The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad - Disney Films Project

We are so happy to be entering into a fun phase in our Disney Films Project and even though this is technically a package film, both of the stories are classics in our book. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad are shared together in this collection under the device of being stories shared from a common library.

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Katie's thoughts

The Wind in the Willows was a favorite book of mine as a child and I've always enjoyed Disney's portrayal of the story of Mr. Toad in this feature. I especially love the minor supporting characters of Mole and Rat and MacBadger. Toad is way too naughty of course, but when he dresses up like a woman and escapes from prison, he's quite hilarious! I definitely enjoy this more than my kids do and maybe that's because I grew up watching it with my younger brother. Good memories for me.

I actually remember watching Ichabod a few times around Halloween and being genuinely scared by it. That Headless Horseman seemed so real, especially when Ichabod looks down his collar. It still spooks me a bit! There isn't much to the story I guess, but it's one that sticks with you for a long time.

Neither one of these films represent the best work of the studio, but I enjoy them both quite a bit. I'm giving this collection 6 out of 10 Mickeys.

Second opinion with Alex

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad also only contains two shorts, but these are longer, to the point where they could stand on their own. This film finally strikes balance between the two segments, namely, as two separate books in a library. I give this 4 out of 10 Mickey ears, and it's a good closing for our package films, at least for now. 

Riley's viewpoint

I really enjoyed the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and I feel like it's really the only Disney feature that is truly spooky. It's a great Halloween movie and the story lingers with you for a long time. Mr. Toad is a fairly lightweight presentation and I wanted a deeper story. It seemed like an excuse to show a misbehaving Toad and his horse. Overall, the ranking I give this collection 3 out of 10 Mickey ears.

These stories are not part of the Disney mainstream today and many people only know of Toad's existence because of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in some of the Disney parks. It's a "dark ride" and it even includes a visit to Hell which is sure to scar some younger riders. No idea why that got included? It is one of the original rides that was operational on opening day of Disneyland in 1955. 

Ichabod used to show up regularly on the Disney Channel around the Halloween season but I'm not sure if they still play it anymore? It will get you in a spooky mood for sure!

Melody Time - Disney Films Project

We finished up the musical collection package films in our Disney Films Project. Melody Time was a mixed bag with a few favorites and and some ho-hum selections.

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The seven "mini-musical" stories are outlined below:

Once Upon a Wintertime
This segment features Frances Langford singing the title song about two romantic young lovers in December. Joe shows off on the ice for his lover, Jenny, and near-tragedy and a timely rescue ensues. This short is also featured in Very Merry Christmas Songs, which is part of Disney Sing Along Songs, as a background movie for the song Jingle Bells.

Bumble Boogie
This segment presents a surrealistic battle for a solitary bumble bee as he tries to ward off a visual and musical frenzy. The music is courtesy of Freddy Martin And His Orchestra (with Jack Fina playing the piano) and is a swing-jazz variation of Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee, which was one of the many pieces considered for inclusion in Fantasia.

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed
This segment is a retelling of the story of John Chapman, who spent most of his life roaming Mid-Western America (mainly Illinois and Indiana) in the pioneer days, and planting apple trees, thus earning his famous nickname. 

Little Toot
This segment is based on the story of the same name by Hardie Gramatky, in which the title protagonist, a small tugboat, wanted to be just like his father Big Toot, but couldn't seem to stay out of trouble. The Andrews Sisters provide the vocals.

Trees
This segment featured the a recitation of the 1913 poem "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer poem performed by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians with the lyrical setting accompanying animation scenes seen through the changing of the seasons.

Blame It on the Samba
This segment has Donald Duck and José Carioca meeting the Aracuan Bird, who introduces them to the pleasures of the samba. Donald Duck, Jose Carioca, and the Aracuan bird reprise their roles from The Three Caballeros. The animated short includes some live-action footage.

Pecos Bill
The film's final segment is about Texas' famous hero Pecos Bill. It also features his horse Widowmaker, and recounts how Pecos was brought back down to earth by a woman named Slue-Foot Sue. This retelling of the story features Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, and the Sons of the Pioneers to Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten. This segment was later edited on the film's NTSC video release (but not the PAL release) to remove all scenes of Bill smoking. The entire scene on the tornado with Bill rolling his cigarette and lighting it with a lightning bolt was cut, and all other shots of the offending cigarette hanging from his lips were digitally removed.

source: Wikipedia

Katie's thoughts

I enjoy Once Upon a Wintertime and I really love Johnny Appleseed. Those are really the only two segments worth watching for me in this collection. Little Toot is probably good if you like the Andrews Sisters, but I'm not really a fan. I have to admit that I was so happy to get finish this film so we could move into the beloved classics again. I'm giving Melody Time 3 out of 10 Mickeys.

Second opinion with Alex

Melody Time. Sometimes nostalgia makes a film seem better. The fact is that between the shorts, there's a very mixed feeling, and I mean more than in Make Mine Music. We jump from Fantasia reject, to pioneer folktale, to dreary naturalist hymn, and more. It's telling that the Caballeros segment is one of the saving graces of the film. 4 out of 10 mickey ears. Worth watching, but in parts. (Skip Little Toot, and also Trees. The rest is good.) 

Riley's viewpoint

Once Upon a Wintertime and The Legend of Johnny Appleseed are two of my favorites that remind me of my childhood. These two shorts are classics for sure. Blame it on the Samba gave me flashbacks of the Cabelleros and I worried we were heading down that road again. While it wasn't as bad as that, it just wasn't all that good either. Little Toot was ok, but not a favorite. I give this collection a 3 of 10 Mickey heads for my ranking.

 

It's been a tough road to watch these hodge-podge package films, but we also appreciate the history behind them and are grateful that they allowed the studio to survive a difficult time!

 

Fun and Fancy Free - Disney Films Project

Fun and Fancy Free is the 5th package presentation we've watched for our Disney Films Project


This film features two segments: Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk. Jiminy Cricket appears at the beginning singing a short song of"I'm a Happy-go-Lucky Fellow", a song written for and cut from Pinocchio before its release. Jiminy then finds a playroom with a doll, a teddy bear, and a record player with some records, and sets up to play the story of Bongo on the record.

Mickey and the Beanstalk was narrated by Edgar Bergen in live-action sequences, who, with the help of his ventriloquist dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, told the tale to child actress Luana Patten at her birthday party.

 

A few interesting tidbits about Fun and Fancy Free:

  • The "Mickey and the Beanstalk" portion of the film was the last time Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse, because he was too busy on other projects to continue voicing the famous character.
  • During the 1940s, Mickey and the Beanstalk and Bongo were originally going to be developed as two separate feature films.
  • It is the the only film featuring all four of Walt Disney's most famous characters -- Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Jiminy Cricket

Sources: Wikipedia and Disney.com

 

Katie's thoughts

It's clear that this film is an excuse to paste together a few odd projects and create a feature. As I explained in my last post, it's what kept the Disney animation studio alive during a difficult time after World War II. I felt like the animation on the Bongo segment was quite primitive compared to the other work produced by the studio in the same time period. It certainly seemed quite a bit behind the artwork in Mickey and the Beanstalk. I didn't really care for the Bongo story, but I have always liked the Mickey Mouse version of the beanstalk tale. The interlude with Edgar Bergen and his puppets was strange and a little creepy. He did do a nice job of narrating the story though. Overall, I give this collection 3 out of 10 Mickey heads. 

 

Second opinion with Alex

Fun and Fancy Free features a cut song from Pinocchio, and performance footage of Edgar Bergen. Sadly, this is the only benefit to the film. The rest runs too short, and the featured stories can easily be found elsewhere. When Mickey and Friends can't manage to save a movie, it's a bad sign. Tellingly, this is one of the last package films made. I give this film 2 out of 10 Mickey ears. That's right, this is close to the bottom of the barrel! I did enjoy the segment with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy though.

 

Riley's viewpoint

These two clips have nothing to do with each other, and you can tell that they were cut from different films. Bongo is a very interesting story and seems to say that everyone has a different view of love. If it is true that people express their love with a slap, than count me out of love. I liked the retelling of Jack and the bean stalk but can someone tell me why a little girl an old man and two puppets are the only ones at her birthday party? Does that seem weird to anyone else? I am giving this film 3 mickey heads.

Disney seems to have brushed Bongo aside (wisely) but they have kept Mickey and the Beanstalk around through the years and re-released it with a few different collections. The Golden Harp from the movie even makes a cameo appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit!

 

Make Mine Music - Disney Films Project

We just watched another feature in our Disney Films Project and we are smack-dab in the middle of a bunch of compilation films. These are a little more difficult to review because they are several shorts that are all put together for a full length presentation. Make Mine Music is all over the map with a pieces ranging from Casey at Bat to Peter and the Wolf. 

If you are wondering why all of these compilation projects exist, the Wikipedia entry for Make Mine Music does a great job of explaining the reason.

During the Second World War, much of Walt Disney's staff was drafted into the army, and those that remained were called upon by the U.S. government to make training and propaganda films. As a result, the studio was littered with unfinished story ideas. In order to keep the feature film division alive during this difficult time, the studio released six package films including this one, made up of various unrelated segments set to music.

This film has ten segments:

The Martins and the Coys (edited out in most versions so we didn't see this)
This segment featured popular radio vocal group, King's Men singing the story of a Hatfields and McCoys-style feud in the mountains broken up when two young people from each side fell in love. 

Blue Bayou
This segment featured animation originally intended for Fantasia using the Claude Debussy musical composition Clair de Lune from Suite bergamasque. It featured two egrets flying through the Everglades on a moonlit night. However, by the time Make Mine Music was released Clair de Lune was replaced by the new song Blue Bayou, performed by the Ken Darby Singers. 

All the Cats Join In
This segment was one of two sections in which Benny Goodman and his Orchestra contributed the soundtrack to visuals drawn by a pencil as the action was happening, and in which 1940s teens were swept away by popular music.

Without You
This segment was a ballad of lost love, sung by Andy Russell.

Casey at the Bat
This segment featured Jerry Colonna, reciting the poem also titled "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Thayer, about the arrogant ballplayer whose cockiness was his undoing.

Two Silhouettes
This segment featured two live-action ballet dancers, David Lichine and Tania Riabouchinskaya, moving in silhouette with animated backgrounds and characters. Dinah Shore sang the title song.


Peter and the Wolf
This segment was an animated dramatization of the 1936 musical composition by Sergei Prokofiev, with narration by actor Sterling Holloway. A Russian boy named Peter sets off into the forest to hunt the wolf with his animal friends: a bird named Sasha, a duck named Sonia, and a cat named Ivan. Each character is represented with a specific musical accompaniment: Peter by the String Quartet, Sasha the Bird by the Flute, Sonia the Duck Oboe, Ivan the Cat by the Clarinet, Grandpa by the Bassoon, Gunfire from hunters' by the Kettledrums, and the evil Wolf primarily by horns and cymbals.

After You've Gone
This segment again featured Benny Goodman and The Goodman Octet as eight anthropomorphized instruments (Piano, Bass, Drums, Clarinet, Trumpet, Trombone, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax) who paraded through a musical playground.

Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet
This segment told the romantic story of two hats who fell in love in a department store window. When Alice was sold, Johnnie devoted himself to finding her again. They eventually, by pure chance, meet up again and live happily ever after together, side by side. The Andrews Sisters provided the vocals. 

The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met
The bittersweet finale about a Sperm Whale with incredible musical talent and his dreams of singing Grand Opera. In the end, Willie was harpooned and killed, but the narrator then explains that Willy's voice will sing on in Heaven. Nelson Eddy narrated and performed all the voices in this segment. As Willie the Whale, Eddy sang all three male voices in the first part of the Sextet from Donizetti's opera, Lucia di Lammermoor.


Katie's thoughts

Once I understood why these compilation movies were put together, it did help me become more forgiving of the hodge-podge feeling of a bunch of random pieces being packaged as one feature. I found that the majority of the pieces felt a little slow (and boring) to me and that they would clearly be more appreciated in the time that they were written (the 1940s).  I though Casey at the Bat was a clever short and I've always loved Peter and the Wolf. I think I must have had a record of that as a child because I remember listening to the music and the story narrated by Sterling Holloway. Alex refused to watch the last piece of the whale singing at the Met because he remembered it as being very depressing. After I watched it, I had to agree. Too sad!

If I was rating only Peter and the Wolf, I would give this very high marks. However, as a whole, Make Mine Music gets 4 out of 10 Mickey Ears from me.


Second opinion with Alex

Make Mine Music is advertised as a "Happy Comedy Musical" Aside from the end segment, which is murder on the heartstrings, this is an apt analogy. Still, some segments are more introspective, making things out of alignment This is the most upbeat of the package films so far. 4/10 Mickey Ears (This reviewer will not be covering the whale segment, which will be covered by his fellow reviewers.)


Riley's viewpoint

I will give this show 4 stars for 4 reasons. Reason number one is the story of Casey at the Bat. This is a classic story that is a childhood favorite of mine. Story is a great lesson on humility, something that Casey lacks. Star number two is earned for me in Peter and the Wolf, what a great introduction to music for kids. I love this segment. The last two stars were earned in Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet. This cartoon is awesome and gosh dang it, it made me almost cry! I love this love story!! Great three segments, and the rest I will ignore.


Interestingly, this is the first movie that all three of us have rated the same!

The Make Mine Music seem to be largely forgotten in the current Disney culture, but there are a few appearances in some Disney Parks:

  • Peter and the Wolf is featured as part of the Disneyland Paris version of the Storybook Land Canal Boats
  • Casey at the Bat is represented in the parks with Casey's Corner on Main Street, U.S.A. in various parks and one of the Boardwalk games at Disney California Adventure
  • Willie the Whale appears in a queue poster at Mickey's PhilharMagic.

If you enjoy the music from Peter and the Wolf, you will love watching this rare video of PROKOFIEV & WALT DISNEY.

The Three Caballeros - Disney Films Project

The Three Caballeros is the fifth film we are reviewing for our Disney Films Project  


Rave Reviewer Alejandro (Or as you Americans say, Alex.)

Whoa! How'd I get up here? 

Three Caballeros is one of the stranger films in the canon. One gets the feeling that Disney was making the best Looney Tunes Cartoon they could muster. At this, they hit it out of the park, creating something that is neither one, but both. The best metaphor is that of a peanut butter chocolate candy. I didn't get this fully, but the general focus and flow is better than most package films. I give this 4 Mickey heads out of 10. It's strange, but I enjoy this type of strange. 

 

Riley's thoughts 

The art of in this movie is great! Mary Blair's art shines through strongly in the scenery. My main thought during this movie was "what am I watching?" This is truly one of the strangest movies I have ever seen. 1 out of 10 mickey faces (1 for the amazing art). But I can't help but wonder why is this film so cray-cray?

 

Third Opinion With Katie Nelson

Alejandro said it was one of the stranger films in the canon, but I'm going to emphasize that I think this is THE strangest movie in the Disney canon! I remember back in my college days when there was a free showing of this movie in the student center. I wondered to myself why my parents had kept this Disney masterpiece from me? After I watched it, I wanted to call and personally thank them for never subjecting me to this film. All I could think of was "drug trip" when I watched the sequences with Donald and the ladies he had the hots for. Yikes.

When my kids were young, they wanted to see this movie. They were sufficiently scarred after watching it and we've joked about it for years. The fact that I've now sat through this movie a third time is a testament to me being slow to learn on this. I'm officially done with the Caballeros now. I'm giving the movie 1 Mickey head because somebody put effort into this and I don't feel good about giving it a zero. This will be my lowest reviewed film of all the canon so it's onward and upward from here!

...

The Three Caballeros- these characters have been popular enough to still be found in a few places. These plush figures are available on amazon. 

And you can find these three amigos in the Gran Fiesta Tour at Epcot in Walt Disney World.

Definitely a strange movie though. We all agree on that!

What??? (Ladies legs horse, I guess? - Al)

Saludos Amigos - Disney Films Project

Saludos Amigos is the fourth film in our Disney Films Project and it seems to be one that not a lot of people today remember. It is a compilation film which means it is a collection of shorts that are put together to form a feature length presentation.

The idea behind this film is to have us follow Walt and his team of animators as they visit Latin America for inspiration. The story of their travels is woven in between the animated pieces. This trailer will give you a little taste:

The Wikipedia entry describes the movie as set in Latin America, it is made up of four different segments; Donald Duck stars in two of them and Goofy stars in one. It also features the first appearance of José Carioca, the Brazilian cigar-smoking parrot.  Saludos Amigos was popular enough that Walt Disney decided to make another film about Latin America, The Three Caballeros, to be produced two years later. Saludos Amigos premiered in Rio de Janeiro on August 24, 1942. It was released in the United States on February 6, 1943. It garnered positive reviews and was only reissued once, in 1949, when it was shown on a double bill with the first reissue of Dumbo.

It's also worth noting that this film had a political purpose to help foster good relations with South America at a crucial time. Another excerpt from Wikipedia:

In early 1941, before U.S. entry into World War II, the United States Department of State commissioned a Disney goodwill tour of South America, intended to lead to a movie to be shown in the US, Central, and South America as part of the Good Neighbor Policy. Disney was chosen for this because several Latin American governments had close ties with Nazi Germany, and the US government wanted to counteract those ties. Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters were popular in Latin America, and Walt Disney acted as ambassador. The tour took Disney and a group of roughly twenty composers, artists, technicians, etc. from his studio to South America, mainly to Brazil and Argentina, but also to Chile and Peru.

So what did we think of Saludos Amigos?

 

Katie's thoughts

Knowing the background of this project helped me appreciate it a little more, but it is not a favorite of mine. I don't mind the compilation format and I think it was interesting to see the scenes that inspired the animators. I actually would have enjoyed even more of that perspective. The animated segments were generally cute and fun. Nothing too cerebral here, just some cartoons. The intro to the watercolor segment at the end was very beautiful and artistic. I could have watched an entire film of that. It's fun to see touches of Mary Blair's style come through the film and those were the highlights for me.

With this being a 1940s film that caters to a foreign culture, I have to admit this was a little slow and boring for me to watch. I appreciate what they were trying to do, but it doesn't rank very high on my scale. I'm giving it 2 out of 10 Mickey ears for my rating. It might be more like a 1 and a half for me. I give it credit as an artistic endeavor, but I hope I don't have to watch it again any time soon!

 

Second opinion with Alex

I felt this film was somewhat slow for a package film, but the behind-the-scenes work really looks good. That said, there's a little too much in-between. I give this 3 Ears out of 10. There will be films I have more issues with, but this is pretty dull. 

 

Riley's viewpoint

This was not my favorite film, but it wasn't too bad. It was interesting to watch for the artwork and to see the South American scenes. I'm giving it 2 out of 10 Mickey ears for my rating.


Any toys? 

I have never seen any merchandise relating to Saludos Amigos on the Disney website or in any of the parks or stores. I'm sure there have been a few items in the past, but it's a pretty obscure film these days. I was surprised to find this Pedro plane plush on ebay listed for $24. I'm sure there's a collector somewhere who might be interested in it.

Well, I guess it's Adios Amigos for now!

 

Fantasia - Disney Films Project

Fantasia is the third movie in our Disney Films Project and there are nine different short segments that are put together to form this film.

 

Alex created artwork for each piece and he will add some commentary for each number.

Fantasia

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. This is the first impression of the film, and the abstract animation really does its work. That said, the real height of this piece is the last shot, with Leopold Stokowski's conducting synced to the animation.

Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. At this point, the film winds up lulling most people to sleep (including Riley and Katie). However, the renditions of various creatures (including a group of various flowers,  and a short dance with several mushrooms) are worth watching. 

The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas. Believe it or not, this is the short that started Fantasia! Rising costs for the short's production led to the Fantasia series of shorts being produced. All of the animation is spot on to the music, and the whole thing stands the test of time. This is the piece most people think of when you mention Fantasia and it certainly is the one that has kept the film in Disney's culture. Mickey's sorcerer hat is still a popular item today - just look through any Disney gift shop!

Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. Speaking of time, here's one piece that stutters a bit in modern viewings. The science was sound at the time of release, though, so you can't fault it too much. Also, the whole thing is some of the most realistic animation in Disney.

Intermission/Meet the Soundtrack. At this point, the film breaks off, then returns with a series of sound gags. This is cute, and between the both of these, all prospective audiences should be awake for the rest of the film. (Actually walking around at the start of the intermission is recommended.)

The Pastoral Symphony (The 6th) by Ludwig van Beethoven. Here, the whole thing shifts back to generating a scene. Disney really nails the party and thunderstorm, replicating one of Beethoven's apprentice's description. The segment in general shows good Greek focus, and we'll see more of this inspiration later.

Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli. Hello, Muddah. Hello, Faddah... Seriously, this is one of my favorite sequences animated. The general tone is humorous, and the whole thing could very well stand on it's own. 

Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky. That's a strange looking letter A!  Anyway, this segment features some of the most nightmarish imagery, and is also paired with intense music. This could honestly be described only as "someone thinking dark thoughts very clearly."

Ave Maria by Franz Schubert. Therefore, it makes sense that the counterpoint to Bald Mountain is more unfocused, with scenery and camera taking the stage. The shots seen here are spiritually charged, reaffirming faith's triumph. Honestly, this may be our last shot of Walt as a spiritual man. 

But what a finale. The final shot suggests all the peace and comfort of religion, without being overly complex. That's an achievement any artist would struggle with, pulled off with ease by Walt's staff.

Katie's drowsy thoughts:

I struggle to stay awake during this film and I usually am out by the time the Nutcracker Suite starts up. I feel somewhat guilty over that because I really respect the artistic beauty of the music paired with the animation. I have watched all the segments, but never in the same sitting.

I think Fantasia was a groundbreaking film that was probably quite ahead of it's time. In fact, Fantasia was most popular during the sixties and seventies when people reportedly enjoyed with with some illegal substances to enhance viewing. People seem to either love this film or hate it. I wish I could love it, but it's just not really my thing. I do appreciate the great artistic endeavor that Walt and his team took on with this though. I'm only giving it 2/10 Mickey heads which I know will upset some fans. 

 

Second Opinion With Alex Nelson:

This is the most realized art film Walt made, and it's also a landmark for the studio, with attempts made at early surround sound. Best appreciated by those with a ready focus, this is Walt's early work in music and cartoons brought to it's apex.

7/10 Mickey Heads for sheer focus. While not as stimulating to an early crowd, this is the great film that stood for what Disney could do. (We won't see much of that for the moment, as we are entering the territory of package films. But the best is yet to come, I promise!)

Riley's zzzzzzzs:

Riley slept through almost the entire showing of Fantasia and decided to just bow out of this review. She gives it a lot of zzzzzzzzs. LOL!

 

As Alex enjoys Fantasia quite a bit, and Katie is a fan of Sorcerer Mickey, we have a few toys around relating to this film. One of our favorite memories is when Alex's Grandpa placed a Sorcerer Mickey stuffed toy in our room in the Disneyland Hotel back in 1999 to greet Alex when we arrived (there was a Minnie Mouse for Riley). The cool thing is that Alex still has this Mickey today.

Note the Mushu pajamas as well. This was a big Disney phase in our lives!

Trying on the sorcerer's hat in the Disney gift shop during that same 1999 trip. Also, wearing Pixar merchandise. We drink the Kool-aid when we are there!

 

Fantasia has a remarkable history and there are many interesting facts about Walt's vision for the idea. Here are a few cool links to check out: