It isn’t just the 2024 calendar year that’s been a good one for Figment, either–it’s the last 365 days that have been good. It started almost one year ago at this time when EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts debuted Figment’s Inspiration Station at the Odyssey: Art, Food, and Little Sparks of Magic along with the second version of the character’s popcorn bucket.
It continued with the meet & greet character making his triumphant return to the Journey Into Imagination pavilion last fall, resulting in some of the longest lines at Walt Disney World upon return. In between, there’s been new merchandise, festival tie-ins, and more. There was even an ‘interesting’ trip to Burbank that seemed to tease a new ride, the upcoming film, or both.
Let’s start with the most recent development, which is that the 2024 EPCOT Festival of the Arts is getting even more imaginative, with Figment’s Inspiration Station at the Odyssey: Art, Food, and Little Sparks of Magic returning for a second year. This was already discussed in our Full Food Studios Booth Menus for that event, but I suspect many of you skipped that if you’re not visiting between mid-January and February.
The big news there is the brand-new Journey into Imagination Pavilion Popcorn Bucket. This limited-edition bucket features Figment inside on a rainbow diving into rainbow colored popcorn. It follows up on two consecutive years of the Figment Premium Popcorn Bucket, which last year had a EPCOT 40th Anniversary strap.
The first year of this Figment popcorn bucket, Festival of the Arts was dominated by headlines that EPCOT’s Longest Line Is For Figment Popcorn Buckets. It took a while, but Walt Disney World eventually solved that problem by streamlining the process with Mobile Order. (Walt Disney World has confirmed that the new 2024 popcorn bucket will also use Mobile Order.
I’m not the biggest fan of popcorn buckets, but I absolutely adore this Imagination Pavilion Popcorn Bucket. While it’s still early and I haven’t seen this in person, I’m pretty sure that I like this more than the previous Figment Premium Popcorn Bucket. What pushes this over the top for me is that it leans into being a popcorn bucket, rather than just being a plastic thing that happens to hold popcorn (if that makes sense).
Everything about the design is really clever, from using the clear glass pyramids to showcase the rainbow popcorn inside to Figment diving into the popcorn like it’s a ball pit at McDonald’s (they don’t still have those–but they did in my day!). This is just top-notch through and through, with creativity truly befitting Figment. I hope it’s as awesome in person as it looks in the stock photo below. Huge kudos to the Disney Design team on this!
While the cool new design for the Festival of the Arts popcorn bucket is exciting, this year’s first Figment furor was the long-awaited release of the Figment Little Golden Book.
We ordered two copies the instant this was announced: one for Megatron, one for the Bricker Family Figment Archives. After seeing this show up at EPCOT around Christmas, I was hoping our orders from Amazon would also arrive early, but they did not. No matter, as this was the perfect way to turn the page on a new year.
The Figment Little Golden Book is written by Walt Disney Imagineer Jason Grandt and inspired by the lyrics to “One Little Spark” by the legendary Sherman Brothers. The book is illustrated by Grandt, Scott Tilley, and Nick Balian.
Some of you may recognize Jason Grandt as the author of the fan-favorite Orange Bird Little Golden Book and the Magic Kingdom Storybook before that. Even before both of those books, he became a household name in the Walt Disney World fan community as a frequent fixture at D23 presentations and on social media, sharing sketches, history and more.
Many Walt Disney World diehards are fans of Grandt because he’s among the current crop of Imagineers who are the real deal–ones who both care about and respect the creative legacy of the Walt Disney Company and Imagineering, and building upon both. This blog is often critical of individuals in the organization who don’t “get” Disney or have a condescending attitude towards theme parks, and the point is that he’s the opposite of that.
Even if you didn’t know all of that background before, it would be immediately obvious upon opening the Figment Little Golden Book. The opening two-page spread is beautiful artwork of Dreamfinder flying through the universe in search of new ideas on his Dream Catcher. The first six words are, “Oh, hello! I am the Dreamfinder!” It’s an opening so chills-inducing that it’ll go down with “Call me Ishmael,” as among the greatest of all-time.
Figment Little Golden Book is filled with page after page of gorgeous artwork that reimagines the original Journey Into Imagination in a whimsical and stunning style. While I respect artist’s reinterpreting subjects and icons, putting a fresh spin on things, I’ll admit that I haven’t been liked a lot of contemporary looks for Figment and Dreamfinder, as the edginess isn’t always in keeping with the spirit of the original.
Thankfully, the Figment Little Golden Book brings its own visual identity to the table while keeping the heart of the ride’s style. It’s at once old and new–absolutely beautiful, page after page. The artwork mixed with a singsong story is everything I needed from this book and more. The cherry on top is the many nods to other past EPCOT Center attractions, and even Easter Eggs from Magic Kingdom’s past. The Figment Little Golden Book is truly something special.
I’ve read a lot of books in my day, some of which have even had words (humblebrag). It’s true. If I’m being objective, I’m putting the Figment Little Golden Book right up there with the best of them: This Side of Paradise, Catch-22, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Sometimes a Great Notion. It’s definitely better than Ulysses, which I did read but did not understand. As an added bonus, you could read the Figment Little Golden Book 1,352 times before finishing War and Peace even once. Also true!
And you know I’m being objective in this review of the Figment Little Golden Book because it already has a higher score (a perfect 5/5!) than all of the aforementioned titles on GoodReads. Suffice to say, Figment Little Golden Book is well on its way to cementing its place as the definitive 21st century Great American Novel. I get why critics are giving it unanimously perfect scores, ranking it as the greatest book of all time.
They’re probably lifelong Figment fans who read it to their daughter (or son). Those reviewers likely did the voices for Dreamfinder and Figment (poorly) and she smiled and laughed in amusement. They probably saw a younger version of themselves reflected in her eyes, having a new perspective on that childlike wonder and curiosity that made their parents also love Figment and Dreamfinder. Those critics’ hearts were filled by even this little sliver of recapturing the past and introducing their child to something that made an indelible impression on them. Or something like that, I’m just spitballing.
It’s said that the best literature can transport you to a different time and place. This book really was like stepping back into the mid-1990s and taking a ride on Journey Into Imagination. I’ve seen ride-throughs and tribute videos, but none of them conveyed the essence and emotion of being there like the Figment Little Golden Book. Reading it really did stir up long lost feelings, and took me right back. I could see the Audio Animatronics and show scenes in my mind’s eye–it was incredible.
Of course, I also did this with our daughter on my lap. I’ve imagined introducing her to Figment and Dreamfinder for the better part of a decade, and this was my first opportunity to do that. And her reactions were priceless. Although, if I’m being honest…her reactions are about the same to any book that involves me doing duck or Muppet voice (I’m not good at voices; there’s very little daylight between Figment, Muppets, or Donald and his nephews.)
Regardless, the Figment Little Golden Book is an early contender for the best book of 2024. I can only assume the Vegas oddsmakers have it as a favorite for the National Book Awards.
After my initial read-through of the Figment Little Golden Book, I was inclined to effusively recommend it to those who never experienced the golden age incarnation of Journey Into Imagination, saying–this is it, in book form! Taking a step back from my initial excitement of being in that moment, I do wonder if it would resonate the same way.
The book would still be adorable, of course. But would the story flow as lyrics of “One Little Spark” from the original? Would the wide-eyed wonderment of Figment or Professor Santa-like joviality and encouragement of Dreamfinder be as evident from the text? Would the magic of the artwork hit quite the same?
I’m inclined to say that the Figment Little Golden Book wouldn’t be as meaningful to those who never experienced the original attraction, but it’d still be very good. The best and most faithful adaptation of media since The Muppet Christmas Carol.
As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, if your only exposure to Figment is the current incarnation of Journey into Imagination, you might be wondering what’s so special about that character. (You’re right–there is nothing truly magical about the current version of Figment unless you’re bringing nostalgia to the mix.)
The Figment Little Golden Book is the best way of getting what made the original attraction and its characters so special to “click,” absent a time machine. I’m not necessarily saying it will work for you, but it certainly has a lot better chance than a popcorn bucket, stuffed animal, or whatever. I’d recommend watching Martin’s Ultimate Tribute to Journey Into Imagination first for background context, and then reading the Figment Little Golden Book. It’s as close as you can possibly come in 2024 to capturing the essence of the original.
It’s probably apparent from all of the above, but in case not, I’ll say it bluntly: this is not an unbiased review of the Figment Little Golden Book. From the moment I saw the cover art and Jason Grandt’s name attached, I knew this was going to be an all-timer for me, personally.
As long time readers no doubt know, Figment is my favorite Disney character. Has been since the 1980s, and always will. Not because of the current attraction or his personality today, but because of what he was in the original Journey into Imagination from 1983 through mid-1990s. He was whimsical and inquisitive, funny and endearing.
Figment symbolized the best things about childhood curiosity and imagination, and deeply appealed to adults who saw a little bit of their kids in Figment (or vice versa), and both kids and adults who saw qualities of themselves in the character. The reason for the original Figment’s success is profoundly simple: he showed us all the best of ourselves.
More than any other character, Figment embodies what it means to be a kid at heart. In a world that is so polarized, on edge, and bursting with negativity, Figment is an antidote to all of that. The character is arguably “needed” more than ever, and resonates increasingly with each passing year because of the ideal he represents.
Even after all these years, Figment still stirs up my emotions. No matter how cynical I might be about anything else related to Walt Disney World, that melts away when it comes to Figment and Journey into Imagination. I’m instantly 8 years old again, seeing the character for the first time when we both shared similar senses of childlike wonder and innocence. I truly cannot explain what it is–as it defies logic or objective reasoning.
In addition to transporting me to my childhood and seeing the story through the eyes of our daughter, reading the Figment Little Golden Book served as yet another reminder that Megatron will be meeting Figment this year and riding Journey Into Imagination for the first time!!! Yeah, it’ll be the current version instead of the 1983 original, but that’ll still be pretty special to see and experience.
Ultimately, my sincere hope is that all things Figment we’ve seen recently from Walt Disney World and the company as a whole are immensely successful. I hope this becomes the best-selling book of all-time (sorry, Harry Potter). I hope the virtual queue for the new popcorn bucket fills up faster than Cosmic Rewind. I hope the meet & greet has higher guest satisfaction scores than Mirabel or Mando.
More than anything, I want to keep demonstrating to Walt Disney World that Figment still has serious popularity, drawing power, and merchandising potential. I’m not naive enough to think that a new book or long lines for merchandise or meet & greets will be the one little spark that it takes to get a new Journey into Imagination greenlit imminently (I’ve gotten my hopes up for nothing too many times in the past), but it’s certainly a positive for the longevity of the character and his future prospects!
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. The ride being redone again is an inevitability, and Figment demonstrating his staying power and popularity in spite of his current ride’s lack of quality could go a long way. It might be the difference between Journey Into Imagination 4.0 with Figment instead of with Bing Bong.
Have you already picked up your copy of the Figment Little Golden Book? What did you think of the artwork, Easter Eggs, or story itself? Was it like a trip down memory lane for you, too? Thoughts on Figment or anything else discussed here? Agree or disagree with my assessment? Any questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!