The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad [Blu-ray]
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Experience two classic Disney masterpieces, THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD and FUN AND FANCY FREE, together for the very first time on Blu-ray(TM). Enjoy Disney animation's humorous retelling of two unforgettable classics, THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW and THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, wonderfully narrated by Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby, which come together in one magnificent adventure. Then have some fun with Mickey, Donald and Goofy in FUN AND FANCY FREE, as Jiminy Cricket brings to life the timeless tales of BONGO and MICKEY AND THE BEANSTALK. This was the last animated feature starring Walt Disney as the voice of Mickey Mouse. These classic films follow Disney's tradition of combining great storytelling, unforgettable characters, music and adventure to create fun you can share with the whole family. Includes Disney bonus cartoon classic, THE RELUCTANT DRAGON -- only on Blu-ray!|Legend has it that the animator assigned to this film departed to serve in the Army during World War II, then returned four years later only to resume animating the exact same sequence he'd been working on!|Several of the characters from MR. TOAD appear in the 1983 short, "Mickey's Christmas Carol": Cyril, Toad (as Scrooge's first employer), Rat and Mole (as collectors for the poor), and two of the weasels (as gravediggers).|The film was originally titled TWO FABULOUS CHARACTERS.|Despite his huge nose, huge ears, and wispy red hair plaited tightly into a pigtail, Ichabod is portrayed as a ladies' man in the film.|"The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow" (ICHABOD) section of the movie is one of the few instances in a Disney film in which a bully -- Brom Bones -- gets the girl.
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Bongo was written by the great American novelist, Sinclair Lewis. Bongo is a bear who performs in a travelling circus but he longs to break free from captivity and live free in the world. Bongo meets a girl bear and falls in love but has to fight another bear named Lumpjaw to win her affections. Bongo is narrated by Dinah Shore.
Mickey and the Beanstalk is the Disney adaptation of the well-known fairy tale. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are poor and starving and decide to sell their cow. But Mickey instead trades the cow in for some magic beans. A furious Donald throws down the beans which sprouts vines that carry their little hut far into the clouds where the meet Willie the Giant who has stolen their village’s magical harp. This would be the last Disney animated feature where Walt Disney provided the voice of Mickey Mouse. This may very well be the best of Disney’s mid-range animated films. Beautiful animation combines with a magical story filled with heart and humor.
The Wind and the Willows was written by Kenneth Grahame and is an adaptation of the children’s classic. This is a well done take on the story about the comically irresponsible Mr. Toad whose frivolous and careless ways with money gets him thrown in prison when he’s accused of stealing a car. Toad was cheated however by a gang of weasels and Toad’s friends help him escape from prison so he can restore his reputation. The Wind and the Willows was only released on DVD for the first time in 2009 and finally makes its way to blu-ray. This is a beautifully animated tale from the height of Disney quality featuring narration by Basil Rathbone.
Finally we come to my favorite in the set, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I believe I have seen every film or animated version of the Washington Irving early American ghost story but had not seen this one in years. The story is narrated by actor/singer Bing Crosby who relates the tale of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane who arrives in Sleepy Hollow in 1790 and immediately becomes smitten with Katrina Van Tassel, the beautiful daughter child of Baltus van Tassel, who is the richest man in the village. However Ichabod has a rival for Katrina’s love with local village tough guy and prankster, Bram Bones.
As Ichabod travels home late one evening after a party at the Van Tassel’s he is attacked by the sword wielding Headless Horseman. The next morning Ichabod’s hat is found but there is no trace of the schoolmaster. Was the horseman just Bram Bones in disguise or an actual ghost?
Crosby lends his voice to several songs in the film but the highlight is the harrowing chase through the woods as the Horseman pursues Ichabod Crane. Still a highlight which should be required viewing every Halloween season.
Now there are no bonus extras but there is a bonus film. Oddly enough the bonus is the full-length version of The Reluctant Dragon, also based upon a story written by Kenneth Grahame. It’s a rather interesting production which combines live action and separate animated segments. It’s also a film like the Wizard of Oz which starts out in black and white and switches to Technicolor after the first twenty minutes. The tale of kights of yore features a dragon who is more interested in reading poetry than battling knights. The wraparound live action story features humorist and actor Robert Benchley trying to sell the tale of the Reluctant Dragon to Disney and touring the studios. Released in 1941 at the height of an animator’s strike, the film suffered due to protests during the time and never truly received the notoriety it deserved. Not a classic by any means but an enjoyable and very different Disney film.
I've recently begun purchasing older disney movies and cartoons to get myself pumped-up for our trips to Disney World.
Fun and Fancy Free is also the last movie that Walt Disney was the voice of Mickey. And Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is of course, a great movie for the kids for Halloween.
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After WWII, the Disney studio was in financial shambles. In an attempt to make money quickly, Disney released a number of "compilation" films, none of which was particularly successful with critics or crowds. "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad" combines "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" with "The Wind in the Willows". The latter is a surprisingly faithful rendition of the book's central story -- Toad's friends trying to get him to behave responsibly (which works well in an animated film) -- but the quieter, more-reflective parts of the book are missing. (Walt even said that the book didn't lend itself to animation.). I find it unengaging (others like it), though Eric Blore's performance as Toad is a pleasure.
"Ichabod Crane" is a hoot, though, one of Disney's very best short films. Everything about it is suited to animation, especially Crane's homely features and gangly body, and the final confrontation with the Headless Horseman -- arguably one of the great sequences in the history of animation. With Bing Crosby carrying the singing and story-telling duties, there's zero dialog, with lets the animators focus on what they do best.
"Fun and Fancy Free" is a similarly mixed bag. "Bongo" is a circus bear, in a story written by Sinclair Lewis (!!!), who longs for the wild life. It's cute the first time you see it -- and that's it. "Mickey and the Beanstalk" might not be a high point of Disney animation, but it holds up to repeat viewings.
If this disk held only these two films, it would be of questionable value. What saves it is the third, "The Reluctant Dragon". Robert Benchley * is pestered by his wife (played by an actress) to show "The Reluctant Dragon" (supposedly written by his nephew (it was actually written by Kenneth Grahame 32 years earlier)) to Walt Disney as a possible film. On arriving at the studio, he's given a tour, and we get some (not much) insight into how animated films are made. (The RCA Sonovox demonstration is particularly interesting.) When Benchley walks into the room where paints are mixed, the film switches to handsome Technicolor.
This, too, is a compilation film, with the storyboards from "Baby Weems", a not-very-interesting tale about a genius infant (I suspect the story had already been abandoned, and this was a good way to recycle it); the Goofy short "How to Ride a Horse"; and the title work. The latter two are excellent, and worth repeated views. And then there's Benchley, who's always a delight.
I have no hesitation recommending this set (which includes DVD versions). Just don't be surprised if you don't like every last thing in it.
These films have been given transfers from the original three-strip Technicolor negatives many other Disney features have received. Though this is a general improvement ("Ichabod" no longer looks dark and grungy), the fact remains that no attempt has been made to get the hue and saturation right. Technicolor was a less-than-perfect process, and the artists often used the "wrong" colors to get the right effects in the projection print. If this isn't corrected, the result can be a garish clash of over-saturated hues.
"Ichabod" is particularly bad in this respect, as such errors don't work well with a story about the supernatural. This is also true of "Mr Toad", a bucolic story where bright colors are out of place. The same problem exists in "Beanstalk" and "Bongo", but isn't too annoying, as the subjects can tolerate it.
"The Reluctant Dragon" has some beautiful Technicolor photography inside the Disney studios. Though the lighting is necessarily flat to accommodate Technicolor's limited tonal scale, the hues vary from near-pastel to highly saturated, and are consistently pleasing.
* Benchley was at the time a famous writer and comic. His best-known relative is his grandson, who wrote a popular book about a big, dangerous fish.
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