Monday, October 26, 2015

The Fate of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

A couple of weeks ago, I went on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride with my sister. While standing in line, a kid noticed my Mr. Toad shirt and timidly asked where I bought it. I told his parents which store it was; evidently this was his favorite ride. As I saw the kid climb into his own motorcar (the true way to experience the ride) I thought back to my own childhood. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride always stood out among the dark rides. While Snow White's Scary Adventures and Pinocchio's Daring Journey are also dark and somewhat frightening, Mr. Toad is a special blend of madness--swerving, spinning, explosions, and even getting run over by a train and going to Hell--that's just awesome when you're a kid. While the other Dark rides (namely Peter Pan, Alice, and Snow White) have lost their initial object of making the rider the main character, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride still puts the riders directly behind the wheel of Toad's motorcar, as they romp through Toad Hall and the English countryside from The Wind in the Willows.

So I got to thinking... will future generations remember this ride? Most people have probably never seen the short film it was based on. Wind in the Willows was released during a slow period for Disney; the post-Dumbo slump which saw a dramatic cut in the animation budget due to World War II. Thus, a delayed production and limited staff never allowed it to develop into the movie it was intended to be, relegating this classic to a half-hour short. Having released in 1949, the cartoon was still fresh in memory when Disneyland was constructed--perfect for an opening day attraction alongside the likes of Peter Pan and Dumbo. But today it's mostly forgotten, and sticks out as an obscure theme for an attraction. None of the characters would be seen strolling around the park; they appear only on pins and a reference in the Storybook Land Boat ride. It really does beg the question whether this ride is becoming obsolete.

If it were my decision, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride would stand until the end of time. I loved this ride as a kid, like countless children before me. And as I've learned from my last trip to Disneyland, it continues to be a favorite. Part of the magic of Disney is keeping the old alive and seamlessly integrated with the new. And Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is the embodiment of old Disney magic capturing the hearts of children and adults today. As Disneyland has made quite painfully clear over the years, virtually no attraction is safe from demise--the old must make way for the new. But the attention that they've shown in modernizing and keeping relevant the 1955 attractions is very promising. I have no doubt that a ride like Mr. Toad can stand the test of time, just as well as Dumbo the Flying Elephant or The Jungle Cruise. Maybe soon we'll see another Fantasyland overhaul: a complete re-imagining of all of our favorite dark rides. Who wouldn't want to see a grander, full-scale Toad Hall? Bumpy roads and sharper turns like Indiana Jones--scenes from the movie brought to life with projection and updated animatronic technology like we've seen on Alice in Wonderland and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in recent years. All I can do is maintain hope that I will never see the end of this glorious ride. Don't follow in Disney World's footsteps, Disneyland. Long live Mr. Toad!

If you have Netflix, do yourself a favor and watch The Wind in the Willows, it's on instant streaming as of 10/26. Help keep this Disney masterpiece alive, and may Mr. Toad's Wild Ride never close its doors.

1 comment:

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