An animated adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, the first story follows the capricious Mr. Toad. Mr. Toad is a git. He gets conned by a group of tough lookin’ weasels, who pass their stolen motorcar off on Mr. Toad in exchange for Toad Hall, Mr. Toad’s ancestral home. His friends (MacBadger, Ratty and Moley) try to get him out of the bind, but try as they might, he gets locked away in the Tower.
There, in his miserable cell, “a new Toad is born”, a Toad that sees the errors of his ways, is reformed, remorseful and repentant. When his joyriding buddy Cyril the horse comes under the guise of Toad’s grandmother coming for a Christmas visit, the sincerity of Toad’s contrition is belied, for we see that, more than wanting to be free to live differently, Toad relishes the prospect of freedom to act as recklessly and selfishly as before. His escape goes awry and Toad ends up at the bottom of the river, still shackled to his prison ball thing.
It isn’t explained, and thus, we presume, that Mr. Toad has somehow comeback to life, or houdinied his way out of the water, as he is then shown alive and at the door of Rat and Mole. MacBadger comes in and tells them that Toad in fact was innocent in the case of the stolen car. The four of them then manage to get the deed to Toad Hall back. With this, they are able to prove Toad’s innocence.
We then see Toad’s three friends in Toad Hall; toasting the new year and the new Toad. Just then, there’s a crash as their raised glasses and the windows break. Racing to the window, they see Toad and Cyril in an airplane, having just grazed the building, hence the smashing glass and the falling bricks. We leave Toad at the end of the story, lusting after his next new mania, the airplane; reckless and insipid as ever.
Short in short: Mr. Toad doesn’t learn his lesson.
The second story is Disney’s version of the Washington Irving classic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In it, Bing Crosby uses that velvet voice of his to croon and coax the story along through lyric and prose. Bing Crosby is also the shit, but in a different way than Burl Ives.
Bing introduces us to the protagonist, an itinerant school master named Mr. Ichabod Crane. Ichy is quite the ladies’ man–a late 18th-Century roué.
As a good teacher, Ichabod determines punishments by weighing the important aspects of each individual situation and child. Translation: He doesn’t discipline pupils that have hot moms, I mean, mom’s that are good cooks.
One day, Ichabod sees Katrina–a busty, barely legal, superfluous girl. Ichy swoons.
Ichy you sly dog, you.
Bing: What is this strange power you have upon women? Good question, Bing. Good question.
But surely Ichabod isn’t the only one in town whose breeches are set a twitchin’ by Katrina’s charms. Ho, and right you are. Indeed, she made virtually all the mens heads turn in town. One such head belonged to Brom Bones. Brom Bones is aware of Crane’s superstitious inclinations and general cowardice and uses this to his advantage. One evening, toward the end of a community dance, the party goers gather to hear ghost stories. Brom tells the story of the Headless Horseman. After hearing this story, Ichabod is thoroughly conditioned to encounter the dreaded spectre on his ride through Sleepy Hollow. Nonetheless, he enters. Bad move, Ichy.
3 minutes from the end, shit gets real. As Ichabod is riding through Sleepy Hollow, a Headless Horseman appears atop its red-eyed, black steed holding a flaming pumpkin and swinging a sword, trying to cut off Ichy’s head.
As we’re told in the story, if you get across the bridge, you’re safe. Ichabod makes it across, and instead of being smart and continuing to get as far away from that freakin’ scary headless thing, he turns around; presumably to go, ‘na-na-na-na-na’. This was another bad move, for doing so gave the headless horseman the opportunity to throw the flaming jack o’lantern at Ichabod; leaving the townspeople and the audience to assume he’s dead. Awesome.
Strangely, like Mr. Toad before him, we see a vision of our assumed dearly departed, Ichabod Crane, alive once more. However, unlike Mr. Toad, we see Ichabod at the head of a table that is flanked on either side by several children, while his plump and generally homely wife, sits at the other end of the table; a feast spread before them. It seems that having a flaming pumpkin thrown at his head prompted Ichabod to turn from his rakish ways and settle down.
Note to self, ladies.
Short in short: Ichabod Crane learns his lesson – kind of.
Ichabod and Mr Toad features lead characters that are devoid of any thought of others. Mr Toad squanders his wealth, while also defending it from being possessed by the lower classes (kindly portrayed as criminal weasels – what more would we expect from The Man?). Ichabod uses women for their wealth (and their cooking). Neither one of them seems to learn any substantive lesson. Instead, they just run through their difficulties with their fingers in their ears screaming “LALALALALALALA, I’M NOT LISTENING”. And it works.
Disney portrays the destructive behaviours of Ichabod and Mr Toad as having few, if any, long-term negative consequences. Mr Toad continues to squander the wealth (probably built off of the backs of the working class), and Ichabod sits down to a feast with his wife who has the feature he most admires in a woman – money. And it seems that, according to Disney, that’s the way it should be.
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.