Home » 5 Things to Love About Disney’s Most HATED Attraction

5 Things to Love About Disney’s Most HATED Attraction

When things change at Disney’s theme parks, we fans don’t necessarily react with the most open of minds. Sometimes, attractions open and we don’t entirely give them a fair shake to prove themselves – we’re so upset at the loss of a beloved attraction, that Disney could replace it with the second coming of Horizons and we’d still complain.

A few weeks ago, I looked at the most maligned attraction at Walt Disney World, Stitch’s Great Escape, and attempted to show that from a certain point of view, it really isn’t all that bad. Even Disney’s lesser attractions, when compared to the offerings you might find at your local amusement ground, aren’t actually terrible. But, when compared to things like the Haunted Mansion and Spaceship Earth, they don’t entirely stack up.

Perhaps the best example of this anywhere on Disney property is Journey into Imagination with Figment at Epcot. While it has its supporters, there are countless Disney fans out there who, upon hearing this attraction’s name, begin foaming at the mouth in an unhinged rage. And, all things considered, they have a good reason to feel that way: The original version of Journey into Imagination was one of the greatest rides Walt Disney Imagineering ever produced, and its removal from Epcot was an absolute travesty. As such, whatever Disney replaced it with would be met with scorn and derision from much of the fanbase.

And yet, if you try to look at it with fresh eyes, forgetting everything you think you know, it’s really not as bad as you think. Here are a few reasons why:

1. It used to be a lot worse

If Disney fans dock points from Journey into Imagination with Figment because it’s not as good as its original conception, it should earn bonus points for being light years ahead of the 1999 edition: Journey into YOUR Imagination.

For my money, Journey into YOUR Imagination was the single worst attraction the Walt Disney Company ever put together. It was a cynical and sarcastic ride that began by insulting its guests – implying that they lacked any real imagination – and then proceeded to “stimulate” them using optical and auditory illusions.

It was awful. And, when Disney chief Michael Eisner finally saw it, he immediately ordered it remade into the version that exists today – bringing back many of the elements from the original version of the ride.

We’re all disappointed Journey into Imagination with Figment isn’t the same attraction as it was when the pavilion opened in 1983, but considering the sizable step up it has taken from its darkest point in 1999, it really has to be given a bit of a break. It’s not a perfect attraction, but now that we know what utter and complete failure is, it’s hard to call it one.

2. Figment is a great character

When Disney redid the attraction in 2001, turning it into the attraction we know today, they knew that they had to bring back one of the most beloved characters in Epcot history: Figment.

Figment is a great character for a few reasons: First of all, his “royal purple pigment” is quite striking, and doesn’t look like anything else you see in Disney’s character design. Secondly, while most other Disney characters are at least based on real animals (mice, dogs, ducks, etc.), Figment is a dragon – a literally imagined being. Lastly, Figment is as playful and creative as can be, and while the original attraction saw him learning everything he could do with his imagination, the new one sees him imparting that knowledge onto his straight-laced foil (played by Monty Python alum Eric Idle).

Yes, the new Figment is a bit snarkier than the Figment of old and, yes, not having Dreamfinder around is a real drawback, but it’s hard to deny the creative energy and eclectic styling present when Figment is around. He’s a great character, and he’s one that connects with kids. In a time when Disney seems to value synergy above all else, it’s kind of refreshing that there’s a character in a ride who hasn’t yet been adapted into a feature film. That uniqueness and jovial attitude will always make Figment a beloved Disney character – and he makes the ride worth experiencing.

3. One Little Spark is a truly iconic song

If the Sherman Brothers’ magnum opus, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” was the de facto theme song for Walt Disney, their Epcot creation, “One Little Spark,” is Walt Disney Imagineering’s signature tune.

The lyrics to this particular earworm are as poignant as they are catchy: “One little spark of inspiration is at the heart of all creation. Right at the start of everything that’s new, one little spark lights up for you.”

In true Sherman Brothers fashion, they were able to craft a song that is simultaneously fun to listen to and inspirational to learn from. The song is essentially about the creative process – something every artist experiences. It touches on feeling blocked and unable to create. It speaks to the explosion of inspiration you can get when an idea finally does arrive. And, above all else, it captures the joy inherent with unleashing your imagination.

The song first made its debut in 1983, and 30 years later, it is still as charming and as resonant today: “Imagination, Imagination. A dream can be a dream come true with just one spark, from me and you.” It doesn’t matter what the attraction is, as long as its playing this song, it can’t be all that bad.

4. It has some wonderfully creative show sequences

Again, if Journey into Imagination with Figment were at, say, a Six Flags instead of Walt Disney World, its perception would be completely different. Standing on its own, removed from the context of its past and the incredible work of its designers, this attraction actually features some pretty fantastic show sequences.

It starts slowly, with fairly reductive and simple effects featuring in the “Sound Lab,” “Sight Lab,” and “Smell Lab.” But, from there, the attraction really spreads its wings and very nearly gets off the ground.

Figment’s open house, an elaborate set featuring an upside-down house, is absolutely magnificent to explore with the eye. Yes, its colors are a bit garish and obvious, but the detail and creativity on display are praiseworthy.

From there, guests are treated to a startling explosion effect that reveals an amazing Figment-themed tableau using old animatronics from the original ride. It doesn’t entirely make a ton of sense in terms of the story, but visually, it’s hard to beat – and it really brings home the idea of Figment representing creativity and imagination itself.

And, lastly, as guests prepare to disembark from their ride vehicles, they pull into a darkened unload station with an absolutely gorgeous constellation lighting effect. It’s a beautiful look, and when the lights come on and transport you back to the dreary Imagination Institute, it’s hard not to get a dreamlike feeling from it.

These ending scenes are really too little, too late to save the attraction entirely, but they’re creative and inviting enough in their own right that the scorn heaped on the ride isn’t really fair.

5. It (ostensibly) encourages imagination

As much as we may want it to be, Journey into Imagination with Figment will never be as good as the original ride. However, both versions of the attraction serve a very important function in Epcot – they tie the larger themes of the entire park together.

Yes, technology is great – it can connect the world digitally (over the internet) and in person (via automobiles, energy, and even spacecraft) – but, what brings about this technology has always been and will always be imagination. At first glance, the idea of there being a pavilion celebrating the concept of imagination at a park geared around technology and science is confusing, until you realize that those things are really only the result of mankind’s irrepressible need to imagine and create. The original attraction drove this point home clearly and, to a lesser degree, the current one does too.

Without imagination, none of the rest of Epcot functions. Without a moment of inspiration, we don’t get the car, the phone, the greenhouse, or the spacecraft. To paraphrase the great Ellen DeGeneres, without imagination, we’d be left in the dark, wouldn’t we?

Thankfully, we aren’t left in the dark. We’ve got One Little Spark to help light the way – who cares if it isn’t quite as bright as it was before?

You can learn the full story behind Journey Into Imagination by reading our in-depth retrospective.