It’s Time to Reimagine Journey into Imagination.

Disney Parks has posted a series of videos featuring Figment arriving to California with a suitcase an idea bag & book and a dream his imagination. In these videos, the character visits the Walt Disney Studios corporate headquarters in Burbank and Walt Disney Imagineering campus in Glendale.

The first in a series of five videos features Figment letting his imagination run wild in Legends Plaza in front of the Team Disney headquarters (the Michael Eisner or “Seven Dwarfs” building–where Bob Iger and the other c-suite head honchos work). In the second video, Figment meets a superfan of his (keen eyes should recognize that bench). The third features Figment unloading a bunch of unimaginative junk from a bag at a security checkpoint.

In the fifth video, Figment demonstrates the five senses by visiting various areas of the studio. He checks out the multiplane camera on display in the lobby, smells food in the commissary, etc. Most notably, Figment touches former Imagineer Tony Baxter’s handprints on his Disney Legends plaque. For those who are unfamiliar with him, Baxter created Figment for the original Journey Into Imagination attraction at EPCOT and has been quite vocal in recent years about getting a crack at redoing the ride.

The final video is the culmination of everything that came before it, with the character carrying a notepad labeled Figment’s Book of Ideas. He walks through the halls of the headquarters and meets with employees, before finally walking through the doors of the storied Walt Disney Imagineering building in Glendale.

D23 followed up with their own videos that remix the same footage of Figment at the Walt Disney Studios and Imagineering headquarters, while also adding shots of Figment with the statues in Legends Plaza and touching Marty Sklar’s plaque.

We’ll start with the obvious, which is that Disney hasn’t announced anything in or alongside these videos. Absolutely nothing official has been said about Journey into Imagination getting a fourth version. They’re toying with us.

They know they’re toying with us, too. Despite cliches about social media accounts being “run by interns,” that’s not how any of it actually works with Disney. A series of posts like this would be workshopped, involve (multiple) meetings across departments, and go through layers of approval. None of this is done on a lark. It’s all purposeful and strategic.

Disney knows exactly what they’re doing by ending on a shot of Figment entering Walt Disney Imagineering, the reactions and emotions it’ll evoke from fans. That’s precisely the point. They want the speculation. The buzz. The hope. The blog posts like this one. (Hey, it’s not falling into a trap if we jump into it willingly!)

Whether the video actually means something or is teasing at an announcement to come is anyone’s guess. I’ve heard some fans speculate that this relates to the upcoming Seth Rogen Figment film. I’m highly skeptical of that being the case. For one thing, that movie was never officially announced and it’s been over a year since we’ve heard anything about it. In between, Disney has cut back significantly on streaming production, and then there were writers’ and actors’ strikes, the latter of which was literally just resolved.

Even if the film is still in development (a huge “if”), this doesn’t seem like the time to share or tease an update on it. This also doesn’t seem like the way of doing so. These videos focus on Tony Baxter and Marty Sklar, two Imagineering legends well-known for being instrumental to EPCOT Center. It also ends with Figment ending the Imagineering building.

Admittedly, reading anything into the videos is probably unwise. But if you’re going to draw conclusions, the video is leading you towards ones about EPCOT, not a movie.

Funny story: we can’t have candles anymore because Yossarian the Cat likes to “play” with the flame and kept burning himself. On a totally unrelated note, my sincere belief is that Disney Parks is purposefully teasing an upcoming announcement for a reimagining of Journey into Imagination at EPCOT. I’ll be the first admit that’s colored by me very much wanting to believe. (I’m like Mulder and UFOs, but with way worse luck!)

I’ve held out hope for a Journey into Imagination reimagining for years, and been burned by a number of rumors and announcements that never came to fruition. (I still can’t watch Frozen without thinking about what could have been had that movie not been a smash hit.) Point being, what I think will or should happen should not be taken seriously by anyone.

With that said, assuming for the sake of argument that a Journey into Imagination reimagining were going to happen, I think this is probably how it would look. Josh D’Amaro wouldn’t just mention it in passing as one of the quick hits during the Disney Parks Panel at the 2024 D23 Expo.

The company would build up to the announcement with a bunch of breadcrumbs and a series of teases over the course of months, telegraphing their intentions to make such a reveal to generate excitement and pack the Anaheim audience with diehard EPCOT fans. The reveal itself would be as splashy as possible, getting Tony Baxter and Figment (and Dreamfinder, if he’s to be involved) on stage to share the news as the grand finale of the Parks Panel.

With the 2024 D23 Expo happening August 9-11, this is about the time those teases might start. So now it’s a matter of seeing what else happens in the coming months.

While I cannot say whether this is false hope or a sincere sign that Journey into Imagination is being reimagined, what I can say is that it should be. That it’s time to reimagine the Imagination pavilion (Figment called–wants changes!). That’s hardly a bold assertion–it’s been time for well over a decade. The last version was only a band aid, meant as a quick fix for the truly abysmal second version.

It’s no secret that even as diehard Figment faithful, we don’t love the current incarnation of the ride. It made our lists of the 10 Worst Attraction Replacements at Walt Disney World and 10 Attractions That Have Aged Poorly at Walt Disney World. We recently (half-heartedly) defended Journey into Imagination as one of several attractions at EPCOT that you should not skip, which is a “controversial” opinion because the attraction truly is divisive.

The current Journey into Imagination has low guest satisfaction scores relative to other rides of its kind. We’ve routinely remarked that first-timers confuse Figment for a Spyro the Dragon knock-off, which is really only a half-joke.

Unless you’re a child of the 1980s or 90s who experienced the original attraction–which has been gone for far longer than it existed!–or are a voracious consumer of Disney history videos, you likely have zero affinity for Figment and might even be confused by why the current character has such a strong fan following. (He doesn’t! It’s the old Figment we love!)

Not only is guest satisfaction low, but the current Journey into Imagination attraction and the pavilion as a whole are underutilized. The ride routinely is a walk-on or has an actual wait time of under 5 minutes. The theater has been showing the Pixar shorts for a while now, which was also meant to be a band aid following the removal of Captain EO.

Earlier this year, Disney leadership expressed a desire to increase capacity of the parks by reimagining areas that are currently underused. There are several such spots in EPCOT, but aside from Wonders of Life, I can’t think of any that have as much potential for absorbing more crowds as the Imagination pavilion. There’s so much untapped potential.

This approach to growing attendance without expanding makes a tremendous amount of sense. Although CEO Bob Iger and Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro have touted a plan to invest $17 billion in Walt Disney World and another plan to double investment to $60 billion in Disney Parks over the next decade, they’ve also conceded that the spending will start slower and ramp up in the back half of the decade.

As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, Disney has too much debt and not enough liquidity to front-load spending. This means that whatever the 10-year plan is for Disney’s Park & Resorts, it’s necessarily backloaded. That’s why this blog has focused on figuring out streaming, ESPN, linear television, etc. It’s not that we really care about those divisions–we’re parks fans first and foremost–it’s that all of that is a prerequisite before investing in Walt Disney World.

That alone puts the start of expansion plans in late 2024 or 2025. This doesn’t mean Disney won’t announce big plans earlier, but we likely won’t see significant construction on anything until then. Spending probably doesn’t start in earnest until October 2024 or maybe even 2025. That’s the point at which we’d expect work to begin on the Tropical Americas at Animal Kingdom, meaning you probably have (at least) another year to ride Dinosaur.

To that point, there’s also a reason why Walt Disney World will start with Tropical Americas rather than the ‘Beyond Big Thunder’ project in Magic Kingdom. Well for one thing, Animal Kingdom is in much more urgent need of help. But the other big reason is that Tropical Americas is mostly a reimagining rather than a fresh build, and can be accomplished much, much faster. (While we hope there’s a brand-new Encanto ride in this land, there’s no guarantee of that.)

But this is a post about EPCOT and Journey into Imagination, not Animal Kingdom. Getting to the point, if you look at the current Disney Parks Project Timeline, you’ll notice absolutely no major attractions on the horizon after Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens in 2024. If rumors are to be believed and that attraction is able to open early, that leaves at least a 2-year gap between that attraction and Tropical Americas.

In that time, Universal is opening Epic Universe in Summer 2025. Walt Disney World won’t have a direct ‘answer’ to that new park. Whether they should is another topic for another day. But it’s already too late for a new ride or land to debut at Walt Disney World alongside Epic Universe. That ship sailed at least a year ago.

About the only thing that could be accomplished in that timeframe is ride reimaginings. Personally, I’m skeptical even that’s sufficient time for any unannounced projects, but it’s at least plausible. A redone Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster could be done in 6-8 months and would be a colossal draw with mainstream audiences.

Over at EPCOT, revisiting Wonders of Life with Inside Out 2 would be a perfect fit for that pavilion, and provide a needed family-friendly option for World Discovery. Meanwhile, a reimagined Journey into Imagination would be a huge hit with fans and revitalize that corner of EPCOT.

So the timeline makes sense, and reimaginings certainly fit with Disney’s plans to invest $60 billion–but less of that up front. (I know a lot of Walt Disney World fans won’t like hearing this, but I suspect we have a good 5+ years of redone rides before we see anything brand-new. Honestly, as much as I’d love both, there are so many rides in sorry states that are overdue for TLC that I’m kind of fine with this approach.)

About the only thing that makes the prospect of a Journey into Imagination announcement at the 2024 D23 Expo less likely is other potential projects at EPCOT. We already know that Test Track 3.0 is coming, but that’s being funded by General Motors and largely has a different target audience than the family-friendly Figment ride. Both could happen simultaneously.

However, Spaceship Earth is also overdue for a refurbishment and that will be necessary due to the ride system sooner rather than later. That’ll probably be a year-long project, and it’s difficult to imagine both it and Journey into Imagination going down at the same time.

Then again, it’s tough to see Disney closing Spaceship Earth and putting up new construction walls right after the walls come down around the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit. So it is conceivable that a reimagining of Journey into Imagination will leapfrog Spaceship Earth.

The final reason why a reimagining of Journey into Imagination could and should happen is repairing relations with fans and positive PR. For Bob Iger, this should be a no-brainer move. Although it’s unlikely he himself is a Figment fan, Bob Iger has demonstrated upon returning that he does care about guest goodwill and fan disenchantment–but there’s more work to be done on that front. He’s also concerned about his legacy.

Likewise, Josh D’Amaro still appears to be in the running as a successor CEO. Regrettably, that’s not a position fans vote on, but there have been a lot of mainstream media pieces about fan complaints about the parks. If D’Amaro becomes the heir-apparent, you better believe that CNBC, Wall Street Journal, etc., will all be running pieces about the guy who presided over a period of fan unrest being promoted.

Bringing back Figment and Dreamfinder is a surefire way of undoing a lot of the outrage and brand damage from the last few years, quieting the complaints and criticism. I can’t think of any other single positive announcement that would outweigh so many prior negatives ones. A lot would be forgiven by fans in the blink of an eye.

An overhaul of Journey into Imagination would be both a legacy project and something that would define the otherwise underwhelming World Celebration neighborhood of the EPCOT transformation, tying it together into a more cohesive project. Figment would become the face and mascot of the new-look EPCOT, elevating the otherwise underwhelming central spine in the process. Not only that, but Figment has already “proven” that he can really move merchandise and is a highly successful meet & greet character.

Walt Disney World has done enough dipping its toes into the pool to test the popularity of Figment. It’s beyond time for a redone ride. There are several incredibly compelling reasons to move forward on this in 2024. It’s the second-best time to do something, with the most logical time being a decade ago.

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Do you think 2024 will finally be the year that a reimagining of Journey into Imagination is announced? Think Disney is purposefully teasing that with these videos or are they just giving us false hope again? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment that now is the second-most logical time for a Journey into Imagination overhaul? Any questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!

41 Responses to “It’s Time to Reimagine Journey into Imagination.”
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