The film is the 11th Walt Disney theatrical animated feature and is the last of the studio's package film era of the 1940s, following Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun and Fancy Free, and Melody Time, until The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in March 1977.
Beginning in 1955, the two portions of the film were separated, and televised as part of the Disneyland television series. They were later marketed and sold separately on home video.
As the film's animated segments are based on literary works, they are both introduced in live-action scenes set in a library as a framing device. The first segment is introduced and narrated by Basil Rathbone, and the second segment is introduced and narrated by Bing Crosby. Decca Records issued an album called Ichabod - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow featuring Crosby in 1949 to tie in with the release of the film.
This segment is based on The Wind in the Willows (1908) by Kenneth Grahame. The story is set in and around London, England, United Kingdom between June 10, 1909 and January 1, 1910. The protagonist J. Thaddeus Toad, Esq. is introduced as an "incurable adventurer" who "never counted the cost". As the story's "one disturbing element", although he is the wealthy proprietor of the Toad Hall estate, Toad's adventures and "positive mania for fads" have brought him to the brink of bankruptcy. As a last resort, Toad's friend Angus MacBadger volunteers as Toad's bookkeeper to help Toad keep his estate which is a source of pride in the community.
One summer day, MacBadger asks Toad's friends Ratty (a water rat) and Moley (a mole) to persuade Toad to give up his latest mania of recklessly driving about the countryside in a horse and gypsy cart, which could accumulate a great deal of financial liability in damaged property. Ratty and Moley confront Toad, but are unable to change his mind. Toad then sees a motor car for the first time and becomes entranced by the new machine, having been taken over by "motor-mania."
To cure Toad's new mania, Ratty and Moley put Toad under house arrest. However, Toad escapes and is later arrested and charged with car theft. At his trial, Toad represents himself and calls his horse Cyril Proudbottom as his first witness. Cyril testifies that the car which Toad was accused of stealing had already been stolen by a gang of weasels. Toad had entered a tavern where the car was parked and offered to buy the car from the weasels. However, since Toad had no money, he instead offered to trade Toad Hall for the car. The prosecutor and judge show disbelief towards the statement, so Toad then calls the bartender Mr. Winky as a witness to the agreement; however, when told by Toad to explain what actually happened, Winky falsely testifies that Toad had tried to sell him the stolen car. Toad is found guilty on the spot and sentenced to life in the Tower of London. Toad's friends make every effort to appeal his case, but with no success.
On Christmas Eve, Cyril visits Toad in disguise as his grandmother and helps him escape by giving him a disguise of his own. Meanwhile, MacBadger discovers that Winky is the leader of the weasel gang, and that they have indeed taken over Toad Hall; Winky himself is in possession of the deed. Knowing that the deed bearing Toad and Winky's signature would prove Toad's innocence, the four friends sneak into Toad Hall and take the document after a grueling chase around the estate.
The film then ends on New Year's Day with Toad regaining his house while it is implied that Winky and his minions have been arrested and imprisoned. As MacBadger, Ratty, and Moley celebrate the New Year with a toast to Toad, who they believe has completely reformed, Toad and Cyril recklessly fly past on a 1903 Wright Flyer; Toad has not truly reformed and developed a mania for airplanes.
The second segment is based on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving. Although the film introduces the story as Ichabod Crane, later individual releases retained the story's original title. (As a short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was originally published in The Sketch Book with other stories, not as a single volume as pictured in the film.)
In October 1790, Ichabod Crane, a lanky, gluttonous, superstitious yet charming dandy arrives in Sleepy Hollow, New York, a small village north of Tarrytown and New York City, New York, United States that is renowned for its ghostly hauntings, to be the town's new schoolmaster. Despite his odd behavior and effeminate mannerisms, Ichabod soon wins the hearts of the village's women. Brom Bones, the roughish town hero, does his best to bully Ichabod. However, he is very good at ignoring these taunts and continues to interact with the townspeople. Ichabod then falls in love with Katrina van Tassel, the beautiful daughter and only child of Baltus van Tassel, who is the richest man in the village (unlike in most films, Katrina does not have spoken dialogue in this segment). Despite the fact that he is falling in love with her, Ichabod mainly desires to take her family's money for himself. Brom, who is also in love with her, proceeds to compete with the schoolmaster. Ichabod wins Katrina over at every opportunity, although, unbeknownst to him, Katrina, who thinks Brom is too sure of himself, is only using Ichabod to make Brom jealous and force him to try harder for her affections.
The two love rivals are invited to the van Tassel Halloween party where Brom tries to swap a plump woman for Katrina who is dancing with Ichabod but comically fails. While both men dine, Brom catches Ichabod nervously tossing salt over his shoulder. Discovering Ichabod is superstitious, he decides to sing the tale of the legendary Headless Horseman who was apparently killed by a cannonball in a recent conflict and travels each year on Halloween while searching for a head to replace the one he had lost. Everyone else, including Katrina, finds this amusing while Ichabod, on the other hand, starts to fear for his life.
On his way home from the party, Ichabod becomes paranoid by every animal noise he hears while riding through the dark woods, increasing his fear of the possibility of encountering the Horseman. While traveling through the old cemetery, Ichabod believes he hears the sound of a horse galloping towards him, but discovers the sound is being made by nearby cattails bumping on a log. Relieved, Ichabod begins to laugh with his horse. However, their laughter is cut short by the appearance of the real Headless Horseman riding a black horse (that is, suspiciously, identical to Brom's horse). After the ghost gives chase, Ichabod, remembering Brom's advice, crosses a covered bridge, which stops the ghost's pursuit. However, the horseman throws his flaming head, revealed to be a great big jack-o'-lantern, at a screaming Ichabod.
The next morning, Ichabod's hat is found at the bridge next to a shattered pumpkin, but Ichabod himself is nowhere to be found. Sometime later, Brom takes Katrina as his bride. Rumors begin to spread that Ichabod is still alive, married to a wealthy widow in a distant county with children who all look like him. However, the people of Sleepy Hollow insist that he was "spirited away" by the Headless Horseman.Bing Crosby - Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, Narrator (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
Basil Rathbone - Narrator, Policeman (The Wind in the Willows)
Eric Blore - J. Thaddeus Toad
Claude Allister - Ratty
Colin Campbell - Moley
Campbell Grant - Angus MacBadger
Leslie Dennison - Judge, Weasel #1
Edmond Stevens - Weasel #2
J. Pat O'Malley - Cyril Proudbottom, Mr. Winky, Policeman, Unseen Paper Boy
John McLeish - Prosecutor
Pinto Colvig - Ichabod Crane screaming
Clarence Nash - Ichabod's Horse
In 1938, shortly after the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, James Bodrero and Campbell Grant pitched to Walt Disney the idea of making a feature film of Kenneth Grahame's 1908 children's book The Wind in the Willows. Bodrero and Grant felt that Wind in the Willows, with its anthropomorphised animals, could only be produced using animation. Disney was skeptical, however, and felt it would be "corny" but acquired the rights in June that year. The film was intended to be a single narrative feature film with the title of the same name.
By early 1941, a basic script was complete, along with a song written by Frank Churchill called "We're Merrily on Our Way". Although it was intended to be a low-budget film (much like Dumbo), Disney hired many animators from the prestigious Bambi (which was nearly complete) and production began in May that year. Within six months, 33 minutes of the film had been animated. However, the studio's ability to produce full-length feature films had been drastically diminished, because World War II had drafted many of their animators into the military and had cut off their foreign release market. Thus, in October 1941, Disney put the production of Wind in the Willows on hold.
Then in December 1941, the United States became embroiled in the war after Pearl Harbor was attacked. The US government then asked the Disney studio to produce several propaganda films to help rally support for the war effort. During this time, much of Disney's feature output was made up of so-called "package films". Beginning with Saludos Amigos in 1942, Disney ceased making feature films with a single narrative due to the higher costs of such films, as well as the drain on the studio's resources caused by the war.
Walt Disney and his artists felt that the animation of the cartoony anthropomorphized animals in Wind in the Willows was far below the standards of a Disney animated feature. They then decided that Wind in the Willows would be better off being part of a package film.
Walt Disney started up production again in 1945. Many scenes in Wind in the Willows such as Toad buying several cars before his allowance is cut off, Rat and Mole visiting McBadger in a Sanatorium, Toad making an elaborate escape from his bedroom and Toad tricking a washer woman into helping him escape from prison had not yet been animated. Therefore, in order to condense the story for the package film, Disney cut these scenes and completed the remaining animation.
Under the title Three Fabulous Characters they tried to pair it up with Mickey and the Beanstalk and The Gremlins. However, after The Gremlins failed completely to materialize, the title was changed to Two Fabulous Characters. Then Mickey and the Beanstalk was cut from Fabulous Characters in favour of pairing it with Bongo under the title Fun and Fancy Free which was eventually released in 1947. Other segments were chosen for the film including Pecos Bill and The Brave Engineer with the retitled film "All In Fun" .But these two segments were later released separately with Pecos Bill being shown on Melody Time, while The Brave Engineer was released as its own short.
Meanwhile, in December 1946, Disney started production on a new animated feature film, an adaptation of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". However, the filmmakers found that the running time for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was not long enough to be a feature film and was more suited to be a package film.
Finally, in 1947, Walt Disney decided to pair The Wind in the Willows with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow under the new working title The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Well-known celebrities Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby were cast as narrators in order to provide mass audience appeal.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was the last of the "package" films, so Disney returned to single-narrative features with 1950's Cinderella, and despite the package feature, Disney continued to produce independent shorts on a regular basis until the mid-1950s.
The New York Times liked it saying: "As a craftsman who had strayed slightly from his chosen field, Walt Disney is to be congratulated on his return to the realm of pure animation in “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad,” which arrived at the Mayfair on Saturday. For in this, his latest feature and one in which a supporting cast of “live” players is refreshingly absent, Mr. Disney, abetted by his staff, such perfect narrators as Bing Crosby and Basil Rathbone, and a pair of durable literary works, has fashioned a conclave of cartoon creatures, which, by and large, have the winsome qualities and charm of such noted creations as “Mickey Mouse,” “Dumbo,” et al...the credits outweigh the debits and Mr. Disney has included enough elements of entertainment to make his newest film package a solid entertainment."
The film received a 93% "Fresh" score among critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
M. Faust of Common Sense Media gave the film five out of five stars, writing, "Two classic stories told in the best Disney style".Golden Globe AwardsBest Cinematography Color - Won
The Mr. Toad segment of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was first screened on television, in edited form, as part of the inaugural season of the Disneyland anthology series, on February 2, 1955, under the title The Wind in the Willows. It was paired with an edited version of Disney's The Reluctant Dragon due to the fact that both cartoons are based on stories by author Kenneth Grahame. The Ichabod segment of the film had its television premiere during the following season of TV's Disneyland, on October 26, 1955, under the title The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Notably, for this airing of Sleepy Hollow and subsequent reruns, a new 14-minute animated prologue was added, recounting the life of Washington Irving, the story's author. This prologue has never been released on home video.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was released on its own to theaters as a 33-minute featurette in September 1963. This was the same edit presented on the Disneyland television series, minus the 14-minute prologue and the Walt Disney live-action host segments. Similarly, in 1978, The Wind in the Willows segment of the original film was re-released to theaters under the new title The Madcap Adventures of Mr. Toad to accompany Disney's feature film Hot Lead and Cold Feet.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow had a subsequent television airing, in truncated form, as part of the TV specials Halloween Hall o' Fame (1977) and Disney's Halloween Treat (1982).
Once it was split into two segments for airing on the Disneyland television series, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was not available for viewing in its original form for many years thereafter, but was instead screened as two individual items. When first released on home video, the segments retained their names from the Disneyland series (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Wind in the Willows, respectively), having taken their names from the original stories.
Some of the scenes were cut when the segments were split up for home video release. For example:The Wind in the Willows
Part of the introduction was cut because of the new music added.
The scene where MacBadger confronts the angry townspeople who are suing Toad.
The newspaper scene regarding Toad's disgrace was shortened by removing the newspaper articles of his friends' attempts to reopen his case.
When Toad realizes he is underwater after unknowing jumping into a river to elude the police pursuing him, there is a brief full-body scene of Toad frantically trying to pull out the ball-and-chain he is shackled to out of the floor of the river.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The only thing that was cut was the introduction in the bookcases.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad received its first complete home video release in the UK in 1991 and in the US in 1992, when it was released by Walt Disney Home Video on laserdisc. A subsequent complete release on VHS followed in 1999 as the last title in the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection line. In 2000, it appeared on DVD for the first time as part of the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection line.
The 1963 theatrical version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was released on VHS as part of the Walt Disney Mini Classics series on October 19, 1990. Part of the same Walt Disney Mini Classics line, the 1978 theatrical version of The Wind In The Willows was released on VHS on March 4, 1994. This same version of The Wind In The Willows was issued on DVD for the first time in 2009, as part of the fifth volume of the Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films series.
"The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad" was released on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and in a 2-Movie collection with Fun and Fancy Free on August 12, 2014. It was also released as solely on Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy combo and a stand-alone DVD exclusively to Walmart stores.
Mr. Toad, the Weasels, Ichabod, Katrina, the Headless Horseman and Tilda were featured as guests in House of Mouse, as audience members/attendees and in various spots. Here, Mr. Toad was voiced by Jeff Bennett. Toad, Ratty, Moley, Mac Badger, Cyril and two of the weasels also made an appearance in the Christmas featurette Mickey's Christmas Carol, as Scrooge's old employer Fezziwig, the two Charitable Gentlemen asking for donations for the poor, an attendee of Fezziwig's party, Donald Duck's horse and two grave diggers, respectively. Mr. Toad and Cyril Proudbottom also made cameo appearances in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, while the Toon Patrol's designs were based on the weasels from the film.
In 2000, the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection, which is a collection of officially released Disney statue and pin merchandise (not to be confused with the Walt Disney Classics Collection, which was a video series of Disney animated features in the 1980s and early 1990s), released 3,500 limited edition statue sets of the two main Sleepy Hollow characters Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. The figures were originally sold for $695 together as a set. The pair have since been retired from the collection and its value has risen dramatically each year.
On August 29, 2010, Mr. Toad was released as an annual passholder vinylmation. On January 13, 2012, The Headless Horseman was the chaser in the Animation 2 vinylmation set.Frank Thomas (Mr. Toad, Rat, Mole, Cyril, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, Katrina Van Tassel )
Ollie Johnston (Mr. Toad, Rat, Mole, Prosecutor, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, Katrina Van Tassel, Baltus Van Tassel)
John Lounsbery (Ichabod Crane)
Wolfgang Reitherman (The Weasels and Headless Horseman)
Milt Kahl (MacBadger, Brom Bones)
Ward Kimball (Mr. Toad's escape from prison, Ichabod Crane)
Eric Larson (Mr. Toad, Ichabod Crane)