First there was the book ‘The Wind in the Willows’ in 1908. Then came the Disney animated feature ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad’ in 1949. Next were the Theme Park attractions ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride’ at Disneyland in 1955 and Walt Disney World in 1971. And that brings us to the live-action movie ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride’ in 1996.
But lastly we have this Movie Review of that live-action movie in 2011. That’s now.
‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride’, the movie, isn’t entirely a Musical but does have a few songs peppered throughout. The best is Mr. Toad’s theme song, if you will, sung with great humor during a court scene. And just how did Mr. Toad wind up in court? Let’s start at the beginning…
The movie opens with timid Mole’s underground home being knocked in by Weasels. After enlisting Rat’s help to get to Toad Hall, they find that Mr. Toad has sold the meadow where Mole lives to the Weasels for some ‘ready cash’ to buy, among other things, Motor Cars. We find that Mr. Toad is in some amount of debt because he has crashed seven Motor Cars in total!
It appears that the Weasels want to take advantage of that debt to take over and then blow up Toad Hall to build a Slaughter House to feed the Mincing Plant they have already built on Mole’s meadow. An old family friend named Badger learns of all this and tries to help, but by means I’ll let you learn by watching the movie, Mr. Toad is arrested for stealing yet another Motor Car, crashing it, and calling a Policeman a nincompoop! He is sentenced to 100 years in prison, and the Weasels have won.
Or have they? There is a prison break, a train-napping and subsequent crash, a fight scene, and a really big explosion before everything turns out OK in the end. It seems that Mr. Toad has learned his lesson about responsibility and has sworn off Motor Cars for the rest of his life. Everyone thinks the worst is over, until Mr. Toad takes off in…
I’ll leave that surprise ending for you to discover!
This film is definitely for Disney fans, as non-Disney people would not likely enjoy it. It is cleverly written with good humor, but young ones probably wouldn’t get some of the jokes. They could also find it a bit slow.
On the upside, having almost the entire cast of Monty Python in it (except for the dead one) is a plus; Terry Gilliam couldn’t make it either due to scheduling conflicts. John Gleese has only a few minutes of screen time, but makes the most of it as Mr. Toad’s Defense Lawyer who calls for a guilty sentence even before the Prosecutor has a chance to speak! More fun can be had by watching for some naughty bunnies in the bushes doing what bunnies do throughout the movie!
Another point of interest for Disney fans is the use of a vintage Steam Train in the movie. Filmed in England, the railway sequences were captured along The Bluebell Railway, which is a heritage line running for nine miles along the border between East Sussex and West Sussex, England. The engine used was originally built in 1902, is a Class C engine with a 0-6-0 wheel configuration (you’re welcome train geeks!)
As a huge Disney fan, I would give this movie 3.5 stars out of 5. Theme Park geeks should add an additional half star! For non-Disney types likely a 2 star rating would be more realistic. With youngsters, maybe 3 stars. The film won the Best of the Fest award at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival in 1998 and the WisKid Award at the Wisconsin International Children’s Film Festival in 2000. I recommend this film to any Disney fan!
I bought my copy at WalMart for $3.98 CAN, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.
Lee Beatens has two sides as a Writer/Artist. His writing side is showcased at the Blog called Disleelandia, and his artistic side is showcased at the Blog called The CANADIAN Kingdom. His improbable third side is showcased here.
- Disneyland refurbishment schedule December 2010 (chipandco.com)