The Cape Cod Times

Have the weasels won?

Tuesday, September 8, 1998

Despite a campaign to save Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Disney is Pooh-Poohing protester concerns
"THE poetry of motion! The real way to travel! The only way to travel! Here today - in next week tomorrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped - always somebody else's horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!"

In Kenneth Grahame's 1908 classic, The Wind in the Willows, J. Thaddeus Toad was sitting in the middle of the road, entranced, just after his cart was upturned in a ditch by the first motorcar he had ever seen.

It was the beginning of Toad's obsession with the new-fangled machinery and the prelude to his rampage of disaster across the countryside.

Toad's was a wild ride recreated by Walt Disney World. It has been a staple at the theme park for the too-old-for-Dumbo, too-young-for-the-Tower-of-Terror crowd.

It was a jerky, frantic race through the rooms of Toad Hall, through a fireplace, past jail-breaking weasels throwing kegs, and down a tunnel toward an approaching train that dispatches the driver to hell.

Not exactly a happy Disney ending, but the attraction, in the midst of more saccharine entertainments, was even a relief for adults trying to dislodge the "It's a Small World" theme song from their heads.

But it appears Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, after 25 years, is coming to an end next week. Disney hasn't been forthcoming, either about plans for a replacement ride, or about the reasons for taking Mr. Toad's keys away.

The Orlando Business Journal notes the ride includes "the only known nude picture of any woman anywhere on Disney property." That is enough to make the attraction stand out in a Magic Kingdom populated by more than enough androgynous characters.

The rest of the experience - short on technical gee-whiz, but with plenty of erratic driving, destruction, gun-fighting, death and red devils thrusting pitchforks - is decidedly short on sweetness and light.

For almost a year there has been a campaign to save the ride, organized by Jef Moscot, a University of Miami film student. He maintains a web site, has urged a mail campaign, and has staged weekly protests - toad-ins - outside the amusement. But it appears the campaign will prove to be a trip to nowhere in particular.

The park scuttlebutt is that sometime next year Mr. Toad will be replaced by Winnie the Pooh, with riders boarding "hunny pots" to travel the Hundred Acre Wood and see his friends, Piglet and Tigger.

Fans of Mr. Toad can only hope Eeyore has his place in the new ride, although he isn't irrepressibly upbeat all the time. And as for the demise of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, there will always be the book.

Disney decisions are often inscrutable, although usually financially astute. As Toad might say, "You are right, I know, and I am wrong. Henceforth I will be a very different Toad. My friends, you shall never have occasion to blush for me again. But, O dear, O dear, this is a hard world."
All content ©1998 Cape Cod Times.