Monday, December 29, 2014

Movie Review: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad/Fun and Fancy Free Two Movie Pack

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: All of the stories have their fun moments
Cons: Dated elements and slow pacing
The Bottom Line:
Two lesser known films
That aren't top Disney projects
Mostly for the fans

The DisNerd Way to Collect These Films on Blu-Ray

While many of Disney’s animated films are considered classics for very good reason, the package films aren’t usually in that list.  And with good reason.  The stories, while entertaining, aren’t as timeless or magical as the best known films.  Still, die hard Disney fans like me are always looking to upgrade their collection, which is why I jumped when I spotted this The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr Toad/Fun & Fancy Free combo set on Blu-Ray.

The first film is exactly what it advertises itself to be.  We get two stories, the first a version of The Wind in the Willows, the second The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  In the first, Mr. Toad runs afoul of the law and his friends when his obsession with speed leads him to get a motor car.  Along the way, he gets arrest and just might have lost his ancestral home, Toad Hall.  Then we follow Ichabod Crane as this school teacher sets his sights on the most eligible woman in the area only to run afoul of the local bully and the local legend about a Headless Horseman.

The reason this film isn’t as well known is obvious fairly quickly.  The pacing is uneven.  Yes, there are things that will make kids laugh along the way, but they will also tire as they wait to get to the next funny part.  This is especially true in the first story as we get a courtroom scene that, while important to the plot, slows things way down.  However, kids who stick it out will be rewarded with a very funny climax to that story.

The same is true of Fun and Fancy Free, which includes two more stories.  “Bongo” is the first one this time, and it tells the story of a highly trained circus bear who escapes from the circus and finds himself in the wild.  Will he be able to survive on his own, especially when he meets up with other bears?  Then comes “Mickey and the Beanstalk” which places Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in the role of Jack. 

The stories in this feature are slightly better than the ones in the first.  The pacing is faster and the gags are funnier.  There are still some dated elements, mainly from the storytellers.  Dinah Shore narrates and sings one of the stories, and the music is definitely from the 1940’s.  Then Edgar Bergman and his dummies are involved in the second, and their breaks actually slow things down as well.

But wait, there’s more!  If you act now and buy the Blu-Ray set, you can also get The Reluctant Dragon as a bonus feature.  (Actually, I believe this is just part of the two film set and not in a limited edition kind of way.)  Despite the name, this is more of a behind the scenes of animation kind of film from 1941.  In it, we journey with Robert Benchley as he goes from department to department seeing how various parts of animation is done.  Along the way, we glimpse characters from the not yet released films Dumbo and Bambi.  He is officially there to pitch Walt Disney the idea of the title story, but when he finally connects with Walt, he learns they've already made the film, and we get to watch it.  Along the way, we get the first of Goofy's "How To" shorts, in this case "Ride a Horse."  The title short itself, roughly 20 minutes of the hour plus running time, is fun as we meet a dragon who would rather discuss books over tea than capture damsels.  Again, the animated segments will probably interest kids, but the rest might bore them.

So, really, these are movies for the DisNerd, but they will be thrilled to have them.  Surprisingly, this is just a two disc set.  The Blu-Ray disc has all three of these movies on it, with The Reluctant Dragon listed as a bonus features.  It's also the only bonus feature, but given the overall popularity of the films, that's hardly surprising.  All three of the films look and sound good.  This isn't something that will show off your system, but most older animated movies aren't.  You will find the picture is full frame, in keeping with the original aspect ratio, but they do make limited use of full surround, usually just giving you music in the back speakers.  The second disc is a DVD, and it just features The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.  I'm a little surprised because there other two movie sets usually feature both of the films on their own DVD.  I guess in this case they decided that Fun and Fancy Free wasn't popular enough to warrant a DVD release.  In fact, you can buy The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad as a separate Blu-Ray/DVD release by itself, but this is the only way to get Fun and Fancy Free on Blu-Ray.

While the only people who will rush out to buy this set are Disney fanatics, they will rush out to get The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr Toad/Fun & Fancy Free.  I know I did.  While the most kids will enjoy parts of the stories here, they probably won't enjoy all of them.

Looking for longer reviews of these two movies?  Here's The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad and Fun & Fancy Free.

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