Tuesday, October 26, 2021

31 Days of Scary Movies: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1949)


Next up we returned to Disney and returned to the village of Sleepy Hollow. Disney’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was made in 1949 as a short film, and packaged with the other, unrelated short film adaptation of “The Wind in the Willows,” and released together as one film, “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mister Toad.” In later years on television, they were shown separately—with Ichabod’s segment titled “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” For the purposes of our film series, I watched only the Ichabod portion, which clocks in under half an hour. 


Bing Crosby narrates—and sings--  this beautifully animated tale. While the songs are whimsical—“Katrina,” for instance—Disney does not, thankfully shy away from the spookier elements of the story, with the “Headless Horseman” song in which the ghost story is related to Ichabod, and culminating in the spectacularly animated conclusion of Ichabod riding home through the woods—and being chased by the Horseman himself. The animation is so detailed and wonderful—from the Horseman’s cemetery, through the woods, and over the bridge. The Horseman himself and his horse are fiendishly perfect.


Something I appreciate a great deal about this version, is while even the Horseman’s chase gets a little—well—cartoonish, they do not shy away from its ultimate conclusion, and in fact embrace the original story’s ambiguity as to Ichabod’s fate. Did he fall victim to the Horseman that night? Did he leave to start a new life? Is the Horseman a real ghost story or not? Disney leaves all of Irving’s original uncertainty—and becomes one of the best adaptations of the Horseman’s tale in the process.  

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