind of nostalgic for me, but it also goes on longer than I remembered (in spite of only being about a half hour long). I remember the end of it more than anything else. I'm also a bit surprised that none of the main characters actually talk (unless it's part of Crosby's narration or singing). Ichabod Crane is a school master in the town of Sleepy Hollow (or rather, Sleepy Hollow is a smaller settlement near Tarry-Town). He's tall and lanky and not really attractive at all. But I liked the guy at first, because he's got his nose in a book. And I guess the ladies in town like him, because he's new in town, and more cultured than anyone else in Sleepy Hollow. I guess. Though he mainly seems interested in mooching food. There's also a much stronger, better-looking man about town named Brom Bones, who's basically a good-natured guy (though when I was a kid, I thought he was a jerk). And there's a beautiful girl named Katrina, the daughter of a wealthy farmer named Baltus van Tassel. All the guys in town want her, but they all give up because Brom wants her, too. The only one who doesn't give up is Ichabod. But there's one thing I didn't remember from watching this when I was a kid: he doesn't just want her because she's beautiful, he also wants her because of her father's money. So... this time when I watched the movie, I didn't like him so much. (Of course, I've gotten into the habit of ignoring the fact that people in old movies and fairy tales don't have any reason to love each other beyond good looks, but greed is harder to ignore.)
Anyway, Katrina isn't any nobler than Ichabod, really. She's just happy to have a couple of men fighting over her, and doesn't seem to care much who wins. But Ichabod does better, being smarter and more graceful and whatnot. So maybe that's something else I liked about him when I was a kid: seeing this guy who could easily be crushed by Brom constantly get the better of his stronger rival, and seem to be favored (some of the time) by the girl, in spite of not being good-looking, himself. And then, Baltus throws a Halloween party, and Ichabod and Brom are both invited, so they continue to vie for Katrina's affection. Ichabod is a better dancer, but Brom realizes he's also superstitious. And van Tassel likes his guests to tell scary stories, so Brom tells (actually sings) one about the Headless Horseman. Katrina finds the story amusing, but Ichabod is terrified. And later that night, as he rides home through the spooky woods, his fear is magnified. After awhile, the Headless Horseman actually appears, and what follows is a long chase that is both amusing and genuinely frightening (especially if you're watching it as a little kid).
For many years after I first saw this, I was under the impression that the Headless Horseman had killed Ichabod. Certainly Ichabod was never seen in Sleepy Hollow after that night. But at some point, I think I read something somewhere that suggested a different possibility, which I had never considered. (A possibility which is in some way suggested in the movie, but either I never actually saw that bit, or I just forgot about it.) Of course, there's something about the Headless Horseman himself that I suppose I understood (or at least suspected) even as a kid... but I'm not gonna specify what that was. I will say that as a kid, I was not happy about Brom ultimately winning Katrina, but now... I really do feel the better man won.
Oh, I also wanted to mention there's a minor bit where a short, overweight woman is used for comic effect, in a way that might well be seen as offensive. That's just one of the ways I liked the movie less now than I did when I was a kid, but there are other ways I think I can appreciate the story more than I did back then. So, overall, it's a decent film, and something I'm sure I'll be happy to watch again in the future.
movies: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad *
TV: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1999) * The Hollow * Sleepy Hollow