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Featured Blu-ray Review: Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad / Fun and Fancy Free

August 9th, 2014

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad and Fun and Fancy Free - Blu-ray Combo Pack - Buy from Amazon

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad and Fun and Fancy Free were two theatrical releases released during the lowest point in Disney's history, at least financially. The company was very close to bankruptcy. They didn't have the resources to produce feature-length movies, so they packaged shorts to be shown instead. This Blu-ray combo pack includes two theatrical releases, plus a bonus film, for a total of five films. These start with...

The Wind in the Willows

The story begins with the narrator introducing us to J. Thaddeus Toad, Esquire. Mr. Toad is extremely rich, or was till he began to waste all of his money on whatever random thought passed through his head. His free-spending ways meant he had a lot of people who liked to be around him, but only three real friends: MacBadger, Rat, and Mole. MacBadger volunteer to help Mr. Toad get his financial house in order. That's not going to be easy, especially after Mr. Toad decides he must have a car. This gets him into more trouble than usual, as he buys a car from Mr. Winkie, a car that Winkie's weasel gang stole. Now it's not just debts Mr. Toad has to repay, but he's being sent to prison.

As a kid, I watched the The Wind in the Willows stop-motion animated series and really liked it. However, I can't stand this short. The problem is simple, Mr. Toad is horrible. In the TV series, he's one of many main characters, so his awful personality isn't thrust in your face quite so often. Here, he's the main character and is too much to take.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The narrator introduces us to Ichabod Crane, an odd looking fellow with an odd name. He arrived in Sleepy Hollow to become the town's new school teacher, but it seems his real passion is eating. It seems everything he did, including flirting with all of the women, was to get more food to eat. His odd looks and odd mannerism made him the focus of ridicule by Brom Bones, who is, for all intents and purposes, the town jock. One day, Ichabod meets Katrina van Tassel, the only daughter of the richest man in town, Baltus van Tassel. It's love at first sight for Ichabod, partially for Katrina, but more for her money. Since Brom is also in love with Katrina, the two get into a heated rivalry. Ichabod seems to have the upper hand, but then Brom uses Ichabod's superstitions against him and tells Ichabod about the story of the Headless Horseman.

This is one of the best horror films for kids, once you finally get to that part. I had forgotten how long the setup was, from the start till we first hear Brom talk about the Headless Horseman. The setup is still fun, but it is the horror elements of this short that make it a classic.


Jiminy Cricket sings the titular song, "Fun and Fancy Free". He thinks people worry too much and introduces us to Bongo, a circus bear who wants to be free. The crowds love him, but the trainer is abusive. One day, he manages to escape from the circus train and runs into the woods. At first he loves it. Then he realizes that living in the woods isn't without its own set of problems, from annoying insects to sudden storms. The next morning, Bongo thinks he's made a huge mistake, that is until he sees Lulubelle and it is love at first sight. Unfortunately for those two, another bear, Lumpjaw, is also interested in Lulubelle.

I would argue that this is the weakest of the five films on this Blu-ray. There's nothing particularly wrong with the short, but it doesn't do enough right to grab your attention. At least it didn't grab my attention.

Mickey and the Beanstalk

There's a live-action sequence leading into this film with Edgar Bergen performing some of his ventriloquism. He begins to tell to story of Happy Valley, a place that used to be happy and prosperous, but then a giant stole the singing harp and since then there has been a drought and a famine. We look in on three farmers, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. All they have to eat is a single slice of bread and one bean, which they have to split between them. This is too much for Donald to take and he snaps. The trio decide to sell the cow for food. Mickey goes out to sell the cow, but comes back with magic beans. Donald snaps, again, and throws the beans away and they fall under the floor boards of their house. That night the beans grow into a mighty beanstalk lifting their house into the clouds. When they awake, they see a castle in the distance and decide to investigate. I think you can guess what they find.

While the Headless Horseman part of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is the best part of this Blu-ray, as a whole, Mickey and the Beanstalk is the best short. It's a good story and a strong adaptation. There isn't a slow part of the story, although depending on your personal opinion on ventriloquism, the live-action segments might not be a selling point. The action is strong and it ends with a real climax.

The Reluctant Dragon

This is the bonus feature for the set. It is actually a feature-length "documentary" about the animation process. The setup has Robert Benchley being told by his wife, played by Nana Bryant and not his actual wife, to pitch an idea for a cartoon to Walt Disney. Along the way, he looks in on the animation process, which teaches him, and the audience, how they created animated films at the Disney studios. There are also several animated sequences in the movie, including one for the titular The Reluctant Dragon

This is a very good edutainment film that balances the tour of the animation facility and the animated shorts very well. Obviously the animation process of today is different with computers doing a lot of the work, but if you are interested in animation, this is worth checking out.

The Extras

The only extra on the Blu-ray is the The Reluctant Dragon. However, the two DVDs each have a storybook extra.

The technical presentation varies. There are some instances of the films showing their age with the occasional speck, nothing too disruptive, on the other hand. The level of details is high, for the most part, while the colors are usually strong. Again, it is showing its age. The audio is clear, but not exactly active.

The Blu-ray combo pack costs $34, which is a lot, but you do get three feature-length films. Strangely, there is a The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad Blu-ray release, but not one for Fun and Fancy Free. The two-pack is the much better deal.

The Verdict

Of the five films on The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad and Fun and Fancy Free Blu-ray Combo Pack, two of the shorts and the feature-length documentary are worth owning. The price isn't great, but it isn't bad either. If you are a fan of these films, it is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Fun and Fancy Free, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, Basil Rathbone, Edgar Bergen