Today! Because when the ghosts have a midnight jamboree/They break it up with fiendish glee –
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Directed by James Algar (x2), Clyde Geronimi (x3), Jack Kinney
Starring Bing Crosby (x2), Basil Rathbone (x4), Eric Blore, J. Pat O’Malley (x2), Oliver Wallace
The only movie I’m guaranteed to watch every Halloween (which is kinda awkward, as The Wind in the Willows isn’t scary in the least), The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, I’ll admit, is not the way I’ve always seen it. Growing up, I had no idea it existed in this combo fashion, only having a copy of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow portion recorded off TV, I want to say. And that is primarily why this movie made the list still – but that’s not necessarily to shortchange the opening half of the film.
Both run about equal in length, with Basil Rathbone narrating the story of Mr. Toad and Mr. Winky and Rat and Mole and motorcars. Standing by itself, it’s a fine, fun little Disney adventure adaptation, and Rathbone is used to good effect on the tale. Indeed, as the years have gone on, I still watch it on Halloween anyway, because shit, the DVD is already in the machine. But no, it doesn’t quite hold up against the powerhouse musical nightmare that is Sleepy Hollow.
Bing is the narrator, but also sings all the songs, thereby functioning as the voice of Ichabod Crane as well as his rival Brom Bones, which, when you step back and look at it, makes very little sense. The songs are great – and Bing is perfect for them – so I get the idea behind the formation of the project, but still, even as a kid, I always thought it odd they didn’t have different voices for the characters. But okay, as fun as the “Ichabod Crane” and “Katrina” songs are, you’re here for the Headless Horseman, and one of the more exciting, terrifying sequences in Disney history, that has virtually no dialogue whatsoever, just a lot of headless laughing and horse screaming.
I’ll admit, I don’t have a ton of perspective on this. Even the weirdness of Bing as both main characters doesn’t actively bother me, because I don’t much think about it while I’m watching. I’ve seen the Sleepy Hollow part of this, I’d ballpark, a hundred times, so it just has that critique-proof, Christmas Story-esque over-saturation in my life. Hell, when I wrote my first novel (still mustily residing in the Wilkes University library, I have it on good authority), the main character’s name was initially Ichabod, obviously after Washington Irving’s schoolmaster. I was convinced to change this, and still don’t think it was a wise choice, so if I ever go back for a ninth draft on The Sunshine Man (title also up for alteration!), he may once again find himself Icky Bob. The Sunshine Man is not currently available anywhere books are sold.
In one of the weirder awards I’ve run across doing this, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad won Best Cinematography at the Golden Globes in 1949. An animated movie winning for Cinematography is insanely rare, but hey, it’s a pretty gorgeous movie, so I guess it checks out. Good for you, animators! Directors Algar (#155 Fantasia) and Geronimi (#299 Peter Pan, #254 Sleeping Beauty) join and advance in the director wing, while Der Bingle (#345 White Christmas) and J. Pat O’Malley (#263 The Jungle Book) join the acting Two-Timers. But it’s longtime Sherlock Holmes Rathbone making the spotlight today, joining the Fours along with his Victorian detective appearances in #333 The Hound of the Baskerville, #176 The Scarlet Claw, and #291 The Voice of Terror.
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