Do you remember the scene in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" where the evil Indian priest jammed his hand into the ribcage of some poor peasant, and ripped out his heart?
That's what it felt like when Disney announced the planned closure of what was my favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom -- Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
This revelation came in 1997 and spawned similar feelings of dread in many visitors to the Orlando theme park who, since 1971, have enjoyed the frivolous "damn-the-torpedoes" attitude of one Mr. J. Thaddeus Toad.
A concerted effort to thwart Michael Eisner's attempts to squish the toad ensued, with an Internet-based protest at http://www.savetoad.com, which gathered more than 9,000 signatures. The Web site also launched a mini-merchandising campaign with "Ask me why Mickey is killing Mr. Toad" T-shirts, "Tell Pooh to go to hell" posters and the like.
Unfortunately, the collective pro-toad populace was not enough to deter Disney's "progress." Labor Day, Sept. 7, 1998 was the day Mr. Toad died.
Rest in peace? No.
Toad, no doubt is driving through hell, outsmarting the vicious weasels -- not the Disney CEO mind you -- trying to figure a way back into the theme park mecca of Orlando.
Perhaps Universal Studios will make their own version of Kenneth Grahame's children's book, "The Wind in the Willows," from whence Mr. Toad came.
Coming soon to a theater near you! Mr. Toad kicks some mousy posteriors. Quite.
Then comes the theme park ride -- to coincide with the video release no doubt. It could happen.
Now Disney officials like to point out that Mr. Toad's demise will make way for another British children's book hero, one Winnie the Pooh. And Pooh has very redeeming qualities for a theme park ride, but it's not as if Disney is hurting for real estate.
They could build a Winnie the Pooh Land, an entire 100-acre Pooh Land even.
I'm thinking that someone high up on the Disney food chain has some issues, like recurring nightmares involving crafty amphibians.
Perhaps it's misplaced aggression.
Perhaps it's Disney's broadcast network, ABC, worrying that pesky WB frog will come and stake them to death.
Or maybe there was something about that wild and crazy Mr. Toad that just wasn't clicking with Disney's supposed family image.
Perhaps it was Mr. Toad's devil-may-care habits, affinity for reckless driving or knack for pilfering vehicles. Or perhaps it's the tableau in Toad Hall of Rapuzel wearing nothing but a smile -- oh yes, it's there, but probably won't make the cut with Winnie the Pooh.
And I believe Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is the only attraction at Disney World that sends you to hell. Mr. Toad actually drives into amphibian oblivion after taking on a locomotive.
Yes, Mr. Toad visits the fiery bowels and encounters Satan himself, but what's an eternity of flames to Mr. Toad? Ha-ha ho-ho. Mr. Toad outsmarts the framework of accepted biblical dogma. He drives that automobile right out of hell and -- well -- back into Disney World. Well, actually, that's the end of the ride.
Mr. Toad holds true to his rather not-so-family oriented attitude with fanciful villainy and gunplay. It's this nonadherence to standards that sets Mr. Toad's Wild Ride apart from other famous Fantasyland amusements.
It's not hindered with a cultish repetitive chant, as featured in the "It's a Small World" ride. Nor is it lacking for originality.
It was one of the few rides in Fantasyland where you don't feel like an observer, but perhaps one of Mr. Toad's good friends, such as Mole or Ratty.
And although Mr. Toad lives on at Disneyland in California, who's to say the mothballs won't be following soon there?
Just this year, Disneyland plans to scrap two of its long-time features. The Submarine Voyage and The Enchanted Tiki Room. The latter of which is being replaced with a food court. At least it's not making way for a restroom.
The death of Mr. Toad just adds to the carnage at the "Happiest place on the planet." Remember 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? Gone. And the PC brigade dismantled and mutated just about everything amusing on Pirates of the Caribbean? Arghhhh.The big mouse needs to stop his carnivorous habits and consider a kinder, gentler form of expansion in the amusement industry.