Archive for May, 2009

One Little Spark…

FROM THE INFINITE RECESSES OF THE POCKET DIMENSION IN RYAN’S MIND: On my first trip to Walt Disney World as a small child I was first introduced to a wondrous man. A person of unimpeachable joy and happiness. A man who made a fantastic discovery that would forever change the course of my life. I was introduced to the man who discovered the figment of imagination. He was known as the Dreamfinder, and the lack of his presence in the Imagination Pavilion in EPCOT is one of the greatest travesties to be inflicted on my short life.
Journey into Imagination was my favourite attraction as a child; its bright colours, interesting characters, and absorbing storyline always kept me coming back multiple times every visit. So, seeing the pavilion in the state it is now crushes what is left of my inner child. When Kodak’s sponsorship was almost up, they sold to Disney an idea to make what was then most expensive to run attraction at the park but, not surprisingly, the most popular, Journey into Imagination, into something both more manageable monetary-wise and into something that would have some synergy with the other side of the pavilion, the Honey I Shrunk the Audience 3-D movie next door. The Imagineers (the artisans who create the attractions, theme parks, resorts and hotels for Disney) and Kodak crafted a story that would bring the Nigel Channing character (played by the always hilarious Eric Idle) and his Imagination Institute from the Honey I Shrunk the Audience attraction. The results were less than stellar.
The original Journey into Imagination was sheer inspiration. When you entered the lobby, you were surrounded by giant murals depicting the show scenes in great detail, but they somehow did not spoil the entire experience, it was more of a preview of things to come. When you actually boarded the modified OmniMover ride system and entered a cloud filled and ethereal realm, the attraction became incredibly abstract, almost like you were actually traveling through someone’s imagination. Every room dealt with different concentrations for your imagination such as art, writing, and even science and each room had a completely different feel to it. From the Dreamfinder’s magic paintbrush and giant canvas in the art room, to the relative sterility and simpleness of the science room, the look of the ride was constantly changing and would keep your imagination active and actually provided some inspiration to create and the Dreamfinder and Figment were just the catalysts for all of this, they weren’t shoved down our throats at every conceivable moment.
The current attraction does not provide nearly the same feeling, the attraction now focuses on how the different senses affect your imagination. It is now filled with, as Fozzie Bear would call them, “cheap 3-D tricks” and no soul. This iteration of the attraction also managed to turn Figment from and endearing, child-like character into that annoying bratty child you always see at the mall or grocery store. Eric Idle can almost salvage the experience, but even his immense comedic timing cannot save the relatively dull attraction that culminates in a boring exhibit after the unload bay called the ImageWorks: The What-If Labs. These “labs” contain almost nothing but small little booths where you can take your picture and put stickers and cartoonish facial features (something I can do easily with my DSi) along with some exhibits carried over from the previous iteration, albeit on a smaller scale, dealing with music creation.
The glass pyramids on the top of the pavilion used to be where the ImageWorks (without the subtitle) were held. There was something incredibly symbolic about traveling up the massive spiral staircase and into the second floor, it was almost like ascending into the mind to enhance your imagination. It was a realm where the Florida sun played off of the giant prism that was the glass pyramids, creating beautiful rainbows. The ImageWorks contained places where you could play with music by either stepping on brightly coloured panels, or conducting a virtual orchestra using sensors; you could create art using giant virtual paintbrush guns, playing with giant kaleidoscopes and coloured bubbles. This was only the start of what could have been done in this astounding playground of the mind’s eye.
The biggest issue I have with what the pavilion has become, though, is the potential. Both the Walt Disney Company and especially it’s subset, Walt Disney Imagineering, are companies founded on the power of imagination. The imagination pavilion should be a showcase that really shows off what Imagineering can do. It should be something inspirational, something fantastic and majestic in it’s special effects, story, and characters. When EPCOT turned 25 almost two years ago, it was announced that Imagineering was working on a new version of this classic attraction. I’m hoping that this will not only happen, but will restore the pavilion to it’s former glory. I don’t know how much longer I can hold out seeing one of my most cherished childhood memories in it’s current state.

Contained below is the entire original attraction. You should watch it.