Letter From The Editor: Toad Warrior

Going straight to hell with Mr. Toad.

I have been to hell and back many times over the years at Walt Disney World. And no, I’m not talking about hauling whiny kids around in 100-degree heat, but rather experiencing the incomparable Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride before it shut down 21 years ago.

For this issue on new attractions at theme parks, I asked the staff to name their favorite ride ever (see the masthead entries on pages 8 and 10). My favorite was never in doubt. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was a 2-minute “dark ride” journey that was delightfully low tech, with an old-timey car jostling from room to room, doors opening constantly to reveal brightly painted plywood characters dancing, juggling mugs of beer or generally going berserk. Several signs warned you to “go back!’’ but there was no stopping. Eventually the car ran through the flashing lights of a railroad crossing and you found yourself on a collision course with a very bright light. Hello, train engine. Suddenly, the final door opened and you were in the fires of hell, with a giant devil and several smaller ones laughing maniacally and taunting you with pitchforks.

It was a great ride for kids because the cartoonish quality, both in the characters and the music, made it funny, not scary. Amazingly, there’s a grainy video on YouTube of the Disney World ride, plus several of the Disneyland version, which is still in operation.

I do miss Mr. Toad. And I’m sure he would be very surprised to see the rides that Disney is trotting out these days, high-tech marvels like the Star Wars Smugglers Run adventure aboard the gargantuan Millennium Falcon starship. Just down the road, Universal keeps adding to its Harry Potter land, with a Hagrid roller coaster the latest flashy addition. If you haven’t been to the theme parks lately, this issue is intended to catch you up on what’s new—and what’s on the way—at Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, Margaritaville Resort, Gatorland (Mr. Toad would feel right at home here), and along I-Drive. Veteran theme park writers Kristin B. Ford and Megan Padilla fill you in on all the good stuff and offer insider tips to make your journeys more enjoyable, while dining critic Joseph Hayes previews the coming culinary attractions.

Elsewhere, check out our annual holiday gift guide, bigger and better than ever—15 pages—with dozens of great buys from fashion and music to food and drink. (I must have the violin wine decanter on page 43). We profile radio host and community activist Monica May, who encourages and inspires wherever she goes. In Food & Drink, Mr. Hayes turns his attention to the venerable Irish gem Raglan Road and the inventive creations of Chef Mark O’Neill. And to close out our issue, Extra Pulp columnist Laura Anders Lee returns us to the theme of theme parks—and how lucky the youngsters are who have a chance to grow up near them.

Speaking of fun, if you haven’t experienced the coolness of our pages magically triggering video on your smartphone, give it a try. Open the app store on your phone and download the Orlando Magazine Insider app. Then, with your device’s camera, use the app to scan the pages with the special symbol scattered throughout the issue—including a trip through a corn maze on page 14 and theme park videos on pages 47 and 55. Find more information on how it works on page 18.

Finally it’s time for Women of the Year nominations, in which readers tell us about women making a positive impact on our community. Go to www.orlandomagazine.com for details. And beginning in December, you can help us select the best restaurants in Central Florida as voting in our annual Dining Awards gets under way.

BARRY GLENN
BARRY.GLENN@orlandomagazine.com

Categories: Column