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Sue Kruse
Mr. Toad's Enchanted Evening

Can I tell you how much I enjoyed this event at Disneyland? Why, yes, I believe I can. So grab a chair, make yourself comfortable, sit back and relax whilst I tell you the tale of Mr. Toad's Enchanted Evening.

Where to begin, where to begin? At the beginning of course and when I get to the end, I’ll stop.

Arriving at Disneyland in the vicinity of 6:30 PM, I was filled with anticipation and not quite sure what to expect. There had been little advance publicity and all I knew was that there would be food, an auction of a Toad vehicle and the hopes that the Headless Horseman would materialize at some point during the evening.

After descending the tram I made my way to the entrance to see a queue of folks forming to the left of the Disneyland entrance. This must be the place. I found my friends, who were already in line, and joined them in waiting for the line to begin moving. After a short while, the line did indeed begin to move. We showed our picture IDs and were given a packet that contained amongst other things, a price list for the night’s special merchandise and a nifty Mickey hand that would serve as an auction paddle (and also useful for giving a high four and well, it could also serve nicely if one was to need a thumb to hitch a ride. In other words, it’s a small silly thing, but I liked it).

Have you ever walked around Disneyland when a press event is going on and been envious of those who were adorned with some sort of nifty tag hanging about their necks that you knew was the magic key to get them into the cool stuff  you wished you could get into too? Well, of course you have and so have I. So naturally, I was more than a little tickled to get a Mr. Toad tag that was my “magic key” for the evening. Adorned with said tag, which had a picture of the entrance to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride on the front and a schedule of the night’s events on the back, I proceeded to make my way into Disneyland.

First stop, bathrooms. Always a necessity. Whereupon said “magic key” was admired as I washed my hands, “Excuse me, where did you get that?” I explained that it was for a special event. Ooh, cool, I got to be one of “those” people with a tag. Okay, enough gloating about that, on with the story.

We moved on to the first stop of the evening, Carnation Plaza Gardens, where all the merchandise available for purchase was submitted for our approval. It was a little chaotic in that everyone was milling about trying to get a good look at everything, but it was not chaotic enough to be annoying and I don’t see how it could have been improved upon. 

Available for purchase were; Toad Hall Gicleé print-$395.00, a Mr. Toad letterman-style jacket (not unlike the recent Haunted Mansion jacket) with Toad’s crest emblazoned on the back (Toadi Acceleratio Semper Absurda)-$195.00, a watch with the crest-$75.00, a weathervane pin-$14.00, a Mr. Toad as Blue Boy t-shirt-$20.00, a Mr. Toad attraction lithograph-$125.00, and a special event edition of E Ticket magazine-$9.00. Also available were several pieces of original art done by Theresa Miller. 

To make a purchase, one simply had to fill out the form found in the packet given upon entry, hand it to the nearest castmember and then move on to find a seat for the retirement ceremony that was scheduled to take place at 8:30. Purchases would be ready for pickup at the end of the evening. It was quite simple really, no standing in line, no cash registers, hand the form over, you’re done, pick up your stuff later. I liked it.

Purchases selected, it was time to find a seat for the retirement of a Walt Disney Collector’s Club 101 Dalmatian figurine. Tim O’Day of Walt Disney Art Classics came out and began to speak but before he could get too much of his speech delivered, was rudely interrupted by a rather shady looking character who went by the name of Jasper. He was soon joined in his lurking about by another dastardly, but stupid, fellow who answered to the name of Horace. 

If you know your Disney stories, I believe you can guess what was about to happen next. Yes, you do know your stories, don’t you? Ms Cruella DeVil arrived on the scene and began a rant about puppies or some such nonsense. She was rather miffed about something. It seems Jasper and Horace were supposed to be finding puppies for her and were doing a rather botched job of it. In a fit of anger Cruella grabbed what was unfortunately the mold for the Dalmatian figurine and hurled it against the back of the stage. So much for the mold. It was a good thing they were going to retire that particular figurine, no? And that Cruella. Has she got an arm on her or what? Maybe the Angels should have a look. Although I am quite certain she would not be pleased with the uniform, no spots you see. It just wouldn’t work out.

With the retirement ceremony over, Cruella and her henchmen found themselves free to mingle about. I do believe Cruella saw this as the perfect opportunity to nab a few more furs for her collection as she accosted everyone in the crowd wearing anything remotely resembling fur. She admired the leopard purse of a nearby guest but had no luck in persuading her to surrender said purse. Seeing that Cruella was diverted, Jasper and Horace seized the opportunity to do some mingling of their own. First impressions aside (I do believe the words stupid and dastardly have been mentioned), they were really quite personable and told terribly amusing stories. For instance, Horace pointed out to me the lovely flat he rents from a charming local princess you may have heard of. Her name, I believe, is Sleeping Beauty. He pointed out the top window of his room in the nearby castle. Wonderful view, I was told. 

At the toll of nine o’clock,  it was time for the real fun to begin. We headed for the castle. I must say that I have never seen the castle looking more beautiful. It rose up out of the moat in all it’s glory, lit with purple lights with a fog shrouding the edges of the castle and hanging lazily about the moat. It was the perfect setting for the start of the night’s festivities. We made our way through the portcullis to have revealed before our eyes a dazzling display of food and beverage. But before we could partake, we were each given lovely reproduction Victorian masks to wear. I thought the crowd, for the most part, was a bit stuffy, as few chose to wear their masks and either carried them or stuffed them in their packets. I do hope they didn’t throw them away because they were quite nice.

Everyone in my group chose to adorn themselves with the masks. Each one being different, we had to take a moment to admire ourselves and comment on how serendipitous it was that each mask seemed to match the wearer’s personality. We mingled a bit in the courtyard of the castle perusing the scene to see what delights awaited us. Straight ahead we spotted Ms. Cynthia Harriss, herself, greeting each guest. Now, I must take a moment to segue from my tale to tell you, dear reader, how personable I think this woman is. I have had several encounters with her at Disneyland. On each and every occasion I have been warmly greeted. She seems accessible and genuinely interested in what a guest has to say. She chatted with all of us for more than a few minutes, made us feel quite welcome, laughed at our silly jokes, and playfully tried to steal my Nightmare Before Christmas pen. I came away from talking to her with the feeling that she is someone I would actually enjoy knowing and that she very much cares about Disneyland and it’s traditions.

Now, wearing masks and chatting with the woman who runs Disneyland is one thing, but let’s get on to the more important subject of the evening, the food. It was good. Very good. There was something for everyone. Being an extremely picky eater, I was a bit concerned there would be little food I would eat. Let me tell you, that was not the case.  Offered for our approval on beautifully adorned buffet tables were tender and flaky biscuits filled with smoked turkey and cranberry chutney, rosemary breadsticks wrapped with proscuitto, pumpkin ravioli served in hollowed out pumpkins, large sausages wrapped in rolls and heaped with sauerkraut, and last but not least, potato pancakes. To wash all this down assorted ales, wine, soft drinks, and bottled water were served at separate beverage stations. The platters of food were constantly replenished and Castmembers mingled with the crowd offering to dispose of empty plates. 

Unfortunately, there really was no place to sit down and consume all this delectable fare, but not being one to dwell on negativity, I wandered around with plate in hand enjoying the decorations and festivities which included banana tic tac toe and a delightful band of musicians who continued to play throughout the evening. When I tired of wandering, I simply sat on the steps of the drinking fountain near the entrance to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. This served me quite well. I and the rest of my party remained happily here till a serving wench came over and alerted us to the fact that soon storytelling would commence and we should meander over to the carrousel area for best viewing.

Prior to this time, I had been enjoying myself quite immensely, thank you very much, but it was now that the real fun would begin. A handsome gentleman named Brom Bones who was nattily dressed in a cranberry colored waistcoat and coordinated vest, hopped upon a bale a hay, announced to the crowd to gather round and began to spin the tale of The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. He was soon interrupted in his story from someone deep within the crowd. The source of this interruption was dressed in the attire of a humble schoolmaster. As he made his way to the front of the crowd, it quickly became clear the gentleman was none other than Ichabod Crane, himself. Dear Ichabod found the Sleepy Hollow tale a bit too gruesome and scary. He took command of the storytelling and launched into the tale of a lost boy. Not too long into this endearing tale, who should appear but the lost boy himself, Peter Pan.

Peter took over and led us all to his ride for a journey to Never Never Land. While we stood in the queue, we took pleasure in waving goodbye to each traveler as they ascended the London sky off in search of the second star to the right. After a short wait, we too were on our flight with Peter in the sailing ship just in front of us. At every turn, we waved to him and other travelers and I can say with all honesty, never before have I experienced such a joyous and lovely flight to Neverland.  

One delightful anecdote, imparted by Peter, I must convey to you, dear reader. As anyone who has ever ridden a dark ride knows, the black light used in these rides illuminates every bit of dust and makes one look rather untidy. Well, Peter filled us in on what this really is. It is not mere dust, you know. No, no, no. It is, gentle reader, quite simply put (and I have it from the utmost authority), pixie dust. Yes, and being pixie dust, it is the very thing that enables one to fly. So the next time you ride Peter Pan’s Flight, marvel at all the pixie dust you carry around with you.

Now it was time for the next tale to commence, the story of a beautiful young girl, seven kindly little men, and a horrible old apple toting hag. Poor Ichabod, he did so hate it when Brom got to the nasty parts. The dear boy was bit skittish you see, easily scared. Brom certainly didn’t help this as he took particular pleasure in dwelling upon the scary parts. Ichabod was saved however, as  the lovely and charming Snow White soon made her entrance and diverted the crowd to her ride.

You know how after you enjoy a hearty repast, you sometimes feel you need a bit more to satiate your hunger? It’s rather like eating Thanksgiving dinner and then going back for more an hour later. That’s what I am talking about. You’re full, but you need just a little more. Snow and her friends thought of this, of course. Laid out within the queue was an artful display of assorted cheeses and apples, both whole and sliced (naturally, it is Snow White we are talking about). What a delightful thing it was to be standing in line to ride Snow White’s Scary Adventure and snack on cheese and apple slices. Evidently, Brom Bones thought this was a pretty good thing too, as he was seen munching apples and chatting with party guests. We tried to persuade Ichabod to join us on the ride, but he fairly shook with fright as he politely and firmly declined. There was a witch in there, he had heard, and he would have none of that.

Brom Bones, being quite the master storyteller, announced it was time for yet another tale. The story of a gentle woodcarver and a little wooden puppet. Brom, of course, dwelled on the frightening aspects of the story, boys turning into donkeys, a frightful man named Stromboli and a fierce whale. Ichabod, being the gentle creature he is, tried to steer the tale in the direction of the beautiful Blue Fairy and the little cricket named Jiminy. Once again, fate intervened and Ichabod was saved from the scary bits by Pinocchio who was accompanied by Bob Baker, master puppet designer and puppeteer.

At this point we were once again directed to the ride of the respective story’s character. Brom, never one to miss an opportunity to mingle with beautiful ladies, gave everyone equal time. He was the ultimate party host, I must say. And poor dear Ichabod hovered about the outside of the ride declining once again to join us. After much persuasion and the promise that nothing really scary would happen, we finally talked Ichabod into joining us on Pinocchio. We assured him that it was more filled with good than bad and we would alert him to any really scary part so he could divert his eyes. Can I tell you how much fun it was to ride Pinocchio with Ichabod Crane narrating our entire ride? Well, it was the best. What a charming wit this schoolmaster is!

We all survived the adventure quite nicely as Ichabod attested to for our video camera as we exited the ride. We thanked him for joining us as he disappeared into the crowd to greet other guests. At the exit, a photo opportunity with Pinocchio and Bob Baker was set up. Each guest, who so desired, could stand in line and have their picture taken by a Castmember who then placed it in a protective sleeve and handed it to the guest for their scrapbook. One thing I thought was especially nice was that if there was more than one guest in the picture, the Castmembers would take a separate shot so that each person had their own photo to take home. So often at events like this, one photo is all you get and then you have to go to the trouble to have copies made for everyone else in the shot. Being given one’s own personal picture was one of those tiny little details that is so nice.

Still hungry? I can’t imagine that anyone was, but by now a cart had been set up near the exit of Pinocchio bearing candied apples and caramel corn. The apples had been thoughtfully packaged in little paper cup-like wrapping and paper cones were filled with caramel corn. It made it all very portable which was nice as it was fun to walk around looking at the decorations. Whilst everyone was busy with Pinocchio, the Disney folks had been busy setting up the auction over in front of the Carrousel. Rows of chairs were at the ready for bidders. The seats quickly filled and Brom Bones called court into session, “Here ye, Here ye. Will the honorable J. Thaddeus Toad please step forward for the auction of some of his possessions.”

J. Thaddeus Toad declined to appear, so the auction went forward with the appearance of the judge from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, “Guilty! That is all!!!” who served as the auctioneer and the auction began. It was the first auction ever held within the confines of Disneyland park and I do believe they hoped to make a little more money than they did. As auctions go, it wasn’t much of a bidding crowd. The winning bidders all got pretty good deals. First item on the block was the artist’s proof of a Mickey Mouse marionette made by Bob Baker for Mickey’s sixtieth birthday. The original marionettes made from this proof had sold out in a week, the judge told us and were now selling on the secondary market for about $4000.00. The bidding started at $1000.00. Fair warning was soon called and the winning bid of $2250.00 was declared.

Next item up for auction was a set of two of the Walt Disney Classics Collections’ Gepetto’s Toy Bench. The first cast Whitewear piece and the second cast, Top Of Production piece were nicely displayed on a base especially made to hold these two pieces. It is rare for a Whitewear piece to be let go, but what made this even more rare was the fact that these two pieces, both the Whitewear and Top Of Production were being sold together. This has never been done. The Top Of Production piece usually goes to the artist who designed the piece. The bidding commenced at $100 with the gavel going down at $700.00.

A sculpture of Toad by Terri Hardin was next on the block. This particular piece, a one of a kind,  was done on a larger scale than Terri Hardin usually works in. It was a lovely sculpture of Toad standing splendidly dressed in a red jacket. Bidding started at $1000.00 and ended with the winning bid of $3500.00.

Nearly finished now, we came to the next to last piece, a one of a kind, made especially for the Toad event, a copy of the original Toad Topiary. It opened at $100.00 and closed at $600.00.

Now we came to the heart of the matter. The item everyone had been waiting for. My friends and I tried to figure out if we could pool our money and win this particular item as who would not like to be the proud owner of a Mr. Toad attraction vehicle? Alas, we were not to be the owners of this piece. Which, I guess, is not a bad thing, as where would one put such a thing and how would six friends decide who gets custody of it and for how long? This way there will be no bickering and we can remain friends. The vehicle in question was Toad car number 11. It was in operation on opening day in 1955 at Disneyland and had been fully and beautifully restored. I believe the Disney folks expected a little more out of this as they started the bidding with $20,000.00 When no bid was forthcoming, the opening bid was dropped to $5000. And the gavel came down at $10,000.00. Seems like a bargain to me, really. It’s not often that something like this comes on the market. But then, how many of us have a spare $10,000.00 laying around?

Brom Bones and Ichabod Crane stepped back in to take control of things and directed us to go ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Ichabod began to sing, “Yes, let’s all go to Hel----lo operator, give me number nine…”, which I just loved, since he alluded to Hell. I have always taken delight in the fact that I can go to Hell in Disneyland. It is my tradition after the stroke of midnight to always go straight to Hell. I love Mr. Toad for this. You know, if you start the New Year in Hell, you’ve got no where to go but up.

We quickly took our places in line, but just as quickly realized we were not in line for the ride, but for, yes! more food. While the auction had been taking place, the Disney folks sprinkled pixie dust and a dessert table had magically appeared near the entrance to Mr. Toad. The line was a bit long, we patiently waited. Brom came along munching (yet again—this boy did not go hungry!) a toad shaped cookie. “Ahhhhh,” we squealed with delight, “Brom! We want a toad cookie. Bring us a toad cookie!”

“You want a cookie?”

“Yes! Please!!!”

“Alright, stay there. I’ll be right back.”

In a few minutes, Brom Bones reappeared with a pile of toad cookies and happily placed them in our hands. Oh, and they were just divine, too. Yummy shortbread cookies in the shape of a toad with green frosting. Heaven, our cake (so to speak) and a hunky man to bring it to us, too. Sigh.

When we finally reached the dessert table, it was nirvana to a sweet junkie like me. I am ashamed to admit that I was rather like Heidi and her pockets full of rolls as I walked away from the table with a plate of goodies filled so high it surely would rival the Matterhorn in height. Why, there was just too much to choose from, so take one of everything. More is rarely enough. There was cake, apple strudel, meringue toadstools, toad and toadstool shortbread cookies, and Godiva-like confections. No, I did not eat it all. At least not then and there. I took some of it home and enjoyed it later. And, yes, I will be dieting for the better part of week as a consequence. I want to maintain that size 6, don’t you know.

On to Hell, better known as Mr. Toad’s Wild ride. What fun it was to ride this ride in this particular space and time. All the planets must have been aligned. At several points throughout the ride, Castmembers were strategically placed throughout the ride. The London Bobby popped out to admonish you to “SLOW DOWN!”. Another was standing in the court room. Two demons were awaiting us in Hell. It was grand. It was also sad because this meant the evening was about to draw to a close.

We all gathered near the carrousel and Brom began to finish the tale of the Legend Of Sleepy Hollow he had started earlier in the evening. Ichabod, perhaps sensing a feeling of foreboding, began to quiver. Brom directed Ichabod to mount a steed on the carrousel. The air grew still and the wind began to whip up as Brom set the mood, “It was a night not unlike tonight. The clouds blocked the light of moon from shining on the schoolmaster’s path. The creatures filled the air with their eerie sounds.”

“Whooo, whoooo.”

A crash of thunder rang out and the carrousel began to slowly spin as foreboding music emanated from the twirling steeds. The air was filled with electricity and the anticipation that something would soon happen.

Brom continued now with the telling of the tale at frenzied pace, “The schoolmaster rode his steed as fast as he could, trying to reach the bridge, where he knew he would be safe.”  The thunder struck again and off to the side of the carrousel a huge dark figure on a black steed, laughed maniacally and sped off. As the eerie music wailed on, the carrousel slowly spun round to reveal Ichabod’s horse with only Ichabod’s hat left dangling from the horse’s ear. “The next morning Ichabod’s horse was found. Close beside it was a shattered pumpkin, but there was no trace of the schoolmaster.” 

What an ending to a terrific evening! Brom then thanked one and all for attending and directed us to follow him over the drawbridge to safety. Doing as he asked, I must confess that I was a little disappointed not to find the Headless Horseman waiting for us when we reached the other side of the drawbridge and stepped onto Main Street. My companions voiced the same disappointment. All in all though, we agreed that we had a first rate time and thoroughly enjoyed the entire evening.

We sauntered down Main Street to Disneyana where everyone’s purchases were ready for pickup. They had it well organized alphabetically. It ran smoothly and took very little time for me to reach the front of my line. I was laughing at Brom Bones (and missing the antics of dear Ichabod just a little), who was amusing everyone by wearing an Indian mask. We encouraged him to pose near the cigar store Indian and when he kindly obliged, we sent our friend Steve over with the camera to take a few pictures. 

All seemed calm and going well, when all of the sudden a loud, and I do mean loud, crash of thunder made me jump half a foot. Someone started to laugh, a menacing, maniacal laugh. As soon as I recovered from the shock of the noise of the thunder, I directed my attention toward the laughter to see the Headless Horseman and his great black steed galloping toward Main Street. He paused and raised high in his hand a huge glowing pumpkin. Laughing wildly again, he swung his arm back and hurled the pumpkin toward the hushed crowd. The pumpkin came flying through the air and shattered in bits all over the end of Main Street. As fast as he had appeared, the Headless Horseman vanished into the night and all that was left was the remains of the pumpkin.

For me, this was icing on an already delicious cake. I went home, pockets stuffed with sweets, completely satisfied and happy that I had spent the $100.00 to attend this event. Although there were minor glitches,  such as  no where to sit while eating and an auctioneer who had a little trouble running the auction because his audience was not lit well enough for him to see, I would rate this event with two thumbs up, an A+ all the way and would not hesitate te to attend something like this again. 

Oh yes, it didn’t hurt that like any good host at a party, they presented us with goodie bag of treats as we left the park.. It was filled with Dalmatian memorabilia and a Toad poster. A nice touch!

 

 

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