You hate Disney. I know that.
You may have good reasons to hate Disney. God knows, they’re out there.
You may not.
You may be in the middle.
But just let me share with you my passion for what, in my opinion, is the best thing Disney has ever done (besides the Haunted Mansion). Today, the daily “27 Days of Halloween” has busted down the door and has taken over the program… to the tune of over 100 screenshots from my favorite animated film of all time. As always, you can click on any of these pictures to make them really big, which I would suggest as this movie has some great imagery that should really be seen BIG.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
I’m pretty sure that They (Disney) released a newer version last year. It may have even been on bluray. But this is the version I have. The Gold Collection edition. I think after this, they had the Platinum editions, and nowadays everything is the Diamond edition. Where does it all stop? I have no idea what could be after “Diamond”. Maybeee… ummmm… Dodo-bird egg. Edition.
Bing Crosby narrates the Ichabod section of the movie. “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad” is what Disney called a “package film”. During this time period, they produced several of these type flicks, which were anthology-type movies. Most of them contained several stories (“Fun and Fancy Free”, “Make Mine Music”, etc.), but this one only has two.
But back to Bing. Bing Crosby really gives Ichabod his debonaire qualities. He can sing, for one thing, and he has such a great voice while narrating, throwing in that late 40’s wit like you see in a lot of Bugs Bunny cartoons.
It’s often hard in an animated film to know who to give the credit to, for their genius work. In this case, you have some really great animators working on this picture. Three of my personal favorites, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnston, all helped direct the animation in this film, which is a large part of where its “look” comes from. Though not pictured here, Marc Davis is also credited with some animation work. Marc Davis is one of the main guys who helped design the Haunted Mansion dark ride, so the look of this film is no surprsie there. If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend the documentary “Frank & Ollie”, which is about Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two animators who literally wrote the book on classic Disney animation.
Here we have the “real” directors, the guys who get the final say in what the picture looks like. I am under the opinion that Clyde Geronimi is mostly responsible for the stylized look of a lot of the film. His other work in Sleeping Beauty, Peter & the Wolf, and the Three Caballeros bear a resemblance to some of the more interesting shots in the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
The opening shot of the movie is a close-up of this stained-glass window. It zooms in. We can see the picture clearly: a quill, a book, and a candle. This lets us know that we are in for something involving books, and probably classic books, given the candle and quill. The light is on and burning brightly, welcoming us inside to hear a tale or two.
The camera zooms across a nice, stately, proper library, presumably in someone’s home. Basil Rathbone, a Brit himself, is telling us about classic characters in English literature. He is helping us pick out a book, and finally decides on the Wind in the Willows.
Now, I love a good “talking animal” story as much as the next guy, especially a good pastoral, pagan tale like the Wind in the Willows (the book), but there are just better filmed versions than this. Check out the stop-motion one from the early 80s.
After the Wind in the Willows, Bing Crosby takes over narration duties, to tell us about classic characters from literature “over here in the colonies”. He also picks out a book…
As the story of Ichabod begins, we see a gangly shadow, loping across a field, on his way to his new position as head schoolmaster. I like to think that, since we see his shadow first, that this is foreshadowing of Ichabod’s ghost, telling us that his tragic spirit still roams the hills and hollows of upstate New York. In fact, at the end of the film we are even told that his spirit still roams around the area.
Here’s a first look at that magnificent shnoz. My dad claims that Ichabod looks exactly like a friend of his. We learn several things from this shot. First, that Ichabod is a bit of a scholar, paying more attention to books than to where he is going or where he is coming from. Also, from his meager pack, we know that he has few belongings and that he is most likely pretty poor. He is well-dressed though, so he enjoys taking care of his appearance, which may suggest that he is a little vain.
As Ichabod glides on into town on those shovel-like feet of his, we get the first appearance of Brom Bones. In 1949, Davy Crockett was hugely popular, and Brom wearing the trademark coonskin cap here straight away lets us know that he is adventurous, gregarious, and possibly even a little reckless… but all in a good-natured sort of way.
In this scene, Brom rides up to his buddies, picks up a barrel of beer, breaks it open, and pours some for everyone… including the animals. And don’t give me any bullshit about it being “root beer” or “ginger beer”. This is clearly good, old-fashioned, American ale.
This was back before Disney turned into the namby-pamby, rudy-poo, bunch of P.C. teetotallers that they are today. A lot of Disney features back in these days featured alcohol use. Check out “Dumbo” if you don’t believe me.
Brom gets his first look at Ichabod through the crystal-clear bottom of his mug. Does this insinuate something involving the relationship between alcohol and whippin’ ass? Probably not.
Meanwhile, Ichabod, completely oblivious, saunters into town with his Jimmy Durante still poked into his book. The townspeople sing a charming tune, led by Bing, about Ichabod (“Whatta name! Kinda odd, but nice just the same!”) as he avoids walking under a ladder and crossing the path of a black cat. We now know that Icky (as Bing calls him) is not only studious, but highly superstitious as well (the old guys at work call guys like that “spooky” or “scary” or “jubous”, prnounced like “Jew Bus”. which is weird, to me.) He is the type who would not only believe in spooks like the Headless Horseman, but would be downright terrified of them, avoiding them at all costs. Brom does not see this though… yet.
Towards the end of the song, Icky helps a lady, who is carrying a head full of baked goods, out of a gate. This lets us know that Icky not only likes the ladies, but that he really likes to eat, as well. And if he can have both, well that’s all the better.
This is a whole scene where Ichabod is teaching class and is about to get on to a little boy. but the kid’s mom is a great cook, so he doesn’t. Instead, he goes over to the boy’s house for a “roast turkey” dinner, which he records here on his calendar as being “excellent”. We also see his other engagements, most of which involve women or food, of course. On Friday he teaches the ladies Choral Society…
Ladies love a fine baritone…
Brom is standing outside and gets a dog to howl, right when Icky nails the last note…
It is then that Katrina rides into town with her father, Baltus van Tassel, a wealthy local. Not only is Katrina hot as a firecracker, but she’s loaded too! I love the look of this horse right here, it’s so “Sleeping Beauty”.
Katrina has a ton of suitors. Bing introduces her with a song in which he croons, “Once you have met, that little coquette, Katrina…” Do you know what a coquette is? These days we call them “players”.
We are shown, not told, that Katrina enjoys making all the men in Sleepy Hollow swoon over her, while they do every little thing that she wants. She has no intentions of courting any of them, but she does enjoy their attention and lapdog attitude.
In other words, she has turned every man in Sleepy Hollow the eff out.
What’s this? A man that she has not made subservient to her whims? Well, we must fix that…
Just a wink of the eye, an alluring turn of the mouth, and a wiggle of the bottom, and….
Ichabod is screwed.
He’s supposed to be having a picnic with this wildebeest (one of our kindred, brothers!), but his mind is on anything but roast turkey and strawberry cake and tea. This minor character, the fat broad (I call myself fat all the time, it’s cool), we’ll see again later.
Katrina’s got this sumbitch so turned around that he’s eating his hat and wearing a turkey! Now isn’t that something!
The next day, while Icky should be teaching, he’s dreaming of dating, and eventually marrying, Katrina. You’ll notice the role-reversal here between Icky and his class… now he’s the one goofing off.
In the first few scenes, Icky pictures getting wealthy by marrying Katrina. We see that, although Ichabod is the protagonist of our tale, that he’s really no better than Katrina. He’s confident in his abilities to woo the women, and he plans to use them to get himself into the proverbial catbird seat.
We see here that, even though most of the dream has been about Ichabod getting wealthy, he does have a soft spot for Katrina, also. So he’s not just about the dough.
To be honest, I don’t know how much this sort of gold-digging attitude was looked down on in American society in 1949. I have no idea if audiences would see this behavior as unethical or not, but it would be interesting to know. Any thoughts?
In this scene, Katrina is shopping, as usual. Women be shoppin! She has a group of her lapdogs helping her carry her purchases… until Brom rides up and shoos them all away. Bing tells us that Katrina often wishes that a champion would “take the field openly” and oppose Brom Bones in winning her hand. Of course, Ichabod, being both confident and naive, is ready and willing to accept this challenge.
However, this is our first hint that Katrina still has no intentions of marrying anyone but Brom in the long run, she just enjoys playing mind games with Icky and the rest of the local bumpkins.
Brom rides in and absconds with Katrina and all her tasty groceries (you just know a rich gal like her has some good stuff. like fancy cheeses and wine with a cork)
Ichabod pursues Brom back to the van Tassel estate. Click on this picture and make it big. I really love this shot. It’s shots like this that make me love this film so much. Paintings that, if taken out of the context of the film, would make a great work of art to hang on your wall. This has kind of a “folk art” quality to it, which goes along with the rural setting of the entire story.
Once again, Ichabod bests Brom through using his wits, and gains entrance to Katrina’s home, where he pulls one of the oldest tricks in the book: giving her flowers that were in a vase near the stairs.
Katrina sees Brom peeking through the transom and decides to give him a show…
Check out Icky’s ponytail. The universal sign of arousal…
This has the intended effect and, while leaving, Brom tries to fight Ichabod. Icky, naturally, outsmarts Brom, causing him to put his fist through a tree! Brom gets this last look at Ichabod as he escapes almost certain death…
Ichabod receives an invitation to the van Tassel’s annual Halloween frolic. Hs invitation bears a special note, from Katrina herself!!! Ichabod interprets this as a marriage proposal. What other explanation could there be?
So he gets dolled up, borrows a horse named Gunpowder, and rides into the setting sun to meet Katrina on this lovely fall Halloween night…
Blow that picture up real quick. It is sooooo gooooood. I love the jack-o-lantern on the post outside. Once again, the use of the color blue lets us know that things are about to get real as a mofo round here…
But first! A little fun….
Ichabod is shown as a masterful dancer, besting Brom on yet another field of battle. Our man here, Icky, is a cultured sort of chap, ya know.
Brom sees this lonely soul, wallflowering it up, and has an idea. He thinks he can substitute our lady here with Katrina, leaving Ichabod dancing with Strawberry Shortcake, while he takes off with Katrina…
His plan works, but once again, Ichabod is too smart, or lucky, to be done in by such tomfoolery. In this shot, we see Ichabod has his hands full, while Brom dances away with the Katrina. Love the jack-o-lantern detail on the cupboard…
As I said, Ichabod finds a way to turn this to his advantage and comes out looking better than ever. The ladies all love him, which is good for his cause, because there’s nothing a woman like Katrina likes more than having the man that all the other girls want…
Unfortunately, Ichabod’s victory will be short-lived… as we approach the stroke of midnight, which is when old Baltus calls upon his guests to regale him with ghostly stories of Halloween…
Before the tales begin, Ichabod fixes himself a snack. He accidentally spills some salt, which he throws over his shoulder to prevent bad luck.
Brom sees this act of superstition and realizes his chance to strike back at Ichabod… by telling the scariest story ever….
This creepy old guy is creepy.
All of this is used to build suspense for the coming tale of the Headless Horseman…
Brom really lays it on thick, directing every word and motion straight into poor Icky’s superstitious heart.
We get a bit of the lore behind the Headless Horseman here. Basically, he doesn’t have a head, so he wants yours. But if you make it to the other side of the bridge, he can’t follow. (as a side note, it’s an old superstition that evil spirits can’t cross running water)
I didn’t show it here, but there is a shot at the end of Brom’s musical tale where Katrina is laughing at Ichabod’s reaction to the story, showing that she enjoys seeing Icky scared out of wits.
After the story, it is time to make the long ride home. Alone….
Whistling will do you no good, Ichabod. The fates have determined your destiny. And now, even the very environment itself is closing in on you…
Nature and the very earth seem to have turned on Ichabod. The suspense builds and builds, until he finds himself in an old graveyard…
Whats that sound, Icky??? Galloping hooves??? Is it the Horseman?
No, it’s just cattails, driven by the wind to beat on a hollow log…
Gunpowder and his rider enjoy a brief respite from the suspense and share a laugh at Ichabod’s stupidity…
I really like how they let him go out of frame for just a second…
The suspense is gone, replaced by a pulse-pounding chase scene between the Horseman and Ichabod Crane. You can’t see it in this shot, but the Horseman is between Icky and the bridge.
There are tons of little gags throughout this chase sequence. They would be impossible to document here. But this is a good one…
The two collide….
And Icky gets a good look at that empty hole, really getting that shnoz down in there….
Ichabod makes a fatal mistake here. He stops.
Note to self: when running from a murderous ghost… don’t stop.
Icky is knocked outta the ballpark! You’ll recognize this shot (the flaming punkin), as Tim Burton paid homage to it in his version starring Jack Sparrow.
Brom marries Katrina shortly thereafter, which we all figured was coming whether Ichabod was around or not.
It’s interesting that they hide their faces when they kiss. I guess that would have been indecent or something. Plus we don’t want to see Brom and Katrina kissing, while Ichabod is off in the spirit world with giant chickens and headless horsemen.
Of course, the ending that we all want to believe as a child is this one: That ol’ Icky left the Holler and went and married a wealthy widow and ate tons of food and had tons of big-nosed kids…
But really, the ending that deep down we know is the truth, is this one…
I think Bing even says that all the “old settlers” knew that Icky had been “spirited away” by the headless horseman.
The ending zooms out of the library, back outside to the window, with the light lit…
This little threatening tidbit at the end (the light going out) is just the right coda for the frighteningly funny tale of Ichabod Crane. Bing says, “Man, I’m gettin’ outta here…”
The End. Is there really any question that things went downhill after Walt died? I mean, seriously.
You can watch this whole film on youtube, but I would suggest purchasing it because it’s a timeless classic, and you want to see all these wonderful shots both big and in some decent definition.
The real question is, Was it Brom Bones in a costume? Or was it the Horseman for real??? The book is fairly ambiguous, but I do like to think that it’s hinted at that the Horseman is real and that Ichabod was murdered by him. Lots of people want to talk about the hints that suggest that it was Brom (same horse, same knife, etc.), but I choose to believe that Ichabod met a tragic end at the hands of a ghost.
Ok, so I promised yesterday that this would be big. I hope it delivered on your end, because on my end it took ALL FRACKIN DAY. Mostly because I’m not good at computers. Oh well…
So I’m taking tomorrow off from the blog, since this was an all-day event. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you’ll share it with your friends whom you think might enjoy it!
Happy Halloween and I’ll see you all back here Saturday!
(((edit: I realize some of the pics are not working properly sometimes. try to refresh your window a few times. I used over 100 screenshots for this post, so I’m sure it’s just a problem on wordpress’s end. I’ve done all I can through editing this post several times, like even re-uploading the pictures. It seems that sometimes they all work, and sometimes they don’t. IE sucks, btw. I know you know that.)))