Why We Should Return Dreamfinder to Journey Into Imagination
By Megan Valentine
“Two Tiny Wings
Eyes Big and Yellow
Horns of a Steer
but a Loveable Fellow!
From head to tail
he’s royal purple pigment
and there, voila, you’ve got a Figment!”
From its opening in 1983 until the first short-lived refurbishment in 1998, Journey Into Imagination led everyone who rode it on a journey through the imagination of Dreamfinder and his creation, Figment, and expounded on the crucial nature of imagination in everyone’s lives. Dreamfinder spoke about how you could make or be anything if you used your imagination. Just “one little spark of inspiration” is responsible for all creation and is important for everyone. The ride encouraged children to embrace their imaginations and encouraged adults to rediscover the childlike wonder and dreaming that is still important even when you grow up.
Although I have always been a huge Figment fan and still have the picture I took with Dreamfinder and Figment as a child, I gained a much stronger appreciation for the original ride and the reasoning behind its creation after reading/listening to the book From Dreamer to Dreamfinder by Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder in EPCOT. (If you love Figment and Dreamfinder, seriously get the audiobook, you won’t regret it! Schneider sings portions of the song at times and it’s amazing!) In his book, he speaks about the planning and creation of the ride, which he joined toward the end before becoming the official Dreamfinder for events as well as roaming through the park interacting with guests. In his book, Schneider says that Dreamfinder and Figment were created to represent two halves of the human mind with Dreamfinder being practical, experienced, and educated while Figment is impulsive, wild, and childlike. The two halves combine to go through a journey through the creative process.
In the original attraction, Dreamfinder and Figment led their travel companions through different realms of discovery including science, art, and literature, gathering ideas for their creations and explaining the crucial nature of imagination in everyone’s lives. One of the only remaining aspects of the original ride, apart from a few verses in the song, is the ending scene which features Figment in numerous occupations or dream scenarios, showing that you could be almost anything if you set your mind to it.
According to Ron Schneider’s stories in his book, he got in trouble multiple times for disregarding the limitations put on his character when roaming around EPCOT.Rather than simply greeting children and adults and taking photos, Schneider made it his goal to have meaningful interactions with the guests. He often reacted to a small child as if they were the first child he’d ever seen, causing him to think about himself in a whole new light so that he could explain to Dreamfinder and Figment who (and what) he was. Rather than the guest being the one amazed and honored to meet the character, Schneider turned the experience on its head, making the interaction all the more meaningful.
In 1998, Kodak sponsorship of the Journey into Imagination ride was in question, which is one of the possible factors in the redesign of the attraction along with its inevitable aging over a 15-year run. The first redesign lasted only about a year as it was almost universally hated and had none of the charm that the original did. The original characters had vanished apart from a tiny Figment cameo. The current iteration, which opened in 2002, combined details of the second iteration while returning Figment to the attraction, although he is mostly devoid of the whimsy and fascination for discovery of the original. In the current iteration, Figment is often seen as a nuisance and irritation, not the fun-loving, creative original character. While the ride ends with an appreciation and understanding for creativity and its role in our lives, it’s not at all the same experience.
I am not a proponent for returning Journey into Imagination exactly as it was, as it of course aged over the years and a ride created in 1983 would not hold the same strength today. However, the heart of the ride should be returned and a growing number of people have expressed a love and nostalgia for Dreamfinder. An updated version of the original would likely do well, restoring the feeling and meaning from the first ride to the modern-day park and returning the two characters who were originally the only characters in EPCOT. Figment has become the de facto mascot for the park and all its festivals, so why shouldn’t we have a ride that actually does the valuable character justice? In a time where people are often way too serious for their own good, a ride fully expounding on imagination and showing how wonderful creation and appreciation for whimsy can be would be invaluable for all of us.
My name is Megan Valentine. I'm a travel junkie, a lifelong Disney fan, and a museum curator & registrar. My granddad was born in 1928, just like Mickey Mouse, so he has worked to instill a love of all things Disney in his kids and grandkids. He and my grandmother took me to Walt Disney World for the first time when I was four years old, and I have been addicted ever since. I have now been to WDW seven times and can't get enough! I am the planner for all of my family's Disney trips and consultant for any friends with questions since I am always reading about Disney, listening to podcasts, or watching the movies. In addition to my Disney travels, I love to explore a variety of destinations with an ever-growing list of places to visit. As a museum professional and art historian, I often seek out fascinating new museum exhibits when I can, particularly if it has anything to do with my other major obsession, Egypt!
From Dreamer to Dreamfinder, Ron Schneider, 2012