Today’s Masterpiece Monday is going to be unfortunately short as the particular film I’m writing about is very difficult to find information on. Today I’m featuring a piece of concept art from one of the lesser known Disney Animated films, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr.Toad. It is a piece of story art by an unknown Disney studio artist featuring the headless horseman from the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” portion of the film. The reason I decided to feature concept art of this particular character today is because Halloween is coming closer and closer and the Halloween parties have started happening at Walt Disney World. One of the coolest parts of the party is the ride of the Headless Horseman, which takes place before the parade (you can watch a video here, but it’s even cooler in person.) So today I thought I’d talk a little bit about the creation of this particularly spooky character.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr.Toad was the last post WWII package film made by Disney Animation before the release of Cinderella in 1950. In many ways the film seem to be leading up to the studio’s return to high quality animated features. The animation is much improved over the previous package films as most of the studio’s best animators had returned from the War by the time the film was in production. This included the famous 9 Old Men, most of whom had worked on this film. The stories in this package film are also more fully developed than the previous ones. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr.Toad contains only two rather fleshed out, if poorly connected, stories. The first is based upon Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows and was planned as a full length feature before the war, but post-war budget cuts lead to the film being shortened to just a 30 minute short film. The search then began for a story to pair the Mr.Toad segment with in a package film. Some of the stories considered were “Mickey and the Beanstalk” and a collaboration with Roald Dahl called “The Gremlins”. Eventually, Walt Disney acquired the rights to Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the short film was rather hastily produced so that the two famous literary characters of Mr.Toad and Ichabod Crane could be pared together in one film.
Because the production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was so rushed it is quite difficult to find very much concept art or information on it’s development. There are some very interesting pieces of visual development art by Mary Blair which clearly influenced the segment’s style, especially it’s backgrounds. There are also a handful of rather dark and scary looking pieces of story art like this one by an unknown artist. These drawings seem to be partially influenced by the dark and creepy demons shown in the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment in Fantasia. This particular skeletal headless horseman idea was rejected in favor of a more cartoony and human-like horseman. This was probably to match the style of the already produced “The Wind in the Willows” segment. One has to wonder that if the film had been allowed to develop into it’s own full-length feature, would this much darker design would have been brought to life in scary detail by the talented animators that went on to create Cinderella?
So there’s a little bit about the “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow ” segment of the little known film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr.Toad. Hope you enjoyed and it made you a little more excited for fall just as it did for me.
Image Credit: The Walt Disney Film Archives. The Animated Movies 1921–1968