Reviews of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) and related work

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949Moving picture, 68 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

Another one of those 1940s package films where, as in “Saludos Amigos” (1942), Make Mine Music (1946), Song of the South (1946), Fun & Fancy Free (1947) and Melody Time (1948), a choir sings the main title as it appears on screen. I wonder how much of that decision came from wanting to help children who had just started learning how to read, and how much of it was a degraded understanding of a Gesamtkunstwerk. This case is particularly severe, mindlessly repeating the ugly composite of two unrelated names. It’s one of those details that probably seemed normal at the time but stand out sharply in retrospect. The practice was parodied on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (2015) in a context otherwise unrelated to Disney: The title card of “Whose Boat is This Boat?”, a “holiday classic” cartoon (the episode of 2018-11-09).

References here: Alice in Wonderland (1951).

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“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1949Moving picture, 34 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

Lacks coherent intent.

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‣‣ Sleepy Hollow (1999Moving picture, 105 minutes)

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“The Wind in the Willows” (1949Moving picture, 30 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

The weasels are very well characterized by the animators and the train chase looks glorious, but every aspect of the plot is trash.

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‣‣ Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (1996Moving picture, 88 minutes)

Weasel Nazis attempt to industrialize a riverside landscape after taking it over from its recklessly self-interested landowner, much to the horror of a bourgeois mole and vole, who enlist the aid of a violent badger while the rabbits cower in fright.

Children’s film by Terry Jones, based on The Wind in the Willows (1908). Live-action pastoral musical fable. As an interpretation, it’s almost the opposite of Jan Needle’s Wild Wood (1981).

Never mind the plot holes. This has an ultimately unpleasant view of nature except for Badger living in the Wild Woods, complete with massive anthropomorphization and poor politics. It is implied that the “evil” weasels would simply destroy themselves, while the flaws of the entirely corrupt Mr Toad—shown here behaving like a well-off 40K gretchin—should be tolerated in spite of his unearned position of power. Furthermore, industrialization is linked to fascism when in fact the problem is much more intimate. The majority of the people is completely passive, a species unto itself. It does feel silly to read a children’s film like this, but children would probably prefer something smarter, like My Neighbor Totoro (1988).

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