Disney: The Problem With ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad’

Screenshot from ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad’. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Productions.

Hey! Hallie here!

During the last few months I’ve found a bit more time to look into some of the random Disney movies I hadn’t gotten the chance to see before Disney+ was a thing. One of the ones that I was most interested in was ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad’. The movie’s not much longer than an hour and it includes two different Disney franchises that I’ve been interested in for a long time. I’ve been interested in ‘The Wind in the Willows’ since Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in Disneyland left an impression on me as a kid. Particularly the part where you end up in hell. Similarly, The Headless Horseman has been a staple of the Halloween season in the Disney parks for a few years now. Naturally, I wanted to know why Disney clings to both of these stories so much when it comes to park representation, even though both stories are old and not very popular. This movie was so much more disturbing than I could have imagined, and for completely different reasons than I thought it would be. Let’s get into this mess.

‘The Wind in the Willows’:

  • Mr. Toad. This is probably the main issue with this part of the film. Mr. Toad is not a likable character at all. When he’s introduced he gives off the impression that he really takes advantage of his friends. The only friend he seems to actually get along with is his horse, Cyril. His other friends, including the adorable Mole, are left to clean up everything Mr. Toad ruins with his reckless driving. Almost immediately after all of this is established, Mr. Toad goes crazy and his friends are forced to lock him in his room until he comes back to himself. Instead, Mr. Toad escapes and is later found driving a stolen car. It’s revealed that Mr. Toad did attempt to buy the car, he just attempted to buy the car from weasels who had already stolen it, but he ends up going to jail anyway. So you could argue the main issue with Mr. Toad is stupidity rather than any real wrongdoing on his part. Aside from all of the property damage he’s caused, of course. That is, until Cyril helps him break out of jail, he leads police officers on train chase, almost drowns in a strangely dark scene, and shows up at his friends’ house without any remorse at all. By the end of the movie Mr. Toad is absolved of all his crimes, manages to keep his friends, and hasn’t learned anything throughout the course of the entire movie. He starts out as oblivious and self-centered, and he ends the movie just the same. You really can’t route for the guy.
  • Consequences. It can’t be said that Mr. Toad faces no consequences for his actions. In fact, the narrator tells the audience he spends quite a bit of time in jail. The issue is that the segment where he’s in jail is presented as a sad moment. Because, in this scenario, Mr. Toad isn’t actually guilty of what he’s been accused of. He didn’t steal the car he was caught driving, he just wasn’t smart enough to realize it was stolen when he attempted to buy it off of the weasels. However, after he does do something morally questionable, he faces no consequences. His friends are constantly annoyed with him, but they continue to support him throughout the entire movie. He’s never confronted about the amount of money he has to spend on property damage. He isn’t even confronted about his escape from jail! I’m not the only one who was a bit disturbed by this aspect of the movie. This seems to be the entire reason why the Disney ride ends in hell, despite the fact that Mr. Toad has a happy ending in his story. Hell is used as a consequence for riders lack of regard for others after they have recklessly driven through the streets of London. It just goes a bit too far for a kids ride.

‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’:

  • Ichabod Crane. Seeing a pattern here? Yeah, neither of our protagonists in this movie are very likeable. Ichabod is introduced as quite the ladies man. He walks into Sleepy Hollow with his nose stuck in a book, but unlike Belle, the people of the village find their new school teacher really interesting. That, plus the fact that he’s voiced by Bing Crosby, gets him a lot of attention from the villagers. And here is where we run into our first red flag with him. He refuses to discipline his students, or even really teach his class, because this gains him favor with their mothers, which in turn gets them to cook him lots of food. This guy is addicted to food, and he openly flirts and shows favoritism with the women of the village in order to get it. All that stops, though, when he meets a girl he’s actually interested in. Initially he’s just interested in her beauty, but when the audience is invited into his daydreams about her, the audience learns that he mainly likes her because her family’s rich. What? This causes him to get into a feud with Brom Bones, who’s basically Gaston. Brom Bones has been jealous of Ichabod for the entire movie, but he’s even more jealous when Ichabod catches the attention of this girl. So Brom comes up with the story of the Headless Horseman after he discovers Ichabod is superstitious. There’s no way of knowing whether or not the Headless Horseman was actually real, but Ichabod disappears after that day and Brom marries the girl Ichabod was interested in. Which isn’t really a happy ending, but Ichabod marrying her would have been just as bad.
  • The way the women are portrayed. This was one of the most disturbing parts of the entire movie. It isn’t just that all of the women are used in this movie to fall all over Ichabod. One scene in particular shows just how badly this movie treats it’s female characters. When Ichabod is invited to a party held by the father of the woman he’s interested in, he gets into a dance fight with Brom. This isn’t the fun kind of dance fight, either. Brom keeps trying to get the love interest’s attention as she’s dancing with Ichabod, but to no avail. So he looks beside him and finds one of the women from the village. She’s cute, short, has short black hair, and is a small bit larger than the love interest. Upon sighting her, Brom shields his face from her in disgust. And the audience is supposed to side with him! He ends up taking this woman to the dance floor so he can attempt to switch his partner with Ichabod’s, meanwhile she’s shown to be annoying to dance with because she short and bouncy. This compared to the graceful, blonde, skinny woman that serves as the love interest. The whole scene, particularly the woman from the village, is played for laughs. It’s an absolutely infuriating reflection of beauty standards at the time. This scene was my least favorite in the entire movie.

This movie was one of the oddest I’ve seen from Disney. It isn’t the only one of it’s kind, either. You can find plenty of old Disney movies that didn’t age well on Disney+. Immediately after I finished this movie, my mother decided to turn on an old Mickey Mouse short. We thought it’d be a cute way to get our minds off of the movie. Instead we were met with racist Native American stereotyping. I’m not saying these movies should be wiped from Disney+. What I AM saying is that you should be careful of what you choose when you’re seeking out some of Disney’s old, lesser known content. You’d be surprised how much of it is weird or cringey. Some movies are more entertaining than others. And some you wish you could wipe from your memory entirely. This was one of those movies for me.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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