The first segment of the last Disney “package feature” of the ’40s makes a fine recording and a memorable park attraction–even to those who don’t know the film.
From the Walt Disney Production
“The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”
Capitol Records EAS-3048 (12” 78 RPM / Mono / 1963)
LP Reissue (with Three Little Pigs): HX-3061 (10”)
LP Reissue (with Lady and the Tramp & Rob Roy): J-3260 (12”)
Producer/Writer: Alan W. Livingston, Based on “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame and the Disney Film Story by Ed Penner, Winston Hibler, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, Homer Brightman, Harry Reaves. Music: Billy May. Music: Jerry Livingston. Running Time: 11 minutes.
Song: “Merrily on Our Way (To Nowhere in Particular)” by Frank Churchill, Charles Wolcott. Larry Morey, Ray Gilbert.
Voices: Basil Rathbone (Narrator); Eric Blore (Mr. Toad); J. Pat O’Malley (Cyril Proudbottom); Campbell Grant (Angus Badger); Colin Campbell (Moley); Claud Alliser (Ratty).
Of all the films and characters to emerge from the Walt Disney Studios, Mr. Toad probably has the oddest identity with the general public. More know the theme park attraction based on the film than the film itself, much less the recording.
When the ride first appeared at Disneyland in 1955, the 1949 film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was fairly recent. But it faded into relative obscurity as feature’s second segment, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” went on to receive constant play on TV, in schools and later on home video as a perfect Halloween program (it also didn’t hurt that the animation and overall production was superb).
Toad’s segment didn’t come close to the playability of Ichabod’s section, or even many other Disney short segments in later years. The book upon which his story was based, Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows, was never eclipsed by the Disney version. And while it’s often adapted for live-action and animation–including both a TV-movie and Saturday morning series by Rankin/Bass—there is yet to be a significant version.
But the Disneyland attraction’s identity continues to persist, mentioned frequently in popular culture, quite often as a comedy punch line. Things were very briefly confused when members of the Monty Python troupe appeared in a 1996 feature that was called Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but was essentially an adaptation of the Grahame book.
No one could have anticipated the identity the theme park attraction took on, though Toad himself didn’t have much of a presence outside of his ride. He made some appearances in comic books and co-starred on an outstanding Disneyland Records LP, A Christmas Adventure in Disneyland (which we explored here). When the Walt Disney World version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride—which was distinguished by having two different tracks—was replaced by The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, it wasn’t without many a hue and cry from Toad fans. But how many of them knew the words to “Merrily on Our Way?”
That song, by the way, was sung again by J. Pat O’Malley, the voice of Toad’s loyal horse Cyril, on camera in a segment of “The New Adventures of Spin and Marty,” a serial on the Mickey Mouse Club.
The Capitol record includes all of the cast members from the film, a rare occurrence for the label, an original background score by Billy May, who handled most of their children’s discs. May stays admirably close to the Disney house sound rather than the typical style he uses for most Capitol kids’ discs. Basil Rathbone was a regular presence on radio (he loved co-starring with Jack Benny) and records at the time and it’s wonderful to have this permanent audio version of his performance, as well as the other voice actors.
It was unique in that it was released as a 12-inch 78-RPM record with an extra-large gatefold cover, so it was as large as one of today’s LP records, with a slightly longer running time than a 10-inch 78. When it was reissued, Capitol first put it on a 10-inch 33 1/3 disc (several labels were trying to launch this format in the ’50s) and then on the other side of an LP with Lady and the Tramp. Strangely, neither saw the light of day again in the late ’70s when Ziv and Wonderland were doing their brief run of Capitol reissues.