Disney is working on a film featuring the character Figment with Seth Rogen, per writers working on the project. That’s right, Figment. The fan favorite from Journey into Imagination at EPCOT. This post covers the attraction adaptation, the latest in a line of movies based on Walt Disney World rides.
The Figment feature hails from Seth Rogen’s Point Grey, an independent film and television production company that he co-founded with his producing partner, Evan Goldberg. Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit, who previously worked on Pokémon Detective Pikachu, are set to write the Figment film (which they have confirmed via social media).
Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and James Weaver have released various TV and film projects under their Point Grey banner. These include Hulu’s Pam & Tommy, Amazon’s The Boys and The Boys Presents: Diabolical. On the feature front, they’ve done 50/50, The Neighbors, The Night Before, Blockers, Long Shot, This Is The End, The Interview,The Disaster Artist, and An American Pickle.
Point Grey Productions currently has Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, Where’s Waldo, Black and White, The Something, and a full slite of other films in production in 2023 and beyond.
The writing team of Hernandez and Samit penned 2019’s Pokémon Detective Pikachu, 2021’s The Addams Family 2, and created the upcoming Hulu animated series Koala Man, premiering in 2023. Their other notable credits include Apple’s Central Park, The Tick for Amazon, and One Day at a Time.
In terms of commentary, I feel like I have a somewhat unique perspective here and one that probably won’t be shared by many others. It probably goes without saying to anyone who has read this blog for over a month, but I’m a diehard Figment fan.
Figment is my favorite Disney character. Always will be. Not because of the current attraction or his personality today, but because of what he was in the original Journey into Imagination in the 1980s through mid-1990s. He was whimsical and inquisitive, funny and endearing.
Figment embodied the best things about childhood curiosity, and resonated deeply with adults who saw a little bit of their kids in Figment (or vice versa), and both kids and adults who saw a little of themselves in the character.
The reason for the original Figment’s success is profoundly simple: he showed us all the best of ourselves.
That’s written in the past tense because the current character is not that version of Figment. Despite this, many longtime fans–myself included–still hold out hope that the “real” Figment will return. This is a testament to the indelible mark that character left, being formidable in so many childhood visits to Walt Disney World.
It’s also a testament to how formative Figment was to our imaginations–it requires a vivid one to think the current company might actually bring back Figment, Dreamfinder, and a worthwhile Journey into Imagination.
My obsession with all things Journey into Imagination, Figment and Dreamfinder have been well-documented on this blog. You might even say that the original EPCOT Center attraction and these characters were my one little spark into Disney fandom.
As a dorky adult, I scoured eBay and grew a formidable Figment collection after Sarah and I first returned together to Walt Disney World. A few years later, I had the good fortune of meeting Tony Baxter and briefly discuss the original pavilion with him.
However, that’s not why my perspective here is unique.
There are undoubtedly thousands of Walt Disney World fans my age who have similar Figment fandom bona fides. (When I see the art, clothing, or puppets other Figment fans create, I definitely feel ‘creatively inferior’ to others. But again, it’s a testament to the original Journey into Imagination and how it shaped people my age.)
Where I differ, presumably, is in being a huge fan of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume there’s not a tremendous amount of crossover between Walt Disney World fans and Sausage Party. (For what it’s worth, I don’t actually like that movie–way too much hype and reliance on shock value–it’s just the most ‘extreme’ example that comes to mind. It’s also the type of humor those who are critical of Rogen would cite as why he shouldn’t be attached to a Figment project.)
Still, I think Rogen’s movies are mostly really well done. I’m not sure I’ve laughed at anything as hard as the main “McLovin” scene in Superbad. One of our Christmas traditions is a viewing of The Night Before. From start to finish, The Disaster Artist is probably one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in the last decade.
I also think Rogen and Goldberg have a decent amount of range. 50/50 is a tender and nuanced rumination on the impacts of cancer, and how the people it touches cope. Long Shot is an underrated political comedy. There are scenes in other movies that demonstrate they’re not one-note filmmakers.
With all of that said, the body of their work is certainly cause for concern. I’d be lying if I said that my initial reaction to this news about a Seth Rogen-helmed Figment film was positive, or even one of cautious optimism. That’s definitely not the case. I think there’s a higher probability that the movie disappoints rather than that it delivers.
For Figment fans, there’s just a lot that needs to go right. Rogen and the writers need to “get” Figment. The project needs a sufficiently healthy budget to render Figment. The character model and voice both need to hit the mark. Imagineering needs to be involved, but without Disney executives meddling too much in the creative process.
Even as a fan of Rogen and co., I will readily admit that they’ve had plenty of duds. Disney also has plenty of phoned-in, unambitious adaptations in the last decade.
My concern is that this will be one, especially since the Figment character doesn’t naturally lend himself to Rogen’s brand of comedy and given that Disney is likely looking for a certain formula of film for its Disney+ service. (Given that Figment has relatively low name recognition outside the Walt Disney World fandom, it’s a safe bet that this is a Disney+ project, rather than a theatrical release.)
Speaking of which, Figment’s low name recognition is actually what makes it a surprise that a name as big as Seth Rogen is attached to this. While it may seem like Figment is on par with Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean, that’s only inside the ‘bubble’ of Disney fandom. Those attractions are in the cultural zeitgeist and have been for ~50 years.
Those rides also exist in California, within a short drive from Los Angeles. Many in Hollywood grew up taking their kids to Disneyland; by contrast, I wouldn’t be surprised if most executives in Burbank have never even heard the name “Figment.” (Just watch for all of the mainstream articles about this movie that dub him a dinosaur!) Simply and bluntly, EPCOT Center originals don’t have the same cachet as Disneyland ones.
On the plus side, Figment has seen a recent resurgence and will further benefit from this movie (if it’s good and/or performs well).
Recently, we’ve mentioned the Figment popcorn bucket sold at this year’s EPCOT Festival of the Arts. That proved that Figment still has serious popularity, drawing power, and merchandising potential. That garnered so much media attention that it caused Disney executives to take note. This could be one of the fruits of that, along with the meet & greet that’s coming by late 2023. (This movie might just explain why that’s taking so long, too…)
With that said, I’m not allowing myself to get too excited for this Figment film. In playing out potentialities, it seems to me like the likelihood of disappointment (creatively or commercially) outweighs the likelihood of something positive.
Granted, we know absolutely nothing about the Figment film other than that it’s in development (maybe?), but this just feels like the type of project that will involve too many compromises, and conflicting visions and approaches. This has ‘vanilla viewing’ streamer written all over it. The kind of thing you watch once and is fine, but totally forgettable. And that’s probably the best case scenario.
More than anything, I want my knee-jerk reaction to be wrong. Perhaps it’s simply a defense mechanism I’ve developed over years of disappointment when it comes to Figment, Dreamfinder, and Journey into Imagination “rumors.” I’m almost numb to this news, and don’t want to get my hopes up about something that may not even come to fruition–and may underwhelm if it does.
The part of me that still has that sense of optimism wonders about the genesis of this project. Seth Rogen, of all people, coming to be attached to a Figment film probably is not be accident or coincidence. It’s not like anyone at Disney thought he’d be the perfect fit and pitched him on it. He’s also a relatively big name to be attached to what might otherwise be a smaller project.
Even though Figment hasn’t made the same mainstream impact as the aforementioned attractions, it’s also no secret that Figment has fans in unexpected places. Most notably, there are the South Park “Imaginationland” episodes. Figment also has fans high up at Pixar, although that’s far more expected.
It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if Seth Rogen (age 40) visited EPCOT Center as a child, and the character left the same indelible mark on him as it did so many others. If the D23 Expo has taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of hardcore parks fans in Hollywood. Perhaps this is a pet project for Rogen, and one he intimately understands and wants to get right.
There’s also the fact that the writers of Detective Pikachu are attached.
In fairness, I’m completely clueless when it comes to Pokemon, but I thought that movie was really well done. Probably better than it had any right to be, with most of the same potential pitfalls as this Figment film. Yet, it managed to avoid all of them. If that’s a template of sorts for this Figment movie…maybe it’ll be a pleasant surprise? I don’t know–I’m just thinking out loud, at this point.
Even all of that wouldn’t be a guarantee that the Figment movie will be a creative success–or that it’ll result in positive changes to the Journey into Imagination pavilion.
Kevin Feige is a huge Walt Disney World and old school EPCOT Center fan, and yet, Marvel’s hit-to-miss ratio in the parks is not so hot. When it comes to anything Disney, there are a lot of chefs in the kitchen. There are also some odd metrics for success. Perhaps the only in-park tie-in for this Figment film will be a studio-sponsored character appearing in Avengers Campus for 2 weeks.
Ultimately, if this Figment film is good and ends up being a commercial success, it could reinvigorate Journey into Imagination as an actual IP attraction. Thus far, nothing has convinced Disney to invest money in the tired version of the ride, which has been rumored for reimagining for over a decade.
Maybe Seth Rogen’s Figment project will be what finally moves the needle on a much-needed attraction overhaul. One way or another, the current incarnation of Journey into Imagination is on life support. It’s not popular with guests, doesn’t score well in satisfaction surveys, and is long overdue for a reimagining.
There’s an Inside Out sequel on the horizon, and that’s another property that is rumored to be in the running take over the Imagination pavilion. While I’d like to think that old school Figment is a strong enough brand or park IP to justify investment, I’m skeptical that executives agree with that assessment.
Given that, a big part of me is willing to roll the dice on Rogen’s version of the character as I like Figment’s chances against Inside Out if he has a successful movie on his side. Who knows–this could end up being that one little spark that saves/reinvents Figment for future generations.
What do you expect from a Figment film by Seth Rogen? What would you like to see happen with Journey into Imagination in an ideal world? Are you excited? Skeptical? A little of both? Any other thoughts, insights, etc? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!