UM student leads Toady revolt to save Wild Ride at Disney
By Paul Lomartire
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 13, 1997
MIAMI -- Call it Jef Moskot's mild ride.
The 26-year-old University of Miami film student is planning his second
polite protest at Disney World on Sunday to save his favorite attraction,
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. His Disney sources say that the Toad will be
trashed to make way for a Winnie-the-Pooh ride at the end of '98.
Just as Robespierre could have sped up that nasty French Revolution with
a homepage, Moskot created an Internet Web site to share his rage when he
learned of the threat to Mr. Toad in late October.
"It's just, I guess, that everybody has a different button that sets them
off and this hit mine," says Moskot, who maintains UM's computer system
for the school of math and computer sciences.
An original Magic Kingdom ride that has been running since 1971, Moskot
considers Mr. Toad's Wild Ride a rite of passage that needs protecting.
He remembers growing up in Fort Lauderdale, going to Disney World and
riding Mr. Toad, scared but secure, holding his dad's arm.
"When I was a kid it was really scary but it was a big deal when you got
to go on Mr. Toad by yourself," he said. "That's a big deal for kids
that can't go on Space Mountain yet."
Moskot, long known as a Toad fan to his friends, has always used J.T.
Toad as his AOL screen name. His uprising made news throughout Florida
and on CNN and produced a Disney-speak response about keeping old
customers happy while attracting new ones. Diane Ledder, Disney's
manager of public affairs concluded, "we have made no announcements about
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride."
Just as hazy as Ledder's statement is the fate of Mr. Toad's movie.
Mr. J. Thaddeus Toad was created in Kenneth Grahame's 1908 novel, The
Wind in the Willows. He debuted on the big screen in the 1949 Disney
film, The Madcap Adventures of Mr. Toad, and again starred in a
1996 live-action film The Wind in the Willows.
Mouse mum about movie
The Sony release, which critics loved during its brief run in New York
and Los Angeles theatres this fall, stars ex-Monty Python players John
Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Disney changed the
name of the movie to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride for the VHS and LaserDisc
release but recently pulled both from the market, according to an
Internet Website for Image Entertainment Inc., exclusive distributor of
Repeated calls to Buena Vista Video produced no answers. The good
reviews are rumored to have Sony considering a wider release for the film
which would delay Disney's video and LaserDisc releases.
But computer whiz Moskot isn't concerned with Toad's movie problems. He
has his schedule jammed with saving the Orlando ride.
"As moronic as this behavior seems to be there's a lot of work involved,"
he said. Just as Che Guevara also found out, taking on an entrenched
tyrant pretty much eats up your weekends. But Moskot has results. His
homepage (http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Set/7073) has had about
3,600 hits since late October with, Moskot added, 150 hits coming from
Linked by the Toad Web page, a dozen sympathizers met Moskot at the ride
last Sunday to hand out Save Mr. Toad postcards addressed to Disney execs.
The trek to enemy turf lacked the drama of Mao's Long March, although
Moskot's group did have cooler T-shirts with the message: Ask me why
Mickey is killing Mr. Toad, with the website address.
Despite being sharp-dressed guerrillas with great T-shirt graphics,
things started to go bad for the protesters when an Orlando TV station
packed up and left rather than pay their way into the Magic Kingdom to
cover the protest at the ride.
"Security definitely outnumbered us," Moskot said Wednesday. "The people
with the little brooms and dustpans had ear pieces and they walked past a
suspicious number of times."
When the first lime-green postcard was handed out, Disney security
swooped down and told Moskot and his meek marauders they had to stop.
So, that's when the first blood was spilled?
"No, we just stopped," Moskot reported. "Then we decided to go on the
Ah, then this must be when the head-bustin' began?
"No," continued Moskot, "the Disney people took us to the front of the
line and saved us a half-hour wait."
Protest set for Downtown
For Sunday's upcoming protest, a TV reporter told Moskot a good place to
protest is near Downtown Disney, an area that offers not only easy access
for TV trucks but plenty of good restaurants.
"They said it's the place the Baptists like to use when they protest,"
Moskot and his polite mob will meet Sunday at 10:30 a.m. under the Magic
Kingdom sign near the ticket and transportation center. TV reporters
won't have to make the tough decision whether to buy a ticket to get the
story. At noon the protesters will move to Fantasyland and Mr. Toad's
And to think all this ugliness (and driving and tolls and parking and
admission) could end if only Disney would leave Mr. Toad alone. Moskot
can live with the results of his phone search that revealed not one
Disney store stocks a single Mr. Toad souvenir.
"We're essentially pro-Disney," said Moskot. "All we're saying is,
'you've got something and we like it.' So keep it."
Article was originally accompanied by two photos:
One was a picture of JT in his Save Mr. Toad shirt (and no toad on his
head) with the caption "Jeff Moskot, a University of Miami student, and
his followers are using high-tech Web sites and low-tech T-shirts to get
their message across. Photo by PAUL LOMARTIRE"
The other was picture of one of the SAVE TOAD postcards with the caption
"Disney security made Toad activists stop handing out 'Save Toad'
All content ©1997 Palm Beach Post. Republished with permission.