Opened in March 1983, the original Journey Into Imagination was a wonderfully immersive 14-minute trip through the world of imagination. Hosted by the Dreamfinder and his imaginative creation, Figment, the ride showed adults as well as children what was possible through the power of the imagination. After the ride, guests were encouraged to explore their own imaginations inside the upstairs Image Works.
Despite its ongoing popularity, Journey Into Imagination closed in 1998 to make room for the almost universally disliked Journey Into Your Imagination, which transformed into Journey Into Imagination With Figment in 2002. While the current incarnation is definitely an improvement over Journey Into Your Imagination, it lacks the heart, soul, and creativity of the original. Here are the 6 things we miss the most.
A portly scientist and inventor with red hair and a long red beard, Dreamfinder was our human guide through the world of imagination. He was the first character to appear in the ride, piloting a sort of bicycle/blimp through the clouds. After introducing himself and welcoming his guests, Dreamfinder created a Figment of his imagination: “Two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow, horns of a steer, but a loveable fellow. From head to tail, a royal purple pigment. And there, voila, you’ve got a Figment.”
Without Dreamfinder, Figment makes no sense. Where did he come from? What’s his back story? Long-time fans appreciate that Figment was reintroduced in the third incarnation of the ride, but he seems oddly out of place without one of the cohesive storylines for which Disney used to be famous.
Dreamfinder was also important because he assisted riders in suspending disbelief. Everyone is familiar with the mad scientist trope, and his entirely human nature helped us accept the bizarre things that were unfolding around us. New visitors with no knowledge of Figment’s origin story have trouble understanding him as anything more than a cute kids’ character—which may be part of the reason that the current attraction is considered a children’s ride, while the original was beloved by all ages.
2. Childlike Figment
Immediately after Figment’s creation, Dreamfinder decided to “throw in a dash of childish delight.” The original Figment was sweet, innocent, curious, and loving—the perfect counterpart to the more grandfatherly Dreamfinder. Throughout the ride, Figment was endlessly amazed and delighted by what was happening around him, and Dreamfinder showed the perfect blend of indulgence and gentle guidance. The sense of family that the two created resonated with park guests, as it mirrored our own families. This helped draw guests further into the attraction’s storyline.
The Figment of today is much more obnoxious teenager than delighted child. Snarky and intentionally chaotic, today’s Figment causes endless mayhem, which culminates in his decision to spray his visitors with a foul skunk odor. He has lost his charm, replacing it instead with an attitude problem that is alternately annoying and pathetic, rather than the “hip” or “edgy” that Disney was after in the early 2000s.
Today, riders exit into a small interactive area known as the “What If” labs. Intentionally geared to very young children, the place is mostly ignored by older kids and adults. Until 1998, however, guests were invited to experience the wonder of Image Works, which encompassed the entire second floor of the pavilion.
Image Works was a high-tech play land for guests of all ages. It was truly groundbreaking when it opened in 1983, featuring a vast array of interactive digital technologies that most park visitors had never seen. Yet even today, exhibits such as the Rainbow Corridor, a tunnel that changed colors in response to guest movements, the blue-screen Dreamfinder’s School of Drama, which placed guests in the middle of a short film, and the Electronic Philharmonic, which allowed guests to conduct a digital orchestra with a wave of their hands, would remain highly impressive. Instead, Image Works closed with the original version of the ride, leaving a gaping hole in the guest experience.