The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the movie generally looked acceptable, it had enough flaws to qualify it as one of the weaker Disney transfers.
Sharpness usually appeared reasonably crisp and detailed, with some differences that existed between the two segments. "Mr. Toad" looked slightly more accurate and well-defined, whereas "Sleepy Hollow" came across as slightly fuzzy at times. However, sharpness generally seemed to be the strongest aspect of the image, and I found relatively few concerns about the area. I noticed no examples of moiré effects or jagged edges.
Print flaws, however, presented more significant problems. Light grain could be seen throughout much of the movie, and I also detected white speckles and black grit quite frequently. Other defects were less prevalent, but they appeared nonetheless; the movie featured various blotches and spots, plus a couple of scratches and hairs. At times the picture seemed slightly jittery as well.
Colors usually came across as fairly pleasant but they could appear somewhat bland. Again, this issue seemed more prominent during "Ichabod". "Mr. Toad's" hues generally were slightly muted but largely accurate and distinct; they definitely should have looked fresher, but I had no genuine complaints about them. The same could not be said for "Ichabod", which offered fairly dull colors throughout the short. These were not seriously pale or flat, but they lacked the lush and vibrant tones to which I've become accustomed during other Disney animated features of the era.
Black levels could appear quite deep and rich at times; some of the characters of "Mr. Toad" displayed very solid dark tones, such as the appearance of Mr. Winkie's hair and the judge's cloak. However, during that short's second half, we see a lot of nighttime sequences, and these showed somewhat flat black levels, and the shadow detail appeared slightly heavy and murky. The same held true for "Ichabod", which presented a similarly muddy and foggy appearance in the low-light situations.
Frankly, most of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad seemed to have a light film over the image. There was a vague sense that something interfered with the overall image, and although it could look good at times, the DVD never lived up to the standards set by their other releases from the period. Make no mistake: the movie remained watchable, and it's not a bad image by any stretch of the imagination. However, it simply had more flaws than I would expect and merited no more than a "C-" rating.
Somewhat better but not special was the film's Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. No, that's not a typo; the movie actually featured a five-channel mix. Why in the world they altered the original monaural track perplexes me, but the results changed things in a fairly modest way; the audio didn't vary much from the mono blueprint.
Strangely, "Sleepy Hollow" presented a more aggressive mix than did "Mr. Toad". Both focused most of the audio in the center channel. All of the dialogue and most of the effects stayed in the middle speaker; most of the time, we heard only music from the side channels in a modest stereo mix that added a little breadth to the track. The surrounds contributed light reinforcement of the score during "Mr. Toad" but this became much more prominent during "Sleepy Hollow"; the music seemed significantly louder, and some effects - particularly in Ichabod's late-night traipse through the Hollow - echoed in the rears.
Although I'm occasionally a fan of multi-channel remixes from mono sources, I generally prefer to hear material presented in its original format. This remix wasn't bad since it usually stuck closely to the mono source, but I would have rather heard the original track. The additional use of channels didn't seem to offer any extra depth or fidelity to the track; although I didn't think the 5.0 version really detracted from the material - though the sound for "Ichabod" became somewhat distracting at times - since it didn't add anything, why bother?
In any case, Adventures presented fairly average audio quality for the era. Dialogue sounded intelligible and occasionally seemed fairly warm and distinct, but it also displayed some edginess and light distortion at times. The speech featured a moderately brittle and rough quality during some of the film. Effects were slightly thin but they appeared clear and largely accurate without any signs of shrillness. Music fared best of all, as the score showed some richness and depth; it didn't come across as terrifically well-reproduced, but the songs were fairly smooth and clear. The track lacked any sign of background noise or other exterior flaws. All in all, the audio seemed quite listenable and adequate for its era.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad packs in some minor extras. Although it's not immediately evident from the set-up, Adventures includes two vintage Disney short cartoons. Listed on the menu is 1937's Mickey Mouse effort, "Lonesome Ghosts". This feature co-stars Donald Duck and Goofy and lasts eight minutes and 45 seconds.
I have no idea how much this cartoon influenced the makers of Ghostbusters, but the stories are quite similar. In "Lonesome Ghosts", Mickey and the gang play "ghost exterminators" who are actually called by the eponymous spooks in question; they're bored because they have no one to scare, so they figure these jokers will offer them some entertainment. It's a decent short that provides some good gags at times. And anyone who doubts the Ghostbusters connection will be interested to note one line of Goofy's: "I ain't a-scared of no ghosts!"
Not as obvious is the second short, 1952's "Susie the Little Blue Coupe". To get to this cartoon, you have to play Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Destination Trivia Game. If you get at least 15 questions correct, you'll see "Susie". Unlike the game found on The Tigger Movie - which required a perfect score of 16 accurate replies to obtain your "reward" - you're allowed to miss three questions on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Only if you get four "flat tires" does the game end. However, if you've seen the movie, the contest shouldn't be too difficult, and you'll make it through without much trouble.
"Susie" lasts eight minutes and 10 seconds and proves to be a fairly charming and entertaining short. Yet again we observe the Disney talent at making inanimate objects - cars, planes, even hats - come to life with grace and vividness. Narrated by Sterling Holloway, "Susie" tells the tale of a little auto's life and sure makes me feel like I'd better give my old clunker a good wash and wax sometime soon.
In addition, we get a Sing-Along Song for "Mr. Toad's" "The Merrily Song". This presents the tune and its corresponding segment from the film along with lyrics at the bottom of the screen so you can easily croon along with Mr. Toad and his horse Cyril Proudbottom. Actually, the video portions of this segment extend the original film sequences and make the song longer. Also note that the subtitles with the lyrics don't appear until mid-way through the tune; if you don't see them immediately, this doesn't mean your DVD is flawed.
The DVD also includes a DVD Storybook for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". As with other efforts in this vein, little ones - or big ones, if they choose - can relive the tale either by reading it on their own or by having it read to them by a narrator. These "Storybook" features do little for me, of course, but I think it's a nice way to encourage kids to read.
A few ads open the DVD. We find clips for Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins, Fantasia 2000, Toy Story 2 and Lady and the Tramp 2: Scamp’s Adventure. These also appear in the disc’s Sneak Peeks area.
While The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad won't ever qualify as one of Disney's all-time great animated films, I thought it provided a generally satisfying and entertaining experience. Of the two segments, I definitely preferred the witty and delightful "Mr. Toad", but "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" also was fun and intriguing.
Unfortunately, the DVD is one of Disney's weaker animated releases. The picture displays a fair number of different problems, and the sound is slightly above average at best. We get a small smattering of supplements that add a little to the overall value of the package but not much. Despite my disappointment in the quality of Adventures, I still recommend the DVD to fans of Disney animation, as it's decent enough to make it worthwhile.