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Do You Know This Man?

One of the mandates during the creation of EPCOT Center was to differentiate its offerings from what could be found in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. One of the more famous elements of that agenda was the lack of traditional Disney characters in the park; instead of Mickey and friends, EPCOT would showcase new characters.

The best known of these are, of course, Dreamfinder and Figment from Kodak’s Journey into Imagination pavilion. The professorial Dreamfinder was an evolution of “Professor Marvel,” a character conceived for Tony Baxter’s unbuilt “Discovery Bay” Disneyland expansion. He migrated east when a host was needed for the Kodak pavilion, becoming the character we know today.

These images are from March of 1981, when the character was starting to come to life in the workshops of WED Enterprises.

Dreamfinder, host of the Journey into Imagination Pavilion in Epcot Center, nears the final approval stage in the Sculpture Shop. Pictured [below] is the full-scale clay model, which recently took on a whole new look as fittings were made for his wardrobe.

The model stands 5’6″ and has reddish-blonde hair. Wayne Strong, who set aside his sculpting tools and did the make-up for Dreamfinder, revealed that early conceptual drawings specified white hair, but were changed when the character began to look a bit too much like Santa Claus.

"And-a-one, and-a-two, and..."

Dreamfinder has been gone from Epcot for more than a decade now, but we live in hope of his eventual return…

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16 comments to Do You Know This Man?

  • beaglelady

    I miss Dreamfinder and the original enchanting Journey into Imagination so much. Dreamfinder was one of Disney’s greatest characters, IMHO. The new version of the attraction is a Journey into Abomination!

  • Sean O

    Dreamfinder’s not gone, he’s just one of the illogically-placed Goofy characters now.

  • RO93461

    Looks like a young Rolly Crump.

  • I know fully well that this will be unpopular here, but what I would really like to see Disney do with the Imagination pavilion is to bring back Dreamfinder, bring back Figment, and bring back the original concent of gathering ideas. Only, this would be done in a manner similar to Toy Story Midway Mania, 3D interactive shooting game/ride. Think Midway Mania on the Imagination ride track, with scenes similar to the original attraction, with screens to shoot at sprinkled in variously throughout the ride, except instead of stopping in front of various screens, the ride would be continuous, or at least more so than Midway Mania.

    Does every park need a Space Ranger Spin/Midway Mania style attraction? No…but at least it would make the ride interactive, and bring back the original concept, without a revert to the 1980’s…which we all know is not going to happen.

    • That’s actually an interesting idea; it would CERTAINLY be preferable to the current setup. I would try not to use screens, though – they get carried away with those. Something with actual props could be fun. You capture ideas as you go through…

      I think my ideal would be to bring back the old ride pretty much all the way through until the “what about science..” part, and then replace the last two scenes which were just Figment watching movies. Put something in there that uses modern imaging tech or effects.

      They just need to do SOMETHING…

  • Sean O

    My problem with that idea is we could run into a Star Tours / Body Wars situation, where there are two nearly identical rides. Yes, WDI was able to make Space Ranger Spin and TSM different enough, but I think a third would be problematic.

    First and foremost, Imagination needs its upstairs section again. Having it closed, with the terribly small excuse for ImageWorks downstairs, is just unacceptable. Regardless of how bad the attraction is.

    I feel an entirely new concept related to imagination is the best approach. Unfortunately, it always seemed like the Imagination pavilion had the least heft behind it originally compared to the other attractions, but the subject matter screams excitement.

    Can’t believe the last 2 “upgrades” we’ve had.

    • Agreed that bring back the upstairs is vital. That’s where you could go really nuts with new technology, and allow people to do all sorts of things. Keep the iconic bits, like the rainbow tunnel and pin screens, but go bonkers with the rest.

      And don’t forget that there’s a theater that needs a new show. Or maybe they can just use that space to expand the ride…

      Agree that the last 2 “upgrades” have NOT been upgrades at all…

  • My idea would be something a little more akin to Universal’s Spider Man attraction meets Toy Story Midway Mania. The reasoning behind it is that it adds re-ridability, while showing off NextGen technologies. Granted, I’d rather see the original come back, but I understand all too well that the original was not drawing a crowd, and would probably only do about as well as what they currently have in place (which is a sad commentary on the public, but I digress).

    I wouldn’t want to see the ride mirror TSMM but with Figment. That is not my suggestion, and … it would really disappoint me if someone at Disney saw this, and said ‘Hey, this hockey player online has an idead to turn Imagination into a Midway Mania clone’ and followed through with it. It would really suck if I were a part of that on any level.

    What I am describing is more of a 3D adventure, that follows the Dreamfinder and Figment on their quest to gather ideas (like in the original), but with actual sets (like the original) with very high resolution 3D screens mixed in. The ride vehicle that is currently in use can already rotate 360 degrees, and the track layout, as I recall, would lend itself to this sort of set up with a little, well…imagination.

    In the end, I am thinking of what Disney could do, realistically, without dozing the pavilion or spending a fortune (which they will not do) that would also hold true to the original ideas of the ride.

    A lot of us old school types like to bemoan the fact that some of the old attractions are gone (don’t get me started on El Rio or Spaceship Earth), but, in today’s world, simple dark rides with static and semi-animated scenes just really don’t have mass appeal. And that is the name of the game. The key is to work in the “NextGen” effects (see Haunted Mansion) while preserving the integrity of the original work. As opposed to just destroying a classic (current version of Imagination, Mission Space, Spaceship Earth, El Rio). And, the other key is to be realistic. Disney will most likely do one of the following with Imagination:

    1 – Absolutely nothing in the near to not-so-near future (the most likely scenario)
    2 – Do another “re-imagination” that involves crappy props and another washed up actor.
    3 – Re-theme it to a movie.
    4 – Do a refurb that involves “NextGen”, but doesn’t require a new track or ride vehicle.

    That is why I am advocating for #4, because it is the lesser of the evils, and who knows, it could actually be fun for a D ticket attraction.

    • The idea of mashing up original Imagination with the fluidity of Spiderman is kind of neat. Maybe they could mix-and-match scenes from the original ride with new scenes that have these elements. Trim out some of the scenes that didn’t work as well.

      It’s an intriguing idea, and at the very least means investing in the ride and keeping the classic characters and ideas. Or maybe this could be an entirely different experience in what is now the 3-D theater. Do we really need EO anymore? :)

      Weirdly, I kind of think that Imagination would be better attended if it were re-opened today than when it closed. It’s the weird syndrome we’re seeing at the Tiki Room, where there is often a queue now.

      But thanks for clarifying that you didn’t want Toy Story Mania with Figment lol…

  • Omnispace

    Sean, I never got to visit the original Imagination attraction but you make an interesting point. From what I have viewed in vintage videos it could be that the show lacked “heft” because the premise wasn’t all that far-reaching. As far as I can tell wasn’t the message of grand finale that you can use your imagination to be or do whatever you want? That’s an optimistic message but that concept pretty much starts around age 2 for most people — not exactly a revelation for adults visiting Epcot. In that regard one can build an amazing and detailed ride-through attraction just to have it miss the mark with much of it’s audience.

    That’s not to say that dark rides are not relevant in today’s world, Hockey. The continued high rankings for both the Haunted Mansion and Pirates demonstrate that elaborate and extremely well-produced dark-ride-type shows are still very popular. The Harry Potter ride that everyone talks about is exactly that. I’m not sure exactly what NextGen is supposed to be, really, but what has been produced so far merely seems to be more a gimmick than something that is going to produce better shows. It’s not by mistake that the Harry Potter ride doesn’t have NextGen. It doesn’t need it!

    Hockey, you have some valid and realistic ideas but if I was to select an option from your list I would pick #5 — something that has never been tried before — and something that helps to restore the original mission of Epcot. First, come up with an amazing show that delivers a thought provoking message and only then use the NextGen technology to enhance that experience, whatever that may be.

    • I think the original JII trailed off at the end and lacked a real “WOW” to top it off. Instead it was front-loaded – the biggest and most amazing scenes were at the start.

      The reason I’m in favor of restoring most of the original is that they have 1/2 – 3/4 of a ride that worked exceptionally well, and most of the problems were towards the end. Replacing the final 2-3 scenes with something new and impressive would really end it with a bang. AND restoring the ImageWorks upstairs would make the experience complete again.

      JII is probably a ride that doesn’t come across as well in videos as it did in real life. It was a really sensory experience, with some large immersive sets.

  • “AND restoring the ImageWorks upstairs would make the experience complete again” … agreed 100%, regardless of what else they do.

  • Alain Littaye

    As a matter of fact Michael, the Dreamfinder AA can be seen every day…inside Disneyland Paris Phantom Manor (!) where Jeff Burke, who was Frontierland show producer used Dreamfinder’s head for a Phantom Manor character. I did an article about this some years ago and reading your article gave me the idea to re-post it so you can read it on Disney and more here:

  • Smaha

    Still think that pavilion woulod score big-time with a family-oriented molecular gastronomy restaurant. Imagination + Science + Traditional Cooking = Food.

    Frozen hot chocolate. Edible exploding volcano cake. Vegetable balls suspended in liquid. Any crazy idea like that. FW finally gets another sit-down restaurant; kids learn it’s ok to play with your food. WDW gets to make some cash on the space. All it takes is a little imagination…

    • Lorange

      Great Ideas, Smaha. Although I Wonder if those would be better off in the Land or WOL Pavillions.

      You would think as health conscious we are/need to be these days that WoL would be open and filled with exhibits of “Healthy Living”

      Curious about Healthier Foods? Try a variety of them for yourself-You might find something good for you that you like.

      How about some Demonstrations of how to cook your own food? Far too often we reach for pre-packaged stuff, in favor of convenience or cost.

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