Dis­ney His­tory

MAGIC KING­DOM RIDES THAT NEVER DIE - MR. TOAD’S WILD RIDE

WDW Magazine - - Contents - BY COURT­NEY VIC­TOR RUSS

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.

Photo by Kath­leen Lo­gan Wolfe

Photo by Kath­leen Lo­gan Wolfe

Photo by Kath­leen Lo­gan Wolfe

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