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Internet

Net protest can't save Mr. Toad

In spite of an active and heartfelt online protest, Disney plans to close the beloved Mr. Toad's Wild Ride attraction at Walt Disney World, Florida.

A Net protest meant to change the hearts and minds of executives at the Walt Disney Company has come up short.

For nearly a year, patrons of the "Save Mr. Toad" Web site waged an online protest to block Disney from closing the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride attraction at Walt Disney World, Florida, after rumors surfaced that it was doomed. The ride, as Disney puts it, lets guests "hop in Mr. Toad's motorcar and drive off in this riotous ride based on Kenneth Grahame's novel The Wind in the Willows."

Disney had not confirmed any plans to close the ride--until now. A Disney World spokesman today said the ride will close on September 8. It likely will be replaced with another one, featuring Winnie the Pooh. It's a "more lucrative advertisement," Mr. Toad fans say with a frown.

These "Save Mr. Toad" devotees have been fighting to keep the ride open since rumors of its closure leaked out last fall. It was an example of using the Net, not flyers or billboards, to quickly and cheaply reach a mass audience.

The Web site has received more than 30,000 "hits" and more than 8,000 Save Toad postcards and 250 T-shirts have been distributed from the site. Support has come from most U.S. states, South America, Asia, and Europe, according to its supporters. Letters were sent to Disney executives, including chief executive Michael Eisner. The group also has held "Toad Ins" at Walt Disney World to protest the closure.

"The end is near," the site now reads. "Mr. Toad will have his last wild ride on Labor Day." It calls Eisner a "rat fink."

But the ride isn't disappearing everywhere. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in Disneyland, California, is set to remain open. "There are no plans currently to close that attraction," a spokesman said.