The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Is it over for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride?

By Richard L. Eldredge
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

Sunday, November 2, 1997
Section: Technology
Page: P4
Disney World's Mr. Toad attraction may be headed for its final wild ride into Nowhereland. But not if the online world has anything to do with it.

Although Disney World has yet to make any official announcement, when the Orlando Sentinel ran a story recently hinting that the Florida theme park may do away with the Fantasyland attraction Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the response online was immediate. Disney newsgroups are buzzing with cries to organize protest campaigns, and at least one Web site has sprung up to rally the forces of nostalgia.

The Save Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Web site was posted Oct. 23, just one day after the Sentinel article. Jef Moskot, a 26-year-old University of Miami systems administrator who contributes to the site, admits that he and the site's founder, John Lefante, were plenty steamed when they read about Disney's unconfirmed plans to move a kinder, gentler (and less frightening) Winnie the Pooh ride into the area.

"They seem determined to make the park much more bland," Moskot says.

The Save Mr. Toad site contains the latest information about the controversy; names and addresses of Disney officials; an electronic Toad Hall for chat sessions; and a link to Digital City Orlando's Theme Park Central, which is conducting an online poll asking visitors if they will miss the ride. So far, 88 percent say yes, and 12 percent say no.

The ride, which opened with Disney World in 1971, is based on Kenneth Grahame's classic novel, "The Wind in the Willows," and a 1949 Disney cartoon.

The newsgroup rec.arts.disney.parks is filled with laments over the rumored demise. While one writer volunteered to operate the wrecking ball, most agreed with this post's rallying cry: "Friends of Toad are working to keep that dumb bear from envading [sic].";

The Sentinel story suggested that Mr. Toad's blastoff to Nowhere in Particular (including a crash through a fireplace and a collision with a tree stump) might be too scary for today's tots. That doesn't make sense to Moskot.

"They're putting in rides like Tower of Terror and promoting them as 'the scariest Disney experience ever' and at the same time they're saying Mr. Toad is too frightening. That's the coolest part of the ride, grabbing onto your father's arm. It was a really big deal for me as a kid the first time I went into the car by myself."

"Disney World spokesperson Craig Dezern, meanwhile, is staying out of the fray. "We've made no announcement about Mr. Toad whatsoever,"; Dezern says. "We've made no decision. Right now the ride is there and it's open."

Interestingly, Buena Vista Pictures, Disney's film company, plans a U.S. release of the 1996 English movie "The Wind in the Willows," directed by Monty Python alum Terry Jones and starring Python's Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin and Jones. The U.S. title? "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride."
All content ©1997 Atlanta Journal-Constitution.