Entrance Plaza

Prologue - "The Lost Classics"

All artistic endeavors are in some way, large or small, a product of the times in which they are produced. In addition, we define ourselves by the art that we absorb, and in most cases the experiences we have as children create the longest-lasting impacts on the our means of expression, our outlook on life, and the legacies that we leave to our children. From the father that watches Star Wars for first time in his son’s eyes to the daughter who is told the story of Cinderella and knows that her mother believes in rising above ones circumstances, we all have experiences we want to relive again and eventually share with our children.

Multiple generations have now grown-up with the art of Imagineering, and in many ways, have attractions that identify their childhood experiences of coming to Disneyland and then Walt Disney World. Children of the 1950s often think of Peter Pan’s Flight or the Jungle Cruise as their most fond memories. The 1960s contain most of the landmark attractions that we today regard as masterpieces from the Enchanted Tiki Room to Pirates of the Caribbean, from the Carousel of Progress to the Haunted Mansion, this generation has seemingly no end to the praise and recognition it is given. The 1970s gave us the Country Bears and Space Mountain. The 1980s saw an explosion of activity, most of this was focused on the characteristically optimistic attractions of EPCOT Center. World of Motion, the Journey into Imagination, Spaceship Earth, and finally Horizons were all attractions the epitomized the cultural mindset of the age: with everything we know and everything we’re doing, Nothing Is Impossible. If We Can Dream It We can Do It!

Unlike the generations that preceded it, children of the 80’s have no unabashedly positive future worlds to visit today. The visions that shaped our perception of what the future could be, have been changed, ripped-out, covered-up or demolished. These are the “Lost Classics”. A once bright white-hot revelation of the future has dimmed to gray. But there is hope for the Future; the signs are everywhere, in film, merchandising, in architecture, color, and tone EPCOT Center is slowly returning. The classical look of the “Center” is gaining popularity all the time. As current attractions go out of favor, the Imagineers will look to the past to recreate the future. Although, nothing is ever as it was, what was can always return in new and exciting ways.

To the generation that grew-up with thinking it’s fun to be free.
And the children who chose their own flight back to the Futureport.


To those who believe true global communication is the key to understanding.
And especially to everyone who fell in love with an imaginative baby dragon and his creator
The E82 Historical Expositions Series is greatly dedicated. 


GATHER, STORE, RE-COMBINE A History of Imagination (Part 1)


When you’re a creative entity like WED Enterprises, (now Walt Disney Imagineering), your instantly described as one the most imaginative organizations on the planet. The Walt Disney coined word “Imagineer” has Imagination in it! So to begin a history of an attraction called “Journey into Imagination” one feels like the man painting a picture of a man painting a picture. The history behind this expansive pavilion is, in many ways, describing the process for which the attraction created. A dramatization of imagination for imagination’s sake. (If you’re getting dizzy from all these circular sentences, so am I. Before we both get sick from this process of infinite regression I should stop somewhere and start our story.)
Tony Baxter, fresh-off of his first thrill attraction, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, quickly began exploring several new concepts. One such concept would eventually become the most successful “unused” project in the history of Walt Disney Imagineering. Discovery Bay was described (by Tony himself) as “a once only place in time.” Situated on the northern-most banks of the Rivers of America it was to be the kind of place in which Mark Twain, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells would cross-paths, and probably even call home, Discovery Bay would contain several attractions themed to technological flights of fantasy of the 19th century. The list of attractions contained in the new land were, a flight simulator on the Hyperion airship from Island of the Top of the World, an underwater restaurant where one could dine in the Nautilus while Captain Nemo plays his pipe organ, an elaborate- and thrilling – Spark Gap Electric Loop Coaster, and a carousel theater audio-animatronics tour de force “Gallery of Illusions” in which an eccentric professor shows off his latest discoveries and inventions. Unfortunately, the film Island on Top of the World, which had served as the inspiration for the land’s centerpiece attraction, the Hyperion flight simulator, “tanked” at the box office. This coupled with the extravagant plans and budget projected for this new land, all but conspired to bring about the downfall of this radical new concept. But truly great ideas never die at Imagineering, and Discovery Bay would resurface time and time again in new and unexpected ways. 

A Successful Failure

Much of Discovery Bay’s “success” is attributed to the many ways it was recycled over the next two decades. The failure of this new land eventually “sparked” into the Coral Reef Restaurant at Epcot, the entirely new concept for then EuroDisney’s Tomorrowland renamed Discoveryland, and certain elements certainly would apply to the design of Port Discovery for Tokyo DisneySea.

After working on a rejected approach for The Land Pavilion at EPCOT Center, Tony quickly turned his attentions to the Kodak pavilion next door. Kodak had only one request for their Future World exhibition, “They wanted something that would be very imaginative.” So we said: “How about doing a pavilion on imagination,” Tony recalls. Beginning to develop the ideas of such a vague notion as imagination was no easy task.
“It was a fun time, and a real challenge, because we had to figure out what Imagination is. It took us six months to come up with a simple thing: “You gather, you store, and you re-combine.” […] Whether you are a writer, or a scientist, or an artist, or a teacher, or someone making a cake, it is the same thing: “gather, store, and re-combine.”
The visual metaphor Tony used to convey this principle to the audience was an inspired invention known (unofficially) as a Dreamcatcher. “Essentially, the Dreamcatcher is a giant vacuum cleaner floating through space” said Steve Kirk, art director for Journey into Imagination. The Dreamcatcher flies through space collecting sparks and storing them in its idea bag, and some of those sparks are re-combined to create something new, in the case of our story; a literal figment of imagination.

After working on a rejected approach for The Land Pavilion at EPCOT Center, Tony quickly turned his attentions to the Kodak pavilion next door. Kodak had only one request for their Future World exhibition, “They wanted something that would be very imaginative.” So we said: “How about doing a pavilion on imagination,” Tony recalls. Beginning to develop the ideas of such a vague notion as imagination was no easy task.
“It was a fun time, and a real challenge, because we had to figure out what Imagination is. It took us six months to come up with a simple thing: “You gather, you store, and you re-combine.” […] Whether you are a writer, or a scientist, or an artist, or a teacher, or someone making a cake, it is the same thing: “gather, store, and re-combine.”
The visual metaphor Tony used to convey this principle to the audience was an inspired invention known (unofficially) as a Dreamcatcher. “Essentially, the Dreamcatcher is a giant vacuum cleaner floating through space” said Steve Kirk, art director for Journey into Imagination. The Dreamcatcher flies through space collecting sparks and storing them in its idea bag, and some of those sparks are re-combined to create something new, in the case of our story; a literal figment of imagination. 

In order to introduce Dreamfinder, Figment, and the Dreamcatcher, Tony and his team developed the use of a turntable in which the vehicles would lock into one of five identical scenes, and then unlock (like the chains in a cogwheel) to go around the rest of ride positioned around the turntable.

This “stationary” scene was a master stroke of genius that has not been repeated to this day. What is even more impressive is that this level of sophistication was achieved by a relative novice. Tony Baxter had only one completed project, Big Thunder Mountain, before Imagination and this fact is a testament to the genius of his team, and the engineers involved with this project. The rest of the Ride featured an exploration into the more creative endeavors of imagination: the [Visual] Arts, Literature, Performing Arts, Science and Technology, and finally Image Technology.

A Turntable of Controversy

Over the years many rumors have surfaced in regards to Imagination’s turntable. It is this historian’s educated opinion that most if not all of these are completely fabricated. One such rumor is that the reason for its removal was due to its in-operation on a daily basis. The original Journey into Imagination ran successfully for a period of 15 years (from 1983-1998). One wild rumor speculates that the turntable was slowly screwing itself into the ground. This would require a large amount of industrial mining equipment to be installed on the bottom of the turntable. In addition, the grinding would have cause major damage to the concrete foundations that could not be corrected in the amount of time taken for the conversion between the original and second versions of the ride.

The Beginnings of Dreamfinder

As part of the original plans for Discovery Bay the “Gallery of Illusions” was to be hosted by inventor/discoverer Professor Marvel, a “Santa Claus-type, who is wise and older and knows all great things-a great thinker” as Tony described. In one pivotal scene, the professor demonstrates his domestication of dragons. Toward the end, he’s seen holding a newborn green baby dragon. This image would later serve as the inspiration for the Professor’s sidekick.

The Birth of Figment

“I was watching Magnum PI […] on TV. He was in the garden and the butler, Higgins, had all these plants and they were all uprooted. It was a mess. Magnum had been hiding a goat out there and the goat had eaten the plants. Higgins said, ‘Magnum! Magnum! Come out here! Look at this! Something has been eating all the plants in the garden.’ And Magnum says, ‘Oh, it’s just a figment of your imagination.’ And Higgins said, ‘Figments don’t eat grass!’
I thought, ‘There is this name, the word ‘figment’ that in English means a sprightly little character. But no one has ever visualized it, no one had ever drawn what a figment is. So, here is a great word that already has a great meaning to people, but no one has ever seen what one looks like.’ So we had the name that was just waiting for us to design the shape for it.” – Tony Baxter
And thus, Figment was born, this slightly crazy, child-like baby dragon with a one-second attention span was first illustrated by Andy Gaskill, and the rest is history. 

The pavilion itself started its design phase a full year later than its Future World Neighbors. However, it was still slated to be one of the opening day pavilions of the park. While the Pavilion opened, with the rest of the park on October 1st, 1982, (ok, only the Image Works was open and five days later Magic Journeys) the centerpiece attraction was “ready to go, everything was running and they made the call that the show was not perfected enough to guarantee the reliability they wanted,” Baxter said. However, considering that EPCOT Center’s opening day was (in this writer’s opinion) worst than Disneyland’s “Black Sunday,” Imagination was probably just as ready on opening day as the rest of the park. 1 Conversely, considering the unreliability of all the attractions during those first few months upper management was probably wary to add more fuel to the fire that was opening day.
With the extra time, Journey into Imagination opened on March 5th 1983. Although not without its’ own set of unique problems, most operational issues stemmed from the loading and unloading belts. Loading was performed on a stylistically beautiful but problematic curved belt. Unloading was difficult at best. Due to irregular intervals, the vehicles and the belt could not synchronize properly. Eventually, Unload was performed without a moving belt.
From the first day it opened, the Journey into Imagination was one of the most popular attractions in the park. Excluding the morning rush at Spaceship Earth, Imagination had the longest wait time of any attraction in the park. Forty-Five minute wait times were common, and the extended queue was always kept up. Ironically, the popularity of the pavilion was entirely unexpected or planned for. As David Koenig put it…
“Disney executives had always acted embarrassed about having an EPCOT pavilion devoted to a lightweight, non-scientific topic like imagination and starring a cartoon dragon. So, in publicity for Future World, Disney had always touted pavilions on ‘energy, transportation, communication and other topics for tomorrow.’ Imagination, the park’s surprise sensation, was always ‘other topics’.”

Described by Richard R. Beard

Scene 1 - Flight into Imagination

We get off to a flying start as we speed through the universe; that is what we think is happening. In our seven-passenger vehicle, we are actually moving in a large circle, with our Audio –Animatronics host Dreamfinder flying along with us in his own dream-gathering vehicle. This thirty-two-foot contraption is a wacky conglomeration of a bagpipe and blimp, furnished with oar, propellers, pulleys, and dials, a Rube Goldberg type of contrivance.
Drifting past Dreamfinder’s vehicle as it flies through the universe are animated “glows” representing ideas and inspirations. As our idea-gathering expedition begins, these glows are sucked up into the machine, which sends out puffs of smoke, jiggles, bangs, and bleeps as it stores the precious stuff of dreams. We are collecting these materials to take home where they will be recombined to make new things- inventions, stories, songs, pictures, all the cunning contrivances of the imagination.
Our host Dreamfinder, a professorial type who helpfully explains and interprets what happens on the ride, seems pleased to see us and welcomes us (“So glad you could come [along]”), then turns to more pressing matters.
Notes are gathered from the air; sounds, shapes, and colors are sucked in. A combination of “horns of a steer, royal purple pigment, and a dash of childish delight” conjures up Figment, a little dragon. Figment is a spontaneous creature, full of energy and childlike wonderment. He is an ever-receptive sponge, soaking up everything he sees around him. Having never been told by an adult that he is incapable of doing this or that, he thinks he can do anything-and he is not far wrong.
“Can I image, too?” ask Figment. Can h! A passing rainbow is vacuumed up, and is transformed into a paint set for the dragon.
Ghostly shivers, goblins, and witches are ingest, to feed the darker side of the imagination, and then, in turn, the symbols of science and mathematics-prisms and gyroscopes, numbers and letters-until at last a bell signals that the idea bag is full, at least for this excursion. However, Dreamfinder assures Figment that we’ll never run out (“One new idea always leads to another”) as we cruise into the Dreamport.   

Scene 2 – The Dreamport

In a vast, busy storeroom-representing the brain-the booty of our expedition is being unloaded into appropriate containers: jar, drawer, cartons, a boiler-cumowashing machine called the Imaginometer.The storeroom may strike us as being disordered-in the science are, the helium holder is floating away, and lead burst the bottom of a metal container-but there is an appropriate place for everything. Deep thoughts, for instance are stored in a diving bell. Lightning bolts crackle in the nature section, while the “winter days” crate chatters with cold and morning mist wafts from an atomizer. Sound effects are stored in a filing cabinet whose drawers pop open to emit an assortment of uncanny creaks, chirps, groans, and buzzes. Theatrical material is stored in a big trunk equipped with applauding hands; musical notes hum and twitter in an oversized birdcage. From the Dreamport, our ride takes us into a series of spaces where the elements that were gathered and stored are recombined, each area featuring a new twist on a familiar theme-the very essence of imagination.

Scene 3 – The Arts

In the realm of “Art,” Dreamfinder is painting and opalescent mural with a optic-fiber brush; farther on, a fantastically shaped, pure white forest-garden takes color under shifting caressing lights, while mirrors reflect and distort the other-worldly mindscape.  

Scene 4 – Literature

In “Literature,” the Dreamfinder plays the console of a giant typewriter from whose volcanic top letters explode, the drift down as words into a book. Words like “tumble” of course tumble, and trembling words tremble, and once in a while a word like “genie” or “fairy” escapes and floats off to wherever genies and fairies go.

Scene 5 – The Performing Arts

On one side of the “Performing Arts” are the accouterments of stagecraft: we hear applause, laughter, music and see the glare of klieg lights. On the other side are backstage tools: costumes, scenery, [and] makeup. Figment is still trying on costumes as the two side merge to perform what might be described as the dance of the laser beams, which flows from ballet to cancan, from precision high kicks to acrobatics. We crash through the star-studded dressing room doors and, in the twinkling of an eye, the stars turn to mathematical symbols in a clever bridge to the last area, that of “Science.”

Scene 6 – Science and Technology

In the center of a rotunda Dreamfinder stands at a console, manipulating and bank of screens designed to show how the arts of science and technology have given us the tools to explore realms we cannot see with the naked eye. Covering biology, botany, minerals, space, and man, Dreamfinder’s many-splendored machine has the ability to see far (the heavens) and near (microscopic organisms), to speed up (the growing process of a plant) or slow down (the movement of human muscles). Figment, eternal imp, get caught in the machinery and is stretched, compressed, slowed down, and speeded up, recovering just in time to tar in the ride’s grand finale, arrived at down a spiral of motion-picture film. 

Scene 7 – Image Technology

In a gentle reminder that with a little imagination we can all be what we want to be, Figment poised in the center on a film reel, does his last little dance. Around him, filmed images of our indefatigable little guide, variously garbed as an astronaut, and athlete, and actor, a scientist, join him in synchronous song and dance.  

The Musicology of Imagination  

In the case of “One Little Spark” and the musical themes created for the ride, this is probably the first used of multiple compositions within an Omnimover style attraction. Unlike many of its predecessor attractions (it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Haunted Mansion) the Journey Into Imagination does not used the “Small World Technique” (my term) of one minute looping of a singular theme in multiple variations. Instead, it employs the first ever use of an innovative technique of transitional sound effects from scene to scene. In Journey, it’s important to note where music is NOT. There is no melodic score in the Dreamport, neither in most of Literature, nor in Image Technology. The result of this ever changing soundscape, is that the attraction’s narrative is allowed to function on its own terms, instead of anchoring it to its ride system. This in-turn makes the Journey (musically speaking) a much more interesting and cinematic attraction. It also enables the attraction to reach a musical climax like few Omnimovers have achieved before or since.   

Journey into Imagination - Ultimate Tribute from Martins Videos on Vimeo.

The Magic Eye Theater

3-D film is nothing new to Walt Disney Productions. In 1953, long before Disneyland opened, Disney had produced the first animated films in 3D, “Adventures in Music: Melody” and “Working for Peanuts”. Both films would later be shown at the Mickey Mouse Club theater as part of “The Mouseketeer 3D Jamboree” opened in 1956. Unfortunately, this is where films in the third dimension would stop until 25 years later with opening of EPCOT Center.
Magic Journeys, is arguably the most usual and certainly one of the most forgotten films in theme park history. In fact, very little is known about the film today. Only the title song has survived in the public consciousness. Directed by Oscar® winning director Murray Lerner, the film is an exploration of the free-flowing imaginations of children. The following is the longest description/review of the film (by Karen Cure, 1983) that has survived…

“Beginning with a handful of children racing across a meadow and gazing at clouds, it also brings a frothy pink-and-white cluster of spring blossoms right to the tip of your nose. The sense of proximity is so realistic that more than one visitor reaches out to touch them. Dandelion spores float through the air, turn into stars, and are then transformed into a sun whose rays become water right before your eyes. In another scene, a child’s kite changes from bird to fish to a whole school of fish, to a flock of birds, bird wings, the flying horse Pegasus, a real horse, and then a spirited steed on a merry-go-round. The brass harness ring of the carousel horse floats out to the audience, tempting all to try and catch it. Then the ring itself turns into a moon, then bats, then frightening witches and their masks and finally the Sphinx.”

Noted “bloggist” and Imagineering Analysis, FoxxFur in an article describing the adult nature of the fairytales depicted in Fantasyland (Magic Journeys’ final venue) had this humorous remark…

“Accounting for Snow White, Mr. Toad’s pin up girl and hellish ending, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’s terrifying giant squid, and nudity on Peter Pan mermaids, Fantasyland 1971 offered the highest number of attractions inappropriate for children than anywhere else on property! (If you want to go for the hat trick you have to jump ahead to 1987 when Magic Journeys played in the Mickey Mouse Revue theatre where the number of inappropriate attractions jumps from four to five because, as we know, Magic Journeys isn’t appropriate for anyone.)”

Magic Journeys 2D from Martins Videos on Vimeo.

Despite its treatment of the subject matter, Magic Journeys demonstrates several technological advances in cinematography. The film’s opening and closing titles were the first to used computer generated images in 3-D. In order to receive greater clarity of the image, the film was also shot at a high 36 frames-a-second (rather than the standard 24). Most importantly, the film was the first to use the Walt Disney Productions’ “Disney 3-D Camera Rig.”   

Disney 3D 101

The key to three dimensional (3D) photography is the successful approximation of human stereoscopic sight. In order to correctly accomplish this, two cameras must be set 21/2 inches apart. In addition, when projected the images must be correctly separated so that only the right eye will see the right image and only the left eye will see the left image. The problem with two cameras shooting so close to each other is that the housing and mechanics of each individual camera are much too wide to shoot 21/2 inches apart. Ever since the 1950’s, camera engineers have been plagued with this very problem. During that time, 3D rigs were devised that were both elaborate and clumsy. All of them focused on not only approximating human sight, but the appearance of the eyes as well. All rigs featured cameras joined together (in some fashion) on a horizontal plane. Not only was this impractically complex, but made shooting any 3D film next to impossible.
In 1980 while the EPCOT Center project was well under way, Steve Hines of Kodak was lent-out to WED Enterprises R&D to design a new method of shooting 3D films. Steve’s requirements for the new rig were as follows…

1. To have a rigid, light-weight structure
2. To support one stationary 65mm Mitchell camera and one which would be movable.
3. To have the use of wide-angle lenses of less 50mm focal length.
4. To mount the beamsplitter rigidly so it would not twist or vibrate during shots.
5. To be able to easily adjust the convergence of the cameras’ axes from infinity to 4 feet.
6. To provide easy manual or motorized adjustment of the interocular spacing without altering the setting of the convergence.
7. To provide graduated readouts of the convergence and interocular settings measured from the position of the nodal points of the cameras’ lenses.
8. To human factor the design of the rig for easy access to all control and readouts, and radius all edges for comfortable handling by the camera crew.
9. To provide fast and east attachment and removal of both cameras to the rig and of the rig to the fluid head.

“It was an ingenious concept, a triangular framework with one camera pointing straight down into a 45 degree partially silvered mirror and the other shooting horizontally out through the mirror. This “vertical” arrangement gave a narrow frontal area and could use wider angle lenses than those possible with conventional horizontal two camera systems,” said Lerner.
The Disney 3D camera rig was an industry standard until after the turn of the century and the development of RealD first used in 2005 with the release of Chicken Little. In addition, some current 3D Camera’s still use the Disney Rig’s basic design.

The Musical Journey

Music is so important to just about everything, but its importance was never more so appreciated and understood by a man that ironically possessed no musical ability; Walt Disney. In Walt’s time, everything began with a song. It sets the mood and tone of any dramatic work and it can also help tell a story. (A Disney invention.) One of the reasons why Journey Into Imagination has such a hold on the its audience a decade after its closing, is the memorable music of Richard and Robert Sherman, better known as “The Sherman Brothers.” Whether it is the ubiquitously exuberant synthetic tones of “One Little Spark”, or the playfully melodic “Makin’ Memories”, to the beautifully mysterious and thought-provoking “Magic Journeys,” each song perfectly described the feeling of each attraction long after the attractions cease to exist. The creation of these three songs was described in the Brothers book “Walt’s Time – from before and Beyond”…

Our biggest creative challenge at Epcot took us on a Journey Into Imagination – the pavilion that celebrates dreams, ideas, creativity and of course, the imagination. By the time we were done, we had created three different theme songs for the ride and its accompanying shows.
“One Little Spark” is the main them performed by the pavilion’s hosts Figment and Dreamfinder. These two delightful characters are on a never-ending quest, searching the universe of the imagination for new thoughts and ideas to bring back to their “Dreamport.”
We were also asked to write a poetic song that would accompany and enhance their state-of-the-art 3-D film. We came up with the title Magic Journeys, descriptive of the boundless imagination of the human mind.
Fresh from his Academy Award winning documentary From Mao to Mozart, filmmaker Murray Lerner was assigned by [WED] to create the film. During Murray’s stay in Los Angeles, Disney put him and his family up at the Beverly Hills Hotel, just three houses away from Bob, and before long their kids became best friends.
“Magic Journeys” turned out to be one of the most imaginative songs we ever wrote – celebrating the idea of everyday sights and sounds with an almost mystic wonderment.
To create the feel of three dimensions musically, we wrote a theme for the lyric and an ever-weaving secondary them to be played simultaneously with it. Both themes would glide on a rather complex ever-changing harmonic bass line known as a “circle of 5ths.” But maybe that’s getting a little too technical…
We loved Magic Journeys, because its state-of-the–art technology was used to make the audience appreciate what might be considered a “mundane wonder” – dimensional sight. As an interesting footnote to history, the film marked the very first use of 3-D computer imaging, in a striking title sequence that in itself cost nearly half a million dollars!
The film giant Kodak, who sponsored the Imagination pavilion, wanted a song to entertain the guest as they waited to enter the Magic Eye Theater where Magic Journeys played. Kodak’s business is all about making memoires. And with that thought in place, our song was on its way.
“Makin’ Memories”…accompanied a slide show featuring images that ranged from the earliest black and white snapshots to the latest innovations in color photography.
Basically, our song was a subliminal commercial pitch for Kodak – no doubt the “softest sell” in the history of singing commercials!

On a personal note, I really can’t express just how the song Magic Journeys makes me feel. It’s beautiful, haunting, inspiring and so much more. What I can say is while Walt had “Feed the Birds,” Marty Skylar’s favorite Sherman Brothers tune of all time is Magic Journeys … and its mine too!


IN OUR NEXT INSTALLMENT, We'll go upstairs and discover the Image Works and take a Space Odyssey with a few Intergalactic Movie Men.



GATHER, STORE, RE-COMBINE A History of Imagination (Part 2)

OUR STORY SO FAR... Disneyland’s entirely new land, Discovery Bay, is put back on the shelves to inspire many great achievements of Imagineering for the next two decades. One of these was a “Gallery of Illusions” featuring Professor Marvel and is dragon breeding experiments. The Professor and one of his baby dragons eventually became the Dreamfinder and Figment. At the Same time, genius Imagineer Tony Baxter creates yet another failed concept for EPCOT Center’s “The Land” pavilion based on ecology and featuring glass crystal architecture that would itself be recycled into the glass pyramids of Journey Into Imagination the pavilion destined to become the Fantasyland of EPCOT Center. The Pavilion contains three major attractions, The Journey Into Imagination ride, the Image Works interactive exhibit and a really tripped-out 3-D movie featuring a new and sophisticated technique for creating 3-D films. The process is awesome, the music is great, and the film no one cares to watch twice.


The Image Works…Very Well.

Scientists, Artists, Authors, and Imagineers get the future wrong all the time. We don’t have time machines, I can’t make a down payment on a flying car, its 2010 and there’s no Discovery mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, and I’ve been waiting for a Maglev to Mesa Verde for quite some time now. What it is amazing is when they get it right! Here’s once again is the original description…

Described by Richard R. Beard

The Ride is so delightful and engaging that, when it ends, we are left with a compelling urge to create something. This reaction is spontaneous, but it is naturally provided for by the canny show planners. Immediately ahead is a magic hall called Image Works, where we may try our hand at a wondrous array of creative tools of the future, inspired by our Journey into Imagination.

The Warm and welcoming atmosphere is designed to overcome any hesitation caused by the sight of all that electronic wizardry. And, of course, once you dive in, you’ll be hooked. Just grab, for example, a “paintbrush” in one of the consoles of the Magic Palette and let fly on your individual screen. Paint anything you like, in “colors” you’ve never seen before. There’s a pot of rainbow colors, another of Cheshire Cat tails. One “ink” gives the impression of Cubism, another of circular candy strips. The harder you press, the thicker the line, and if you slip up, dip your brush into “ease”, which will wipe it out, and start all over. Have you ever had a secret yen to conduct and orchestra? Move over to the Electronic Philharmonic, take your place on your own private podium, and face the music. With a wave of your hand, you can control the volume of the strings section, the brasses, the woodwinds, the percussion-and watch magical notes flow from the instruments. Leaving your symphony-hopefully not unfinished-you wander about like a child in an enchanted toyshop.

Choose the elements to create a gargantuan image in a kaleidoscope: with a turn of knob, change the pattern, pick out a swirl of color for a liquid effect. When you press the keys of a beautiful Bubble Organ, they not only bubble, they also bring forth brightly colored spheres that you can combine and overlap and mix and meld on a screen. Play with the deliciously prickly Pin Screens, then take your turn at the Light Writer, where you, too, can create your own laser show. On the of four great plexiglass “planets,” you control the swirling, spiral laser patterns, selection size, speed and shape. Now on to the Sensor Maze, subtitled “It Knows You’re There,” which provides an artistic funhouse experience. A tunnel of neon rings assigns you a personal color, which escorts you through the giant tube to the Vibrating Mirror. Made of Mylar, the crinkling, flexible mirror, lit be a strobe, shows you coming and going in an unending pattern of zany distorts. Among other oddities of the maze is the Lumia, a voice activated light show in a giant sphere that responds to the pitch and modulation of your voice, and Stepping Tones, where your tread triggers not only color and light effects but weird and wonderful sound effect as well: a jungle squawk her, a chord there, beeps or growls or spooky night wails. The centerpiece of the Image Works is probably Dreamfinder’s School of Drama in the middle of the hall. It’s divided into three “theaters,” each one of which puts you and your friends on center stage in a variety of situations. Using the blue-screen technique, the apparatus projects your image onto pre-filmed background settings. While you act out and appropriate scene, spectators react to your performance. The Time Machine places you in various time warps-perhaps in a cave, threatened by ferocious prehistoric beasts, or in Elizabethan England, or in the Wild West, or on a spaceship under attack by alien creatures. Sneak Preview stars you in trailers for current television shows. Stunt Show superimposes you image on scenes of dire peril: on a fraying rope bridge teetering precariously between two Himalayan peaks; on the wing of a biplane about to execute an unscheduled barrel roll. The Image Works is spectacularly successful in its goal-giving you a chance to express yourself in ways you’d never thought possible. You may become so absorbed in its myriad pleasures that, were not for the promise of still another presentation around the corner, you would find it difficult to leave.

The Importance of Flow

Transitions are a hallmark of Imagineering design. In many cases, these are ether found inside a single attraction or themed environments. Very rarely does this type relationship occur between attractions. Whereas, one experience naturally leads to another and to my knowledge this has only occurred in twice in the history of theme park design. (1) Journey Into Imagination (the Pavilion) is one of these examples. The original concept was basically Ride, Play, & Watch: RIDE the Attraction, PLAY in the Image Works and finally WATCH an Imaginative 3-D movie in the Magic Eye Theater.

Looking back at the Image Works, the exhibits are amazingly forward thinking, in many ways The Image Works was over 25 years ahead of its time. (28 years to be exact.) Most of its well remembered attractions have evolved into practical applications for creative expression and entertainment. The following is a list accurate predictions made by Image Works exhibits.

LIGHT WRITER There are well over 200 products on the market specializing in at-home laser light shows, ranging in price from over $800 to less than $25.

STEPPING TONES Although very few of us have musical carpets, a sophisticated version Dance Dance Revolution can’t be too far in the future.

ELECTRONIC PHILHARMONIC With Xbox 360’s “Kinect,” Gesture driven games are about to become a reality. I’m sure than with its debut this Christmas conducting your favorite Music and Films Scores can’t be far behind. (It’s like Guitar Hero for air conductors).

MAGIC PALETTE This was the most popular of all Image Works exhibits, and it’s not hard to see why. With Imaging software like Adobe’s Photoshop (and Illustrator which is the most accurate comparison) and a touch screen or a tablet we can live the EPCOT Center Future! (2)


In the 17 years of its existence, the original Image Works would change time and time again as the popularity of exhibits fluctuated based on guest reaction, technological advances and durability. For a complete visual history of the Image Works, I highly recommend viewing the following documentary produced by noted videographer Martin Smith…

Imagination 82 - The Original Imageworks from Martins Videos on Vimeo.

Image Works was well loved by all EPCOT Center Fans. We all had our favorite games up there. I myself recall having a particular fondness for the Electronic Philharmonic, (so much so, that I just plain ignored all other activities and always when straight there). In the years that followed its closing, Image Works would become a source of intrigue. This is because of what this extinct attraction failed to do: …disappear! But that’s a story for another time.

A Tale of Two Michaels

With the opening of EPCOT Center, Walt Disney Productions had, in one stroke, reached its greatest achievement and it worst nightmare. The public, and most importantly Wall Street had looked at the opening of the park as the completion of Walt’s Final Dream. Special emphasis should be placed on the word Final. The basic line of thinking is that with Walt’s last assignment “from the grave” fulfilled Walt Disney Productions had reached an end pass. Although in 1982 there were several pavilions left to complete (Imagination included), and Tokyo Disneyland still under construction, most outsiders (and some insiders) looked upon Disney as quickly reaching creative bankruptcy. In 1984, this ideology came to fruition when the entire company was to be dissolved. Roy E. Disney, not one to allow this to occur, left the Company to begin searching for new leadership. He found it in a seemingly creative executive from Paramount Studios and an unsold Vice President of Warner Brothers. Michael Eisner and Frank Wells took the reins of company and quickly decided to diversify the company in both assets and development.

Among those Eisner sought out were individuals that had similar interests in family entertainment from across the spectrum. To this end, Michael and Frank began courting the biggest names in Hollywood and with one attraction got them all! In Randy Bright’s (3) Disneyland: The Inside Story Randy tells the story far better than I can…

Just before the Christmas holidays in 1984, WDI’s Bongirno and Dick Nunis were discussing a call they had received from new Disney president Frank Wells. “What would your designers want to do if they could develop an attraction with Michael Jackson?” Wells has asked. Bongirno got an immediate response from his staff. Disney had developed the most sophisticated 3-D camera system in the world, a 70-millimeter system that had been used to create a stunning film for EPCOT Center ion Walt Disney World. Starring Michael Jackson in a 70-millimeter, 3-D rock adventure at Disneyland seemed to be perfect casting. Shorty after the holidays, WDI received its first visit from one of the Park’s biggest fans. Accompanied by Jeffery Katzenburg, the head of Walt Disney Pictures, Michael Jackson met with the WDI design Staff and listened to the 3_D film proposal. “I think it’s a really great idea,” he observed, “but I’d like to do it with George and Steven.” Everyone around the table recognized the Hollywood shorthand for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Lucas had already been working with WDI on several ideas that might bright his Star Wars mythology to Tomorrowland. The timing seemed opportune.

WDI designer Rick Rothschild headed up a concept team that sketched out three different screen scenarios for Jackson and Lucas to consider at the next meeting. They both picked the same story-Jackson would play space pilot named Captain EO, whose mission was to bring music and dance to a distant planet to break the spell of a wicked queen. Produced by Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the production brought together an impressive array of creative talent from around the entertainment industry. Yet the show would not be limited to the screen. “While the film was being produced on one side of town, “says WDI’s Rick Rothschild, “we had to create a theater that was so laden with special effects that the audience would feel that they had been drawn right into the movie.”


Rothschild’s team created smoke effects that would roll into the theater when Jackson’s spaceship crashed. They built a fiber optic star field that enhanced and extended the film’s own galaxy beyond the screen’s dimensions. The installed laser units behind the screen that would fire over the audience’s heads during the show, “Rothschild said. “But producing the effects on the film nearly drove us crazy.” The project nearly drove everybody else crazy too. Schedules slipped, budgets drained, marketing plans changed, and frustrations flourished. In other words, it was just like any other Disneyland project. The opening night of “Captain EO,” however, was quite unlike any other in the long and storied past of Disneyland. It set off a party that kept the Park open for sixty straight hours- a genuine Hollywood-style premiere, which through the Eisner/Katzenburg film connections, brought out more entertainment celebrities than any other time since the park’s grand opening more than three decades earlier.

Walt Disney, Michael Jackson, and Healthy Obsession

Anyone reading this is either inspired, entertained, obsessed or all of the above by the unique brand of artistry that Walt Disney created or cultivated. Michael Jackson is no exception. Like many of us, it starts with a unique set of circumstances. In many cases, our love for Disney begins with a need for escapism. For his entire life, Michael felt a tremendous burden of his Orpheus-ness beginning with his oppressive father. Born in 1958, by the time Michael was “of age” (typically 3 to 9 years old) he was watching re-releases of the biggest classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1967), Pinocchio (1962) and most importantly Peter Pan (1969). It is this film/character Michael would most identify with for the rest of his life. (4) (5) Later on in life, (as it does for a lot of us) entertainment transforms into collection and research. Michael went so far as to call Biographer, Bob Thomas (6) to ask as many questions as possible about Walt Disney the man himself. With the help of Thomas, Michael when even further by tracking down a very elderly Hazel George(7) and asking her questions about her old boss. Michael’s Collection of Disney memorabilia is legendary and could fully be an exhibit in its own right. The first time Michael worked for the Studio was as host for Disneyland’s 25th Anniversary TV Special. Before and after working on Captain EO, Michael was a regular visitor to all Disney theme parks, and in the late ninety’s was often taking up residence in the Disneyland Paris Hotel. Although he never wrote a book on the subject, Michael Jackson would surely be greatly respected by Disney Academics everywhere.

Although Captain EO held its World Premiere at Disneyland, like many big budget films and plays it made its debut “out-of-town” and six days before at EPCOT Center. The park hours were extended to 10:00pm that Friday and Saturday to accommodate the “Captain EO Blast-Off party” where special bands, singers and dancers performed in front of the Journey into Imagination all afternoon. The festivities were capped by a specially produced laser show at the end of both nights. (OS 9/14/86) The Other Michael Jackson 3D Films When Michael Eisner charged Rick Rothschild and his team with creating the appropriate vehicle for a Michael Jackson 3D film several concepts were tired. One such concept had Michael performing a “Thriller” Style dance with the Pirates of the Caribbean. (8) The film for Captain EO is really a mix between the two remaining concepts. The first was for a Pan-like character that defeated an Ice Queen with power of music and dance, and a space opera originally titled “Intergalactic Music Man.” (9) Ultimately, Michael Eisner’s concept worked out very well for both Disneyland and especially EPCOT Center. Up until 1986, EPCOT Center, although beautiful and futuristic, was severely lacking in energy and youthful enthusiasm. (10) Captain EO provided both and was a welcome addition to the list of EPCOT offerings. This is also the first time that the Eisner publicity machine was used to its maximum ability. As part of the media campaign, the new Disney Channel broadcasted a 45 minute special on “The Making of Captain EO” hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. The show itself was nothing short of spectacular and the sheer number of in-theater effects really did elevate the status of this film to a true Attraction.



IN OUR NEXT CHAPTER, we’ll explore the evolution of the Imagination Institute from shrunking audiences to failed journeys.


  1. The two occurrences have been in attractions created for the original EPCOT Center. And, this concept applies to all of the original Disney-MGM Studios. In that, one first experiences the history of Hollywood (The Great Movie Ride and Superstar Television,) then moves to the back of park for The Making Of and processes surrounding modern screen productions.
  2. On a personal note, my research and graphic design combined to enlighten me as to the prophetic wonders of the original Image Works. Many a time I’m working on a vector logo (or a Figment:) and thinking about how the Magic Palette is so closely related to my calling and the careers of many others.
  3. Randy Bright was quite literally the heart and soul of EPCOT Center, much more on this later on in E82. For my fellow “LOSTies” out there Randy is “Jacob” in the E82 Project.
  4. Interestingly enough Peter Pan’s first re-release was in Michael’s birth year 1958.
  5. Whenever anyone writes anything about Michael Jackson and Disney you have to mention the appropriately named Neverland Ranch. There’s your quota!
  6. Bob Thomas wrote the “Walt Disney: An American Original” Originally released in 1976 it was the definitive biography on Walt for 30 years until the release of “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler in 2006.
  7. Hazel George was the studio nurse and Walt’s closest confidante. At the end of every work day she would treat Walt’s old polo injury by giving him a diathermy treatment or a massage. During this time he would discuss many of the events of the day. She would later become one of Thomas’ primary resources in writing his Biography.
  8. Ironically Michael did end-up doing “Thriller” in the Haunted Mansion for his unrealized “This Is It” Concert.
  9. For a more complete telling of this story please visit Jim Hill Media.
  10. 1986 was a very important year for EPCOT Center. Not only did Captain EO open, but Spaceship Earth was changed to include a more cohesive and uplifting ending with “Tomorrow’s Child” and new narration by Walter Cronkite. Lastly, four years after opening Future World was finally completed with the opening of The Living Seas


GATHER, STORE, RE-COMBINE - A History of Imagination (Part 3)

OUR STORY SO FAR Journey into Imagination, the “Fantasyland of Future World,” is the most popular pavilion in the park. Originally opened on October 1st 1982 with the simultaneously prophetic and fun “Creative Playground of the Future” Image Works then joined 5 days later by the fanciful (albeit trippy) 3D film Magic Journeys, the pavilion was finally “completed” in April of the following year with the opening of the Journey Into Imagination ride. An inherently unique experience that has been largely unduplicated in scope, technological advancement, and eloquence of design, Journey into Imagination truly is the definition of an Instant Classic! In a few short years, the abstract and decidedly psychedelic Magic Journeys would be replaced by a film that, to this day, has been unequaled in collaborative talent. Captain EO becomes the perfect addition to not just the Pavilion, but Future World itself. It is Futuristic, Young, Impressive, and has an Optimistic message – a message that aligns itself perfectly with the goals and vision of the Park. Captain EO and EPCOT are “Here to Change the World!”

Epcot ‘94

(Editor’s Note #1) The twentieth century was a time of extreme changes in pop culture. The changing of each decade saw the rather violent (and some would say artificial) change in entertainment and collective philosophy. What is equally unusual is the consistent distain for those things held most dear from the previous generation. In less than eight years, the spectacular special-effects-heavy Captain EO became perspectively outdated and some of its star players had grown out of favor with the theme park masses. At the same time, EPCOT Center had developed the seemingly undesirable reputation of being the” Experimental Prototype Theme Park for Adults”. To Epcot (and ultimately Walt Disney Company) executives an Adult-oriented theme park was unacceptable as to cut-off the ever lucrative 5 - 24 age demographic. With such a large part of the theme-park-going population seemingly shut-out or off-put by the brand of entertainment available it made good business to diversify the amount of offerings in the now over decade-old futuristic theme park. EPCOT Center, (more specifically Future World) was a park that focused on the not-too-distant future of about 30 years from now. And 30 Years Is a long time for a 5-year-old in the early 1990’s. EPCOT Center’s Futurism was about to give way to Epcot’s here-and-now Discovery Park filled with the newest technologies and trends of today.


Honey, I Started a Franchise

Under Michael Eisner’s direction, the Walt Disney Company became more synergistic than ever before and the line between Film, Television and Theme Parks became more blurred every day. Michael’s previous employment as an executive at Paramount Studios enabled him to revitalize the Walt Disney Studio Productions. (1) As part of this rebirth of Walt Disney Pictures, the High-Concept Light Comedy was reintroduced by films like Honey, I shrunk the Kids released in 1989. Honey, surprisingly became extremely successful. Shortly after its release, the film became a much publicized interactive playground at the then Disney-MGM Studios theme park. The Honey, I shrunk the Kids: Movie Set Adventure opened a little more than a year after the film’s release. The Set capitalized on the film’s unique geography by providing park guests with an experience that closely matched the microscopic adventure taken by the four kids in the film. Although the 1990’s was the “Disney Decade” for theme parks, the Disney films of this decade could have been easily subtitled “Rise of the Sequels”. In a few short years, the success of Honey, I shrunk the Kids lead to the development of Honey, I BLEW-UP the Kid. It is one of those sequels that (in this writer’s opinion) well surpasses the original. (2) This film also had an appropriately huge presence at the young Studios theme park. Many of the film’s over and undersized props were exhibited including the four-foot tall Szalinski house and baby Adam’s six-foot-tall shoe.


The Imagination Institute

As part of the 1994 Renewal, Epcot’s more-child-friend initiative helped pave the way for the eventual replacement of Captain EO with the latest of Wayne Szalinski’s misadventures. The Film itself, was produced rather quickly and was directed by Randal Kleiser who also directed the second Honey, Movie. Tom Fitzgerald said of production “The title said so much that the attraction seemed so obvious but in reality, we had yet to define the concept. The biggest challenge was making you feel that you had shrunk. Before we were given the go-ahead to film, we had to prove that we could make that happen. The other challenge consisted of creating a film that would appear to be a live show. It was important that everything seemed to be filmed in one single scene, and weren’t sure it was going to work! Actually, the film was shot in several sequences, but it doesn’t show. The hardest part was to freeze the actors in certain places and to get them to strike the exact same pose in the same spot to ensure continuity.”

Honey, I shrunk the Audience
An Original Description

Honey, I shrunk the Audience takes place in the fictional Imagination Institute. As its backstory states, The Imagination Institute was established almost a century ago by founder Reginald Channing and is currently run by his son Nigel Channing. The Institute was created to allow inventors, futurists, artists, and other creative individuals a place to innovate and create. The Imagination Institute is closed to the public excluding a single day in which the Institute holds its annual Inventor of the Year Awards show. And that day is today. Continuing the tradition of past inductees like Thomas Edison and Walt Disney, Wayne Szalinski is to become the next honoree for this year’s presentation. The awards ceremony is lead by Imagination Institute Chairman Dr. Channing. And In typical Honey,… Movie fashion, nothing goes according to plan. Among the many accidents that occur, Wayne Szalinski arrives miniaturized in a hummingbird –like craft. From there, the wild exploits of the Szalinski family continues from one misstep to another, and the entire presentation culminates in have the audience itself being shrunk. After returning the audience to normal size, the show ends with the Szalinski’s dog Quark sneezing all over the audience.

Honey I Shrunk the Audience from Martins Videos on Vimeo.


Honey, I shrunk the Audience (or HISTA as its referred to by the cast members, and frequent guests) does feature its fair share of technological advancements, most notably the installation of a rising platform which lifts the entire audience to a maximum height of four inches during several key scenes. The presentation also features several other “4-D Effects” including water sprays and under seat high-pressure air cannons to simulate scurrying mice underfoot.

Approaching Millennium

In the six years between 1993 and 1999 almost every pavilion in Future World was changed. (3) Epcot was gearing-up to throw one of the biggest parties of the century to help ring-in the new millennium. As such, (and for the second time in company history) most executives and Imagineers turned their attention towards the Futuristic Theme Park. This time, it seems apparent that there was an overall drive to complete a near decade old transformation from EPCOT Center to “Epcot – The Discovery Park”. “Century 3” was right around the corner so Horizons was already on its way out. (4) Energy, Spaceship, Motion and The Land had all been changed and even Epcot’s Entrance Plaza was experiencing a dramatic (albeit, controversial) transformation. This left only ONE Pavilion that had not been changed or updated to reflect the Discovery Park’s tone and sensibilities.

The Importance of Flow (Part 2)

Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom are among the most celebrated and effective achievements in the history of Architecture and Urban Planning. They both precisely and completely service the purposes for which they were designed to do, yet for all of their charm and mastery of architecture’s ability to convey narrative and evoke highly specific emotion responses they do have a tenancy to appear overcrowded and even congested on even the most moderate of days. Because of this, EPCOT Center’s designers intentionally made every walkway, avenue, and promenade exceptionally wide. In addition, all pavilions were designed with great concern for crowd-flow. Although Imagination was the only pavilion to integrate flow into its overall storyline, every Future World pavilion incorporated extremely effective traffic flow patterns. (5) The altering of this flow could cause problems, but no one could ever predict just how dramatic the consequences could be under the right (or this case wrong) circumstances…

The Forgotten Journey

( Editor’s Note #2) Few events in the course of theme park history have stirred such strong emotions as those that encircle the Journey into YOUR Imagination attraction. Researching this event has been extremely difficult. There are very few articles, the coverage of the attraction has been stripped from official online archives and even Disney A to Z - The Official Encyclopedia mentions it in title only. The second version of the Imagination ride has joined the ranks of other infamous works such as the Light Magic parade, or Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration all events that both guests and the company would just assume forget.


Death by Queue Rope

"There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics."

-Mark Twain

In the 1990’s, just like today, the parks are constantly monitored for everything. In an effort of continuous improvement WDW management, wants to know the movement and behaviors of each and every guest. (6) As such, new concepts, procedures, and policies are created (now almost daily) to either make the guest experience more enjoyable or the business more efficient. So after HISTA opened the decision was made to make the “4D attraction” the main attraction of the Journey Into Imagination Pavilion. This change was accomplished by extending a single white nylon queue rope into the center of the pavilion’s main thoroughfare, suggesting that the film was the primary experience of the pavilion. This simple and seemingly harmless change essentially cut-off the Ride and Image Works from park guests. Almost over-night the numbers for Journey Into Imagination began to drop. For well over a decade Journey was the number two most attended attraction in the park (second only to Spaceship Earth). (7) After restructuring the queue, Journey dropped from number two to number eight. This is really no surprise considering that the attraction is specifically designed to have all people exit the area after watching the film. From the casual visitor’s perspective it doesn’t make sense to perform a U-turn to visit a significantly older (unpublicized) attraction and then go through the trouble to walk upstairs to visit an outdated interactive exhibit.


During the late 1990’s, the Walt Disney Company (thanks to a key executive), was developing a reputation for “not playing well with others”. In addition, the charm and prestige of being a Disney Sponsor was quickly becoming a corporate luxury that many could not afford nor was it as lucrative as it once was. Most recently, the notoriously unreliable and extremely late-coming Test Track strained relations between Disney and GM. Kodak was also growing weary of consistently investing the Imagination pavilion for the name-on-the-door and a substandard VIP lounge. (8) When Kodak voiced their concerns over the decrease in Journey’s Popularity, Disney’s reply was that they could update the attraction, but that it would take a significant contribution of funds for an upgrade. (9) The digital camera era was fastly approaching and Kodak was already facing a financial crisis in a soon-to-be almost filmless world. Nonetheless, they did accept and a pitch was made. At the time, Imagineering was a highly political organization, filled with extremely ambitious and power hungry individuals that cared a lot more about position and prestige than world-class storytelling. As such, Imagination’s creator, Tony Baxter, became a target for multiple reasons. For some, Tony was looked at as “the guy Marc Davis hated” because Tony’s Runaway Mine Car circumvented Marc’s unfinished master piece; Western River Expedition. For most, it was outright jealously of Tony’s position. During this time, it also became a customary practice to undercut a rival Imagineer’s current projects and even better erase their past successes. This is where Dreamfinder and Figment come in. (Or more accurately do not.) Guest surveys had indicated that the duo had become largely unknown about cared about as they were not used in any other medium other than the attraction itself. The new Imagination attraction was pitched as a special effects heavy experience designed to bombard, confuse and challenge your senses. As usual it was also promised to be a “must-see” attraction. As one executive put it… “if you were in that room hearing the pitch you would have been blown away. You'll be in this dark room and not be able to tell up from down. You will be surrounded by sound and not know the direction. It was all amazing, sounded state of the art and more importantly guaranteed to give the guests a terrific experience. We saw this concept art and they spoke so enthusiastically..." One such scene was to feature a fully dimensional set of M.C. Escher Stairs going in every direction. (10) As part of the pitch, it was also stated that because they no longer needed and expositional scene they could forego the troublesome turntable, cut down the ride and create more merchandise space. (11) This very persuasive pitch made by highly skilled politicians (excuse me Imagineers) in which they promised everything including being able to Hear Colors and See Sound. The pitch won-over everyone in the room, and executives from Disney and mostly importantly Kodak green-lit the new attraction.

Turntable Troubles

As was stated previously, Imagination’s turntable is an engineering marvel. But it’s also important to note that its creation is based on the need for and expositional (stationary) scene inside a constantly moving ride system. It worked for the story the original Imagination had to tell. No matter what was to end-up replacing the original Journey, getting rid of the turntable was a going to be a priority. For as Tony Baxter said himself, “because the ride was so darn smart. It was constantly monitoring all of the other vehicles, and if one of the cars decided there wasn’t time and didn’t get to the turntable, then all the other cars would slow down. SO the ride was constantly adjusting itself, which made guest wonder, ‘We just sort of stopped. It is breaking sown? Is there something wrong with the car?’ It was like bad editing in a movie, where you were too long in one scene and didn’t get enough time to see something else. We had no control over that because safety was number one and if that vehicle said it needed to go or needed to stop, that’s what it did.” This is not to say that it didn’t run smoothly from time to time, or that it could not return in the future. But, it is always the goal of both Imagineers and park management to provide reliable attractions for guests to enjoy. At this time, Imagination’s turntable does not qualify for that criterion.

Imagineering YOUR Imagination

In order to fully understand the development of any attraction, one must consider the show producer involved and more specifically their prior projects. YOUR Imagination was Show Produced by Orrin Shively. The same Show Producer of Test Track. (12) Knowing this, it becomes exceptionally simple to understand the resulting attraction. Test Track has been a huge guest satisfier for a number of years because of a single ride element; the high-speed victory lap. If this one element was removed from the picture the attraction would go the way of Disneyland’s Rocket Rods. Test Track’s entire experience is completely dependent on the thrill-ride angle. The overall show for attraction is (to put it delicately) Minimalist and subsequently so is the overall experience of YOUR Imagination. From a story perspective, the two attractions are almost completely identical. Both involve tours of seemingly benign facilities where the hosts (or narrators) give you play-by-play preemptive descriptions of every key event experienced in the attraction. Not-so-ironically, both attractions also end in with surprising finale. The crucial difference here is the outcome and reaction to the two scenes. With Test Track you know what’s coming and therefore are pleasantly shocked with a fake barrier test that becomes the victory lap. In YOUR Imagination the exploding brain scan is completely unexpected and usually frightens its target audience of young children.


Time, is an important factor with every Imagineering project. Historically, there was a direct relationship between the length of development and the overall quality of the product. (13) In modern times, development is typically between three to seven years depending on the size and scope of the project. From all accounts, the development and execution of YOUR Imagination took less than two years. Remember, the original Journey took six months just to define the concept of imagination let alone the whole ride philosophy and structure. (14) Another key ingredient is experience or, in this case, a lack of. The imagineers that developed the attraction came from and era were new technologies served as the basis for telling story rather than other way around. (15) It is also important to note that Imagination is really the last attraction to fall under the “gut-everything-and-start-over” philosophy of refurbishments and architecture. Soon after this, Imagineering would evolve into an “enhance-and-continue-what’s-there” ideology. The latter philosophy shift would help control costs and appease traditionalists as well. But for now, the complete overhaul of sets and structure only further added and already less than adequate budget. The budget of any attraction is the most important factor in its overall success. With a few exceptions, the larger the budget the better the attraction will be. Imagineering thrives on blue sky budgets and logistical challenges. The former gives the designers carte blanche to create some truly wonderful things. The latter stretches the mind be finding solutions to problems that didn’t even exist before the design process began. In the case of YOUR Imagination, the project was produced during the final years of the Eisner administration. At this time, the bottom line was everything and a project’s success or failure was determined strictly by how on-time and on-budget it was.

To be fair, the time factor is probably the biggest one when determining the exact causes of YOUR Imagination’s end result. If you look at the dates, it becomes apparent that every phase of this attraction’s development was rushed. Lest we forget, these are not the days of the 1964 World’s Fair when Walt would start a project and nine months later deliver the end result. In addition, today’s audience would simply not accept the simplistic and childlike arts and crafts approach without a heavy dose of historical license. (16) With exactly 356 days between closing the original ride and opening the new one, there was very little time to plan and construct the new system. When you take into account the removal of the old scenery, reconfiguring of the ride track, construction of new props, reprogramming the ride system, composing a new ride score and installing it, as well new film and video production it’s pretty astonishing what they were able to do in the very little provided. The following description was produced for the spring 2000 issue of the Disney Magazine…

The Journey Into YOUR Imagination
As described by Deborah Way

NEED A NEW IMAGE? Then head to Epcot’s Kodak Imagination! Pavilion, where the Journey Into Your Imagination ride and the new Image Works, the Kodak “What If” labs, join a guest favorite, Honey, I shrunk the Audience. What’s new about it? You are, by being inserted right into the action in an attraction that aims to teach you how to “color outside the borders of your mind.” The premise is that riders are volunteers at the Imagination Institute’s Open House, taking part in a series of perceptional experiments on how color, dimension, gravity, illusion, and sound affect the imagination. Your host is the energetic but somewhat clumsy Dr. Nigel Channing, played by Eric Idle, in a reprise of his Honey, I shrunk the Audience role as Chairman of the Institute. Kids will be happy to learn that Figment, the flying purple dragon from the original Journey Into Imagination, is still on hand to help. In your vehicle you’ll pass before the Imagination Scanner, which reveals cobwebs, and “Vacancy” signs. “Perfect subjects, “Dr. Channing enthuses, but you won’t stay blank for long, because your senses are about to be challenged to the max. Is that a train coming toward you in the dark? Is the butterfly cage empty or full? Don’t’ answer too fast – your perception may change within seconds. In the gravity lab, water from a leaky tub drips up, and you’ll learn that each sound has its own color. After a series of such exercises, the Imagination Scanner reveals you mind is now so full that you blow the machine.


The Changing Color of Imagination

Color is vitally important to every visual experience we have as human beings. Walt Disney Imagineering has been using color for over 50 years to establish mood, to tell story, to give physical space identity, and guide guests’ decision making process. In the case of the Imagination pavilion, color has been used twice to convey two very different stories using the same structure. The original Journey Into Imagination was painted various shades of blue and purple.

“One of our first associations with blue is the sky, which in turn suggests heaven, open space, and freedom. Standing under a big blue sky is reassuring, life giving. […] Purple was an important color in helping us define the look and story of Epcot…The shades of the violet purple we chose captured… the inspiring thrill of the future in Future World.” –John Hench

It is the freedom of ideas and the thrill of bring those to life that‘s the core message of the Journey into Imagination. Of course, things never stay simple at Imagineering. Even though at first glance one might have notice three shades at work, there are actually upwards of seven that were used for the pavilion. (17) Even the glass of the building (which is colorless) is taken into consideration. In this case, the pyramid angle of the glass reflects the sky and therefore enhances the blue in the blue and purple motif. Whether or not Figment’s royal pigment was a factor is determining its color palate remains a mystery. At the turn of century, the Imagination Institute originally located only in the Magic Eye Theater took over the entire pavilion and Imagination’s color scheme was radically changed. Now instead of the light and weightless quality of light purples and sky blues, the pavilion is anchored to the ground with Warm gradients and an eye-popping Electric Blue. The latter colors are, quite literally, derived from the logo of the Imagination Institute itself.  

Reaction and Response

The Millennium Celebration, with Epcot at its center, was a phenomenal campaign; one of the most successful that Disney had ever done. Reporters and critics simply couldn’t say enough positive things about all the new offerings. The Tapestry of Nations, Leave a Legacy, IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth, and the Millennium Village had reviewers scrambling for thesauruses to come-up more creative ways of describing just how wonderful the whole celebration was. All of these things both helped and hurt the reactions given to the Journey Into YOUR Imagination. (18) Firstly, all industry insiders were shocked. Epcot Administration was appalled. Kodak was horrified and even Michael Eisner hated it. (19) The guest reaction was significantly worst. Initially, it was thought that the complaints filling into Guest Relations where only slightly more exaggerated than those of a typical attraction replacement. The official response to complaints was based on the reaction to the recent closure of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride “people complained that we removed Toad but nobody was riding it beforehand...if they had we wouldn't have changed it_”. But Toad was a completely different event. For one, the ride itself with (its two dimensional 1900’s design) was a very “camp” experience that towards the end was perceived as having nostalgic valve ONLY with little else to redeem itself. In addition, most complaints were silenced when The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh turned-out to be such a high-quality replacement. (20) The same could not be said for Imagination. Complaints only grew as more people rode the attraction. The Epcot guest is mostly a quiet one. But, they had lost World of Motion, Horizons, and now Figment too! This was unacceptable. Fortunately, no one inside Disney (or especially Kodak) weren’t fond of the replacement either and soon an unprecedented “quick fix” of Historical Proportions would take place.

IN OUR FINAL INSTALLMENT, we’ll wittiness the return of not one but TWO old favorites and take a speculative Journey into E82’s Imagination.



EDITOR’S NOTE #1 Explaining dynamic shifts in collective philosophy and historical events is both complicated and fraught with emotional response. Whether it’s the implosion of the housing bubble or the collapse of communist Russia, interpreting these events (including their causes and outcomes) will often incite harsh criticism or unproductive analysis in the part of the writer. For E82 and EPCOT Centered individuals, the events and outcomes of Epcot ’94 are no less divisive. For every historical exposition created for E82, the topic of Epcot ’94 will eventually surface. In an effort to maintain the focus of all articles toward the pavilions and/or attractions in question, Epcot ’94 will be briefly examined as it pertains to the individual story (or history) being told. There is a standalone thesis in the works that will fully cover the events of Epcot ’94. (In fact, it’s over 50% complete.) So look forward to special coverage coming soon from The E82 Project.

EDITOR’S NOTE #2 Historians say that it takes about Thirty Years to get all the facts and the complete story surrounding any historical event. As I am writing this exposition it has been a little over Ten years from the time that changes were made to the Imagination Pavilion’s signature ride. The following section is has been thoroughly researched from a very limited number of sources that cover the 1999 redesign of Imagination pavilion. In addition, there has been great difficulty in determining the exact narrative for this segment of Imagination’s history. The E82 Project functions under a mandate that focuses on achieving a 90% positive coverage percentile. This goal has been largely achievable because, up till now, the events covered have been largely positive in nature. The metaphoric tightrope I’m walking here has become extremely thin and very high in this Third part of Imagination History.


  1. Unfortunately, all segments of the Walt Disney Company will always be judged by the Motion Pictures we release and the Television Shows we put on the air. I say “unfortunately” because the amount of revenue generated by these segments are historically the smallest yet have the most impact on stock prices as the product is the most easily accessible to a wide audience.
  2. The Film itself shot several scenes at the Disney-MGM Studios.
  3. The one exception of these was The Living Seas, a pavilion that, to spite clown fish, still ages very well.
  4. This may seem like WAY TOO MUCH of an over simplification, but this IS a history of Imagination and NOT a “Horizons Lost” essay. (That being said, that article will see the light in the future.)
  5. This may seem a little far-fetched, but for over fifty years Imagineers have successful created architecture that Does make your decisions for you. After all when did Anyone at Any Time EVER enter The Land from the left?
  6. With projects like the Next-Gen coming online in the next couple years, that kind of data will be possible and with that theme parks will truly enter a “Brave New World”.
  7. When comparing the two attractions it becomes extremely obvious why Spaceship Earth beats Imagination in the attraction battle for attendance its actually the oldest rule in real estate - “Location, Location, Location”!
  8. Seriously, I’ve visited almost all of Epcot’s VIP lounges in the past and Kodak’s was so completely inept that I can’t say I blame them for being upset.
  9. Most of all was the even more significant overhead charges created by the Eisner developed concept of intra-divisional profit centers.
  10. This concept would eventually wind-up in the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion as the new Endless Staircases Scene.
  11. This is classic late 1990’s WDI mentality, remove the ride to add more merchandise . The thing that they didn’t understand is that metaphorically speaking; you’re not going to sell more popcorn if you cut half of the movie.
  12. There’s a clue!
  13. In the case of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion there gestation can be measured in decades!
  14. More on the differences between Imaginations in Part 4.
  15. That old technology verses artistry debate. I personally love the way Harrison Ellenshaw put it… “Shakespeare didn’t have a typewriter, and when we got typewriters we didn’t get Shakespeares.”
  16. For those of you who are wondering, I’m referring to the history of “it’s a small world” which was created in an extremely “small” time period as well.
  17. In many cases, the original color schemes, created by John Hench, contain several shades of what appears to be one color. This is a deliberate decision that considers multiple elements including the reflective qualities of the sun for different architectural angles, reflections of ground elements such as pavement or landscaping, and the relationship between corresponding colors. For example, the America Adventure’s color palate is, basically, Red (brick), White (trim), and Blue (roof). However, four different shades of white were used for the three levels of the building.
  18. It helped largely because in-comparison to all the other new offering this one was so obviously lacking in quality that it enhanced the outrage. It also hurt the reaction because for the first year Imagination really got lost in the shuffle. If this conversion had taken place in any other year the public reaction and the Disney response would be dramatically different.
  19. Michael Eisner’s perplexing relationship to Epcot is something we’ll explore in more depth later on in the E82 Project.
  20. I know this previous statement will anger a few Die-Hard “Save-Toad” fans. I myself loved the little guy, but the ride did seem permanently stuck in the 1950’s, and I can understand the decision to replace a one shot character from a 1949 package film, with the sixth highest grossing character in the US.

GATHER, STORE, RE-COMBINE A History of Imagination (Part 4)





History Became Legend
Legend Became Myth
And Some Things that Should Not
Have Been Forgotten Were Lost
-Philippa Boyens
(The Lord of the Rings, Screenplay 1998)





OUR STORY SO FAR The whimsical Journey Into Imagination has transformed into the kinetic The Imagination Institute. The light-hearted antics of the Szalinski family have moved into the Magic Eye Theater as Honey, I shrunk the Audience. And at the turn of the millennium the former focal point of the pavilion and second most popular attraction in the park, Journey Into Imagination (the ride) has artificially dropped in attendance causing a dramatic overhaul of the entire attraction. Journey Into YOUR Imagination is underfunded and it’s designers are ill-equipped (and perhaps ill-experienced) to deal with the enormous pressure to deliver a quality attraction with an impossibly short deadline. The ride is destined to become the most notoriously inept attraction in the history of Epcot.  




The year is 2001 and Epcot has just experienced one of the most populous years in the park’s existence. As the confetti settles, the park that announced the “beginning of the 21st century” is now suffering a post-millennial hangover. The pomp and circumstance manifested by the many “temporary” structures created for the celebration are now decidedly awkward in both their appearance and subject matter. Thanks to a lack of demolition funds most of the architecture intended to only stand for a year would stay for quite awhile longer.(1)
The Millennium Celebration, necessitated that every available venue had to be used to absorb the high attendance of the fifteen-month campaign. As such any modifications, preventative maintenance, and future developments were put on hold.(2) In addition, the severity of Imagination complaints had been masked by guest's responses to the mostly positive Celebration. It wasn’t until the campaign was over that the cast at Epcot Guest Relations (and WDW Communications) was made fully aware of the public’s distain for the new Imagination ride. Fortunately, the attraction never had a strong ally in the upper echelons of the company, and even the slightest amount of negative feedback would cause the attraction to change. What was unexpected is the massive quantity of the negative comments that the new attraction received.
To the Disney aficionado, the complaints and reactions were a response to multiple factors on multiple levels. From a Macro perspective, the cycle of closing cherished attractions and replacing them with shorter less-immersive experiences at Epcot had grown more tiresome with each successive rehab. Even though the numbers for the attraction had diminished the original Journey was one of the most beloved experiences ever created for the park. The complete elimination of not just the ride but also its characters only helped to spur public outrage. The final factor was the overall concept for the YOUR Imagination attraction itself.


Analyzing the Aftermath

In Walt Disney Imagineering there is a concept called “Lessons Learned”. The program is a summation of the challenges and successes of each project after its completion. It’s a important communication tool to all current and future Imagineers as it provides them with techniques and processes to either reuse or (most importantly) to avoid making the same mistakes again. The following is not one of those the reports, but nevertheless does provide a dialog for determining the many “why”s of the project…
"Journey Into YOUR Imagination" was an Omnimover-style attraction, as such the ride is about what you're looking at or going through. In Part 3, it was revealed that "YOUR Imagination" and "Test Track" share the same designers and many of the same plot points. "Test Track" functions on an inverse philosophy where your ride vehicle is the main focus of the experience. As such, scenic design and decoration are kept minimal at best. (Not much to look at.) "Test Track" is able to get away with this for two reasons. First, the theme of an automotive test facility does allow for this to happen. Second, is the aforementioned Victory Lap that ends the attraction on a high note, in essence, making-up for any short comings in the overall ride experience. "YOUR Imagination" inherits none of these factors. The storyline is focused tour the Open House of the Imagination Institute. Such an institute simply would not have that amount of dead space in between its many laboratories. Furthermore, Omnimovers-style attractions are most successful when they are designed to be as cinematic as possible.(3) In the case of YOUR Imagination, there was no such immersiveness, even with what little sets they had the content and subject matter was so mundane that it hardly seemed worthy to (literally) cast a spotlight on.
Lastly, and biggest of all missteps was the “Imagination Scanner”. I’m sure that some thought that the gag was cute, but on even one repeated visit the whole premise falls apart.(Editor’s Note #1)From the guest’s perspective, the ride insults you and your intelligence from the first scene. The brain scan both visually and audibly reveals you to be empty headed with no imagination what so ever. (4) Although intended to be funny, this gag permeates with the whole experience and therefore becomes a serious part of the attraction’s narrative. Even more incredulous is that after observing some century–old illusions guests’ imaginations receive a megadose of creativity that sends the Imagination Scanner “to the limit”. Although it may not be part of the Sklar pinned Mickey’s Ten Commandments, I’m fairly positive that “Not Insulting Your Audience” is implied in there somewhere.

The Return of the Dragon

By the middle of 2001 the decision was made to fix the Imagination situation. Once again, timing and finances would prove to be the biggest hurdles in the re-interpretation of the ride. Kodak was both unable and (rightfully so) unwilling to provide any more funds. Disney did not press the issue mostly because they were already on thin ice with several sponsors. From Kodak’s perspective, they were promised a “must-see” attraction and instead got quite the opposite. This was Disney’s issue to fix. A retooling of the attraction was developed and Journey Into YOUR Imagination closed on October 8th, 2001. The attraction existed for exactly two years and seven days. The timing of this rehab could not have been worse, less than a month before the unthinkable happened and all of Walt Disney World closed for the second time in its history, and the first time because of terrorism. The 9/11 attacks, rippled through virtually all economic centers of the country. One of the hardest hit was tourism and the effects of an attack a thousand miles away were extremely direct. (5) Once again, budgets were extremely low and Imagination’s quick fix was to be done on a budget of less than Eight Million Dollars.
Eight million dollars, to put that in perspective; it’s the theme park equivalent of remodeling an entire 2,000 square-foot home (new furniture, lighting, paint, and art work) for a little over $400 dollars!



Journey Into Imagination with Figment

It has been said that “Art thrives on restrictions”, and considering the pressures that the team was under, the “new” attraction could be considered quite impressive. At this point the public had spoken, and integrating Figment in any and all ways possible was the primary (if not the only) objective. During the two years of YOUR Imagination, more than a dozen of the ride’s animatronic Figments became artifact displays scattered in several offices around property. The first order of business was to call these little guys home and most of these Figments would soon be reinstated into active-duty. The attraction itself would be significantly lighter in tone and combine the light-comedy of Eric Idle’s Dr. Nigel Channing and a rather mischievous version of Figment. The redesign of the attraction (by necessity) would have to be almost purely aesthetic. The conversion process would be even shorter than the previous attraction from 356 to a mere 236 days. Journey Into Imagination with Figment is more of a descriptive term than a title. But, fully describes exactly what the conversion set out to accomplish. In hindsight, the re-tooling of the attraction’s storyline is entirely reactionary. The “new” attraction would still be a tour of the Imagination Institute but instead of going through illusionary tableaus, the attraction would now focus on the five senses. The show designers would also bring back “One Little Spark” as both the song and underscore. The song itself would be re-orchestrated and rearranged to fit the confines of the existing ride structure. In addition, the Sherman Brothers were also brought back-in to write a few new verses of the song. Unfortunately, Figment’s original voice, Billy Barty had passed away on December 23, 2000. Dave Goelz, of Muppet’s Fame, was brought-in to provide Figment with a new voice. The re-tooled attraction also would feature a more unified color scheme as show set designer, Alex Wright stated…

"Color will play a key role in the new attraction. Each of the sensory labs has its own color scheme now. The smell lab is green, the sight lab is yellow and the sound lab is blue. And, even though you don’t really go into them, [you’ll see that] the taste lab is orange and the touch [lab] is red. […] Everything Figment touches turns to purple,”
WDI Vice-President and Show Producer, Kathy Mangum added...

“Even though we keep the building the same — the ride track, the facility walls and certain set pieces are reused — I think the tone and the attitude is going to be so different that you won’t recognize them from before. […] The ride path is essentially the same, but there’s one thing that we really changed. Now, we stop the vehicles in each scene so you can watch something happening and then move on. We’re telling a linear story, and that’s really hard to do with a long train of cars. What guests in the front car see is not what guests in the back car are going to see. So, by stopping, you get this kind of little theater. When the scene’s over, we turn you back loose to move on to the next scene. I think that this was a really big breakthrough for us in trying to figure out how to tell the story with Figment.”



Scene 1 – Imagination Institute Lobby

As we enter the "Imagination!" Pavilion we find ourselves in the Imagination Institute lobby where we pass the Reception Desk and Directory listing the many Sensory Labs of the Institute. And because today is an Open House we can forgo checking-in and proceed straight to any and all labs of the Institute.

Scene 2 – Senior Scientist Corridor

Just past the reception area are a few of the senior most scientists of the Institute.  Wayne Szalinski’s office door is a blaze with pink and blue lights with silhouetted lab equipment. Professor Phillip Brainard office is the scene of a music-thumping Mambo Party for flubber. Dr. Nigel Channing office must be flooded with calls as we hear multitude of telephones ringing from inside his closed office door.
As we continue up a ramp to the loading area for the Sensory Labs, we notice large overhead screens featuring variations of the Imagination Institute with a tiny purple dragon that interacts with the “stationary” logos overhead.

Scene 3 – Load Area

The long corridor of offices eventually opens up to the latest invention of Wayne Szalinski; The Imagination Institute Tour Tram that conveys Open House guest to the many Labs of the Institute.

Scene 4 – Sensory Lab Entrance

After boarding our bright red Tour Tram we are introduced to our host Dr. Nigel Channing who explains that imagination works best controlled. And the Sensory Labs are used to further study the five senses and how they are used to process information.

Scene 5 – The Sound Lab

This small space covered in sound-proofing black foam, with speakers in every conceivable location, from the ceiling, to the floor every inch of space is developed for maximum sound perfection. Just as Dr. Channing is about to demonstrated the power of sound, Figment pops-up to disrupt the Doctor’s train-of-thought. To which Figment corrects him by replying that his train is, in fact, right on track. And it’s coming our way. The Room begins to shake and the thunderous train with its blaring whistle seemingly races through the room, complete with a blast of wind as it travels by. (6) The scene concludes with the first verse of the new version of ‘One Little Spark”…

For ev’ry sound your ears are hearing,
a thousand thoughts can start appearing
And each of us imagines different things
From just a sound, your mind has wings

Scene 6 – The Sight Lab

Our tour vehicle rolls past The Sound Lab and into the colorfully appointed Sight Lab where the walls are covered with framed pictures of some of the greatest optical illusions ever created. The most dominant of all these is a very large Eye Chart, where Figment is seen sneaking behind the letters and eventually rearranging them to spell his own name! Dr. Channing wanted this to be a simple Eye Exam, but Figment argues, “Sure, you can see with your eyes, but imagine what you could see if you used your imagination!”  Then Figment invites us to sing along by following “the bouncing Figment”…

One spark of light can light your fancy
Your mind sees more than your eyes can see
Your sense of sight can make your fancy fly
There’s more to sight, than meets the eye


Scene 7 – The Smell Lab

From Sight to Smell, we travel into a small space filled with tanks and tubes loaded with scents of every kind. Our tour trams then stop in front of a massive tank with cannons directly in front of us. Just as a lovely scent is released, Figment takes over the tank converting it into an enormous slot machine where any scent could come out. The dials spin to a stop and it appears as if our luck as run out, for Figment is now seen in a skunk suit and sprays us with the highly nocuous odor! Customarily, the scene ends with another set of verses to “One Little Spark”…

One awful whiff can send you reeling
One lovely sniff can be appealing
Your mind defines what enters through your nose
That’s how you tell a skunk is not a rose

Scene 8 – The Detour

Leaving the Scent Lab (and Its stench) as quickly as possible we make our way past several other labs in which serious experiments are in process for things like Dreams and Laughing. We make our way to the Touch and Taste Labs but before entering Dr. Channing has become rather troubled at how Figment and turned the tour upside-down. “Upside-Down!? That’s the Best Idea you’ve Had all Day” exclaims Figment who transforms the scene into one of the bright colors of black light.

Scene 9 – Figment’s Open House

With just a spark of inspiration
I’ve made my house an innovation
Imagination can really clown around
Make down side up, and upside down

Figment’s house normal in every way, normal if you’re an Imaginative Figment! In the garage his truck is filled with oversized paint brushes. In the living room, the TV is on the Figment Channel. From the Bathroom to the Kitchen and all points in between the entire house is an extension of the little purple dragon. Pots and Pans, Wallpaper and Oven Mitts everything is perfectly “fig-a-fied’.

Scene 10 - Figment’s Short Cut

After we tour Figment’s house the up-side down world must be put right-side up. In this completely dark environment, Figment’s illuminated footprints spiral around the tour tram vehicle on his way back to the Institute. By this time, Dr. Channing has come around to Figment’s way of thinking. “Well if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!” he states and joins Figment in a duet of the next verses of the “One Little Spark” song.

We all have sparks, imaginations
That’s how our minds, create creations
We set them free, and oh, what they can do
Those magic sparks from me and you

Scene 11 – The Sky’s the Limit Finale 

At this point, the tour concludes in a small computer filled environment where a much more cheerful Dr. Channing rejoins us (via video screen) and retracts his opening thesis by saying “And so, as you can plainly see, imagination works best when it is set free!”  “You said it, Doc! Imagination is a blast!” Figment yells, and with that the room explodes in a purple light and then explains into a vast colorful room where several Figments are seen doing a multitude of things. From Hang Gliding to painting a master piece from constructing a sign to performing a puppet show, no matter what they’re doing they all join in the chorus…

Imagination, imagination
A dream can be a dream come true
With just one Spark in Me and You!

From here our vehicle leaves the Figments and continues into the vastness of outer space with purple fiber optic stars covering the area. The last thing we see is a Spaceman Figment on top of a ringed-moon hitchhiking his way through the galaxy. Above him, is the man-in-the-moon or rather a Dr. Channing-in-the-moon happily singing the last chords of “One Little Spark”.

The opening of Journey Into Imagination with Figment was handled very quietly with little to no fanfare. The marketing of this event (if you can use that word) was especially blunt. The whole reopening was focused on the tagline “Figment’s Back!” this slogan was used on T-shirts and other media. The whole non-event was analogous to an extremely large newspaper retraction. Nonetheless, this was an awesome statement and friends of Figment the world over cheered that after years of pursing the masses Disney’s neglected core audience was being listened too. The overall reaction was in essence “It’s a lot better than what we got, but less than what we had”. The final judgment on Journey Into Imagination with Figment, is a highly complex one. It is important to consider all factors. From a historical perspective, it is unique as it is one of the first uses of what could be called “Guerilla Imagineering” (7) No Budget, No time, only armed with your creativity to get you through. Considering this the ride is very well done. On the other hand, it is designed as merely a stopgap to appease Figment lovers and present a decent attraction until time and funding provide a more spectacular replacement.



A Question of Character
The Tale of Two Figments

It is often true, our perceptions of any character are largely determined by the way they are depicted. In the musical, Wicked, we are introduced to the sensitive and misunderstood “Elphaba”. Meanwhile, in the Wizard of Oz the “Wicked Witch of the West” is portrayed as both evil and scary. Much in the same way our beloved little Figment has been has been cast in a negative light. (8)
One of the biggest complaints I receive about the current Imagination ride is that Figment has become extremely annoying. Meanwhile, if you speak to anyone 25 or older, they would give you a far different description. I believe both points are accurate. To the over 25 set, Figment is described as Adorable, Fun-Loving, Energetic, and of course Imaginative. However, if you speak to those under 25 (or those who haven’t been blessed to take the original Journey) they find him to be, basically, the Epcot equivalent of Stitch without the charm. This dichotomy exists because of the two completely different versions of character.
In the original attraction Figment is created in the opening scene therefore we know him “from birth” and are more inclined in love him. From there, he and Dreamfinder take us into some wonderful environments where we see Figment discovering the world around him. From creating rainbows and staving-off monsters to acting in plays and becoming a movie star, Figment is seen doing anything and everything. It’s also interesting to see what he is not doing; interacting with the audience. (9) (But that’s a long story for another time.)
In the current attraction, Figment is in your face (and up your noise) for most of the ride and spends most of his time interrupting rather than enhancing the Institute Tour. And if that wasn’t annoying enough the tour ends with a BLAST! That typically scares young children (who technically are the attraction’s target audience).
There is also the sidekick perspective. (10)  In both versions of the ride (that contain Figment) he is the sidekick for a human character.The relationships between Figment and both men are vastly different. With Dreamfinder, Figment is his creation, his child and they have a very loving relationship. Dreamfinder encourages and develops Figment’s creativity. They both complement each other very well. Figment exhibits Right-Brain characteristics while Dreamfinder is more Left-Brain oriented. In the case of Dr. Nigel Channing, he considers Figment to be somewhat of a nuisance and therefore so does the audience. Figment and Nigel argue throughout the attraction about what the best use of Imagination is. When they finally agree the ride is over and there is very little in the way of reconciliation.
Ultimately, our little Figment has been the victim of a series of circumstances. Not the least of which is the lack of time (and proper budget) for his return to the pavilion. The changes in Figment’s personality are an example for maintaining “Character Integrity,” and how difficult adapting an established character can be. As Tony Baxter put it (commenting on the current version) “You can meet Figment but you don’t know who he is.”

Journeys into Imagination

In general, one should never compare different things to each other. The Disneyland Verses Magic Kingdom debate will continue for as long as both parks exist. The results of comparison are pirmarily negative and as such are unproductive. However, comparing approaches to different subject matter is extremely interesting as in the 1958 film “4 Artists Paint 1 Tree”. In much the same way, it’s fascinating to examine the differences between the three very different interpretations of the abstract concept of Imagination. In the most recent version, (with Figment) the subject is an exploration of how we absorb stimuli. With the five senses, we take in a lot of information and then GATHER it for future use. In the second version, (YOUR Imagination) those senses are revealed to be at times deceiving. In a way, we STORE information for the final brain scan at the end of the ride. Finally, the original Journey shows us how we can RE-COMBINE many different stimuli to come up with something new. This is the biggest difference between the versions of Imagination, the second and third storylines are focus on Perception where as the original version is concerned with Application and exciting prospects of taking your imagination to the next level by bringing the sparks of creativity into real world!


The After-Life of Image Works

The Imagination Pavilion has become one of enormous historical contradictions. For as much change has occurred on the pavilion’s first floor, the story is quite different on the second. The mere existence of the Image Works is one that has fascinated theme park enthusiasts for the past decade. The fact that the space has existed frozen-in-time that also was an Opening Day attraction of the park has become a source of intrigue that is equally (and unusually) interesting and morbid.
Whenever a Disney facility closes for a period of more than six months OSHA dictates that the structure must be brought up to current building codes. The part of this code that concerns Image Works is one of wheelchair accessibility. For an exhibit of its size and occupancy, a single use elevator is not appropriate for the needs of 21st century structures. The transition between the original and second versions far exceeded time limits and the cost to make major improvements to the existing space was cost prohibitive. (11) As a result, its existence was as architecturally concealed as possible. One of its two escalators was caged and the other was walled-off entirely.  The central elevator and spiral staircase was cleverly masked by with non-descript banners and merchandise displays to prevent easy passage to the second floor.
Soon after the space was closed any and all useable equipment (monitors, touch screens and other electronics) was removed to be used in other exhibits around property. And so for the next several years the space was used sparingly for conventions, internal company meetings, and has been a long time stop on the “Undiscovered Future World Tour”. In 2006, a large amount of the space received slight refreshment as a part of the test for the Kim Possible Experience where your last mission took place inside The Image Works. During this time, there were also a few architectural adjustments made to the main exhibit space. Walls were constructed enclosing the "Making Faces" and "School of Drama" and (as of this writing) have become a monitored storage area for Epcot’s more valuable electronic equipment. Over time, only a few original props have wound-up “missing” from the exhibit. The Electronic Philharmonic has been stripped of its Orchestra, and the pin screen tables are constantly “roaming” around the exhibit and occasionally “make appearances” in the atrium. Most recently, Figment’s Coloring Book (aka Pyramid B) has been used for storing many of the displays and signage for the Honey, I shrunk the Audience attraction while its future return hangs in the balance.
The Image Works is one of the few remaining abandoned spaces in Disney Theme Park History. On a personal note, I’ve been “up there” several times in the course of its now ten-year hibernation.  And every time I do so, I always feel like some ROV exploring the decks of the Disney version of Titanic, and to spite its neglect the second floor of Imagination is remarkably well preserved.  In recounting its history one is reminded of another charming attraction that was brought back to life after decades of “sleep” The Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through suffered much the same fate and has the same limitations, so one can only hope that Aurora’s prince and Imagination’s creator, Tony Baxter will breathe life into the void once again.


Tribute to a Captain

In 2009 the tragic loss of entertainer Michael Jackson sparked an enormous amount of interest in all things Jackson. To the Disney universe, this naturally lend to much discussion and coverage of the all but forgotten 3D Space Fantasy, Captain EO. There were multiple articles written about the groundbreaking film from all angles. (As was previously discussed at E82) there were even articles written about the films that were Not Made. In addition, anything associated with MJ was selling in record numbers including the motion picture profiling his incomplete concert for the UK which was to once again feature the latest in 3D effects. The Walt Disney Company took notice of all this and fans of Captain EO cried out for the film to be shown once more. Disneyland has always been home to temporary (albeit expensive) spectacles. It’s dynamic as a “local theme park” allows attractions and shows to be replaced or refurbished with little to no guest complaints. Consequently, the park often serves as a test lab for Imagineers and Park Operators to experiment with new offerings with little to no risk. As such it was decided to bring Captain EO back to the park for an indefinite period of time. The attendance numbers for the attraction were significantly higher than any of those seen for Honey, I shrunk the Audience, and the guest satisfaction numbers were off the charts. In six months time, the Tokyo and Paris parks had already made plans to join the Captain’s crew and finally Walt Disney World Management decided to join the party by committing to bring the “Rag Tag Band” to its original home at Epcot. The conversion from the Imagination Institute to EO was handled very quickly and much of the Institute’s props and and wall décor was carefully stored (upstairs in The Image Works) while the company is unsure of the attraction’s final destination.


A Rag Tag Revival

The 2009 film Avatar showcased the latest digital 3D techniques that were the culmination of five years of experimentation. The development of Triple Frame Rate with alternating shutter apertures had eliminated nearly all of the problems and headaches (pun intended) associated with 3D viewing. In sharp contrast was the antiquated screenings of Captain EO a year later. In all cases, the longevity was (and still is) in question. Therefore, company executives and accountants were largely concerned with keeping the cost of this impromptu revival down. Consequently, the conversions of all shows did not fully restore all of the effects found in the original presentations. The lasers of the space chase, the spotlights of the crash, and the mirror ball transformation were among the effects that did not return. To be completely fair, the new film did incorporate the elevating platform and LED Lighting from HISTA. However, the theater also retained the custom stage frame from the Imagination Institute presentation cutting off the edges of Captain EO as well as a noticeably distracting 45° angle on the upper Left side. (12)


The Trouble with Stated Nostalgia

Officially, the only “Captain EO Tribute” is found at Disneyland with all other shows in the revived franchise simply stated as “Captain EO”. This minor title change is important because when the original Disneyland show reopened the preshow was displayed with a narrative that explicitly states the historical context of the presentation. California is where the term Kitsch was invented and hence it’s expected that any Disneyland-style park would join-in the local culture. The same cannot be said for the Epcot presentation. When it opened in 1986, the EPCOT Center Version of the film was preceded by a Kodak photo presentation set to the song “Capture a Smile”. A lighthearted Song/Pre-show that had absolutely nothing to do with the main attraction itself. Once the presentation concluded a Cast Member would make a brief spiel, then curtains would retract and the theater doors open. This is also when the much sought-after Pre-show space music would begin. The dark, mysterious, and magical music of James Horner was echoed in the atmosphere of the theater itself and was primary lit by starlight. This atmosphere perfectly set the tone of the film’s opening moments. It is also important to note that the film itself used state-of-the-art projection technologies and numerous in-theater effects that created an extremely immersive experience of the film. In sharp contrast, is the 2010 presentation wherein the film has the original Disneyland pre-show filled with the worst of 1980s clichés. From the leg warmers, to the big hair and from the dancers to the heavily mustached Imagineers this film portrays almost nothing about the craftsman ship and artistry found in the film it attempts to document. This might sound a bit harsh, but during the pre-show nearly everyone today is heard laughing for all the wrong reasons. In addition, the historical context announcements appear to excuse the attraction for its short-comings before the film even begins seemingly setting-up the audience for disappointment with the hope that by lowering initial expectations they will increase guest satisfaction for a surprisingly good show in the end. It is in this historian’s opinion that no attraction should either excuse itself for its age nor be excused because of if it. Walt Disney himself never intended his parks to showcase themselves for their own intrinsic historical value. Nor is it ever appropriate for an attraction or theme park to exhibit anything less than high-quality simply because of its age. At the time of this writing, Tokyo Disneyland has changed Captain EO’s presentation from a “Temporary” to “Permanent” Attraction. So one can only hope that the Oriental Land Company will fund a comprehensive film restoration and digitization, that one day will spread to all four corners of the Captain’s Changed World.


An Active Retirement

The existence of the 3rd incarnation of the Journey into Imagination is something of a milestone in the history of theme park attractions. Although slight modifications had occurred over guest feedback, a complete restructuring due to guest demands simply did not happen until the events of 2002. (13) It is also the first time in Walt Disney World history where it’s much neglected (inner most) core audience was listened too. (14)
In a few short years, the almost unthinkable occurred. Following the then recently established trend of “Retro” the name “EPCOT Center” was once again seen on current in park merchandise. These items were quickly noticed by Classic Epcot fans and were soon flying off the shelves. Then more products were created and still more are created to this day with a new t-shirt appearing roughly every six months. One in particular that stirred a large amount of discussion was a one in which Dreamfinder and Figment where prominently featured prompting speculation about the character’s return. Disney Theme Park Merchandising spends more time and effort getting to know what people will buy than any division of the company. It is a business in its purest form and Product Developers are keenly aware of the spending power that Classic EPCOT Center merchandise holds. For almost a decade, Figment and Dreamfinder have been the focal point of Pin Celebrations, limited edition sculptures, and artwork. If it’s an event that is in anyway associated with Walt Disney World’s second theme park it WILL have Dreamfinder and figment in there somewhere.
This unusual attention given to a retired character has sparked (no pun intend) debate that reincorporating the character is imminent. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support this. Product Development (PD) and Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) work together only during the last phase of a new attractions development. PD works 18 months ahead and WDI works 3 to 5 years before that. If there was to be a new version of Imagination, its merchandise would appear just a few days before reopening the pavilion.
In the past year, there have been several events that have brought a new awareness to and respect for classic Walt Disney World characters and locations. (15) Just a few short weeks ago, D23 celebrated the upcoming 40th Birthday of the Magic Kingdom (and ultimately Walt Disney World). At this event it was obvious that Epcot was the biggest focal point for those in attendance. At the closing of this Weekend-long event was a musical tribute to the songs of the Sherman Brothers. The concert-like performance (appropriately titled “Magic Journeys: A flight of fancy through 40 years of Walt Disney World’s Musical Memories”) transitioned from the Sherman’s animated work to the parks and finally settled on EPCOT Center Classics. When it came to “One Little Spark” THE Dreamfinder, Ron Schneider, appeared on stage as the character for the first time in well over decade. The reaction to this surprise appearance was ecstatic to say the least. Many who were in attendance said that he received “a reception similar to Elvis.” One can only hope that with such an overwhelming response a return of this much beloved character will occur sometime soon.


Tomorrow’s Imagination


The complete history of the Imagination pavilion has been one filled with success and conflict. In many ways, the history of the pavilion directly mirrors the history of Imagineering itself. (16) The epic scale and lavish productions of a generation ago have developed into timely, straight-forward attractions with plots that are easy enough for a five-year-old to grasp. It also appears that the past is repeating itself with classical storytelling on the rise. (17) Although it’s impossible to determine the next course in Imagination’s evolution, let’s speculate about what a future Journey could be like …

It is the middle of the second decade of the new millennium. A new Fantasyland has renewed the collective consciousness’ faith in the (stateside) Art of Imagineering. As a result, Imagineering has now directed its attention from lands of fantasy to the World of the Future. The newest draw for the park is the Return of a Classic updated for the 21st century. It has become the one of the biggest draws for Epcot and, thanks to its massive OHRC, the Ride is the second most visited attraction in the park (second only to Spaceship Earth). Because of its lower wait-times and amazing show quality, it has also surpassed Soarin’ in guest satisfaction.
Journey into Imagination
The Quest for Dreamfinder
The pavilion looks more fanciful than ever. The lower half of the building has an extremely familiar color scheme with both a literal and figurative twist, and (thanks to a recent cleaning) the glass pyramids shine so bright that even on a cloudy day it becomes necessary to wear sunglasses to observe the structure.
Once inside, the original lobby has been restored to its former glory, as in the days of the original Journey. The Walt Peregoy murals on both the ceiling and the walls have been lovingly recreated with updated color schemes and iridescent painting effects. The load mural depicts the first Journey with amazing detail and depictions of Figment and Dreamfinder more “on-model” than the original.
Proceeding through the circular queue, we pass through a new version of the Rainbow Corridor. Its neon rings are larger and more vibrant than ever before as the bands light-up they also scintillate with swirling light patterns racing to end of the tunnel accented with the faint sound of Figment’s laughter in the distance.
At the end of the Rainbow Corridor is the load area, a small darkened space illuminated only by stars and the glow of the corridor. It is here where we board paint pots, (not dissimilar to Pooh’s Hunny Hunt Pots) (18) and we take-off for our adventure into the many lands of Imagination. Well, maybe “lands” is inaccurate for our quest begins in the vastness of a universe.
Shortly after departing, we join Figment in the pilot seat of a sleek updated version of the Dreamcatcher, (now renamed the Sparkcatcher) were we learn that Dreamfinder is lost in his own Imagination and Figment needs our help to find him.
The first realm we visit is that of limitless technology, a realm where we see Figment in a lab coat (19) solving the mysteries of the universe on his 3-D holographic computer. Whether it be designing nanobots programmed to construct morphing physical structures or genetically engineering super intelligent beings nothing is impossible to our industrious little dragon.
Next, is the realm of unbelievable architecture. With Beautiful angles, impossible feats of engineering and indefinable styles, Figment is seen constructing the most incredible buildings and ingenious interiors. As we travel though this space the room even appears to change its shape! (20) The Walls and Ceiling move and rotate to become varied and fanciful environments constructed through the unity of mathematics and art.
From the marvels of architecture to the wonders of creation, through writing words composing music, and rendering worlds Figment can become the master of his own universe. But be careful, for your imagination can turn on you, as in this climatic scene where large literary creations close in on Figment. (21) Just as the darkness of the scene overtakes our little Figment, Dreamfinder flies in to save the day.


The darkest gives way to light and Dreamfinder has been found. In celebration of the happy event, we enter a large circular room; a fanciful land of white illuminated by colored light. A tribute to the original Walt Peregoy created “Arts” room of the original. Lit from above, below, inside and out the room practically spins with variegated color patterns and hovering in the center is Dreamfinder sitting atop his Dreamcatcher. The dirigible spins and undulates while collecting sparks around the room all the while keeping time with a particularly whimsical orchestration of “One Little Spark.”
In our final scene, we join Figment flying through stylized clouds. Suspended by a barely noticeable inverted Kuka Arm, he’s an amazingly versatile animatronic. And at the very end of our experience we see Figment fly into the arms of Dreamfinder not unlike the closing scene of Dumbo and his mother and equally as moving. This is also the first time two animatronics have performed in perfect unison ending the attraction, in both an emotional and stunning way.
After departure, we experience a new Image Works, featuring advances like gesture-controlled Magic Palettes with photorealistic textures and 3-D designs. Or the new Electronic Philharmonic where you can select the latest film scores from Pirates to TRON and control not only mixing of instruments but even the tempo of the music. Finally, Stepping Tones where your feet not only control the music, but can even select the genre. From 80’s Pop to Techno, Stepping Tones only gets better and better, for as the number of guests increases so does the tempo.
For all its interactive wonders, Image Works has now become the most elaborate of all interactive queues. Similar to Dumbo’s Big Top, all activities encircle a central queue for the new IMAX Real 3D presentation of Magic Journeys opening next year. A new film hosted by Dreamfinder and Figment, it combines the dreamy atmosphere of the original with coolness of Captain EO, and a hint HISTA fun. The film takes its audience on an unbounded trip through the limitless wonders of our world and other worlds to come.
And what of the Original Image Works? This space has become quite popular as the new Art of Imagineering. A cross between One Man’s Dream and the Blue Sky Cellar. The original architecture is still very much in use. You can walk through a lovingly restored Rainbow Corridor and the dark recesses of beyond are just perfect for exhibits featuring video and light effects. Figment’s Coloring Book has become a showcase for the latest projects including a new vision for World Showcase’s nighttime entertainment. But that’s a story for another time.


This is just one vision of what Tomorrow’s Imagination could be. The great thing about this attraction/pavilion is that it can be anything. This is also the biggest of all fears for Imagineers. How does one define the concept of imagination in the 21st Century? In the late 1970’s Tony Baxter, Kirk Wise, Barry Braverman, and several others came up with a concept explaining the of mechanics of the imagination process. Over the past 30 years, we have gathered a lot of sparks. We have self-contained highly-interactive walking animatronics. There are 3D high-definition multi-screen presentations coupled with vibrant color-changing LED effects and there are even ride vehicles that require no track or wire to guide them! Journey Into Imagination can (and should) be a place where All of these amazing technologies can be put to use. And if we’ve learned anything over the past two decades its that the best of all rehabs are those of enhancement and not reinvention. And the most well loved attractions and characters simply need better methods of telling their story. The public knows what it wants for Imagination and once funding is in place I can’t see Imagineering suffering the same oversight.







As Walt Disney World approaches its 40th Birthday (with Epcot’s 30th soon to follow), there is a wealth of adoration for the charm of classic Walt Disney World Character’s and a wellspring of appreciation for the undated sophistication of decades-old designs. Captain EO (whatever its flaws) is back! The long concealed name EPCOT Center is celebrated once again. The Enchanted Tiki Room will soon be free of “Management”. And the Magic Kingdom (in comparison to her sisters) will at last be given a Fantasyland to be proud of. It seems like Walt Disney World is finally reaching maturity. Comfortable with what it was, and cautious to make the right decisions for its future. Whatever is done Today is done for Tomorrow. Longevity is the focus for Imagineering.
The original Journey has become an indelible fixture in the history of Epcot and ultimately Walt Disney World. From its whimsical style and prophetic visions of creativity in the 21st Century to its playful fountains and lighthearted tone in an otherwise very serious World of the Future, Journey Into Imagination has left a very big imprint on those lucky enough to visit during those first 15 years.
With the original Journey, Imagineering created the most impactful of all gestures. You’ve never been able to pet a Tiki Bird or flirt with a Pirate Auctioneer. The Hitchhiking Ghosts really don’t follow you home and Skippy, for all of his teleported adorableness, never did meet-n-greets. But from Day One (and even five months beforehand) you could experience the attraction and then interact with its characters. Long before Turtle Talk, you could have a conversation with Dreamfinder and Figment could play with your rainbow colored EPCOT Center baseball cap before Lucky the Dinosaur was engineered to do so. To Tomorrow’s Children, Dreamfinder & Figment were real! And if the events of the last month have proved anything The Marvelous Professor and his Baby Dragon are just as real today as they were decades ago.
It has been said Dreamfinder was based off of none other than Walt Disney himself, a childlike dreamer that worked toward bringing his creations to life. By extension Figment could also be seen as an upgrade from Mouse to a Dragon that is just as obsessed with creating as his creator. When looked at through this lens it’s no surprise that people are still remember the words to “One Little Spark” and stepping through a multi-colored portal of mesmerizing Neon Light.
Living Characters, Prophetically Interactive Exhibits, Leap-Frog Fountains and High-Speed 3D Films are among the many innovations that have made Journey Into Imagination a landmark in the history of themed entertainment. But it is history that is far from over and if the events of the last five years are any indication quick-fixes are becoming extinct. “Timely” has been replaced by “Timeless” and whatever the future holds I am sure that the Next Journey will surpass everyone’s expectations.












A History of Imagination
Written & Researched By Joshua L Harris
Edited By Amanda Reif



Dreamfinder Dreamcatcher Image Copyright 2010 Disney/Jason Tiki Tackett. All rights reserved.



To most this might seem extremely (and absurdly) analytical. Yet, I hold a long adopted a philosophy that anything worth doing is worth doing right. And time honored Disney Values such as Authenticity and Sincerity, however subconsciously, is appreciated by all.




  1. There were six entities specifically created to commemorate the Millennium. Of those, 50% were intended to only stand for the fifteen months. Tapestry of Nations was so impressive as a guest satisfier that it stayed (in one form or another) for a few more years. The Icon (or Wand) ended-up staying for seven years. And, at the time of this writing, Millennium Central is still in existence.
  2. This, of course, excludes the unceremonious and rather ironic “passing” of Horizons.
  3. From the beginning, Omnimovers like the Adventure Thru Inner Space and The Haunted Mansion are designed in such a way to make them “Multi-dimensional films” with the ride vehicle taking the place of the camera. The genius of the Omnimover system is that the vehicle can perform every function a camera can! They can zoom, pan, tilt, truck in several directions and even portray emotion by the speed of the action. .
  4. Interestingly, this is the exact opposite message than in the original Journey, for as Dreamfinder states; “Imagination is something that belongs to all of us.” .
  5. At this point I could bore you with some of my own personal stories of working at WDW post 9/11. I will spare you the oft told tales of the chilling ghost town that Walt Disney World became.
  6. It’s interesting to note that this scene was both largely unchanged from the YOUR Imagination ride, and it’s also an homage to the finale of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (briefly discussed in Part 3). This also means that at some time somewhere Walt Disney World has had guests running into invisible freight trains for almost forty years.
  7. Another perfect example of this would be the conversion from Superstar Limo to Monster Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue! But that a story for completely different website.
  8. One of the least known and most unappreciated facts is that almost all aspects of theme park design and operation are much more closely related to Theater and Film than any amusement park.
  9. The original attraction was designed long before audience participation was a requirement for all attractions. A time when all companies endeavored to CREATE entertainment rather than charge you with creating your own.
  10. In dramatic terms, Dreamfinder and Dr. Nigel Channing both play the “Straight Man” to Figment’s more erratic/comedic personality.
  11. It’s important to note that such modifications would have probably consumed over 50% of any conversion budget. As such, any permanent use of the exhibit would require a massive amount of structural change.
  12. Honey, I shrunk the Audience was produced in 65mm and Captain EO was shot in 70mm, therefore the resulting loss of picture is just under 10%.
  13. Modifications of attractions due to guest response have happened since the early years of Disneyland. The elimination of the Enchanted Tiki Room’s original “Offenbach” sequence (due to guests sleeping through the show) and the addition of Pop-Up Ghost in the Haunted Mansion (for lack of genuine scares).
  14. There are many differences between Disneyland and Walt Disney World, not the least of these is the way their core fan base is treated. It appears that the sixteen-year age-gap between the two does follow the same basic pattern. Sixteen years ago Disneyland had not even begun to appeal to its diehard enthusiasts with Imagineer-headlined discussion panels and after hours events. Walt Disney World has just started to see the potential (and profitability) of marketing and designing with a focus towards its most loyal fans. All projects and events in the upcoming the couple years should bolster confidence in better relationships between WDW and its devotees.
  15. If Orange Bird has a following… (You fill in the rest)
  16. To be fair, the shift in showmanship is also evocative of the entertainment landscape of our time. In the early 1980s, unscripted television (reality shows) hadn’t been invented, and the rather unimaginative concept of documenting the exploits of a handful of twenty-something’s from the Jersey Shore wouldn’t even get past the network programmers in the era of shows like Dynasty or Star Trek:TNG.
  17. For those of you who have the Disneyland TV Series episode Mars and Beyond picture the following paragraphs spoken by the great Paul Frees for the proper tonal effect.
  18. The Paint Pots are in fact identical to those used in Pooh’s Hunny Hut at Tokyo Disneyland in both design and technology.
  19. The Lab Coat would be a nearly identical two-foot tall (Figment-size) version of the former cast costume for the now retired Imagination Institute.
  20. Picture a more fanciful version of Inception.
  21. These could resemble that of the Lava Creature from Tokyo DisneySea or the Yeti from Expedition Everest, but all large and filling the space.