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Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Take a Motorcar to
Nowhere in Particular
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Magic Kingdom Park

Photo by Chris Bales

It really should be called Mr. Toad’s Wild Rides—with an “s” at the end. Although it looks like one ride from the outside, there are two separate tracks inside, providing two largely different experiences.


Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Yester Magic Kingdom is based on the 1955 Disneyland attraction of the same name, which was based on Walt Disney’s 1949 animated two-parter, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, whose Toad part was based on the 1908 book by British novelist Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Magic Kingdom Park

Photo by Allen Huffman, 1996

Tournament façade

The premise is simple. You are Mr. Toad, recklessly driving through English towns and farms, wreaking havoc along the way.

The left track features such scenes as Toad’s trophy room, a kitchen, a Gypsy camp, and Winky’s Tavern—with a clever beer mug gag and weasels hiding among barrels—and the rain room.

The right track features such scenes as Toad’s library, a barnyard with animals (and chickens scattering through the air), a policeman signaling you to stop, a courtroom where the policemen is now the judge, a jail with weasels in the cells, and a standoff between weasels and the police.

Both tracks come together in a town square, with both tracks circling it, but never crossing.

The style is intentionally flat, like traditional hand-drawn cartoons. The people, animals, and many of the props are plywood. You pass through multiple double doors that defy logic, such as a flat painting of a pile of hay opening in the middle to let you through. The colors glow from blacklight illumination.

The theme song (“We’re merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily on our way to nowhere in particular”) is from the movie. It’s appropriately named “The Merrily Song” and it goes perfectly with the inventive scenery.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Magic Kingdom Park

Images captured by Chris Bales from a video by Chris Bales, 1996

Queue and loading for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Magic Kingdom Park

Images captured by Chris Bales from a video by Chris Bales, 1996

Entering, experiencing, and exiting Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

On either track, you eventually enter a railway tunnel—where all you see is the headlight of an oncoming locomotive. Your death is quick and painless, but you end up in hell, with little red devils and a big devil. The hell scene was dreamt up for the Disneyland ride. It’s not in the Disney movie or the Kenneth Grahame book. It’s a memorable ending for the ride, which is why both tracks have their own railway tunnel and hell, although mirror images of each other.


Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was one of the original attractions at the Magic Kingdom when the park opened October 1, 1971. The ride’s exterior was an updated version of the tournament tent style of Disneyland’s original Fantasyland—which is still the style of some of Fantasyland in Florida.

Based on the attraction’s popularity in California, the Florida version was designed to have a higher capacity. Imagineer Rolly Crump was asked to design it with two identical side-by-side rides. Crump came up with a better plan. There would be two tracks, but the tracks—and even many of the show scenes—would be different for each. The two tracks came together in one scene. Although listed as a single attraction, guests quickly discovered that each track provided different gags.

Because of the two tracks, the show building in Florida was much larger than its California counterpart. Disney executives must have noticed that the space was big enough for a ride and a souvenir shop.

On October 22, 1997, the Orlando Sentinel published an article by Jill Jorden Spitz, “Is Mr. Toad about to drive out of Disney?” which began like this:

It may be goodbye to Mr. Toad and hello to Winnie the Pooh and Buzz Lightyear at the Magic Kingdom.

Disney officials are considering a number of changes to update their oldest Central Florida theme park, which is reaching the end of a 16-month celebration of its 25th anniversary.

Although Disney had not announced anything, it made sense that Mr. Toad and his fleet of motorcars would be evicted to make way for a character with proven success at gift shop cash registers—Winnie the Pooh.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Magic Kingdom Park

Scans courtesy of Leslie N. Herschler

1998 postcard campaign to save Mr. Toad

In response to the article, Jef Moscot, a University of Miami student, started a “Save Toad” website. Through the new media of internet discussion groups and fan websites, the campaign captured the imagination of Toad’s loyal fans. As many as 50 T-shirt-wearing fans would attend weekly “Toad-Ins” at the Magic Kingdom. Local media covered the story. It was then picked up by the national media.

Here’s a sample from “Mr. Toad Appears To Be Roadkill,” an Associated Press article by Mike Schneider on Tuesday, September 1, 1998:

Despite protests, despite the green T-shirts saying “Ask me why Mickey is killing Mr. Toad,” despite hundreds of pleading postcards and letters mailed to Disney officials, Mr. Toad appears to be roadkill.

A yearlong internet and mail campaign to persuade Walt Disney World to keep Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride apparently wasn’t enough. Or so say Mr. Toad’s champions, who claim the ride will be closed forever Sept. 8 and replaced with a Winnie the Pooh attraction.

Disney isn’t talking—yet. While a Disney spokesman would not confirm or deny any rumors, a company official said an announcement about the ride was expected this week.

The save-the-toad campaign is a strange twist on a David-vs.-Goliath fight, with a group of admittedly obsessive fans challenging the nation’s ever-present, unremittingly cheery entertainment giant.

“Anyone who would be so nuts to challenge Disney and waste a whole year obviously has some issues,” concedes Toad booster Jef Moskot, 26, of Miami.

The “announcement” turned out to be that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Magic Kingdom Park closed permanently on September 7, 1998.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at Magic Kingdom Park

Photos by Allen Huffman, 1998

Transformation

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh opened on June 5, 1999. Guests travel in honey pots through scenes from the movie. The exit leads into a well-stocked Winnie the Pooh gift shop.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at Magic Kingdom Park

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2007

Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, as it originally looked

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at Magic Kingdom Park

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2007

Pooh’s Thotful Shop, which became Hundred Acre Goods

The two photos above show things that are no more. In 2010, the Pooh attraction received an interactive queue and a Hundred Acre Woods-themed exterior, complete with the large tree from Pooh’s Playful Spot.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at Magic Kingdom Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Same attraction, different exterior

Mr. Toad is not entirely gone from Magic Kingdom Park. One of the places you can still find him is in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh!

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at Magic Kingdom Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2019

Deed transfer

After the ride’s Hundred Acres Woods show scene, the ride vehicle enters Owl’s house. There, on the left wall, a picture hanging crookedly shows Owl receiving the deed from J. Thaddeus Toad. Apparently, this is the real estate transaction that allowed Pooh to displace Toad. Who knew that Owl was Pooh’s landlord?

Mr. Toad in the Haunted Mansion Graveyard at Magic Kingdom Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2008

J. Thaddeus Toad memorial in the pet graveyard at the Haunted Mansion

Mr. Toad can also be found in a back corner of the pet graveyard at the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is still at Disneyland, where it was upgraded, enlarged, and given a new façade in 1983. No other Disney theme park worldwide has a Toad-themed ride.

The Associated Press article mentioned earlier included this insight from Jef Moscot about why Mr. Toad was such an appealing character:

“It’s a nice break from the happy, singing flowers, not that those things don’t have a place in Disney,” said the computer systems administrator and part-time film student. “He’s not the bland Disney hero with two funny sidekicks. He’s nuts. He steals cars, but he’s still the good guy.”

Just imagine if Disney were ever to develop a big, new “E” ticket Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride using the kinds of effects technology found in Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland and vehicle technology inspired by Test Track or Indiana Jones Adventure. What a wild ride that could be!


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Updated April 29, 2022