There's an old cliché that says -- if you want to send a message -- you should use Western Union.
Well, now that the Walt Disney Company has finally completed its acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios, John Lasseter -- AKA the new Chief Creative Officer at Disney Feature Animation as well as the Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering -- supposedly wants to send a message to the world that Disney is about to experience a creative rebirth. That this whole corporation is about to infused with imagination.
And what better way is there to get that particular message across to the general public then by once again redoing Epcot's "Journey into Imagination" pavilion. Only this time around, the Imagineers will supposedly be putting something back in that was taken out during that Future World attraction's infamous 1999 redo. Or should I say someone?
Photo courtesy of Google Images
That's right, folks. According to reports that leaked out of Emeryville late last week, the Dreamfinder is coming back to Epcot's "Journey into Imagination" attraction. Not only that, but Tony Baxter (I.E. WDI's current senior VP of design as well as being one of the Imagineers who -- back in the late 1970s -- who originally came up with the concept for the "Imagination" pavilion) will reportedly be riding herd on this project. Which will allegedly use state-of-the-art technology to bring "JII" back to its former glory.
Yes, I know. This all sounds like some Disney dweeb's fantasy come true. But based on what people who are familiar with what's really been going on deep inside Pixar are telling me, this story is true. Baxter was supposedly up in Emeryville last week to meet with the powers-that-be at Pixar. And these folks ... They were reportedly looking for some sort of symbolic gesture. Something that would say to the world that the Walt Disney Company would soon be returning to its core values.
It was during this meeting that the idea for reinstalling the Dreamfinder in Epcot's "Journey into Imagination with Figment" ride was first allegedly floated. Given Tony's history with this Future World attraction, it was felt that he would be the perfect guy to oversee this particular project.
I'm told that Baxter was initially reluctant to take on the "Imagination" redo. Feeling that it would just take too much time, money and energy to repair all the damage that had been done during the two earlier revamps of this ride. But when the folks at Pixar supposedly told Tony that he'd have all the money that he'd need to properly redo the Future World attraction (More importantly, that he'd have "Hire & Fire" ability on this project), Baxter then agreed to come on board.
Mind you, there are those within Disney who seriously question this decision. Who believe that it would be in Epcot's best interests to just take the money that has been earmarked for the "Journey into Imagination" redo and then use that amount to build a brand-new attraction for this science & discovery park. Something that would then appeal to tourists that are visiting Central Florida and compell them to buy a ticket to Epcot.
You see, according to these folks, redoing Epcot's "Journey into Imagination with Figment" ride ... Something like that is only going to appeal to the hardcore Disney dweebs. And -- in the end -- that sort of decision really isn't going to have all that big an impact on Epcot's gate. Given that most Disney dweebs already have annual passes to the parks and/or would still visit Disney World even if "JII" was never retooled.
Of course, the folks at Pixar are hoping that "Pirates of the Scare-ibbean" (AKA The elaborate redos of Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom's classic rides that are currently underway. Which will fold characters from the two "Pirates of the Caribbean" feature films -- "The Curse of the Black Pearl" and "Dead Man's Chest" -- into these pre-existing attractions) proves this hypothesis wrong. That once all of the new "Scare-ibbean" stuff goes live in both DL & WDW's version of "Pirates," that these 39 and 33-year-old attractions will become such huge draws ... Well, the surge in attendance will be similar to that which would have occurred if the Walt Disney Company had opted instead to built brand-new E-Tickets at each of these theme parks.
If these "Pirates" redos proves to be as popular with the public as the folks at Pixar hope they will ... Well, that should (in theory) grease the skids so that the Baxter-led redo of "Journey into Imagination with Figment" can then sail through WDI's approval process. Which means that this project could be officially announced as early as October of this year, during the inevitable press event that will be held for the grand re-opening of Future World' radically retooled "The Living Seas" pavilion. Which -- from here on -- will be called "The Seas with Nemo & Friends."
Mind you, it's just not this "Bring Back the Dreamfinder" project that is causing some friction between WDI veterans and the people at Pixar who soon hope to be calling the shots at Imagineering. Among the goofier ideas that these Emeryville insiders are supposedly trying to push through is renaming Walt Disney Imagineering.
I'm serious, folks. The powers-that-be at Pixar reportedly want to drop the WDI name and then go back to the name that Disney's theme park design division used to have back in the 1960s & 1970s. Which was WED. As in Walt Elias Disney's initials.
Which would (it's true) also signal to the world that Imagineering was getting back to its roots. Re-embracing the name of the man who made this all possible.
But -- at the same time -- a strictly symbolic gesture like that could literally wind up costing the Walt Disney Company millions of dollars. Think about all of the signs that would then have to be repainted, all the new letterhead that would have to be ordered, all of the new business cards that would have to be printed. So that every WDI employee would then be able to show that they now worked for WED.
Again, the common complaint is "Wouldn't this money be better spent on something that the guests could actually enjoy? A new ride or show that could be used to increase theme park attendance?"
But those folks at Pixar ... They love symbolic gestures. And -- when you consider that the Walt Disney Company just spent $7.4 billion to acquire Pixar Animation Studios ... Well, spending $30 - $40 million to redo Epcot's "Journey in Imagination with Figment" ride and/or spending $2 - $3 million to change WDI's name back to WED ... That's really just a drop in the bucket to these guys, right?
But what do you folks think? I know, I know. All of you Disney dweebs out there are probably thrilled to hear that the Dreamfinder may soon be re-united with Figment. But is the Walt Disney Company really sending the right message -- particularly to Wall Street's movers & shakers -- by greenlighting redos that will greatly please the Disney faithful but will have really limited appeal to members of the general public?