Here at PEPS, this July is #CleanMovieMonth2020! We have declared the seventh month of the year to be the month we dedicate exclusively to watching and reviewing American Breen Era (1934-1954) movies. No matter how great the temptation, we can only watch Code films during this month. In addition to being an experiment for immersing oneself in Code films, it is a sheer pleasure for my family, since Breen Era movies are our favorites! I am sharing the new Code films I discover during this month of unlimited new Code film watching by reviewing twenty new Code films. In addition to my usual two 100 New Code Films articles per week, I am writing twelve additional mini reviews.
#8 – The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby as narrators and Eric Blore, J. Pat O’Malley, and John McLeish as voice actors
Directors: James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, and Jack Kinney, Producer: Walt Disney, Production Company: Walt Disney Animation Studios, distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
The first segment of the animated film is a concise version of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, in which the frivolous anthropomorphic Mr. Toad’s motor mania gets him into trouble, despite the efforts of his friends, Mole and Ratty. The second segment is a whimsical musical version of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, telling the story of a greedy school teacher who is pursued by a headless ghost.
Good Code Film
Highly Recommended, Five Stars
Golden Globes: 1 Win (Best Color Cinematography)
We may not usually think of cartoons as Code films, but the ten entirely animated films Disney released during the American Breen Era count as New Code Films. Now that I have seen this movie, I have seen all but one of these movies. Regarding this film, I was apprehensive about seeing it. When I was five years old, I remember that I watched The Wind in the Willows after renting it from the library. I found it horrifically dark and disturbing. It left such a deeply disturbing impression on my mind that I disliked “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” at Disneyland for years. Even right before I watched this movie, I got chills just from thinking about it. However, I recently realized that it is a Breen Era movie, so could it have been as bad as I remembered? Rebecca Deniston of Taking Up Room signed up to watch this two-feature film for our upcoming Code Classics Blogathon, so I decided that it was at last time for me to face my fear and rewatch this movie.
Firstly, I know for sure that I never saw the Legend of Sleepy Hollow segment. I must have seen a recording which just featured The Wind in the Willows. However, after watching the movie again, I found it hard to believe that I had even seen that. Instead of the dark, disturbing, and eerie story I remembered, it was a delightful, cheery cartoon in the style of old Disney. Basil Rathbone’s narration of the segment is charming, and the voice acting, particularly the humorous vocals of character actor Eric Blore as Toad, are very pleasant. The prison scene, which I remembered as a bleak sequence in a dark, rat-infested dungeon, took place in a human prison cell. The court scene was not the cruel, out of proportion nightmare I remembered. The morning after I watched the film, I found myself wondering if I had in fact seen a different adaption of The Wind in the Willows at age five. I did some research, and no other cartoon I found of the story really looked familiar. I may have been confusing the actual movie with the ride at Disneyland, which features Toad going to hell, something that never happens in the film. I wondered if I had had some strange dream years ago which I confused with this movie, but that seems unlikely because Rebekah also remembers the ghoulish alternate version. Did Disney later release some darker version of Toad’s tale?
Anyway, the second segment was also very enjoyable. Bing Crosby’s musical narration of this animated story is absolutely delightful and so unlike something in most Disney films. The main characters are very memorable. The scraggly Ichabod Crane has a tall, skinny frame, a hooked nose, and large ears inspired by narrator Bing. His lady love, a round and lovely lass named Katrina, looks like a precursor to Cinderella, whose film would be released the next year. Brom Bones, her other suitor, is a hulky fellow whom you don’t need to be told was the inspiration for Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (1991). When I read the story on which this is based in junior high school, being, mind you, several years younger than I should have been for being in eighth grade, I found the story rather dark. However, I thought the cartoon avoided this. Whenever it approached being creepy, Bing would start singing, lightening the mood instantly! Although not as common or popular as other Disney cartoons, I highly recommend this double feature to all Disney fans!
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