Mike Fleming of Deadline New York has recently scooped that Disney is presently plotting to bring yet another unlikely feature film inspired by one of its theme parks’ rides to life: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is one of the precious few attractions operational on Disneyland’s opening day way back on July 18, 1955 that is incredibly somehow still open and running (in a virtually unaltered state, no less) today. Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida even had its own double-tracked version which closed down less than a month before its (and the park’s) 27th anniversary in 1998 and which was ultimately disappointingly replaced by the snoozy “The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh” the following year. Mr. Toad does, however, remain thoughtfully memorialized with a statue in the pet cemetery outside of The Haunted Mansion.
The old Toad’s ride is based on the Disney adaptation of The Wind In The Willows, which itself was originally one of the two halves of the 1949 animated film, The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad. It is a simple and quaint “dark ride“ in which you supposedly embark with Mr. Toad on a short journey to what’s supposed to be “nowhere in particular” but is instead actually a shockingly bleak and twisty-turny jaunt through various increasingly dire scenes inspired by the movie before you break out of a jail cell and, in a mildly disturbing turn of events, have your early-1900′s-esque jalopy motorcar promptly smashed to smithereens by an oncoming locomotive and subsequently and inexplicably wind up in Hell – which is also bizarre considering the fact that such an unfortunate development never happens at any point in the source cartoon.
My own educated best guess is that the eventual reportedly CG/live-action hybrid family film based on the ride just now entering those tender and fragile early development stages will in all likelihood end on a much lighter and brighter (and likely franchise-friendly) note.
Anyway, there is no script or story treatment or even a logline to speak of which would help shed some light on what sort of direction the project is headed in terms of being either a fresh take-off of the ride itself or another adaptation of The Wind In The Willows or whatnot but Aussie-born, London-based animator/filmmaker Pete Candeland is actually already attached to direct.
Mr. Candeland is actually already fairly experienced with Walt Disney Company work, having previously served as both animation director and senior animator on the DTV Beauty And The Beast midquel, The Enchanted Christmas, an animator on Disney’s first DTV sequel, The Return Of Jafar and several episodes of the subsequent Aladdin TV series back in 1994 and even a few episodes of another faint childhood memory of mine, Bonkers, a little bit before that, along with additional animation work of non-Disney animated fare like All Dogs Go To Heaven 2 and Balto.
Much more recently and most notably, Candeland was the the creative and talented mastermind behind the justifiably acclaimed and truly wonderful opening cinematic to The Beatles: Rock Band and the game’s “Outro” sequence, in addition to the opening cinematic to Rock Band 2 and multiple collaborations with Gorillaz – including the brilliant orchestration of the ambitious live multimedia opening performance event featuring them alongside Madonna at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards in early 2006….not to mention some splashy ad spots for the likes of Jack Daniel’s and Coca-Cola.
All of his work thus far would seem to strongly indicate that the man surely knows how to madly mix media, stylize a story and can capably handle the complex technical logistics of filmmaking in traditional hand-drawn animation, 3D CGI and/or real-life but that does in no way do a whole helluva lot to guarantee a genuinely worthwhile and staisfying full-length feature on a base narrative and emotional level, as clearly evidenced by Joseph Kosinski and Disney’s own decidedly underwhelming Tron: Legacy.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride joins the surely-expensive ranks of an ever-increasing multitude of high-concept franchise flicks at various stages of development in the Mouse House’s pipeline such as Jon Favreau’s Night At Tne Museum-ish Magic Kingdom, a Guillermo Del Toro-produced (and presumably Eddie Murphy-less) second stab at a viable Haunted Mansion movie, a David Fincher-helmed 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea remake/readaptation and more busy and bloated misadventures with Captain Jack Sparrow and other Pirates Of The Caribbean. Yay?
Oh, and one more little fun fact: oddly enough, Pete Candeland also happened to serve as a key animator on another animated version of The Wind In The Willows in 1995 which happened to feature the voice talents of Michael Palin of Monty Python as Rat.
Just a year after that, Terry Jones, fellow member of Monty Python wrote, directed and starred (as Mr. Toad) in a live-action movie adaptation of the famous children’s tale that also featured two other ex-Pythons, John Cleese and Eric Idle (and another big British funnyman, Steve Coogan) – a movie whose North American home video distribution rights the Walt Disney Company saw fit to purchase and then release on DVD with a funny, fresh new title….Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Coincidence? I think YES.