Experience Walt Disney's timeless classic, THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD. Disney animation's humorous retelling of two unforgettable classics THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW and THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, wonderfully narrated by Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby, come together in one magnificent adventure. First, hang on for a wild ride with the fun-loving Mr. J. Thaddeus Toad. When his passion for motorcars lands him in hot water, he must rely on his faithful friends to clear his name. Then, meet the infamous Ichabod Crane whose comic rivalry for the affections of the town beauty leads to a heart-pounding race with the legendary Headless Horseman. Share these high-spirited adventures with your whole family!
Disney kicked our butts and took our cash by pumping out so many Blu-rays all in one week. One of several titles released on August 12 was 'The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.' I'd never seen this 68-minute traditionally animated 1949 picture, so I was excited to pick it up. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that it's the least impressive of the releases that hit shelves that day, including 'Muppets Most Wanted,' 'Tarzan,' 'Hercules,' and 'Bedknobs & Broomsticks.'
'Ichabod and Mr. Toad' isn't terrible, it's just not what I expected. Instead of being a single narrative, it's two separate stories told in a completely unblended way, each with its own narrative. I knew of Mr. Toad (a.k.a. J. Thaddeus Toad) and his wild driving solely because of the awesome ride at Disneyland, but had no idea that the titular character Ichabod was the same Ichabod (Crane) from the Headless Horseman tales.
The movie starts with live action footage of the camera moving into the stained glass window of a library. A narrator takes us through some of the books and stops upon "The Wind in the Willows." The first half of the movie is narrated by Basil Rathbone and tells the story of Mr. Toad and how his love of wild rides got him into trouble. What starts off with nutty shenanigans turns into an oddball heist movie with the goal of Mr. Toad proving his innocence for a crime that he supposedly didn't commit.
After that book, the narrator takes us over to "The Legends of Sleepy Hollow" story. The entire thing, including the character's voices, is unmistakably narrated by Bing Crosby. This well-known tale of Ichabod Crane and his run-in with the Headless Horseman isn't exactly what you might expect. The bulk of this tale is dedicated to explaining oddball Ichabod, how he liked to sing, teach, be social and chase tail that's also being chased by bigger, buffer, better-looking dudes than himself. It's only in the last few minutes of the movie that Ichabod finally faces off with the dark rider – but by then it's too little, too late.
I typically like Disney's old shorter animated movies, but these rubbed me the wrong way. Neither of the two tales that make up 'The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad' have direction. They meander without purpose until the final act, at which point they're finally given something exciting and fun to do. Up until those final moments, they're extremely slow and tiring. Perhaps this movie was a big hit when it was released 65 years ago because audiences hadn't seen many things like it before, but it doesn't hold up now.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad' has been placed on a Region A/B/C BD-25 disc (which isn't problematic in the way of quality due to the disc collectively containing only 75 minutes of video) in a standard blue Vortex keepcase. Included is a DVD copy of the film and a code that can be used to redeem an Ultraviolet or iTunes Digital Copy of the movie, a Disney Movies Anywhere version of the film and Disney Movie Reward points. There is also a cardboard slipcover that perfectly matches suit with all other Disney catalog titles.
Disney has given 'The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad' a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, so be prepared for black bars on the side of your HDTV screen.
As the movie began, I was very worried for the video quality because the live action footage that kicks it off is shaky and very soft. Lines that should be defined are blurred. Even as the animated footage begins, the opening introduction to Mr. Toad is very soft. Fortunately, after the introduction, the clarity and definition jump up quite a bit. Aside from a few random scenes, the quality remains in pretty good shape. No scratches or runs can be seen, but there are plenty of white and black specks that salt-and-pepper the image during the entire duration of the movie. The specks are very tiny and aren't at all a dominant distraction against the colorful and smooth animation - but they're there.
Like the movie itself, I expected a lot more from the video quality, but if a soft intro, sporadic randomly soft shots and tiny specks are the worst of it, that's not too bad for a 65-year-old movie.
'The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad' has been given a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that's sorely lacking and void of characteristics that make lossless 5.1 mixes appealing. Out of all 68 minutes of the main feature, I'd say that no more than 8 of the minutes contain audio that mixed to channels outside of the front area. The surround channels are almost entirely lifeless. A pair of musical bits and the final Headless Horseman sequence make use of all channels – but that's it. Get ready for stagnant and unimpressive mixing.
The problems don't stop there. The overall audio volume is very low. For example, I usually keep my system's master volume at 40 for movies and 30 for television. But for this Blu-ray, I had to keep it at 52 for the same results. Also, the dialog, music and effects mixing have all three around the same level, so the overall mix if very congested. Some of the audio is very telling of the movie's age. Dialog is typically clear, but it has the tendency at times to become distorted and even muffled.
Once again, another disappointment from this disc.
Disney's very old catalog title 'The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad' is a disappointment. The two-fold story about Mr. Toad's false conviction and Ichabod Crane's love life makes for a short and unsatisfying movie. Being as old and irrelevant as it is (65 years), this seems more like a title for people of my grandparents' age to add to their collections and share with their great grandkids. These days, we and our kids are used to animated movies of much higher quality. Shorts like this are the perfect movies for kids to watch on Netflix, not for us to pay $20+ just to add this rinky-dink release to our collections. The video quality is passable, but the bum audio quality and major lack in special features detract from the disc. Unless you're a collector who wants to get absolutely every Disney title in your collection, there's no need to pick up 'The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.' This is for fans only.