Figured that Ben would think that Fun and Fancy Free was ‘meh’. It was. So, on we go to the last film to come out of the Walt Disney Animation Studios in the 1940’s, ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad’.
The film is made up of the animated adaptations of two classic stories, ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame and ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ by Washington Irving. It has the added wow-factor of the first story being narrated by British actor, Basil Rathbone and the second story by American actor and singer, Bing Crosby. Ah yes. I’m familiar with Bing. He was in Holiday Inn (and lots of other films, but I’ve actually seen Holiday Inn) and sang that Christmas song with David Bowie. As for Basil Rathbone, I’m not so familiar with him. I’m not familiar with him at all actually. Off I go to trusty Wikipedia then. Ok he’s seriously posh. His full name is Philip St. John Basil Rathbone MC. Who has St. John as a middle name? A proper toff, that’s who. And MC? So not only can he narrate, he can also rap! This would’ve been more entertaining if he’d rapped the story.
I have nothing else I can give you in my ‘pre-review’ (it’s almost like I’ve been trying to pad it out with nonsense), so I’ll just let you read Ben’s review below.
All in all, the film was fine. Nothing special. Probably wouldn’t watch it again (however, I do really want to watch Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp now). Next film’s Cinderella!!!!
P.S. Just quickly wanted to add something here. I call it, “Screwing over my husband”. I’ve just signed up to Disney+ (which will be available in the UK from 24th March) and it appears that Melody Time is on it. So, not quite done with the 40’s crap just yet, honey.
Film 10! I can’t believe I’ve made it this far! I feel like I’ve completed a triathlon but with a stronger feeling of exhaustion and pain. Speaking of exhaustion and pain, here is my experience of watching 1949’s ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad’.
The intro is just like all the previous ones. I really hate that Forties style vocal that has laced every film so far with its outdated wailing. I’ve just noticed one of the names in the opening credits is ‘Ub Tweeks’! Sir, you have a phenomenal name. You should be proud.
The film is introduced by the narrator. If some dude at Disney was set the task to find the poshest human on Planet Earth to narrate the film’s opening scene, they deserve a bonus for their roaring success. I wonder if it was Ub Tweeks job? Either way, poshest sounding dude? Check. Job done. So, the ‘haut monde’ of the narrating world introduces us to “the delightful book, ‘Wind in the Willows’”. We’re clearly still very much all in with adaptations, as opposed to original content then.
At this point it’s worth mentioning that this film is unusual compared to what I’ve encountered with Disney thus far. At least in terms of the effect it will have on my review. All my reviews have been something of a ‘scene by scene reaction’. And because most scenes have been filled with surrealist nightmares, bizarre storytelling, outdated world views that make the eyes widen, propaganda, scenes more disturbing than necessary in a kids film or just outright crap, one way or another there have been vast amounts from start to finish (or where I start to lose interest) that I want to reflect on, and to be honest, I’ve rarely been stumped with what to type next. Where I found this film unusual, especially during the WITW adaptation, was that the stories aren’t especially bizarre, the surrealism is lessened, the days of Latin American propaganda are long gone and there is isn’t a Donkey-Slave-Child in sight. And as you would expect with adaptations of two ‘literary classics’, the stories aren’t that bad either. The thing is that I was just BORED through most of this. I had to pause the movie on more than one occasion and ask what the hell was going on, because I had totally zoned out. As I result, I will probably review this with a less ‘play by play’ approach and write more of a general overview this time to save us all some tedium.
I do wonder why I didn’t really enjoy this film. After all, the critics think it’s good, a lot of people who have watched it (and granted there aren’t many) seem to enjoy it, and as mentioned before, these are literary classics. It’s just REALLY not my thing, but then, which films so far have been? So this may be a slightly shorter review compared to the previous ones, but I will be posting an article discussing the first ten Disney films and how I perceive them now the dust has settled, later in the week.
The Mr Toad story focuses on his obsession to own a motor car, which in turn causes him to be tricked by some weasels into looking like he stole a motor vehicle, which results into his imprisonment, allowing the weasels to take control of his mansion, Toad Hall. With the help of the LUDICROUSLY Scottish McBadger, Mole and Rat, Mr Toad escapes prison and they start the journey for his vindication. The main thing I have taken from this story, and the thing I confidently think everyone will consider the most important talking point, is wondering if calling Badger ‘McBadger’ is common among Scottish Badgers, as well as fauna in general. Are there McSheep, McFoxes, McGoats and McWasps? In Ireland are there O’Cows, O’Butterflies and O’Llamas? Ok maybe not O’Llamas. The Llamas will be immigrants, so more likely Señor Pedro the Llama. In the Netherlands is there a Van Der Salamander or a Van Der Panda?
Disney have also gone out of their way to make sure there is no doubt that this is a British novel. But it’s very British in that way all Americans think that all British people are. Thatched cottages, monocles, tweed and high-tea-with-cucumber-sandwiches stereotyping, basically. Granted there are a few people over here that are actually like that, we normally call them ‘wankers’. I hope Americans will appreciate that little lesson in English culture and colloquialism.
One other thing to note is the scene where the four animals need to steal papers from the bad guys in Toad Hall is rather familiar to me. Probably because feels like they had almost exactly the same scenario in the previous film, Fun and Fancy Free, where other annoying animals try to retrieve a harp-woman from a giant. It feels like a copy and paste job to me. I’m onto you Disney.
Yet another thing to note is that I always need a protagonist I can strongly get behind, even if I cannot empathise with or relate to. My investment in any story is greatly increased by a hero you can fully invest in, like George Bailey or Zack Morris. I don’t want someone or something to be wrongfully imprisoned, but Mr Toad is such a materialistic, annoying bellend, so his fictional plight is of little importance to me.
Now normally, my reviews have to be spoiler ridden as I say what I see, and I go by the logic that anyone that reads this would most likely be a Disney fan that will have watched whatever it is I’m bitching about discussing. In this case, I think there’s a lot of even Disney fans that haven’t watched this film and haven’t seen or read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow but want to check it out, so to be on the safe side, I’m keeping this spoiler free.
Now back to protagonists I can’t invest in. This dude.
How can I get behind that? How am I supposed to believe that the local ho-bag (more on her shortly) would be interested in him? He has a bow in his hair FFS! I think we aren’t supposed to like him very much, in fairness, as they don’t exactly hide his douchiness (again, I’m reinventing the English language).
So this story is blessed with the narration of Bing Crosby, which means we get Bing Crosby singing in that unmistakeably forties style too, which as you well know, is not really my bag. Mainly because I hate it.
The peculiar creature pictured above is Ichabod Crane, a teacher who arrives at Sleepy Hollow, somewhere in New York State. He can be an object of ridicule. No shit! Anyway the local girls seem to like him for some reason, however “one fateful day”, he meets this girl:
This is Katrina. She has no bladder, intestines or liver, as she has a four-inch waist. So that green thing she’s holding may well be a colostomy bag. Yet this hasn’t stopped her being the biggest prick tease in Sleepy Hollow. Look at those creepy bastards, the chap in the blue shirt has resorted to blatantly staring down her dress. The dude in green showing that men with bows in their hair may have been a fashion statement, so perhaps Ichabod is trendier than I gave him credit for. Bing Crosby describes her as “plump as a partridge. And ripe!” I wouldn’t call her plump. I would say she’s got a gigantic rack. And I think that’s what Bing is implying too, in a subtle, roundabout way. There is nothing subtle, or roundabout, about saying she was ‘ripe’, however. He may as well have said “she was ready for a good ploughing whilst she was wrinkle free…” Ichabod agrees with that sentiment and decides that he must marry her. Mostly it seems because she has a rich father though. See what I mean. Dick! But there is a rival for her affections. Someone who is a far superior specimen that Ichabod. So the story becomes a battle for her affections.
As I said, I’m keeping this spoiler free, but this does turn into a horror tale. I know Disney are willing to take things in a very dark direction compared to most cartoons, and to their credit, they do a pretty good job here, maybe some younger kids may be a bit freaked out by it. Personally, I found this story is a bit restricted by being placed in a family film. The second half of the Ichabod tale is still the best part of the film by far though.
To summarise, if any of the ten Disney films I’ve watched so far were to convert me, this certainly would not be it. It did, however, leave me curious about the book and subsequent film adaptations of ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. This version, with Bing Crosby’s singing and annoying music though, much like food as it reaches Katrina’s non-existent stomach, is hard to digest. Still, it was far superior to the adventures of Mr Toad, which I legitimately have almost lost from memory altogether. Good or bad, or to be more accurate, average or bad, I still remember the other films I’ve watched reasonably well. This however is a blur, and I have no problem leaving it that way.