HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad/Fun and Fancy Free Double Feature
HTS Overall Score:74
WARNING: THE SCORES ABOVE ARE A COMBINED SCORE FROM BOTH FILMS, THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE CONTAINED BELOW IN THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE REVIEW
Back again with the 7th and final Disney title for the month of August. I’d have to say that this has been the most exciting and feature rich Disney release in quite some time as we get 2 brand new releases along with 5, count it, 5 different catalog releases. To round out this batch of 5 releases we have a pair of films (or shall I say trio with the inclusion of “The Reluctant Dragon” in the special features) that stretch back much further than the others reviewed so far. Now we’re back to the 40’s with “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad” and a trip down memory lane in the form of “Fun and Fancy Free”. Both films are actually a pair or 30ish minute shorts, chronically Toad from “Wind in the Willows” and an adaption of “Sleepy Hollow” in the first set and “Fun and Fancy Free” is a tale of “Bongo”, a traveling circus bear and “Mickey and the Beanstalk”. Disney has decided to release two different versions of “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”, where we have a single release on one hand, and this special double feature which adds in “Fun and Fancy Free” as well as including the entire animated film “The Reluctant Dragon” in the special features, easily winning the contest as being the best value in my humble opinion.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad :4stars:
The better of the first pair falls on the shoulders of Mr. Toad (Eric Blore) as the madcap adventurer from “Wind in the Willows” is off to another MISadventure. Toad is a bit of an odd chap, a rich socialite who loves to go off on one adventure after another, but ends up destroying everything around him. This time he’s got himself a bit too deep in debt from destroying the countryside in his manias, and has to have his only true friends come and bail him out. Angus McBadger (Campbell Grant) is trying to keep Toad Hall above water financially and is being swamped by the depts. Owed, entreating two of Toad’s other friends, Mole (Colin Campbell) and Rat (Claud Allister) McBadger begs the pair to get ahold of Toad and stop him from wreaking havoc.
It seems that Toad is off again and his mania has taken the form of traveling the countryside in a horse drawn gypsy cart. Trying to get ahold of him, Mole and Rat grab him from the road and drag him back to Toad Hall to cool off. The problem is that he’s got a new mania, seeing a motor car Toad will do everything in his power to get ahold of one. Sneaking off in the middle of the night he is arrested the next morning for stealing a red motor car. McBadger, Rat and Mole think that there’s nothing they can do, as Toad is railroaded through the legal system and sent to prison for theft. One night Toad up and escapes from his prison and leads yet another madcap adventure around the countryside, this time with gun fire and police hot on his trail. It seems that under investigation McBadger realizes that Toad had been telling the truth in court and had be railroaded by the same Mr. Winkie who sent him to prison for theft. With Mr. Winkie and his gang of weasels taking over Toad Hall it’s all up to the 4 animals to devise a way to clear Toad’s name and that comes in the form of the traded deed to Toad Hall that is Mr. Winkie’s possession. Now can Toad go on one more wild ride to save his name and estate?
The tale of “Ichabod Crane” is the definite downer in the pair, as it’s a fairly humorless presentation of the source material in a guise OF humor. The tale is told from the point of view of a narrator (Bing Crosby) and pretty much every voice in the tale is dubbed over by said narrator. Ichabod is a bit of a goofy character any way you put it, but here he’s poked and made fun of by the narrator for his devious ways. Ichabod is a poor school teacher and through hook and brown nosing he makes himself the town leech as he mooches off every woman and widow that he can possibly leech off of. This all changes when he gets his eye on Katrina, the lovely young daughter of the local rich farm owner in town. Ichabod doesn’t just have his eye on Katrina for her looks and beauty, or even her personality, he’s eyeing the rich estate that her father owns and dreams of one day taking over that estate through marriage. Aiming straight for Katrina he runs into opposition from another suitor, the town hero Brom Brown. Brom is a strapping young lad, but a bit of a country bumpkin, so he begins to lose in the courtship of lady Katrina.
To add fuel to the fire, Katrina is no dummy and plays both boys against each other in a sort of cruel game to see who can win her hand and have the lads fight over her. Soon enough she invites the two men to a Halloween shindig and Ichabod is the schmoozer as usual, leaving poor Brom in the dust. No matter what he tries to do Brom ends up second fiddle, so in one final desperate play for Katrina’s hand, he preys on Ichabod’s superstition. Weaving a ghost tale of immense proportions Brom tells the tale of the headless horseman, a man with no soul and a penchant for murder. Setting Ichabod’s hackles on edge and fearing for his soul, the sneaky school teacher heads home, only to be set upon that same headless horseman. With this final disgrace, Ichabod vanishes from the town of Sleepy Hollow, leaving Brom and Katrina to finally wed, whether he left out of fright, or actually was spirited away by the evil spirit, no one will ever know.
“Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” was always my favorite adaptation of “The Wind in the Willows” and will always remember being a child of 5 years old begging my aunt to show it to me when she babysat. I have begged and begged for this one to hit home video and finally it has! Toad, and crew have a wildly infectious sense of humor that no adult or child can help but be wrapped up in the madcap tales that Toad doth tell. It’s a well contained little story that needs no introduction to the characters from the book and just dances along with a delightful pace. It’s a childhood memory come to life and one that certainly meets all expectations.
The tale of Ichabod is the one that really is just kind of “there”, as it’s a rather droll tale, that’s really not funny at all. It’s mean spirited and shows some very old fashioned clichés and prejudices that don’t hold up too well in modern times. The story itself is well told and the mean, self-serving character of the school teacher is rather creepy in a Disney sort of way, but I just can’t help but be a tad bit bored whenever I see the short. Maybe it’s because there’s very little relatable characters in the tales, and tries to run a fine line between creepy and dark, with Disney’s tendency to soften stories and gets to be a bit sore as realize it tries to ride the fence a bit too much. Still, it’s still fascinating to watch as a piece of film history and realize how far storytelling has come.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=24745[/img]Fun and Fancy Free :4stars:
“Fun and Fancy Free” is a lighthearted affair with “Bongo” being the first story of the pair. Bongo is a little circus bear who longs for the outdoors. Trapped inside of the circus, he has a smile on the outside, but inside he just wishes that he could be free in the wild. Through a chance escape he is able to finally realize his dream, only to find out that it’s not exactly as he imagined. The outside is a different place than he’s used to, no food on command, a bed that’s not his own and a whole host of other animals. His look soon changes when he meets a female bear and falls in love, only to run into competition in the form of Lockjaw, the meanest toughest bear in the forest. Now Bongo has to win his loves affection and get rid of his nemesis using the skills he’s learned in the circus.
Now, the highlight of this set is “Mickey and the Beanstalk”. Basially a retelling of the classic “Jack and the Beanstalk” it stars Mickey, Donald and Goofy, living in the land of Happy Valley. The land of Happy Valley is just that, happy and fancy free, until a giant steals their kingdoms magic harp and the land goes to rot without the magic of the harp. Mickey trades the cow for the classic magic beans and up they go to the giant’s kingdom. Once there they have to outwit the evil giant, grab the harp and escape back down to Happy Valley.
The two stories in “Fun and Fancy Free” are a bit lighter in tone and less in depth than the others, but I find that these older and lighter tales are a bit up my alley, and definitely a step up from “Ichabod”. Bongo is a cute fluffy little short, narrated by Dinah Shaw throughout and doesn’t need much explanation besides watching the little bear explore his life in the wild. “Mickey and the Beanstalk” is pure classic Mickey, actually being the very last time that Walt Disney himself was used as the voice of Mickey Mouse. This one is a different kind of funny as it’s narrated by Edgar Bergen and a ton of more adult humor is thrown into the mix in the form of Charlie McCarthy (for those of you who don’t know, Edgar Bergen was one of the most famous ventriloquists of our time and Charlie McCarthy was most loved puppet). Watching Mortimer Snerd play out really clued me in to how much Jeff Dunham idolized and took cues from the older ventriloquist.
Rated G for General Audiences
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=24753[/img]The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad :4stars:
“The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad” is a surprisingly good transfer that doesn’t show a lot of digital manipulation. There’s a few instances where I think some casual DNR was applied, but it was not applied liberally, if at all. The print appears clean of any major imperfections and looks very clean, with only a few minor flaws showing through. Those flaws are mainly just some vertical wavering in the image that was seen in previous prints of the film, a flaw of the original filming style so to speak. There’s a few speckles here and there, but overall the image looks very very nice. The colors show a pop and richness that I’ve never seen in any of my previous viewings and the animation lines look crisp and clean. I honestly couldn’t have asked for much more unless a full blown digital restoration happened (the right kind of restoration, not the DNR mess that happens with animated “restorations” so often).
Fun and Fancy Free :3stars:
Now “Fun and Fancy Free” is a bit of a different story. It’s not a horrible image, but you can tell they certainly had applied some liberal use of the old DNR tool. The animation portions of the film don’t look that bad and actually have some very solid line definition there, but the live action portions look rather waxy and smoothed over. It’s not on the same levels as the travesty that was “Sword in the Stone”, but it’s been applied pretty liberally nonetheless. Colors are bright and cheery, and as mentioned, the lines looks clean and unbroken by HEAVY DNR, but those live action scenes certainly are a bummer.
The audio portion of the review will cover both feature sets as they are pretty much identical in nature and execution. Both sets are given a nice 5.1 DTS-HD MA track and a 2.0 DD track, with the 5.1 actually edging out the 2.0 track pretty easily. The soundstage is naturally front loaded, as the converted 5.1 just fills out the surrounds with the obligatory ambient noises and leaves the heavy duty to the 3 front channels. Dialogue is pleasing and definitely clear, just with a few signs of tininess and some ambient hiss every once in a while. The LFE is mild, but satisfactory, adding in a thicker mouth feel to the 5.1 track. It’s not a wild stunner, but it does a very good job preserving the original dialogue and effects in the front soundstage while give it a bit of a broader base with the new 5.1 mix.
• "The Reluctant Dragon" Feature Film
“The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad” are the most prominent of the movies on the disc, which is probably why Disney released both a standalone release of them as well as this double feature. “Fun and Fancy Free” is still a fun movie though, and undeservedly gained the title of “most hated Disney feature” over the years, but the inclusion of “The Reluctant Dragon” is what makes this particular set a no brainer as it’s only found on the double feature and not the single release of “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”. The audio is quite good and the video is certainly excellent for the first film and AMAZING for “The Reluctant Dragon”. The only downside to this is the liberal amounts of DNR applied in “Fun and Fancy Free”. Still, definitely a recommendation from me, as the good outweighs the bad heavily.
Starring: Bing Crosby, Basil Rathbone, Eric Blore : Edgar Bergen, Dinah Shore, Charlie McCarthy
Directed by: James Algar, Clyde Geronimo, Jack Kinney :
Written by: Washington Irving, Kenneth Grahame : Homer Brightman, Harry Reeves
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 AVC / 1.33:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DD 2.0, French DD 5.1, Spanish, Portuguese DD Mono
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Rated: G / G
Runtime: 68 minutes : 73 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: August 12th, 2014
Buy The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad/Fun and Fancy Free Double Feature Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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