I got a special treat for ya’ this evening…
A young lady that you all know as “Jane the Policeman” from the “What’s Going Down” episode of That’s My Mama. I want you to put your hands together and welcome her to the stage. Big round of applause for Orient Park’s own, Mrs. Mandi Fallon. YES! Mandi Fallon!
Another year of Horror And Son’s Halloween Horrors series means another year of making my wife write a piece for the website. As with the first 2 years of this series, I’m really not giving her much choice in the matter.
Once again, Mandi reflects back to her childhood for her topic for this year’s piece, but unlike her piece on The Worst Witch 2 years ago, this time I can actually relate. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is a timeless piece of Halloween entertainment (even if I can completely do without the “Mr. Toad” portion of the story), one that has even become a tradition with our own children. I’m sure more than a few of you have shared it with yours.
If nothing else, this piece serves as a reminder that for most of us, our love for the horror genre started way back when we were children, even if we weren’t overly aware of it back then.
For my inaugural entry into Horror and Sons’ Halloween Horrors Reader Submission Series in 2015, I chose to write about a movie that is very near and dear to my childhood – 1986’s The Worst Witch, starring Tim Curry, Fairuza Balk and Charlotte Rea. While I lament so fondly every single time I watch this movie (every year, ahem, much to my lovely husband’s dismay), there is another childhood treasure that certainly trumps ol’ Tim (The Grand Wizard), even considering the fantastic “Anything Can Happen on Halloween” music (?) video.
I don’t know if some of you may remember this or not (certainly not if you were born after 1985), but as a true child of the 1980’s, The Disney Channel was the place to be during Halloween. Not just for the shows and movies, but also for the advertisements of what viewing pleasures were to come. Disney really knew how to pull a Halloween-loving girl in with their 30 second snippets. It was during these ‘commercials’ that I learned who Ichabod Crane was and the enchantingly spooky storybook world of Sleepy Hollow in which he lived. The iconic flaming pumpkin hurtling down the covered bridge by the Headless Horseman was enough to entrance 6-year-old me. It still does, every Halloween season.
At the start of Walt Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (Mr. Toad comes with the package – I also adore this cartoon, but we won’t talk about him right now) we are shown a map of where Sleepy Hollow is – somewhere Northeast of New York. Just the Autumnal setting of the little village and the old graveyard that they show during this narration are enough to stir all of the Halloween and Fall “feels” in my pumpkin spice loving soul. Ah, I can actually smell it. Or maybe that is the sweet cinnamon pumpkin wallflower that is emanating from my bathroom. Whatever – it smells delicious.
It is during this opening that we are introduced to our character and the titular subject of this piece – Disney’s version of Ichabod Crane. He is a tall, gangly looking chap with a large nose. We learn that he is a school master and he has just gotten into town to take over the teaching post in the one room school house of this quaint little town. We learn quickly that Ichabod, although not much to look at, is a real charmer and is an instant hit with the ladies of the village. He also loves to eat. He can put down an entire cake in one second flat. Hey – it’s a cartoon, cut him some slack. You would put down a whole cake too if you had the chance. Ok, maybe I would put down an entire cake if I could. OK, maybe there is no “maybe” to that.
Anyway, we learn that he loves to eat and that the females love him. We also see Ichabod practicing with the choir. As this entire narration is voiced by the incomparable Bing Crosby, it is extremely pleasing to the ears. I know that the old crooners aren’t for everyone, but that man had a voice of pure velvet. It’s just another bonus point to the rendition of this story.
Bing continues to unfold the legend for us and introduces the lovely Katrina Van Tassel. She is the beautiful, characteristically stunning female lead we have come to know from Disney animated films. She is also a total player, even by 1820’s standards (which was when the original The Legend of Sleepy Hollow tale was written by Washington Irving). Once Ichabod sees that little croquette, Katrina, he won’t forget he’d seen her. That’s a line in the song we hear when Bing acquaints us with this buxom gal.
Life as Ichabod knows it is turned topsy-turvy. He no longer focuses on the children of the school (at least he stops stealing their lunches, which we see in the beginning of our yarn) and loses all interest in everything except Katrina – and her Daddy’s money. That lovely green stuff, bom bom bom bom. Ok, so I can’t write it as well as Bing sings it, but you can imagine that baritone in your head. You should, anyway, because it’s smooth, lilty goodness.
As Ichabod is pursuing Miss Van Tassel, he learns that she has another suitor – the brawny Brahm Bones. Brahm is none too happy that his woman is even entertaining this skinny, gawky, annoyance of a man. During a scene where our main character is helping Katrina carry her shopping goods home, it seems to Brahm that he can do no wrong. Ichabod dodges his swings, evades things launched at him, and seems to have the upper hand at every turn. The scene ends in a loss for Brahm as Ichabod leaves him in a well and inadvertently konks him over the head when he tosses a horseshoe over his shoulder. It is here that we get our first glimpse into the superstitious quirks of our friend Ichabod.
After our first encounter of the short-lived love triangle that is Ichabod, Katrina, and Brahm – we cut to Ichabod receiving an invitation to the annual Halloween frolic at old man Van Tassel’s pad. He is elated to have been invited by his elusive muse (although he gets the invitation the same day of the party – seriously, who does that?) and gussies up to head on over. Dancing, free food, a chance at ‘getting in’ with what he envisions is his future Father in-law – what could be more enticing to a man like Ichabod?
As the party ensues, we see a classic Disney-esque moment of dancing and humor between Ichabod, Brahm, Katrina, and some frumpy little overweight wallflower that you can’t help but feel sorry for. It is during this moment that Brahm sees Ichabod spill salt and quickly toss some over his shoulder for good luck. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to our lovable main character, this is the beginning of the end for him. Brahm gets an ingenious idea to scare the wits out of poor Mr. Crane. We are then treated to a song (again, crooned as only Bing can croon) that explains the legend of the Headless Horseman. This terrifies Ichabod to his core.
Once the party ends, Ichabod mounts his trusty steed…..er, not really, the horse is just as big of a ‘fraidy cat as Crane, and takes the slow ride home. It is the last 5-10 minutes of this film that is the most encapsulating. It is this scene, and I feel lucky for it, that evokes some of my first memories of truly feeling chilled and thrilled at the same time. I won’t give every detail away in case you’ve been living under a rock for 68 years (the movie was released in 1949), but there are so many atmospheric wonderments in this segment. My second favorite scene (the first being the flaming pumpkin I mentioned in the beginning) is in this section when the clouds form a hand and engulf the full moon. Ichabod is terrified and does everything he can to escape the menace that is the Headless Horseman. Needless to say, the legend is that he doesn’t escape. All that is found the following morning is his hat.
The Disney installment of this timeless story is an absolute classic. When I decided to write this piece, I had no intention of choosing any character to relate myself to in any way. The truth is, I am an annoyingly happy person. While it is true that I love horror and almost every form of it, I also have a penchant for really crappy pop music, Columbo, The Donna Reed Show, and a slew of other bubble-gummy shit. I smile a lot and am overly friendly sometimes. I’m really not that deep. But as I am writing this, I realize that I DID pick a character that I relate to. Up until his demise, Ichabod was a happy-go-lucky person who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time (until he met Katrina, that is). My life has been exactly that – a charmed one to say the least. I have a wonderful beyond words husband, two absolutely beautiful sons, the best parents a girl could ever ask for, a fantastic career, a roof over my head, a vehicle, and food in my belly. I’ll never be rich like Mr. Van Tassel or what Ichabod foolishly hoped to be – but I am rich in life and what really matters, and for that, I’ll toss salt over my shoulder every day of the week.