Here we have two half-hour literary adaptations of beloved works, both charming and well-animated and lively, but with almost no reason to be packaged together. The film feints at a “British vs. American” angle, and there’s also a uniting theme of holiday-centric stories (though the Christmas one comes before the Halloween one!), but it doesn’t really stick.
The Wind in the Willows segment comes first. It feels a bit rushed, but it has a ton of energy. The character designs and animations are sprightly (anthropomorphized animals finding the perfect balance of beastly vs. human), and we bounce from scene to scene with a whirlwind comic abandon. But it also feels like it could have been fleshed out into a feature with a little bit more of the source novel’s story.
The film’s second half is an adaptation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” one of the legendary American horror tales. Tonally, this one is all over the place — crooning Bing Crosby vs. slapsticky humor vs. a terror-filled final 5-ish minutes. The character design and animation is stellar and diverse (though I find Katrina to be a bit bland), and the gags and visual humor are great. But it’s really all about those last five minutes, which are legitimately stirring and paranoid and spooky.
It’s not a Disney all-timer, but both halves are enjoyable watches.
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.