MAGIC KINGDOM RIDES THAT NEVER DIE - MR. TOAD’S WILD RIDE
There are those rides at Walt Disney World that have permanently closed their gates yet, decades later, still remain a fan favorite and an integral part of the WDW experience. Even though the rides themselves no longer exist, their existence will never be forgotten.
Subtle nods to these long lost greats ensure that their presence continues to be known, and that their legacies never die. This month we’ll explore the history of one of Magic Kingdom’s most beloved attractions: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Let’s take a look at the the cult following this much-missed dark ride managed to build during its run, its closure, and it’s legacy...
MR. TOAD’S WILD RIDE
I can actually say I’ve been to hell and back… on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, that is. I was only nine years old when Mr. Toad closed his doors for good, but being born into a “Disney Family,” I took this wild ride many a time during my childhood. I can remember being both excited and terrified to ride it, even as a young child. Mr. Toad was one of those perfect Disney rides made up of just the right balance of fun and fright!
The Life and Death of Mr. Toad…
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was one of WDW’S original attractions at the park’s opening on
October 1, 1971. It was modeled after Disneyland’s version, which was also an original staple premiering at the park’s opening in 1955. It could have been argued that the WDW ride was a bigger and better version of its California counterpart, as it featured two separate tracks with their own loading docks—and each track had its own sets and storylines, offering guests two different ride experiences.
Using elaborate multi-dimensional wooden sets, the ride depicted different scenes from Disney’s 1908 adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, and Disney’s 1949 film, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Though both tracks took their own routes to get there, they both rounded out the ride by guests being “hit” by a train and taking a whacky trip through “hell.” Though the trip to hell proved to be somewhat controversial, it’s uniqueness among the other Fantasyland rides is what made Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride such a standout hit.
“Ask me why Disney is killing Mr. Toad…”
Despite its hit status, Mr. Toad couldn’t stand up to the popularity of everyone’s favorite Pooh Bear, resulting in Disney—led my Michael Eisner (CEO of Disney, 1984-2005)—closing down the ride to make way for a new Winnie the Pooh themed attraction (Is it just me, or does Winnine the Pooh just seem to be steamrolling the Magic Kingdom icons?). As time went on, complaints that the ride was both technologically outdated and not family-friendly enough for average Disney-goers arose, making its replacement the most logical solution.
After the disastrous closing of the 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea ride, Disney wanted to avoid such outrage by announcing the closure of the ride early, in an effort to give Guests the opportunity to have “one last ride,” which they boasted was one of their biggest issues with the closing of 20,000 Leagues. So on October 22, 1997, Disney released a statement to the Orlando Sentinel with their plan to close the wild ride. It may have been heartfelt notion, but did not pan out the way that Disney had planned. Fans of the iconic attraction staged protests outside of the ride’s entrance (referred to as “Toad-ins”), and even made up t-shirts with the slogan, “Ask me why Disney is killing Mr. Toad.” During this time period, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride fostered a sort of cult following that is still present to this day.
Even with the inpouring of Mr. Toad fan letters begging for the ride to remain open and the infamous t-shirt clad Toad-ins, Mr. Toad’s fate was sealed, and with less than a weeks
notice, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride officially closed its gates on September 7, 1998, to be replaced by The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which continues to be one of Walt Disney World’s most frequented rides.
Mr. Toad: The Man, The Myth, The Legend…
Despite the cantankerous closing of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Disney knows when they have a legendary character on their hands, and they always make sure to honor their legends properly.
There are two subtleties paying homage to Winnie the Pooh’s former resident along your journey through the Hundred Acre Woods. Both can be found in Owl’s House, with a framed painting of Mr. Toad handing the deed over to Owl on the right, as well as the lesser-known tribute picturing Mr. Toad’s trusty sidekick, Moley giving a “Hats Off” to Pooh
(on the floor near the red armchair).
Unlike many other characters that once had a home inside the Disney Parks, his former ride space isn’t the only place that you can find Mr. Toad. Be sure to take a good look at the Pet Graveyard just outside the exit for Haunted Mansion and you’re sure to spot the final resting place of Mr. Toad with a statue of the icon, honoring his untimely death.
His Wild Ride may be gone, but the legacy of Mr. Toad will forever live on within the gates of the Magic Kingdom.
Though it has received quite a few updates over the years, you can still catch a jalopy ride to hell and back on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland in California.