Sunday, October 4, 2015

Young Fears 4: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Each October I like to run a series of Halloween-themed posts on this blog. All this month, I'll be telling anecdotes about things which frightened me while growing up.

For many generations, Disney-produced films have been the approved "safe" fare which parents permit their children to see. Consequently, many of us can point to moments in Disney films as early experiences with terror. Although Disney has cultivated an image as being sanitized family fun, there are disquieting moments to be found.

Sometimes you don't have to go looking them either. Almost every Halloween Disney would air a special program (such as Disney's Halloween Treat) made up of scary clips from various animated shorts & features. The first one which I recall getting a hold on me came from the innocuously-titled The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Irving's story lost quite a bit of its flavour in being translated into Disney, but one thing which it caught perfectly was the depiction of the Headless Horseman himself. Disney's Halloween shows usually only ran the climactic scenes of Ichabod being pursued to a fiery death(?) at the Horseman's hands.

Never mind the ambiguous ending or mitigating circumstances (that is, Ichabod was a bit of a jerk), the Headless Horseman sequence really scared me - the shadows, the laughter, the flaming pumpkin. Even when watched in its original context the moment still works. Spending time in the Wind and the Willows with Basil Rathbone's pleasant voice and then the jocularity which opens the Ichabod Crane portion under Bing Crosby's sonorous bass, all of those happy times finally give way to a terrifying conclusion. And I, like the people of Sleepy Hollow, just knew Ichabod didn't survive - he had been spirited away by the Headless Horseman!

Man, I'm getting out of here.

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