In 1959, Disney released The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, a package movie featuring animated adaptations of Washington Irving’s New England ghost tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Kenneth Grahame’s classic childrens’ novel, The Wind in the Willows. The two stories, so different from each other, made for a rather odd pairing, and indeed have been rarely shown together since 1959. The “Ichabod” segment – and its famous Headless Horseman scene -- became particularly popular on U.S. television throughout the 1970s, due to Disney regularly showing it on the television program, The Wonderful World of Disney, for Halloween.
Disney’s version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which is narrated by Bing Crosby, is actually very faithful to Irving’s original story. Where it differs most is in the treatment of the Headless Horseman. Irving’s story leaves readers little doubt that Ichabod Crane’s rival, Brom Bones, is masquerading as the Headless Horsemen. However, Disney’s Horseman is a much more fearsome and apparently supernatural figure, causing audiences to doubt that Brom Bones has anything to do with the apparition. Ichabod Crane himself, along with his horse, is treated comically, but there’s nothing comic about the Headless Horseman. Upon initial release of the film, some audiences found the scene with the Horseman so frightening that many theaters banned the movie.