The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

Disney released their version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on a split-bill with an adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, but the Disney Channel used to show the Ichabod segment by itself aorund Halloween pretty regularly. Disney, wanting to make a movie of the story, got around the fact that the source doesn't have enough material for a 90 minute film by just not making it a full length version - in a VERY rare case of Disney sticking to the source.

Narrated by Bing Crosby (who also sings most of the songs), this is the version most people are familiar with - and they could hardly do better. While it drags a bit in the middle, it's the most entertaining portrayal of Ichabod (showing him as a bit of a buffoon, afraid of his own shadow, with a frame only a cartoon could provide).

The songs are very good - "Ichabod, Ichabod Crane" is good, and "The Headless Horseman" song, which Brom Bones sings, is fantastic - how can you dislike a song with lines like "he swears to the longest day he's dead / he'll show them that he can get a head," and "demons take one look and moan / and hit the road to parts unknown." The presence of songs at all is the main point on which it veers from the original - in fact, it's about the only version to take advantage of Crane's voracious appetite, which is in the original story, but rarely in the movies.

Interestingly, in addition to the Bing Crosby version, the venerable Thurl Ravenscroft (a Disney regular and voice of Tony the Tiger) also recorded a swingin' version of the Headless Horseman song that you should absolutely own - it has a few different lyrics: Thurl Ravenscroft - Walt Disney Records Archive Collection, Vol. 1 - The Headless Horseman

And Kay Starr did a swingin' version of her own - Kay Starr - I've Got to Sing 1944-1948 - Headless Horseman

Anyway, visually, this version was absolutely unrivaled for fifty years until the Tim Burton version came out (Burton was inspired more by this version that by Irving, perhaps instinctively grasping that it's the headless horseman and the atmosphere that make this story cool, not the Urban vs Agrarian parable), and even now, the midnight ride is head and shoulders (if you'll excuse the pun) over every other version. Spooky as all get-out.

One question, though, remains: is this version of the horseman real, or a guy in a costume? There's a scene where Ichabod looks down the neck of the thing and apaprently doesn't see anything, and I really, really doubt Brom Bones could pull of the kind of riding the horseman does here without being able to see. I think it's real.

This was aired so often (minus the Toad portion, which is also very good) around Halloween that it could almost be considered the first Halloween special.

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