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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Original Production Animation Cel of The Headless Horseman From "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" Section of "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad," 1949


Original hand-painted and hand inked production cel of the Headless Horseman set on a lithographic background from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" section of "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad," 1949; Size - Headless Horseman: 4 1/4 x 4 1/2", Image 7 x 5 3/4"; Unframed.
"Yaaaah-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!" - The Headless Horseman

"The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad," 1949 is an animated package film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The film consists of two segments – the first is based on the 1908 children's novel "The Wind in the Willows" by British author Kenneth Grahame, and the second is based on the 1820 short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," (named Ichabod Crane in the Disney film) by American author Washington Irving. The famed American singer and actor Bing Crosby provided the voice of Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, and the Narrator.

The story takes place in October 1790 when Ichabod Crane, a lanky, gluttonous, superstitious yet charming man; arrives in Sleepy Hollow, New York. It's a small village north of Tarrytown and is renowned for its ghostly hauntings and Ichabod is to be the town's new schoolmaster. Despite his odd behavior and awkward appearance, he soon wins the hearts of the village's women. Brom Bones, the roughish town hero, does his best to bully Ichabod; however he is very good at ignoring Brom's taunts. Soon Ichabod falls in love with eighteen-year-old Katrina van Tassel, the beautiful daughter and only child of Baltus van Tassel who is the richest man in all of Sleepy Hollow. Brom, who is also in love with the beautiful Katrina, begins to compete with the schoolmaster for her affection. However, Ichabod succeeds in winning Katrina over at every opportunity. Unbeknownst to Ichabod, Katrina is only using him to make Brom jealous.

Both Brom and Ichabod are invited to the annual van Tassel Halloween party. While sitting down to dinner, Brom tells Ichabod and the party guests the ghost story of the Headless Horseman, who had lost his head a long time ago during the Revolutionary War. Ever since, on every Halloween night he rides into Sleepy Hollow looking for a new head. The only way to escape him is to cross the covered bridge, as the Headless Horseman's evil powers are limited to within the dark woods.

After the Halloween party ends, Ichabod rides home alone and keeps imagining that he is being followed. He hears strange sounds and then realizes that it's only cattails bumping against a log; Ichabod and his horse begin to hysterically laugh. But then suddenly both stop, as they realize that another laugh has joined them. As Ichabod and his horse slowly turn around, they find the Headless Horseman about to attack them with his sword. The Horseman begins to chase them, laughing all the while. Ichabod gallops for the bridge and barely manages to make it across. As Ichabod turns around, he screams as the Horseman's black horse rears up, and the Headless Horseman throws a flaming jack o' lantern right at him. The very next morning, Ichabod's hat was found next to a shattered pumpkin; however, Ichabod was never heard from again.


Original production animation cel of The Headless Horseman without the background.

The Headless Horseman was animated by veteran Walt Disney animator Wolfgang Reitherman. During an Academy Award tribute to Reitherman's work in the early 1980's, his wonderful chase sequence that occurs between Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman was screened. Afterwards he turned to the audience and said, "You know, this stuff is holding up pretty good after all these years."

The Headless Horseman is actually one of a very few Disney Villains to actually "win" rather than being defeated at the end of the film. Also, despite having a small amount of screen time, the Horseman is considered one of the darkest and most disturbing of all the Disney Villains. This is an extremely rare original production animation cel of the Headless Horseman. He is full figure with his burgundy cape blowing in the wind, as he wields a large sword in his left hand. He is astride his dark black horse whose eyes are glowing red, and both are charging forward to pursue Ichabod Crane.