On Allen's fourth birthday in March, we took him to Disneyland.  This was his third trip, and we're still adding new rides each time we go, figuring out what he and Toshi like the most,  and there are rides we still haven't been on.  This past time was their first experience with Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and it was a big hit with them.

They don't know the film "Wind In The Willows" at all, though, and I've noticed that as a big part of the Disneyland experience for kids.  They don't actually know many of the films that inspired the various attractions, but they enjoy the rides anyway.  As my friend who joined us at the park pointed out, it's surprising they haven't taken Mr. Toad's Wild Ride out or changed it, since the ride quite literally ends with you going to Hell.

When Disney says that they're planning to develop a film based on the ride, though, I must admit I'm a little confused.  Does that mean they're going to do a new adaptation of "Wind In The Willows" using these same character designs?  Or are they going to throw out the story completely, take these characters, and build something totally different?  That's kind of a weird idea, considering the ride was adapted from a film that was adapted from a book.  It's like Disney is playing a pop culture game of telephone, and getting further from the original idea each time out.

I am intrigued by Disney's choice of director.  Pete Candeland is well-known for commercials and music videos that he's directed, and he's done some iconic work.  My kids are fans, although they don't know him by name.  What they do know (and love) is the opening animated sequence from "The Beatles: Rock Band"…


Beatles Rockband - Opening Cinematic from Pete Candeland on Vimeo.


… and the animated opening for "Rock Band 2." 


Rockband 2 - Cinematic from Pete Candeland on Vimeo.


I'm a fan of his work with Gorillaz.  He seems equally at ease with conventional 2D animation, 3D CGI, live-action, and whatever else it takes to capture an image.  Check out this video for "Melancholy Hill," for example…




Gorillaz - Melancholy Hill from Pete Candeland on Vimeo.


… or this striking ad for Jack Daniels Honey…


Jack Daniels - Honey from Pete Candeland on Vimeo.


… or this live event featuring Gorillaz and Madonna, a fascinating mix of media that had to work for viewers at home as well as live in the theater…


Gorrilaz Grammy Awards performance from Pete Candeland on Vimeo.


But what I haven't seen reported today is that this is a homecoming for Candeland.  He actually started with Disney as part of their Australian animation studio, where he worked on "The Return of Jafar" and the "Aladdin" TV series.  He moved on to other animated projects like "Balto," "All Dogs Go To Heaven 2," and, in an interesting bit of synchronicity, a 1995 film version of "Wind In The Willows."  That version featured Michael Palin as the voice of Rat, and in an even stranger coincidence, a year later, there was a live-action version of "Wind In The Willows" made by Palin's fellow ex-Python Terry Jones, starring Jones, Eric Idle, and John Cleese, and that version got picked up Disney for release on DVD in the United States.  The title when they released it here?  "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride."  Candeland's last encounter with Disney was in 1997, when he was the animation director on "Beauty And The Beast: The Enchanted Christmas."

Obviously Disney has "Pirates Of The Caribbean" in the front of their mind when they put something like this into development, and that's certainly the best case scenario for them.  Right now, Jon Favreau is working to develop "Magic Kingdom," which sounds like a "Night At The Museum" style film set in the Orlando park.  That's overtly tied to the park itself.  I guess we'll see, if this one ever makes it through development, just how much it's based on the ride.

One thing's for sure, though.  Disney loves synergy.