Deadline is reporting that Disney, always on the look out for a synergistic property that uses cross promotion to advance sales in multiple platforms, is planning an adaptation of the beloved theme park attraction Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. The ride, which currently resides in Fantasyland in Disneyland (the Walt Disney World counterpart was sadly shuttered in 1998 and replaced by a cutesy Winnie the Pooh ride), utilizes characters from Disney’s 1949 adaptation of Kenneth Grahame‘s fantastical “The Wind in the Willows,” a children’s novel about animals that wear pants and speak with English accents. “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” is currently looking for writers to adapt the property.
Disney has tasked Pete Candeland (how has he not just changed his last name to Candyland?) to direct. Candeland, a British commercial director known for creating, under parent company Passion Pictures, many of the “visual components” to the Gorillaz musical project, which included music videos and on-stage live elements. He also directed the intro to the Beatles Rock Band videogame, which was far more stirring than the game himself. Disney sees this as a raucous, big budget live action/animation hybrid, so Candeland is perfectly suited for the project. (Let us not forget that the end of the ride has Mr. Toad crash his out-of-control buggie and get sent to hell.)
“Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” has already been adapted once before… sort of. The surviving members of Monty Python (besides Terry Gilliam, who was probably off grumbling somewhere), along with people like Stephen Fry and Steve Coogan, got together in the mid-1990s to adapt the original “Wind in the Willows” novels. It was a pretty good little movie but it faced some seemingly insurmountable distribution problems, both in the U.K. and in America, and the film was basically banished to home video, where Disney decided to dub it “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” in a desperate bid for cross-promotional oomph (even though the ride closed in Florida less than a year later).
Add “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” to the list of potential theme park properties Disney is mining for the big screen. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise is going strong, with the last installment (‘On Stranger Tides‘) bringing in over $1 billion worldwide. (Expect an announcement for a fifth film as early as this year’s D23 fan convention.) Noted Disney freak Guillermo del Toro is currently developing a “Haunted Mansion” feature that we suspect he’ll direct at some point (probably after “Beauty and the Beast“), hopefully replacing all the horrendous memories of the 2003 Eddie Murphy misfire. And David Fincher‘s upcoming 3D “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” redo shares a connection with an attraction of the same name (itself inspired by Disney’s original 1954 feature), a ride that recently recieved a “Finding Nemo” overlay in California (in Florida it’s been completely removed).
Hopefully “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” will be more “Pirates of the Caribbean” and less “The Country Bears,” although we’d like to take this time to give a shout out to Brian De Palma‘s “Mission to Mars,” which was a quasi-adaptation of the Tomorrowland attraction of the same name (that in turn helped inspire EPCOT Center’s Mission: Space ride – you know, the one that makes everyone vomit). It’s an underrated space odyssey, far stranger than it has any right to be, and if that alien didn’t look like a Chihuly chandelier with a face, it might have gone down as something of a speculative sci-fi classic.
There isn’t a release date for “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” ride, even at this incredibly speculative stage, although we’d put good money on spring of 2015 (in the pivotal “Alice in Wonderland“/”John Carter“/”Oz: The Great and Powerful” slot), if they can get a good script together soon enough, that is.