The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Recycling in the Disney Animation Department

SleepyHollowThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Published July 1820 by C.S. Van Winkle
Classic/Short Story/Suspense
Format: e-book; 102 pages
Also From This Author: Rip Van Winkle
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

When I was a teenager I ran both Cross Country and Track, and because my Florida high school was practically in the middle of nowhere, we mostly ran down dirt roads and through the woods. There was one trail in particular that I always loved, and I nicknamed it The Sleepy Hollow Trail. Picture this (or take a look at the picture on the right, because it looked a lot like that minus the Headless Horseman): to get to this trail you had to run across (or jump over, if you’re cool like me) a narrow stream and then tread up a steep hill before you could enter the woods. The trail wove around tall trees, the branches of which blocked out most of the scorching Florida sunshine, creating a shady, damp, and breezy wooden environment. It was the perfect way to recuperate after a 5 mile run, especially since there was obviously no headless fiend chasing after me.

Fast-forward to this month, when I finally read Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for the first time, and I must say that I was humorously surprised. Up until now, I had only experienced the 1999 Tim Burton film, which I love, but now I can see that it is clearly only loosely based on the original text. Nonetheless, I still love the gothic Johnny-Depp-featured depiction, despite the fact that Ichabod Crane is not supposed to be this handsome:

IchabodCrane2

Ok, clearly I like the geeky ones

But what’s with this “recycling” in the Disney Animation Department I alluded to in the headline? Back in 1949, Disney produced an animated Sleepy Hollow film that is spot on, and Ichabod resembles every bit of his original character description: “He was tall and exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, and feet that might have served for shovels. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weathercock perched upon his spindle neck, to tell which way the wind blew.” Yeah, I’d much rather look at Johnny Depp.

However, something that my husband and I both picked up on while watching this movie (and I know we are not the first ones to make this connection) is the uncanny parallel between it and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Excepting the fact that Belle is beautiful (literally and etymologically) while Ichabod is…lanky, they are both bookish, awkward, and also happen to have run-ins in the woods with frightening creatures.

BelleIchabod

“Look there [he] goes that [man] is so peculiar…”

But the most incredible similarity was not between Belle and Ichabod, but between Gaston and Ichabod’s counterpart, Brom Bones, who is basically Gaston sans a hunting rifle and Le Fou. Perhaps that’s what an extra dozen eggs a day gets you? Besides the obvious similarity in looks, these two brawny villains also loved to rile up the villagers with their “It’s a Beast!” battle cries in a final desperate attempt in vanquishing rival suitors. Spoiler alert: it only worked for one of them.

DisneyConfessions

But apparently Beauty and the Beast isn’t the only Disney film to have borrowed from Sleepy Hollow…check out where Cinderella, released just one year later in 1950, got the inspiration for her original pink ball gown from:

KatrinaCinderella

Fortunately Cinderella only borrowed Katrina Van Tassel’s style…

Now everyone who knows me knows that I love all things Disney. I don’t even care that they recycled some of their own ideas. At least they threw in some catchy songs that I don’t mind having stuck in my head (“No one hits like Gaston, matches wits like Gaston; in a spitting match, nobody spits like Gaston…”).

And I really did enjoy The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It was a quick read (it is only a short story after all), plus multiple parts had me chuckling while the climatic action at the end created a nice amount of suspense. Perfect October reading :)

[Here’s a link to the 30-minute 1949 version of Sleepy Hollow on Youtube, for those who are interested in finding more Disney film parallels: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxX66vLSZoQ]

Also, has anyone watched the new Sleepy Hollow tv series? I kind of want to give that a try…

→UPDATE Oct. 25: This week Oh My Disney (an official Disney blog) posted this article about Sleepy Hollow, and they even addressed the Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast similarities. 

Also, I started watching the Sleepy Hollow TV series and I love it! Very loosely based on the original story, but the acting is wonderful :)

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3 thoughts on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Recycling in the Disney Animation Department

  1. Your running trail sounds beautiful, though a bit creepy (even without the headless fiend to encourage you to run faster!). The similarities you note between The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Beauty and the Beast, and other Disney adaptations are interesting. I’ve never thought about it before. My understand of Beauty and the Beast (which is very limited!) is that it is based on a centuries-old fairy tale that probably predates Sleepy Hollow, which also has folktale/fairytale themes. It would be interesting to know what is from the original stories and what Disney added, possibly increasing the similarities between them.

    By the way, I’ve mentioned the Wuthering Heights read-along to a few people. So, hopefully there will be quite a few of us joining in!

  2. I need to read the original Beauty and the Beast story too, but I believe Disney combined a couple of different stories into it’s film version, so I don’t know how closely it follows the original story.

    And yay! I’m starting to get really excited!

  3. Pingback: October Highlights | macarons & paperbacks

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