Sunday, January 29, 2012

"The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad" - a classic Disney movie review by Robert Steven Mack

There are, indeed, so many films out there made and ultimately forgotten. Throughout the twentieth century, films were a primary medium that audiences would appreciate time and time again. Going to the movies was a pleasurable past time people would enjoy for whatever reason or occasion with only one motive in mind: to be entertained.

Hollywood was astounding back then, perhaps even more than it is now. A legend of glamour and big names, stars socializing in the nearest cafe, directors shouting furious directions to create their newest masterpiece; producers working hard in their expensive offices, on packaging their newest blockbuster. Parties were being thrown night after night in celebration of completed films, stars returning from vacation and such. Writers busily typing on their type writers surrounded by sheets of paper that would soon become the biggest epic of the year, film noire, western or whatever other classic genres were being produced. Not that any of this had any relation whatsoever with reality. But it's still nice to reminisce...

In the 1940's, Disney was commissioned to make a variety of rather not so extravagantly budgeted "package films." They consisted of several short stories compiled into one 75 minute film. The last of these was a film produced in 1949 and told the stories of Kenneth Graham's "The Wind in the Willows" and Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," narrated by Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby, respectively, and among the voice cast classic character actor Eric Blore to voice Mr. Toad. That film was called "The Legend of Ichabod and Mr. Toad." With Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes) as narrator and a lively, well-portrayed voice cast, this feature beautifully portrays the classic tale of a wealthy and free-spirited Toad whose mischievous acts and carelessness eventually get the best of him, with only his best friends to help him sort out the trouble and chaos he managed to conjure up.

Telling the story with fun, wit and charm, as well as the devises that give it a dash of the rather "large scale picture" as you might call it. The events that occur in the story are placed precisely in a manner that every moment counts, such as when Toad finally feels he has gone too far, and when McBager shows up on Christmas Eve with news that no such crime was ever committed by Toad and that they must take the real law breakers to justice in order to prove Toad's innocence. Dynamically told with all the proper ingredients, it is apparent that this film had the right minds working on it. If there was ever a film to watch based on the "Wind and the Willows," then believe me when I say: this is it!

In classic Disney fashion and ingenuity, the story of Ichabod Crane was brought to viewers in America. It was told and sung purely by Bing Crosby. The animation is timeless, the music is fitting and pure, and Bing Crosby was perfect to tell the story. A story with humour, love, and trickery this film reveals from when Ichabod Crane, a strange but good-natured fellow, first comes to town to when the town bully stories catch up to Ichabod when riding through the woods on an eerie Halloween night and chased by the Headless Horseman. That scene in particular is engagingly told and displays what all lead up to that moment in Ichadbod Crane's life: the foolishness and the superstition in one combined together in a most frightening manner. The infamous chase and the rest of this story is beautifully animated and vividly told.

A film for all ages, but one perhaps a viewer could only fully understand at the right age, yet it still something for the youngens. Moreover, it bridges English stories with American fables and legend having Basil Rathbone telling the Wind in the Willows with all the English dignity and intellect and easy-going Bing Crosby sing and tell The Legend of Sleepy Hollow or Ichabod Crane. It is one of the most dignified, fresh, and ingenuitive films by Disney I have ever seen! A rare treasure among the world of animation, this is some of the best story- telling I have ever come across.

Copyright 2012 by Robert Steven Mack (all rights reserved!)

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