As times change, so do perceptions. This definitely has held true for attractions at Walt Disney World. The recent news that Disney will be renovating Pirates of the Caribbean to replace the wench auction scene echoes this phenomenon. It’s easy to ignore when a largely disliked attraction (such as “Journey Into YOUR Imagination” or “The Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management”) is closed or altered, but even much-loved rides can fail to stand the test of time.
Indeed, when one really stops to think about some of Disney’s most unique attractions of the past, those unfamiliar might wonder how these rides passed opening day audiences in the first place.
I want to emphasize two things before we tread further. First, these were not necessarily bad attractions. Bring up any discussion of these rides, and you’ll find those who loved them and others who didn’t. Second, this exploration of bygone attractions and their eccentricities is meant in good fun.
With that in mind, what exactly were Disney Imagineers thinking when they conceived of…
1. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was a Fantasyland classic that opened in 1971 and remained a fan favorite until it closed in 1998. For those unfamiliar, the ride (which was one of the first to have two completely separate tracks with different scenes) followed the madcap shenanigans of the motorcar-manic Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows—a seemingly perfect fit for the Magic Kingdom.
Except that, for reasons unknown, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride took a strangely dark approach to the source material. Indeed, some fans have even gone as far as to describe the ride as “Mr. Toad’s DUI”.
Why the mega-dark assessment? The two tracks of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride explored two distinctly macabre versions of the original story. On one, we follow Mr. Toad as he steals a motorcar and evades police in a long chase, is convicted under a judge, and narrowly escapes jail. The other led us from Toad Hall through a gypsy camp to Winky’s Tavern (where the bartender left two beer mugs spinning in the air) then into the countryside. Both versions ended the same way…
The car is hit by a locomotive and the ride culminates in a trip through hell. The end.
Do note that last bit is nowhere to be found in The Wind in the Willows or the original film.
Now, stop and think about those two journeys very slowly, removing from your mind all association with the whimsical cartoon: a lavishly rich, possibly-intoxicated crackpot takes a mania-induced joyride through town, nearly plowing over dozens of shocked onlookers and evading police until his crime spree results in death and a trip to Dante’s Inferno.
Perhaps there’s a reason that, despite much love from fans, this particular kooky adventure didn’t stand the test of time...