Vault Disney #11
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Do you like this film? What do you think the stories are about? I’m going to explore these things for myself. But let me start off by saying that initially I don’t think I enjoyed this film, because of the characters and because I didn’t know what I was suppose to take away from it. As I think about what the film may be trying to say, I appreciate it more, but for only what I perceive their meaning to be. Perhaps I’m wrong, and if I watched it again, things would be clearer to me, or perhaps, the points would still allude me. Join me now as watch the film again, and I go over, revise and amend my initial thoughts. Originally I free-wrote my thoughts as I watched the film. Hopefully it won’t be too confusing as I’ll try to keep my original thoughts intact, while discussing my newly revised thoughts.
We started with a Periscope of us introducing the Vault Disney project, and some initial thoughts of the film before starting it. I didn’t realize until Jaysen mentioned that it was actually 2 films in one, but I DO know what this film is; it’s the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman; and Mr. Toad from the book ‘Wind in the Willows!’ Classics! Or so I thought,…
I’m going to free-write just a little, so bare with me.
The Master of Toad Hall
Interesting, it starts with a narrator, talking about literature and asks the viewer, what their favorite character in British literature was. He mentions Mr. Toad from ‘Wind in the Willows.’ Oh yes,.. there are a bunch of animals, living among humans, interesting. I mean to say, in this world, animals live as humans do, with humans. The narrator continues into the story of Mr. Toad. I recognize some of the characters, but can’t recall much else at this point.
So Mr. Toad is introduced as this worldly irresponsible adventurer, who amassed a fortune (from what, and how he still has it, I don’t know) and fame (which I feel might have a bit to do with his careless behavior). He has been referred to as the Governor, but Jaysen thinks it’s just a title that he has with his estates, but not like an elected official. The people of the town, the humans, seem to be very upset with Mr. Toad. I think maybe he owes them money. Turns out later that Mr. Toad has just done a lot of property damage, due to his gallivanting. I guess I wasn’t paying attention, at first, and wondered why these animals, Toad’s friends (a badger, rat and mole), would care how he spends his money. Ok, they’re friends, but then I question, why they would be friends with someone so irresponsible. Why do they feel responsible for him? Why do they feel the need to help him? Maybe it’s just a matter of shared history.
A letter is sent to the rat and mole from the badger to go to Mr. Toad’s house, Toad Hall. Surely it’s trouble. Turns out, the animals of the town were very proud of Toad Hall being in the community among the humans; it gave them a sense of respectability. Sounds like maybe the animals in this world are perceived as lesser than the humans, like second class citizens perhaps. Since the owner of Toad Hall, Mr. Toad, was on the verge of bankruptcy, due to his adventuring; his friend, the badger, volunteered to put his house in order, to try to save it.
Mr. Toad is described by his friends as having ‘mania,’ which seems to me like he just gets obsessed with things. And he frequently goes from one mania for something, to another. He can’t seem to control his compulsion, and spends his resources, and disregards everything else in pursuit of them. He kinda has the ‘I want everything new’ problem, like how some people want to always buy the latest things in technology.
Mr. Toad sees a motor-car, and is instantly possessed, literally, by the need to get one himself. But his mania, when it hits is shown as a debilitating. Toads eyes are swirling, and he’s making motor noises and moving around like he’s in a motor-car. It’s almost like some form of turrets syndrome. His friends literally have to drag him home and lock him up.
And this wasn’t the first time. This time they have to be firm, and not fall for his charms, and let him out. He must remain until the “poison” burns out! They had to protect Toad Hall “for all it stands for!”
So Mr. Toad is out of control, and it’s up to his friends to stop him before he loses everything, including the Hall. Thing is, Mr. Toad seems to be accustomed to getting away with everything. He probably usually talks his way out of trouble. He’s super charming, smart, and resourceful to the point of manipulation. He only ever really gets away temporarily. He’s just running away, and it will soon catch up with him. I have a feeling, his friends are always cleaning up after his messes. What would Mr. Toad do without them?
So, Mr. Toad, mad with mania, will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. But he does it all so happily and gracefully! Look at him,.. dancing down the street, hiking up his nightie.
His irresponsible, or even crazy, behavior leads to what seems to be him stealing a motor-car. The subject of his new obsession. He gets tried in court, and pleads ‘not guilty.’ I love how even though he was caught, he seems to always be happy, and optimistic; waving at his friends at the trial. That or he’s just really confident that his friends will get him out of this mess. He defends himself, with a story about coming across the car, and offering to trade his estate for it. Paperwork was made and signed with a witness, and he took the car, not knowing it was stolen, and then he was caught. But his defense is foiled when his witness didn’t corroborate. Alas, despite his charm, resourcefulness and ability for manipulation, he is found guilty and is put in jail. He claims that he was framed, and for the first time, we see poor Mr. Toad, very very sad. His friends tried to appeal to no avail. He is suffering in captivity. The day grows cold and becomes a bitter winter. Toad is left to ponder how foolish he had been, and now his life is squandered. It was then that Toad cries, fully appreciating how wonderful each of his friends were. Apparently reformed, he swore to never be taken hold by his ‘mania’ again.
I really don’t recall this tale, and question whether I knew what I was talking about when I regarded it as a classic, when I didn’t even recognize it. It could still be a classic, but watching it now, I might not have used the word classic in the beginning. I wonder if this was just based on the characters from the book, or if it was an adaptation?
I can feel a moral coming somewhere.
Mr. Toad, succumbs to a new ‘mania,’ the adventure of escape. And immediately his reformation is forgotten. Perhaps, a lesson is that people never change? Or that one should never give up? Though it doesn’t seem likely that escaping from prison is the message they’re going for. Mr. Toad now carried away in his mania, as always, lives by his own rules and escapes prison. He steals a train, as police chase him guns blazing! Yikes this is serious, reckless and very dangerous! There are a dozen cops shooting guns at him. They’re out to kill him.
The scene changes to his faithful friends sharing a meal, and giving prayers and well wishes to their good friend Toad. Toad, to their surprise shows up at their door. He didn’t drown after all.
Though his friends are glad to see their friend, they know something is up by the ball and chain attached to his ankle. The police are now outside the door, and Toad begs them to hide him. Rat, says no, that Toad owes a debt to society. So though these loyal friends had just toasted their good friend, they are not blind to everything else. Toad is guilty of breaking the law, and that’s that. Friend or not, Toad must take responsibility for his actions.
BUT, it wasn’t the police, it was their friend the badger who has discovered that Mr. Toad was innocent after all. He was in fact telling the truth. He was a victim of circumstance; in the wrong place at the right time. He was caught in the middle of someone else’s misdeed, and came out looking like a crook. His friends apologize to Toad for misjudging HIM, and hope he forgives them. But Toad, back to his old self again, is not only reckless, but is also the fun-loving, light-hearted Toad as well. He brushes it off saying that “to err is human” and forgives them. Awe, what a beautiful person! But his friends know, that even if they know the truth, the law doesn’t, so his friends hatch a dangerous plan to clear his name. Perhaps for the first time, his friends are doing something as crazy as one of Toad’s adventures. An experience they are now sharing together, which will be a memory to be cherished in the future. They clear his name, and celebrate,… the NEW Toad, for he has reformed,… NOT.
When Mr. Toad’s tale finished, I noticed, that the narrator’s voice, from the beginning, sounded different from the narrator’s in the Toad story. Maybe, the narrator from the beginning continued through Mr. Toad, and when it ended, another narrator came on for the second story? That would explain why it sounded different.
In any case, it’s interesting that Mr. Toad, being the protagonist, was just this irresponsible guy in the film, and doesn’t change his ways by the end at all. He’s the same he was when we began. So what is the moral here? At first I really just had no clue. I felt that Mr. Toad was a very selfish character. But there must be more to it, otherwise why would the narrator say that Mr. Toad is his vote for the most fabulous character? This is my second round watching the film, while going over what I had already written, incase I seem to be all over the place, maybe even contradicting my own thoughts. The second time around, I seem to appreciate the film a lot more, at least Mr. Toad, so far. There now seems to be so many possible morals, as you may be able to tell by everything I’ve explored so far. BUT, originally, a moral wasn’t clear to me. I wasn’t even sure if there was one. The only thought I came up with was that despite worrying about friends who are irresponsible with their lives, and who come off as the type of person who can get away with anything, it shouldn’t mean that you can’t trust them? Hmm, well, more of this and more in my final thoughts.
Ichabod Crane (or the Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
The story begins introducing the audience to Sleepy Hollow, followed by Ichabod, and then Brom Bones? The first time around I didn’t even notice his introduction, or his name, so later you see me refer to him as the hunky guy opposite Ichabod, ha ha. Anyhow, Ichabod is describe as looking like a scarecrow, and unflattering features. The narrator goes as far as to call him an aberration. He’s more of a geek.
Brom, on the other hand is described as basically a jock, with stereotypical good looks. Brom, is a prankster, and always ready for a fight. BUT, the narrator points out that it’s without malice, and that he’s a hero! Right away, you know the protagonist is Ichabod, the awkward underdog, ( and his name is in the title), and Brom, maybe the bully, but definitely the guy with the upper hand, must be his foil! Right?!?
Wow, how much I missed the first time around. This is a really good set up to play with expectations that I didn’t realize the first time, as you’ll read from my original thoughts. Which is another thing Ichabod’s story and Toad’s has in common.
The story continues with Ichabod walking into town. Turns out he’s new in town. He’s the new school master. A song begins that’s just to make fun of how quirky he is, but reveals that there is also something very distinguished about him, as the towns people seem to really respect him, despite his odd appearance.
The story goes on to tell us of they type of man Ichabod is. When it comes to doing the right thing, food governs what he does. For some reason, food is his priority. He’ll keep in good terms with his misbehaving students if their mother is a good cook. Ichabod, also happens to be a lady’s man, with women swooning over him; Ichabod, this awkward dorky guy. Ofcourse this gave Brom and the town’s men, more reason to mess with him, but Ichabod remained untouched by it all. He just brushed it off, and enjoyed eating his food. Nothing seemed to bother him until Katrina came riding into town.
Then a song begins to illustrate how every man in town is mesmerized by her, but also reveals that though you “could do more with some other [girl], Katrina will kiss and run, and though her romance is fun,.. there’s always another one…. but when you meet,” “you’ve lost your heart.” Oh,… ok. So yeah, everyone including Ichabod and Brom are in love with her! Ichabod is LOST to his obsession for her, and has let his class run wild as he daydreams about Katrina. Remember how Ichabod loves food? While daydreaming about her, he also fantasizes about the crops, the food, her father owns, but it’s not really the food,.. it’s the money they represent. What the what? So now he’s obsessed with how her father’s farm is a goldmine? I really really must been asleep while watching this the first time!
So all the towns men are now competing for Katrina affections, but the only real competition for Ichabod was Brom. He cleared all the other guys away so brash and confidently, that it actually turned Katrina off. This left a spot for Ichabod to be a gentleman and sweep her off her feet. No sooner does Brom come back knocking Ichabod off his feet and rides off with Katrina, who seems to not have a problem with it. Perhaps, now that Brom had competition, it turned her on more? Ichabod doesn’t give up, cause the opportunity for fame and fortune was too difficult to let go of. And so, Katrina gets passed from Ichabod to Brom, and back and forth, as they keep forcibly taking her from the other, which she seems to be enjoying. Brom is made a fool of over and over. Ichabod becomes very confident, if he weren’t already annoyingly so.
Katrina’s father has a Halloween party with dancing in which both men are invited. Brom, is upset, cause he’d been bested at every turn by Ichabod, who here at this party proved to be a talented dancer as well. Brom, feels defeated as Ichabod puts it in his face. And though another female flirts with him, he is disgusted by her, clearly because she was short and stubby, nothing like the “perfect” stereotypical beauty that Katrina was. So Brom comes up with the idea to dance with this woman, and then forcibly trade her off on the dance floor for Katrina. And here we are again, with Katrina, passed off from man to man, having no issue with it. And of course the ‘other’ woman, is also being passed off back and forth, and is giddy with joy to be dancing with any man; it doesn’t even seem like she notices. It doesn’t matter cause Brom’s idea doesn’t work, as he spends a lot of the time getting away from the ‘other’ woman. Ichabod is said to be the “man of the hour,” by the narrator, and that he is, considering it seems like he’s the only other male present at this party besides Katrina’s father, some musicians and Brom, who is now outside peering in angrily. As the night winds down, Katrina’s dad has a tradition of having his guests tell him ghost stories. The narrator explains that Brom knows that basically Ichabod is superstitious and easily scared by such things, as he sees Ichabod knock over some pepper, and anxiously throwing salt over his shoulder, indicating this to be true.
Brom begins to tell the room of people all the ghastly things that go bump in the night here at Sleepy Hollow on Halloween, and I suppose, since Ichabod is new here, he doesn’t know whether to believe them or not, and is freaked out. All according to Brom’s plan, he continues to sing a song about this ‘midnight jamboree’ that these spooks have, and the headless horseman who one must be weary of while being out and about at night. It doesn’t help that everyone in the room joins in on the song emphasizing it. This delights Katrina. What is up with her? She just likes to see men fight over her and make fools of each other? Oh I think I see some men now,.. in the background.
The scene now cuts to Ichabod riding his horse home. We don’t know how the party ended or anything, but I suppose that isn’t what’s important in the story here. The narrator sets up a scary mood for the scene, as Ichabod rides home paranoid, and hearing things. At one point, he scares himself half to death, and realizes it was nothing; it was all in his head. He laughs uncontrollably out of relief, to how silly he was. He’s almost home,… all he has to do is cross the bridge, but then the Headless Horseman appears in all his iconic glory. He really does look icon with his posturing, as he chases poor Ichabod all about the forest. There’s something about the way the Headless Horseman is drawn and portrayed that makes him really stand out in this story for some reason. It’s almost as if he and his horse were drawn a little more realistically or something.
Was it actually Brom, or someone else out to scare Ichabod? We don’t know. We don’t know anything, as the scene goes black and it’s morning, and Ichabod is nowhere to be found. He’s disappeared, and we now see Brom and Katrina getting married!!
I guess this means Brom has finally won! Did Katrina like Brom all along, and just wanted him to fight harder for her? Was it all a game? Or does she really just like scary stories, which is what won her over? I swear the first time around, the narrator said that was the case. This second viewing,.. it wasn’t mentioned at all, huh. So is Ichabod dead? Did he run away? Apparently the Headless Horseman was something real to the residents of Sleepy Hallow, not something Brom made up on the spot, which I guess is proven by the fact that everyone join in on the song he sang, but those things happen in musicals right?
Seems to be a theme of being carried away in the two stories; Toad with adventure and Ichabod with Katrina/fortune, the object of his desires. Though I suppose, they could be seen as following their hearts, which explains how with these characters, logic takes a back seat to their passions, as it does in matters of the heart.
After my first viewing I found that both Ichabod and Mr. Toad were not really likable characters. Though Mr. Toad’s mania and passions at least seem to be admirable. (On second viewing I actually ended up appreciating Mr. Toad a bit more.) Ichabod on the other hand, just comes across as a privileged guy who think’s he’s all that. Despite his quirky, scrawny, tall, big-nosed look and huge love for food, and despite it ALL, he is liked by a lot of women in town. Typically, his character would be an underdog, contrasting the super hunky man’s man character [Brom], who typically is the protagonist’s opposition for a love interest like Katrina. The hunky opposition still exists here, but it’s interesting considering Ichabod is not the underdog. Ichabod does very well for himself, despite his underdog character design.
Considering the story of Ichabod, I wondered if he was actually the antagonist or something; the guy who needed to be taught a lesson? And the Hunky guy [Brom], is actually the protagonist and nice guy you start to feel bad for? I’m sure that this film is saying something here with these characters, but what? Maybe it’s about expectations, where who you normally think would be the bad guy, might not always be?
Maybe that’s what the two films have in common; protagonists who aren’t stereotypically likable. And a lesson to learn from this film, is that we should save our judgement; beyond first impressions and superficiality, until we know who people really are. Perhaps this is a play on stereotypical hero archetypes. That, or a commentary about some mental health issues.
Mr. Toad, though manipulative and irresponsible, is really actually just a very passionate person, who lives life to the fullest. He doesn’t let anything hold him back, not even the law. That sounds bad, BUT, he’s so pure in his heart; with his passions, and with life. Despite ‘what things looks like,’ or how he ‘fits the bill’ to be a crook, he is someone who has a good heart, and can be trusted. He’s just misunderstood! How cute. He is a free spirit, fully self-expressed, genuinely happy and excited about life! In the beginning of the film, he’s just that; singing and happy as can be, as he rampages through the town singing about how they’re merrily rushing off to nowhere in particular. He know’s how to live, enjoy, and love his life, and freedom. And he’s fearless in expressing it. There’s something to be learned from in his attitude, perspective and outlook on life. Be grateful and excited to live life! Fearlessly live, and love. Maybe just reel it in a bit, so that you’re not worrying or hurting others though.
Another thing to look at is his friends. He’s lucky to have them; friends who have your best interests and your back no matter what. I suppose people shouldn’t take their friends for granted as Toad did, realizing it only too late. It concerns me though that as soon as he’s free again, he goes back to his old self, as if nothing had happened at all. Maybe he still hasn’t learned. It’s almost like he can’t grasp the concept of appreciation and what it means to take people for granted, or like he has Asperger’s syndrome; on top of his mania-induced Tourette syndrome. Perhaps, another thing to take away is that people don’t really change?? We should accept and appreciate people for who they are, especially if they are our friend or loved one. If not us, then who? BUT, not blindly, as one should also be expected to and must take responsibility for their actions. One can’t expect friends to accept things no matter how careless you are with life (yours, or theirs). UNLESS, you are wrongly accused of something, THEN, stand up for a friend, and fight for justice, even if at first you must hazard an experience as dangerous as one of Toad’s adventures. If I had been paying attention the first time around, I’d realize that the moral of the story is probably stated in short, with these words, “.. now lets weigh our judgement carefully, us badger, rats and moles,.. ” One wonders if those animals were also metaphors.
And Ichabod, perhaps really was the antagonist, and the hunky guy, whose name I don’t even know [the first time around. Brom], is the protagonist. Though the hunky guy, looks and seems like the stereotypical jock character of a story who bullies the underdog character, it turns out that maybe he isn’t such a bad guy after all. Appearances can be deceiving. Stereotypes can be misleading. Ichabod was actually quite obnoxious; not very cute. It’s as if the two character types switched bodies. In the end, the hunky guy was more like the everyman of the story, who wasn’t quite as privileged and respected as Ichabod, who won the day. Now that I think of it, is Ichabod a bit of a sociopath? Mmm, maybe not.
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JAYSEN HEADLEY’S VAULT DISNEY PROJECTS:
Jaysen Headley asked me to re-watch every Disney Vault film in chronological order with him. We’re gonna try to watch atleast one a week if not 2. He’ll be writing a blog to accompany this project, and I will post a companion to it.
It’s a fun project! And I’m also mixing in other older films Jaysen had never seen. Right now, we’re working on Arnold Schwarzenegger & Mission: Impossible films!
Jaysen Headley’s Vault Disney: The Others Project Jaysen also started a sister project for other Disney films that are not considered part of the animated Vault called Vault Disney: The Others, which I will also be posting a companion for.