Save Mr. Toad's Wild Ride!

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The End

The Final Chapter

Toad fans from around the world have converged upon Walt Disney World to show their support for Mr. Toad and his fine Wild Ride many times now.

The account below is of the Final Toad In.

(Click here to read about the first four documented Toad Ins.)
(Click here to read about the second four documented Toad Ins.)
(Click here to read about the final "official" Toad In.)
(Click here to read about some Uncommon Toad Ins.)

There are no more "official" Toad Ins scheduled.
If you'd like to tell us about your own personal Uncommon Toad In,
please feel free to contact JT.

September 7, 1998 - The Final Chapter

They wouldn't stop calling.

All I wanted to do was get some sleep, but the press was calling all morning long. Somewhere in Canada at 8am, someone else at 9...Chicago maybe? Then the Orlando stations started calling. There was someone from St. Petersburg, too.

It was nice that we were finally getting some decent press, but I really needed some sleep. The day before was a long day (during which I was already tired from the drive up to Orlando the previous day, not to mention being relentlessly interviewed all week).

I was already less than enthusiastic, considering that the fate of The Ride had been sealed and all I was doing was letting everyone know that we'd already lost, instead of telling them what they could do to help. And I was a little tired of the same old questions...

Still, it had to be done.

I soon realized that there was no way I was going to be allowed to sleep any more, so I got up and prepared for (what else?) another interview.

We got interviewed for teevee at Disney in the early afternoon, in the same place I had been interviewed the day before. Fox yesterday, ABC today.

Then it was finally on to the Magic Kingdom. At least it would soon be over, I thought. This whole thing had really become more work than I was ever prepared for. I'm still working thru the mountains of Toad-related correspondence I've received (apparently all that press got results, altho a bit too late). My inbox is still bulging and a day never goes by that I don't get more Toad mail.

Anyway, the first thing we noticed when we got to the park was that the guide books already listed "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" as coming soon to the Toad building, with no mention of Mr. Toad. The vultures couldn't even wait until the body was cold. Hell, it was still alive and well.

We then did Pirates and the Mansion, because it is mandatory. It's also the last time I'll be riding them for a very long time, so I had to enjoy them while I could.

In that little bit of walking around we saw a few other people wearing Toad shirts and talked to still more people who saw our shirts and were upset about what was going on.

When we got to The Ride, there were already tons of people in "official" Save Toad shirts, as well as many others in homemade versions, most with graphics from Kids were distributing their own versions of Toad art printed from the web site.

A couple of guys wore shirts featuring cool pictures of Hell with the text "One last trip to Hell and Back..." and the date. One couple had shirts with Toad's gravestone on the back ("Here's Lies Dear Old JT Toad He Hit Some Pooh In The Road").

There were lots of old friends from previous Toad Ins. How Bowers, creator of the terrific Save Toad flyers was on hand. Michael Crawford (of the Save Horizons web site) drove something like 16 hours to be there for Toad's demise. Anna Maria, who's had such a history with The Ride, and her husband were back. Deb Wills of the WDWIG was there, as well as so many others.

Dan the Manager was also there, wearing a green dress shirt. A nice touch. Some of the Fantasyland employees who had previously thanked us for what we'd done (I still get the occasional e-mail from a park employee thanking me) were there again as well.

Unfortunately, Dave the Fantasyland Manager was unable to attend, but he'd already contacted me earlier to express his condolences. He also told us kids to "be good".

Two news crews were also there, escorted by Disney security.

Rumors were already flying around about a ceremony to be performed by Disney employees. Someone said that some guy had handcuffed himself to The Ride and this was "backed up" by a report that The Ride had been closed earlier in the day. It was said that bits of The Ride were being sold off that week at a Disneyana collectors convention.

As it turned out, there was no ceremony, no confirmation of anyone handcuffing themselves to anything (altho Disney is pretty good at covering things up) and the Toad things for sale at the convention seemed to be old Toad artifacts that had already been replaced. Apparently one of the old cars went for about $13,000.

Anyway, people wanted to know where they could get some shirts. I had brought a bundle with me (as well as some buttons), and I was descended upon like a french fry in the Sea Gull Territory of Frontierland.

It was madness. In no more than 5 minutes, I had sold two large backpacks full and I was out of buttons a few minutes later. I gave people postcards with the URL and explained they could buy them at their leisure, but people seemed annoyed that I didn't bring a truckload.

An employee walked up to us as we were selling them and said, "Uh, you know that's illegal, right?" We said that we knew. "Well...OK," they said.

If I could have set up a cart, I could have easily moved 100 shirts.

Disney, of course, still had no Toad merchandise. I heard that the girl running the little info booth next to Toad was getting tired of telling people that there wasn't anything to buy.

Finally we got a chance to ride The Ride. I tried to video each side a couple times, but there is just too much going on to make a decent tape of The Ride. I haven't had a chance to view the tapes yet, but I don't expect them to be very good.

In line we saw a guy dressed formally, for a funeral. He kept riding all day. One side, then the other. Groups of Disney personnel from all over Disney were getting in their last rides. I saw a guy with an "Imagineering" shirt with his family. I asked if he worked for Imagineering and he said his wife did. I asked her what she thought about The Ride closing and she closed her mouth tightly and looked at the ceiling. I asked again and she did the same thing. Guess she didn't want to get in trouble. I told her I understood.

We were surrounded by people in green shirts the entire time. Many other people had come out to the parks just to ride one last time when they heard about it on the news (they thanked us for letting them know...without the press that had been such a chore for me, they would never have known about this). Others hadn't heard anything and wondered why the line was so friggin long.

It had been a similar scene the day before, with many people making the trip to the Magic Kingdom just because of Toad. It was encouraging and extremely discouraging at the same time.

As the hot, rainy day wore on (someone shouted that it was "a blustery day"...sigh), the sense of urgency was definitely increasing. People would get off and get right back on, wanting to soak up as much as they could before Toad would be gone forever. Every time we rode, people were videoing and taking as many pictures as they could. Some kids bought a little Pooh and beheaded it, tossing it into the chicken coop on one of their trips. The line extended way beyond the Toad shelter on many occasions, often interfering with the ice cream shop next door.

The press interviewed many people and caused spontaneous chanting of "Save Mr. Toad" when they turned the cameras on the crowd. At one point, some kids were shouting "Eisner sucks!" in unison. During one of these flare-ups, my friend Jenn turned to me and said "This is all because of you.". I couldn't help but feel a little proud, until a sickly sad feeling came over me and I had to stop thinking about it.

Some newspaper reporters approached us and asked if we had any banners or signs...while security was distracted with the long lines and the teevee press, we quickly broke out the goods and posed for a few minutes in front of the reporters, as well as many tourists who also took our picture. Others had made their own signs saying "Can't We All Just Get Along" and "New Wart Order!".

Later Disney confiscated some of the signs, but they didn't get our famous green signs (even tho Dan apologetically tried to take them away from us).

There were too many people to wrangle together for the customary group photo, but we did manage to get off an informal shot just the same.

The end of the day was getting near and I was, for the first time, starting to feel really awful. I'd been too busy all day to be anything other than just plain busy, but standing there in that line, it finally started to get to me.

I saw a car pop out of the left side with a dad and three little boys. All three boys had wide grins and the dad was laughing. The boys asked to go on again and the dad agreed. They seemed so happy.

That was me 20 years ago. My eyes started to well up and I had to look away.

As we got into our car, the employee running the ride walked up to me and told me "I just want to shake the hand of a great man." I probably mumbled something about how if I had been truly great, we would have won, but I don't really remember. I had another lump in my throat.

By this time, lots of extra Disney employees had shown up. They were all wearing official-looking badges with How Bowers' Motormania artwork on them that said something like "Toad Closing Crew". The report came that they were stationed everywhere inside The Ride, making sure no one did anything crazy.

We went thru and took as many pictures of them as we could. As we would crash into the next room, we'd turn around and wave at the people hiding. Some looked very embarrassed, some apologetic, some smiled and waved.

For a long time beforehand, I was considering doing something drastic. But it really seemed pointless. The Ride was going to close anyway, and the only people I'd be causing trouble for would be the park employees who had no say in the matter. We were already going to be all over the news, so there was no real point in doing it for the press. Besides, so many of the ride operators had been so supportive, it really didn't seem fair to make their job any more difficult.

I think I made the right decision, and a lot of Disney employees from all over the Disney Company have written me thanking us for our nondisruptive ways. They thanked us all for having more class than their own bosses. Their words, not mine.

Soon it was time for The Last Ride, for which I chose The Right Side. Toad In veteran Tad Simmons became the first person to be officially turned away from the closed ride.

We weren't the last people in line, so we negotiated with the woman who was. She didn't even know that Toad was closing, but now that she knew, she wanted to be the last to ride. She offered to let us ride in the back seat, tho, and we appreciatively accepted.

I'd never ridden in the back seat before. I always insist on driving. So it was a first and a last for me.

They put an employee in the car directly opposite ours, to keep an eye on us in the areas where the cars were together.

We got some final pictures, a picture of the guy trying to "hide" in the chicken coop and went thru Hell for the last time. In spite of it all, I was feeling alright during the whole ride. I wasn't thinking about how I was going to be the last person to be almost killed by that falling suit of armor, I was just happy to be on my favorite ride in the world. I was laughing when Jenn screamed "SATAN!" and pointed at him as he made his final appearance.

But when we popped out of Hell, back into the real world...and there were all those people in green shirts, cheering and shouting and taking pictures...well, I couldn't take it any more. I started crying like a girly man.

I got out of the car and hugged some of my friends who had been with the Toad cause from the beginning.

I tell ya, before that time, I had thought everyone who had sent me e-mail about how they cried when they heard the news was a little nuts, but when I was confronted with the reality of the situation...that I'd never be able to ride again...NO ONE would ever smash thru the chicken coop or the prison walls again...and then to see all those people who felt just like me and how there was nothing we could do...

Well, let's just say it was not the happiest moment of my life.

We hung around for a little while, and I pulled myself together. Another cheer went up as the last visitors exited the left side of the ride. (Sorry, I don't know who they were, but there's the picture.)

We got some final photos of the ride...and Dan was there being his cheerful self. I wasn't in the mood for cheerful.

I told him I hoped Al, Judson and Eisner were friggin proud of themselves.

As I was walking out, I saw a mother carrying her cute little girl away. She was looking over her mom's shoulder and waving at the Toad statue repeating "Bye, Toad...bye, Toad..."

God, if someone had put that in a tearjerker, I would have complained that it was over the top. I started to tear up again, so I went to look over at the 20,000 Leagues lagoon to take a deep breath and get a grip. Somehow gazing at the empty lagoon, imagining how nice it would be to see a Nautilus go by, didn't really make me feel any better.

About this time, the employees started herding us out.

The Submarine Voyage in Disneyland (which closed the very same day) got a retirement ceremony complete with Naval officers and all we got was garbage cans blocking the entrance and extra security to make sure we got the Hell out.

Great show, Disney.

As you can imagine, we were a pretty sad looking group making our way out of the park. Employees who directed us out took one look at us and told us that we weren't allowed to be unhappy in Disney. Everyone was supposed to smile in Disney World.

They were lucky no one attacked them.

The walk thru the Castle and down Main Street was terrible. Suddenly the countless hours of work I'd put towards The Cause didn't mean a thing... all that mattered was that one of my very favorite things in the whole world was gone. And the Magic Kingdom didn't have any magic for me any more. My decision to not return doesn't even seem like a sacrifice. I simply don't want to be there any more. I don't want to know what they're doing now. I don't want to see it all get dismantled.

And I don't want to see that wall up around Toad Hall.

We made our way out and stopped in at City Hall to file one final complaint. Dan was there and offered a trivial extension to the renewal period for my annual pass as a gesture of good will, but I reminded him that he wouldn't be seeing me again. A smartass friend of mine pointed out that EVERYONE gets a thirty day grace period and he wasn't even offering me anything special. Dan seemed a bit embarrassed about this. I'm sure he meant well.

Anyway, we said our goodbyes and that was that.

On the ferry ride out of the park, we ran into another group of Toadies, on their way to drown their sorrows. They invited us along, but I was too spent.

I just wanted to get home.

There was another message from the media waiting for me. One more call and I was home free.

And so it all finally ended.

All except for the mountains of mail in my inbox and a lot of work on the web site.

Another month or so of labor reminding me of the struggle.

There are so many people I'd like to thank, but I don't want to put it at the end of this already too-long ramble, so I'll be doing that a little later.

Thanks again to everyone who helped out The Cause.

I'm sorry we didn't win, but it sure wasn't because we didn't try.

In Memory of
J. Thaddeus Toad
October 1, 1971 -
  September 7, 1998  

Final Toad In Photos: Wall of Pooh photo courtesy of Eric Rice. Standing around under the Toad shelter photo courtesy of Doc. Paddy wagon, angry engineer, and very green group photo courtesy of James Juneman. White Motormania shirt, group sign photo, me and Jenn in line, last group of lefties, me being a girly man and the zero wait Toad sign photos courtesy of Roger Smith. All other photos courtesy of Jennifer "Mandibles" Mandelion.

(Click here to read about the first four documented Toad Ins.)
(Click here to read about the second four documented Toad Ins.)
(Click here to read about the final "official" Toad In.)
(Click here to read about some Uncommon Toad Ins.)

See the Shirt
Save Mr. Toad's Wild Ride!
See the Button
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride!
Electronic Toad Hall
Fame & Fortune
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride!
The Toad Timeline
Team Toad's View
More Toad than Toad
Friends of Toad
The Toad Ins
Miscellaneous Toad
Uncommon Toad Ins
The Final Chapter
See the Postcards
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