Today marks 36 years since the Journey Into Imagination ride opened at Epcot! Over the years, the beloved attraction has undergone quite a transformation, including multiple name changes, new storylines, different characters, and even a change in the length of the ride.
1983 – 1998: Journey Into Imagination
Journey Into Imagination originally opened on March 5, 1983, in Epcot’s Future World area. Guests would board omnimover vehicles and “float” among the clouds, viewing a bizarre blimp/vacuum cleaner hybrid vehicle up ahead being operated by a singing pilot. As the omnimover got closer, riders would realize the pilot is an old man with a red beard and top hat who introduced himself as Dreamfinder. The blimp was revealed as the Dream Mobile (also called the Dream Catcher) that collected ideas and dreams and turned them into new things. Dreamfinder used his dream mobile to create a figment of his imagination, described as “Two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow, horns of a steer, but a lovable fellow! From head to tail, he’s a royal purple pigment, and there, voila, you’ve got a Figment!”
Then, Dreamfinder and Figment teamed up to come with ways to fill the idea bag. Once the bag was filled, Dreamfinder explained that they needed to be emptied into the “Dreamport”. The omnimovers then traveled into the Dreamport’s storage room, which housed a massive idea-sorting contraption as well as other items like boxed applause, a plasma ball, and a birdcage filled with musical notes. The next few rooms riders journeyed through represented art, literature, performing arts, and science.
The mostly white-walled Art Room was decorated with a large painting made by Dreamfinder using a fiber optic paintbrush, a carousel of giant animals, and Figment holding a pot of rainbows. Next up was the Literature Room, which mostly focused on suspenseful tales like a big book menacingly topped with Edgar Allan Poe’s Raven and books of gruesome monsters that Figment was desperately trying to keep closed. Dreamfinder was seen in the Literature room playing a huge organ that had words flowing out of it that turned into their meaning before the riders’ eyes. In the Performing Arts room, Dreamfinder played the role of orchestra conductor, directing a laser light show as Figment tried on costumes backstage. The last stop was the Science Room, where Dreamfinder was seen operating a large machine that explored the workings of nature such as the growth of plants, the transformation of minerals to crystals, and a look into space.
This original version of the ride ended with Figment traveling through several movie screens as various characters including a scientist, a mountain climber, a pirate, a superhero, a tap dancer, a ship captain, a cowboy, and an athlete. It officially closed on October 10, 1998, for a major renovation.
1999 – 2001: Journey Into YOUR Imagination
The attraction reopened a year later, on October 1, 1999, with the name Journey Into YOUR Imagination. The updated theme was based on the 3D attraction “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience”. In the reimagined ride Dreamfinder was replaced by Dr. Nigel Channing, who invited guests to take a tour of his Imagination Institute and be test subject for his new invention, the Imagination Scanner.
After boarding the ride, guests were transported through the scanner, which revealed that they all had no imagination. Channing then sent them through multiple labs in the Institute: the Sound Lab, the Illusion Lab, the Color Lab, the Gravity Lab, and the Connection Lab.
First, riders entered the Sound Lab and were greeted by complete silence and darkness. Slowly noises started to trickle in, such as crickets chirping, distant city sounds, and a rapidly approaching train that seemed to travel right overhead. Moving on to the Illusion Lab, guests witnessed a fish swimming in and out of its tank and an empty cage with a butterfly inside that appeared as you got closer. In the Color Lab, sounds of jungle animals and busy cities caused two light screens to change colors to match the different sounds. Next, riders passed through the Connections Lab, which was a room covered in stars that connected into constellations, before entering the Gravity Lab, an upside-down house. As the ride came to an end riders went through the scanner again to see that their minds had been completely filled with bright ideas.
A major complaint of the new version was that Figment’s presence was drastically reduced (he was only visible as a constellation in the Connections Lab) and that Dreamfinder was completely erased from the ride. The attraction’s track was also shortened due to budget problems. In response to the backlash from parkgoers, the ride closed again on October 2, 2001, for yet another renovation.
2002 – Today: Journey Into Imagination With Figment
On June 2, 2002, the ride opened for a third time with another new title, this time with its current name Journey Into Imagination With Figment. As you can guess based on the updated name, Figment was brought back with a larger role, now appearing in every scene. However, the journey is still hosted by Dr. Nigel Channing instead of the original Dreamfinder. The updated storyline focuses on Dr. Channing inviting guests to an open house of the Imagination Institute, touring labs based on the 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch).
While Channing tries to explain what goes on in each of the labs, Figment is set on causing mischief every step of the way. Starting in the Sight Lab, Figment interrupts the experiment and comes up with his ways to test sounds. The train sound that was featured in the previous version of the Sound Lab is now identified as a “train of thought”. In the Sight Lab, Figment knocks the letters off the eye chart and starts singing the song made famous by the original Journey Into Imagination, “One Little Spark”. The butterfly in a birdcage illusion that was found in the second version of the attraction is now just a butterfly that constantly appears and disappears. Next up is the Smell Lab, where Figment turns into a skunk and blasts riders with a severely unpleasant smell. After this, Dr. Channing decides to cut the tour short, skipping the Touch and Taste Labs. Figment then takes riders into his own open house, where everything gets turned upside down and filled with imagination, before letting everyone off to explore ImageWorks.