Orlando Business Journal

Save-the-Toadies Launch Amphibious Assault

By Alan Byrd
Staff Writer

April 17-23, 1998
Page: 8

The Postcard LAKE BUENA VISTA - Jef Moscot has journeyed through Mr. Toad's curvy, colorful Wild Ride more than 100 times since it opened 25 years ago here.

Now he's dedicated his nights and days to saving it.

Walt Disney World officials deny any decision has been made; however, the University of Miami film student says his own sources deep inside the theme park insist the company will replace the ride next year with a willy, nilly, silly old bear - Winnie the Pooh.

Since October, more than 15,000 people have visited Moscot's Save-the-Toad Web site. He's sent out an estimated 4,000 postcards pre-addressed to Walt Disney World president Al Weiss and Judson Green, President of Disney attractions. He's sold nearly 200 bright green T-shirts, emblazoned with the question, "Ask me why Mickey is killing Mr. Toad."

He's organized four "Toad-ins," where up to 50 Mr. Toad supporters have traveled to the park to participate in the Toad Hall version of civil disobedience: They stand quietly in front of the Wild Ride in their bright green Save-the-Toad T-shirts -- and pass out fliers when Disney security isn't looking.

The biggest display is yet to come. When Animal Kingdom opens for business April 22, the group plans to fly a banner plane over Disney's other parks proclaiming "Save Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Call Al Weiss" - followed by Weiss's local phone number.

All of this for a 25-year-old ride that eschews most of the theme park's famous technical wizardry for a twisting, turning ride through something very un-Disneylike - hell.

While Moscot defends the ride as "one of the classic Disney rides," by most Fantasy Land standards, Mr. Toad is a long, strange trip.

For instance, it features beer kegs as objects of destruction - they're thrown by weasels at riders. It has the only known nude picture of any woman anywhere on Disney property. Riders are "killed" by a head-on collision with an imaginary train.

And then there's hell.

The trip meanders through a Disney version of Hades, complete with red devils brandishing pitchforks - one reason why the attraction earned a reputation in as one of Walt Disney's first "dark" rides.

"For the children who aren't tall enough for Space Mountain or Splash Mountain, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is their thrill ride," explains Moscot.

But while the Toad has sustained ridership through the years, it has noticeably failed by other Disney measures of success. While Winnie the Pooh, for instance has generated dozens of commercially viable product lines and plush toys for Disney, Mr. Toad has never had a single merchandise line to call his own.

Still, Disney officials insist Mr. Toad may have a few rides left in him.

"There has been no decision," says Bill Warren, spokesman for Walt Disney World. The Save-the-Toadies, he says, "are reacting to rumors and word on the street." And in any case, says Warren, there's been no groundswell of support for Toad and his friends.

But Moscot says Disney isn't being honest with the fate of Mr. Toad. He says his group has been contacted by Disney employees who have seen maintenance charts showing the closing of Mr. Toad and others who have seen the carts for a Pooh ride being made.

"They're really just lying to us," Moscot says. "They say they're considering it, but it's a little more serious than they are letting on." That's one reason why the pace of the "Toad-ins" is being stepped up, to a weekly affair. Moscot is only guardedly optimistic about his chances for success. "I'm not naive," he says. "I realize Disney has more money than God and will do what it wants to."
The original article was accompanied by an almost life-size copy of the postcard shown above.
All content ©1998 Orlando Business Journal.