The Washington Post

Fans Are Hopping Mad as Toad's 27-Year Ride Ends

Thursday, September 3, 1998
Section A
Page A10

ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 2 -- Walt Disney World has been targeted by Southern Baptists, animal rights activists and anti-homosexual groups, but the biggest protests by far have come from fans of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which Disney officials said today would soon join the ash heap of history.

The 27-year-old Fantasyland ride will be scrapped next Monday in favor of one featuring Winnie the Pooh.

"It's just horrible," said Jef Moscot, a 26-year-old computer systems administrator from Miami who has led the fight to preserve the ride. "Disney is ruining the park by closing a classic ride in favor of the next big thing."

Many of the ride's fans, who have picketed the park weekly since the rumor of Mr. Toad's demise swept their ranks last April, consider the ride a treasured memory of childhood that they enjoyed revisiting as adults.

"My parents took me on the ride when I was 4 and I can still remember it," said Wayne Story, of Melbourne, Fla. "Everything else in the Magic Kingdom was all happy, smiley, happy. Mr. Toad was a little more subversive. I still love it."

Riders on the low-tech adventure follow the bowler-hatted amphibian from the Kenneth Grahame children's novel The Wind in the Willows on a stolen motorcoach as it crashes into a train. Next stop is Hell, inhabited by red devils and a pitchfork-bearing Satan.

"I guess Satan has become too politically charged to include on a children's ride," said Laurie Stacy, 31, who was among the hundreds of self-described "Toadies" who have revisited in recent days.

On the new Winnie the Pooh ride, which will open next summer, riders climb aboard honey pots and meander through a blustery day in the Hundred-Acre-Wood.

This was not the first time Disney has closed a ride, but park officials acknowledged no other closing has provoked as much clamor. The "Take Flight" feature at Tomorrowland, which is closing to make room for a Buzz Lightyear ride, has not raised a ripple of protest.
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