After a recent vacation to Walt Disney World (my first trip in around 7 years), upon my return I delved into the cornucopia of Disney info and fan memories available on the web. My first stop was the famous Hidden Mickeys site, which has quite a bit more than hidden Micks (but is in dire need of a makeover. That site is quite ugly.) The hidden Mickeys led to an amusing site dedicated to saving Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
Now let me begin by saying that Mr. Toad's Wild Ride was my favorite attraction at Orlando's Magic Kingdom, based on my favorite novella, "The Wind in the Willows." (And Disney's animated adaptation is actually quite lousy, completly missing the contemplative, peaceful theme of Kenneth Grahame's work. But nevertheless...)
When I walked around the corner from Snow White's Adventures and found the 8 foot wall signifying Disney progress, I was devastated. I had been privately looking forward to riding this ride again, my perennial personal gate-buster since I was 4 years old.
But I got over it. Just like I got over losing the Mickey Mouse Revue and the original Country Bear Jamboree show. Not to mention Epcot's Kitchen Kabaret, which I still miss dearly.
You see, now Mr. Toad is permently locked into my treasured memories as a wonderful childhood experience I can never have again. Now it has become mythic, from the crashing 2-dimensional suits of armor to the hyper-flourescent chickens to the surreal trip to Toad Hell at the end of the ride.
The liberators of Toad valiantly lobbied Disney mucky-mucks - and even staged a few laughable "Toad Ins" - to stave off the oncoming doom. It didn't work. I'm sure they weren't the first group to find that Industry Disney isn't above throwing out a few babies with the bathwater.
I will miss Mr. Toad. But I look forward to the promised "Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" ride. What the Toad fans miss in all their inspired revelry is that Disney World isn't as simple as leave-Mr.-Toad-where-he-is-and-open-Pooh-somewhere-else. Although less than 25 acres of Disney property are developed, there are indeed space concerns. There are electric concerns, traffic patterns, retention of theme, the guests' amount of time in a day, and long term planning to consider... in addition to the obvious marketing and sales opportunities represented by a Pooh ride. I am glad to see Disney finally taking an aggressive stance on building new attractions and retiring old ones. They have done a lot to keep the parks fresh over this past decade, the peak of which was the rebooting of Tomorrowland.
Horizons, on the other hand...
Located philosophically next door to Save Mr. Toad's Wild Ride are a pair of sites crying out in the darkness to save Horizons... a time-lost Epcot "dark ride" located on the west side between Wonders of Life and the much-delayed Test Track (formerly World of Motion.) Save Horizons and The Committee to Save Horizons.
Understanding that different people like different things and that Horizons is, in fact, the favorite ride of many Epcot guests, let me say this. Horizons sucks. It sucked when it opened; it sucks now; it will suck when it closes. Horizons was nothing more than a place to sit down after walking around World Showcase all afternoon. Horizons was an embarrassing yawner through endless dioramas of crude audio-animatronic figures spouting pompous futuristic nonsense. It is even worse than Spaceship Earth.
Save Horizons contains lots of priceless whining about how Horizons is the Epcot attraction closest to Walt's vision of the future. They prove this with lots of out-of-context inspirational quotes. They gush about the wonder of visiting the family of the future and the sprayed-in smell of fresh oranges. Observe:
Horizons is highly regarded by those who have experienced it as a fun, interesting, inspiring, and truly enjoyable Disney attraction. Guests are often heard talking about the Omni screens or the smell of fresh oranges or the futuristic city apartment while they're exiting the pavilion. It is a consistent hit with all age groups - it has something that interests everyone from ages 3 to 93. Even those people who haven't been able to experience the attraction (but would like the chance to) enjoy it. When I show video footage of Horizons to Californians, they say "They're tearing this down?!!"
What a joke! Horizon's vision of the future is as dated as the old version of Tomorrowland. The "futuristic city apartment" is like watching Star Trek with one eye closed. The family we follow throughout the ride is a stereotypical 1950's white household supplanted into a lame future full of such uber-scientific devices as video phones. The choose-your-own-ending at the end pales in comparison to Disney's new generation of interactive rides and movies, as evidenced by the 3D movies and DisneyQuest.
(Although Birnbaum stated that Horizons is "closed during much of 1998," we did indeed ride it during our vacation. It sucked. It sucked even more so because those much-beloved Omni screens were turned off, treating guests to two minutes of soundless darkness. Now that's a vision of the future I can respect. And there was no scent of fresh oranges.)
Disney is doing a great thing by updating the parks. Especially when Epcot is concerned, where outdated attractions just can't go 15 years without looking stupid. Yeah, I'm not a big Ellen Degeneres fan, but her injection into Universe of Energy is a million times better than the preachy and over-long movies that plagued the ride. World of Motion was another Horizons-style ride where nothing happened. Communicore's sad-looking video games and ancient tech was fire-bombed and replaced with Innoventions. Everything in The Land has been updated as well. And currently, Journey into Imagination is closed for a much-needed refurbishing. Anything that makes Epcot less boring is a giant step up... we need those awful pre-show films in the Living Seas pre-show removed as well, and that horrific Kodak commercial you're forced to endure before seeing Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.
Horizons advocates also claim that they would be happy to merely see the pavilion updated, rather than scrapped. But, from the level of strikingly specific warm fuzzies they throw out about the ride, I would assume that this "updating" dare not remove the Omni screens, the whimsical floating Jules Verne, the future family's long distance birthday party, and the smell of fresh oranges. (Why is everyone so impressed with smelling oranges? We're talking about Florida here. Smell-o-vision rides date as far back as the Sensorium at the long lost Six Flags Power Plant once found in Baltimore. Smelling oranges is not a cool modern selling point.)
In summation, f Horizons.
As ever, the whiners of the world can't stand to have other people make changes. I loved Mr. Toad, but I am not going to make an ass of myself by crying out for an end to progress.