In 1949, Walt Disney brought Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows to the big screen, paired with Disney's version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, in a film called The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
Disney's film leaves out all of the poetry and most of the subtlety [of Grahame's book], but it still has action enough for the children and wit enough for everybody. It is deft and pleasant throughout, ironic and goodhearted. Although the Ichabod half of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is silly and bumbling, Mr. Toad's half is good enough to convince Disney admirers that the old master can still display all the bounce and vitality he had before the war.
The Adventures of Mr. Toad is 30 minutes, long enough to tell a few of the tales found in Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. The principal character, of course, is J. Thaddeus Toad, whose voice comes from Eric Blore. Narrarating the movie is Basil Rathbone, most widely known for his on-screen depictions of Sherlock Holmes.
Other character voices come from Pat O'Malley (Cyril Proudbottom), John Ployardt (prosecutor), Colin Campbell (Moley), Campbell Grant (Angus McBadger), Claude Allister (Ratty), and The Rhythmaires.
After McBadger airs his grievances to friends Ratty and Moley, complaining about the wrecklessness and lack of responsiblity exhibited by Toad, the movie cuts to Toad, enjoying his latest adventure with horse Cyril. Together they sing the Mr. Toad theme, Merrily on Our Way, also available on a 33rpm record.
Walt Disney acquired the rights to The Wind in the Willows in 1938. In the book, Toad steals a car but because of the Hays Code, Disney had to modify the story so that Toad is framed for stealing the car. (The Hays Code, which then governed the production of movies, required that "No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it.")
In 1946, Disney decided to pair the story of Mr. Toad with the story of Ichabod Crane, liking the idea of putting a British story together with an American one. Ichabod's story was the last of the two tales to be told in the movie, lest the dark ending of the Sleepy Hollow legend drag down the lightheartedness of Toad's adventures.
The two literary stories were put together in a single title, first called Two Fabulous Characters.
It was released by RKO Radio Pictures on October 5, 1949, as The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. In 1958, the two stories were separated and marketed as single units. In 1978, Toad's adventures were re-released under the title, The Madcap Adventures of Mr. Toad. J. Thaddeus Toad has also made several cameo appearances in other Disney films.
The original 1949 movie posters and lobby cards tended to show the Ichabod portion of the release: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Today, The Adventures of Mr. Toad is available on VHS and DVD. The VHS version is the 50th anniversary release from 1999. Here is the trailer for that release:
The DVD version is in a set of classic Disney cartoons, including the headlining act, Toad, in Walt Disney Animation Collection volume 5. It has a nice cover that highlights Toad, but the video quality is poor (dark). For better video quality, you must put up with Ichabod hogging the cover:
You should definitely own at least one of these classic releases. Of course, if you must satisfy your mania for Toad and his madcap capers immediately, you can view screen captures or you can watch The Adventures of Mr. Toad in four installments on YouTube:
(You can watch the continuation of this movie--the adventures of Ichabod in Sleepy Hollow--on YouTube, compliments of abbydobbie.)