The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The animated short film from Disney holds up and inspires more Halloween feelings than almost any other film.

This is the first Halloween film that I saw and loved as a kid. It is an animated short film that perfectly captures fall and Halloween for me. It made me laugh. It brought me joy, and it scared the crap out of me as a kid. These days it carries a great deal of weight nostalgia-wise, but it also retains its humor and sense of joy even if the fear has worn off a little bit.

The story follows Icabod Crane the new school teacher who in this movie is pencil thin and eats everything as only an animated character can. He attracts the attention of the prettiest girl in town and the jealousy of the most popular man in town. While leaving a party Icabod is chased by the Headless Horseman.

It’s a classic story that is well known, but never better told. The narration by Bing Crosby is indelibly etched in the mind. His lilting cadence creates a perfect ease and infuses every line with a delightful sense of humor. He is unbelievably good in what amounts to a one man show in which he is never actually shown.

The gags and humor still work wonderfully. I laughed out loud many times on this rewatch. The thing that hit me is the unease and the subtext that really simmers under certain moments. The ambiguous ending especially hits hard here.

Technically, the sound design here is wonderful. Especially in the ride through the hollow scene. The way the frog croak sounds like Icabod, the way the music seems to transform into wind and the wind into music, the way all the noises of the forest build to a crescendo then silence then laughter terrible laughter that echoes in a way that still has a chilling quality.

The best thing about the movie however is that it knows exactly what it is. It knows what it wants to accomplish and it knows what its story needs to be. It doesn’t try to expand the story or drag things out. It tells a simple story well. It blends humor and fright perfectly. It has been said that the best horror films combine multiple emotions; fear and sexual desire, fear and grief, and fear with love create more powerful horror movies than fear alone. This movie combines fear with humor. Laughter is the natural response to fear and this movie will make you laugh.

If you want a family friendly halloween movie or just a short film to put you in the halloween mood there are few better than The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. My cup of tea. A+

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