The film starts in a library. Fitting choice. We get our first narrator, Basil Rathbone, to read us our first story, The Wind in the Willows, another Kenneth Grahame story. We get to meet the eccentric Mr. Toad, who lived a wild and crazy lifestyle with unlimited funds, which does worry his friends a bit. One day, he goes a little too far, making a really stupid deal with a barkeeper named Winky that traded his entire 100 thousand pound estate for a car thanks to Toad's mania. Toad is arrested because Winkey double-crossed him in court, but later escapes thanks to a horse he befriended. After reuniting with his old friends Rat, Moley, and Angus MacBadger, the four get back the deed to prove his innocence. I consider this one if the best Disney shorts around thanks to good characters, great animation, some funny and dark scenes as well as a pretty exciting climax. All that in 30 minutes. It is a pretty odd story, not that anthropomorphic animals are walking around and talking to people, but that they're to scale. That feels kind if weird to me. There's some great comedy in it too, mostly from Toad himself, a great character. My favorite scene is the court scene where Toad had to testify. The horse speaks in Toad's defense and says one of the greatest one-liners ever! It starts at 4:34 in this video if you just want to see that scene.
The next story is Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as told by Bing Crosby. There's not that much narrative here. It's really just Ichabod arriving to town and how he interacts with the people of this village. It's more of a character study to me. Speaking of which, I just now noticed watching again is that a lot of people think of him as an innocent that gets killed in the end, but he was actually sort of an asshole. That's an interesting perspective from Disney. Makes me wonder if they'll go at this kind of approach a gain. I doubt it, but a guy can dream. Hell, I think the bully actually makes more of a hero than Ichabod does. Anywho, the story gets going when Ichabod and his love interest Katrina are at a Halloween party when Brom Bones, the rival, tells a ghost story of the Headless Horseman. As he heads home, he gets caught by the Horseman and is never heard from again. We don't know if he escaped or not. That's a neat way to end the story, leave it open to interpretation. Again, a great short. Bing's narration is pretty cool. IT's Bing Crosby, he's awesome! I really enjoy the atmosphere of this the most. It's pretty dark and scary, but I think kids like stuff like that. They could use some darker material every now and then. I've never seen a scene in a film so dark and strangely hilarious until I saw this and Evil Dead II. Here, have a look: (Starts at 1:20)
As a film, surprisingly the two work well together. I appreciate the atmosphere of both shorts. I also think we should appreciate this and the package film for another thing: these did make money back then and all of them combined helped finance Disney's return to a coherent, single narrative story which I'll discuss next time.