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Mr. Toad is a famous character from the 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. He is one of the more notable characters from 20th century children's literature, and many people who have never actually read the book are familiar with Mr. Toad, thanks to his appearances in several films inspired by the book, along with a ride at Disneyland. This character is a bit impractical, selfish, and roguish, but he is also gentle, with a genuinely kind heart which has endeared him to generations of readers.
As you might imagine, Mr. Toad is a toad. All of the characters in The Wind in the Willows are anthropomorphized animals, and the book follows their adventures with each other and in the landscape of the River Thames, where Grahame happened to live himself. At first, the book met with a fairly unremarkable reaction from the public, but it grew on people, quickly becoming a children's classic and making Grahame's fortune, later being adapted into a play by A.A. Milne, author of the Winnie the Pooh books.
Mr. Toad is extremely wealthy, being the owner of Toad Hall, which is described as a rather opulent dwelling. The character exhibits many stereotypically quirky traits often attributed to the wealthy, such as a passion for foppish pursuits like punting, adventuring on hot air balloons, and traveling on house boats. Mr. Toad also has a penchant for classy suits, and while he is a nice character, he is also a bit selfish and thoughtless, picking up various hobbies and then abandoning them as he loses interest.
His thoughtlessness is exemplified by his theft of an automobile, which he subsequently crashes. Mr. Toad is sent to prison for his crime, and forced to dress up as a washerwoman to escape, only to return and find his home occupied by the weasels. In the end of the book, Mr. Toad redeems himself, making good with his friends and compensating the people injured by the wake of havoc he leaves behind in the bulk of the book.
Mr. Toad was so well known and liked that he inspired a ride in the original Walt Disney World theme park, which opened in 1955. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride was extremely popular with many generations of park goers, transporting passengers into the depths of the wild world of Grahame's novels. In 1998, the ride was closed and replaced with another, much to the disappointment of fans.
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is not the only ride to get the chop in recent years. In 2010, Disney Land closed its old Star Tours ride for several and redid it, which upset a lot of fans- I haven't seen the new ride yet, but I know one of my best friends loved the old one as a kid and wasn't sure she would enjoy a new one.
There were other rides that either were closed or moved from one park to another, usually the ones aimed at kids. I hope they don't do this much more, though; not everyone enjoys roller coasters and flashy rides, and for us these simpler, story-based rides are a lot of fun.
Actually, it was Disney Land that opened in 1955, not Disney World -- and it is the one with the Mr. Toad ride. I went there in 2010, for the 55th anniversary. It's still a lovely theme park, and for now, Mr. Toad is still there, although it was indeed closed in Disney World.
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is a lot of fun, though, and it's something little kids and adults can enjoy together.
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