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Could the Dreamfinder soon be returning to Epcot's "Journey into Imagination" attraction?

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Could the Dreamfinder soon be returning to Epcot's "Journey into Imagination" attraction?

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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?

Your thoughts?

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  • Great information Jim. Too bad we won't see this kind of rebirth with Horizons.

    I'm certain PIXAR will see the desired effect from both Pirates attractions, so we should all be seeing a new Imaginations Pavillion in the near future.

    This speaks to the constant gripe about the parks turning into PIXARLAND as well - this focus on what is/was good in the parks is really refreshing.

    Is the MK Tiki Room soon to be under Original Management?

    I wonder if they'll bring back MAPO?
  • Epcot doesn't need Disney-izing *or* Pixar-izing, it needs a return to the World's Fair theme while mixing a little of both:
    What we missed about Dreamfinder wasn't the particular Disney-trivia character or a strolling bearded ventriloquist, but a sense that the Imagination Pavilion was "about" something--And the something being what the exhibit was about, namely Why Imagination Was Really Neat.
    Walking through the 80's Epcot with WDI-built attractions, you could almost picture what it must've been like in 1964 New York, to get in line for Small World and Carousel of Progress for the first time, and walk out of the attractions humming the "message" theme.

    "Dweebs", unquote, are the ones who've been around long enough to appreciate history and try to keep the conversation on topic, while it's only Newbie guests that line up for Expedition Everest...
    As Tiki Room proved (and Paul Pressler's disturbing "I hate old attractions!--I hate 'em, I hate 'em!" rant in the redo, at the expense of practically anything else in the script), alienate the "dweebs" in favor of Paying Newbies Who Don't Know Better and you have *one* audience...Keep them in the family, and you have two--It's not like those "annual passes", unquote, aren't money in Disney's pocket either.
    And more of something is better than less of something.
  • If It Ain't Broke. Don't Fix it.

    Well, personally, I believe that Imagination has been broken for a LONG time. As a Florida resident I grew up on Epcot, and it is the Park that I remember with some of the fondest memories of my teen years. I had a softspot for the Whimsy that was the Imagination Pavillion, The ride with Dreamfinder and Figment, Magic Journeys (later Captain Eo), The Imageworks.
    All that being said however, I was really EXCITED about the makeover that was scheduled way back in 1999. I thought, "Gee, if they have something planned for a rehab this big, it MUST be pretty impressive!"

    History proves though, that not only was my trust misplaced, but so was WDI's Common sense (maybe WDI SHOULD change its name back to WED).

    The mistakes they made? Taking out all of the clever puns and wizz-bang (for their time) special effects of the DreamPort, Shortening, one of the longest Dark rides ever built, removing the AMAZINGLY well concieved turntable show scene with Dreamfinder, (Ok, sure it was a technical nightmare operationally speaking causing quite alot of ride downtime, but then again, so did Energy in the early years), and of course removing Figment.

    They closed the upstairs Imageworks and what they replaced it with downstairs felt dull and uninspired. And yea, I hear ya that the giftshop increased 200% in sales, but you know what I say to that?

    SO WHAT? !!

    Why dont they build a WalMart in back of the Pavillion that you would have to walk through to exit the attraction? It would make tons of money too. But would it best serve that park and all of the people paying almost 60 dollars to come in each day?

         So the replacement show received tons of hatemail, and figment was added back in and everything was brightened up a little. Just a little though. It kind of felt like dressing up a corpse in pretty clothes. One Little Spark... Its still missing.
  • First off, I'm thinking that if parents who grew up going to WDW hear about these changes, maybe they'll plan a vacation for their families when they ordinarily wouldn't.  I didn't grow up going to the parks, but I moved to Orlando 2 years ago.  I love the Figment ride, but I know a little about Dreamfinder (one of the doors in the ride even says "Dean Finder").  I'd love to see the rides go back to what they once were.  It's strange to me, though, that people want the old JII and Tiki rides, but I haven't heard much complaining about the redo on "Pirates".  I think it'll be interesting, and the ride time will definitely go up.  I wonder how much will change, though.  I also wonder if they do redo JII, will they model it after the original ride, or will they make an all-new ride, just including Dreamfinder?  Either way, I'd love for Dreamfinder to find his way back to Epcot!
  • Adding Dreamfinder to JII is nice, but I, too, think that the money would be better spent elsewhere.  Say, Innoventions.  If we are just putting pearls on a pig here, then forget it.  If we are talking a radical redo of the ride, then maybe I can get behind it.  Again, I'd like to see an update for UoE, the theater in The Land, a complete gutting of Innoventions, ANYthing at the exit to SE or progress on the old Wonders of Life pavilion before fixing an attraction that is already ok.   Not great, but ok.  And the JII play area is still a highlight for our trip.  Our little ones love the sound pads, we send pictures to our family at home, and even I play at composing with Figment.  
    Do I prefer the original version of JII? Yes.  Is it a pressing matter that needs to be addressed?  No.  
    As far as WED?  I am neither here nor there with the name change.  Walt Disney Imagineering still has the maestro's name along with the unique job title.  WED is a nice gesture, but is it really significant?  Maybe in Burbank, but not anywhere else.
    Still, there is power in names, especially revered, cast-away, pined-after old ones that embody imagination.
  • Wow I got goosebumps when I read they'll potentially be changing WDI's name back to WED... Good stuff.
  • "...greenlighting redos that will greatly please Disney dweebs but will have really limited appeal to members of the general public?"

    I think this makes great business sense, especially if they pull out the stops and concieve a new ride with Dreamfinder that was even better than the original. JII used to be the "must stop" location at Epcot. It was the first place we went when entering the park. Now, you can just walk right onto the ride any time of day as many times as you want (which is nice, because my daughter loves Figment). The Imagination Pavilion is a ghost town compared to what it once was. Far better to spend a few million to spruce up an old attraction than to spend many more to build something completely new.
  • Please no!!! That Dreamfinder was just too creepy, if you know what I mean. I felt like I was on a "bad trip" when I rode the original attraction and needed a shower afterward.

    Wasn't Tony Baxter responsible for changing the Pirates chase scene?

    Tony, put your pencil down and back away from the Epcot.
  • changing the name back to WED would do nothing to correct all the problems.  It's symbolism over substance.  Just like wearing a ribbon about your favorite cause, or "turning your lights on" to support (insert cause here).  It does nothing to help the cause.  It just makes you feel better.

    Same thing with the WED name.  If they want to do things, reorganize, cut the dead weight, bring in great talent, streamline the process, and get back to doing things the way WED did.  Don't just call yourself WED.  Earn the title!

    As far as Dreamfinder . . . if it makes a great attraction for someone who knows nothing about the past, great.  If it's just adding Dreamfinder for the "He, he's back" factor, pass.
  • Honestly, I hope all of these rumors are just rumors.  I wouldn't put it past the guys at Pixar to float some stories out there just to keep the "dweebs" busy... and these are perfect rumors for doing just that (according to a former Imagineer I know, these were both rumors that floated around when he was with the company back in the mid 90s).

    The problem with all of this is that it's the exact opposite of the way they need to be thinking.  Sure, it would give warm fuzzies to a small fraction of the population, who love nostalgia, but they would lose the rest of the world's interest.  No one, outside of the "I remember it when" crowd would buy a ticket to Epcot because Dreamfinder is back.  It's time for Disney to move forward, not backward.

    What made Disney World, and especially Epcot great was the WOW factor of it all... the fact that you could experience things there that you could experience no where else.  Now it's showing it's age, because all of that WOW stuff is becoming common place.   WDI needs to realize that cardboard cutouts and 1-2 movement animatronics have become little more than museum pieces in this world of CG and bi-ped robots.  They need to find the WOW for this generation and start implementing it in the C-ticket rides.  Then they can open the Disney Archives for tours to take care of those who want to relive the past.

    So... here's my take... leave WDI alone... call the main building WED Works if you want to honor Walt.  If you want to tweak Imagination, add a few new WOW elements (Think Disneyland Haunted Mansion update) and spend the effort/money on bringing new technology into the Imageworks and making it the imagination inspiring place it used to be.  Then work on ways of making everything in Future World more awe inspiring, without turning every pavilion into a thrill ride.
  • I think WDI has a better ring to it than WED. That's where I stand on that.

    I like the idea of redoing the ride. I like bringing Dreamfinder back. I think just because it makes it sound as though the ride might actually be about imagination. I think the best incarnation of this ride might have nothing to do with Dreamfinder or Figment, though. I think you would appeal to both children and adults by making this ride more sophisticated and dreamlike. I think imagination can be inspiring rather than just silly.

    In fact, the first time I went, back when they were both still in the show, I thought Figment was the more annoying of the two. He reminded me of every stupid squeeky character that gets added to every show made by adults trying to appeal to children without understanding them ("Gleek" from Superfriends and Jar Jar Binks spring to mind, but the list goes on and on). And I was only 10 at the time.

    A ride that reminds us that imagination can be playful but can also be sweeping and epic would be a lot more fun that another ride spraying stinksmell at you. Wouldn't a tour of what a child imagines, like space travel, cowboys and indians, what it feels like to be a superhero, be a more impacting ride than a tour of sensory special effects?

    Anyway, I hope that's the direction they're going. Not just to appeal to the dweeb market, but rather to take out the gimmicks and replace it with real vision.
  • It seems to me that thinking in the long term is the answer here. Anybody can open a new attraction and increase the immediate take at the front gate, but a place like WDW should be focussed on longevity. Build something that I'm going to want to return to time and time again whether I'm a Disney dweeb or not. If I'm not...make me a Disney Dweeb by making kick-ass attractions that I can't get anywhere else.  Isn't that why there are Disney dweebs in the first place? Because the product is so good that we get hooked on it?

    That's the way things were built in the past. That's the way the great animated films were made. Make it quality and people will get hooked and continue to shell out for it. People were still waiting in line for Pirates after 30 years, regardless of whether or not they added Johnny Depp to it.

    So, you can't look at it as going backwards. If bringing Dreamfinder back increases the quality and the longevity of the attraction, then go ahead.
  • re: btbarlow...."Wouldn't a tour of what a child imagines, like space travel, cowboys and indians, what it feels like to be a superhero, be a more impacting ride than a tour of sensory special effects? " I'm not sure if you realized (or sublimalilly remembered) it, but the first 3D film in the imagination pavilion was just that. It was called Magical Journeys,and it showed a few kids imagining themselves in a circus, as astronauts, etc. It was (at the time) amazing and wonderfull.

    I originally thought that a redo of the JII ride to incorporate the 'imagination institute' would be a great tie in to the HISTA film, but the execution was horrible. If the imagineers had the money and time to really do it right, I think that it would still be good concept.
  • This is great news.  EPCOT (center) has lost much of its theming.  Past updates have replaced quality shows with cheap nonsense--the worst example being the downgrades that have happened in the imagination pavilion.  I couldn't be happier.  And Disney, if you're listing, I live in California.  Such an update would make me want to visit your park in florida very soon.

  • (Uh, before we get too nostalgic on that, I'll still put in my survivor's testimony that while "A 3-D movie about the Power of Imagination" was a great idea in concept, "Magic Journeys", in execution, was a nightmarish acid-trip that sent most of the younger kids and parents out early--
    Captain EO was a little optimistically closer to the "What if?" idea, but you know what happened with that one, and Honey/Audience was just cold by-the-numbers Pressler "They won't see it unless it's Based on the Hit Movie".

    Something on pippin's level of a round-the-world 3-D "Timekeeper" would better serve the spirit of the movie half of the attraction, but that requires a little dedication on the New Guys' part...)
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