My opinion right after watching movie
My opinion right after watching the film is that I love it. I love the darker themes of both of the shorts, and that there is ACTUAL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. The characters are surprisingly developed for their short time spans, and the plots are so tightly and perfectly knit. This is one of the best package films I have ever seen. Their creativity was coming back.
So production for The Wind in the Willows started WAY earlier in 1930. It was going to be a low-budget film like Dumbo, and many of the animators from Bambi was on the project. About half an hour of it was already animated and the script was finished, but then WW2 ruined everything and they could not afford to make feature-length films. The film was put on hold on October of that year. Disney realized that it was too cheap to be a full length feature, and it was going to be put in a package film with Bongo from Fun and Fancy Free (thank the lord they did not). It started production again in 1945.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow started production in 1946, and then they soon realized that it was too short to make it in a full length feature, so they combined it with The Wind of the Willows for the package film we know today.
So we start the film in a library, being narrated a British Story by the British Basil Rathbone.
The Wind in the Willows
So we are introduced to the story, of Toad (Eric Blore) who is a wealthy, reckless, adventurous Toad who likes to travel and to have a good ride around town, often breaking many people’s properties. He is in debt, and his financial adviser Angus MacBadger (Campbell Grant) tells his friends that Toad needs to stop spending all of this money on his adventures and fads, and to pay back his debts.
When Toad returns, they tell him this, but he refuses to listen. They have to lock him into his room to make sure he does not do something reckless, but he sneaks out, and sells the rights to his home to get a car. The next morning, he is arrested and ordered for trial. The chinese looking guy who gave him the car said that he stole the car from him, and Toad is put to prison.
It is Christmas and he is allowed his one visitor per year, which is his horse in disguise. The horse puts him in a lady disguise and they sneak out (which is soon found out). After a massive chase scene, Toad is thrown underwater and almost drowns. He gets out of it and goes to his friend’s house. They decide to go to the Toad House to see the rats and the Chinese-ish man in the house. After a long battle scene, they get the lease that he signed to give them the house for the car, and they show that to the court.
He is deemed a hero, and his reputation is cleared. It is New Years and they are about to toast to see Toad and his horse recklessly ride a helicopter, showing he learned absolutely nothing (sigh).
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
So the american Bing Crosby narrates this story (and also voices Ichabod and Brom, which is very distracting because he does not even try to change his voice). Disney was too cheap to hire voice actors I see.
Anyways, the new school teacher Ichabod Crane arrives to the town of Sleepy Hollow, which is known for its ghostly sights and stories. The townspeople are curious about him (the ladies in a lustful/loving way), and the joker/hero Brom and the Sleepy Hollow Boys are just confused by him. When he arrives to his job, he tries to steal the children’s lunches and instead of beating them, he meets with their mothers so they can fawn over him and so he can eat their food. Therefore, all the women in his town are his sugar mamas.
He is doing alright, but wants to be richer. His opportunity comes when the daughter of the wealthiest farmer in town Katrina van Tassel meet. She does not speak but she is extremely manipulative. She has all of the guys carry her stuff for a picnic, and frolics around, pointing to a place where she wants it set up, but she mischievously goes elsewhere, liking that they follow her like a puppy. She shares a glimpse with Ichabod and leaves.
So from then on, he daydreams about Katrina, but mostly her money and he is thinking about replacing her father and taking all of his riches. This shows that he is a gold digger and not that good of a person. He is imagining the old mans death.
So a few days later, the yummy Katerina is shopping, with all of the lovestruck boys carrying her stuff, but Brom intimidates them to go away, and she is mad that her pets can’t carry her stuff. Ichabod steps in, and it becomes a race for the two to win her over and bring her stuff into his house. Ichabod one ups Brom every time. Katerina is loving being a prize to be won by the way.
She sends an intimate letter to Ichabod about the Halloween party she is throwing, and the entire town comes. He is planning to propose to her, and tries to win her over by dancing with her, and both of them are fighting to dance with her in a comedic dancing scene.
Ichabod, Narrator, Brom sings about the Headless Horseman to scare Ichabod and to win over Katerina, which works. This is a pretty good song.
So Ichabod leaves the party and is a nervous wreck. He thinks every sound is the Headless Horseman until the realizes that he is going crazy. He laughs about t until he actually encounters the Headless Horseman and we get the awesome, dark, and suspenseful ending of Ichabod getting killed by the Horseman.
Brom and Katerina wed soon after, and everyone thinks that Ichabod is dead, while there are rumors of him marrying some woman and having many children far off from the land of Sleepy Hallow. And then we leave the story and end up back at the library we were at in the beginning.
The characters are great. In The Wind in the Willows, Toad is a carefree, reckless, but good-hearted man, and his friends are entertaining enough. The rat is all pompous and stuff, and the mole is super forgiving and a bit naive. The characters here are interesting.
In The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow, they have some great characters. Ichabod is a gold-digging, frugal opportunist, and it is interesting to be in a not so good guy’s perspective. Grom is intimidating yes, but it is stated in the film that he does not tease for malice. I feel that Gaston was inspired by him. I was shocked with Katerina. While she is a prize to be won, she engulfs into that, and manipulates boys to get them to do whatever she wants. She was manipulating everyone with her charm and her grace.
The animation is not the best. While the color scheme is nice and the character designs are great, they feel like they lack any weight, and there are some inconsistencies with the characters, and the mouthing.
The music has more of a jazzy, slow feel to it than what has been heard in most if not all of the other previous releases. It gives the film a darker edge to it, and it does express the atmosphere of the characters and the towns, and the situations they are in. Most of the songs do not even reach 2 minutes.
Reception at Release
When it was released on October 5, 1949, I found no information, but considering that it was such a success in the 50s, than it was a success. The two shorts were more successful individually, constantly airing on TV soon after it was released.
It’s reception today is that it is the most memorable Package film form that era, and many actually like it. It aired a lot in the 50 to the 90s. People say that it is one of the first to have creativity in a long while for the studio.
= 30.5/40 = 76%