Journey Into Imagination Vintage Photos
Journey into Imagination is unique as far as extinct EPCOT Center attractions go in that, it’s not technically an extinct Walt Disney World ride/pavilion, but for all intents and purposes among EPCOT Center fans, it’s only but a memory. The original dark ride is gone, upstairs ImageWorks is gone, Dreamfinder is gone, and the Figment has been stripped of his original identify.
I’ve chosen to start the week-long series of EPCOT Center retrospectives (leading up to Epcot’s 30th Anniversary) with Journey into Imagination because the original dark ride with Dreamfinder and Figment in the Journey into Imagination pavilion is the attraction that resonated most with me out of all the original EPCOT Center attractions and sparked my love for Walt Disney World that continues to this day. While I barely can recall Horizons or the original Universe of Energy, I still remember the Journey into Imagination in vivid detail.
The opening scene felt like you were actually joining Dreamfinder as he piloted a mystic dreamcatching contraption, and when Figment appeared, with his child-like inquisitiveness and enthusiasm, that was icing on the cake. It’s easy for me to now see how Figment from this era appealed to children so much, as he essentially was a child. What kid didn’t imagine flights through foreign worlds? Everything about the attraction, from the flight to Figment to the settings seemed like it was something straight out of one of my dreams. It was an exceptional attraction in every way, and embodied the bright-eyed optimism of EPCOT Center.
Although it’s difficult to pick a favorite scene, the bright whites of Figment painting in “Art” always stood out to me. Another that really stands out is the finale room. In this room, a Figment audio animatronic stood in the middle of a circular room with videos running around the wall (think CircleVision 360, except with a dark ride passing through and without that style of video) showing Figment engaging in various acts as the awesome melody of “One Little Spark” enveloped the guests, and as the ride vehicles passed through the circle out to unload, where the fun was just beginning.
The entire attraction was rife with detail and each scene brought something enchanting, whether seeing it for the first time or the 51st. Although, no doubt, part of this is my waxing nostalgic for the attraction, I wholly believe that this sense of nostalgia is grounded in reality. I am not just nostalgic for the attraction for the sake of nostalgia. I am nostalgic for it because it was truly one of the highest quality attractions to ever grace a Disney theme park.
Most of you are probably pretty familiar with the substance of the attraction. If you’re not, my words won’t do it justice, so I won’t bore you with a text-based ride-through. Instead, I recommend checking out this high-quality tribute to the original Journey into Imagination by Martin Smith if you never experienced it:
The dark ride itself was amazing, but the ImageWorks post show was almost nearly as impressive. The games, effects, and that amazing Rainbow Corridor were nothing short of magic to my curiosities. These experiences had my excitement at a fever pitch when we headed into the gift shop. My dream toy was always the giant, 4 foot Figment plush, given its price tag and my budget, I found myself settling for lower priced, but equally endearing Figment plush that, has been a great companion on almost every subsequent trip to Walt Disney World (and Disneyland!) that I have since taken.
Since we’re examining Journey into Imagination as an extinct attraction, the ending to the story of this amazing attraction obviously isn’t a happy one. Journey into Imagination reached its low point in late 1998 when the pavilion was stripped of all things related to imagination. This wasn’t as a low of a point as it could have been for me, personally. We only took one trip as a family to Walt Disney World after the closure of Journey into Imagination, and I was in that regrettable teenage maturation state that made me “too cool” for most things Walt Disney World had to offer.
In recent years, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to experience a few things related to the original Journey into Imagination. In May 2011, I had the chance to meet Tony Baxter and briefly discuss the original pavilion with him. Later that same trip, I had the incredible experience of seeing Dreamfinder, Figment, and Richard Sherman perform “One Little Spark.” In December, I was able to meet and chat with a close friend of Dreamfinder. In 2012, I toured the upstairs ImageWorks. All of these experiences have made me miss the original incarnation of the pavilion even more, and I truly believe that with minor updates to keep it fresh, it could have existed for decades, reaching an iconic status much like Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion. It was a timeless attraction, and one that showcased the abilities and creativity of Walt Disney Imagineering.
Rather than unproductively fixating on what Journey into Imagination has become, let’s celebrate what it was (after all, EPCOT Center’s 30th Anniversary is a celebration!) and where it might go in the future. With that said, I’ll let these beautiful photos submitted by readers of the blog speak for themselves. The photos are mostly self-explanatory, so rather than bog this post down with unnecessary text, I’ll only interject commentary where appropriate. If you have any questions about any particular photo, please leave a comment!
To all of you who submitted photos, I am eternally grateful. These vintage posts would not have been possible without your generosity. For photographer attribution and other information, hover your cursor over each photo. Also, be sure to check out our photo credits page. If you have EPCOT Center photos, please check out our EPCOT Center Photo Search page for details on how to submit them!
My favorite scene from the original attraction.
In an early artist rendering of this scene, Figment (then a green dragon), joined the audience in watching scenes from Disney films, including Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
Okay, so not Journey into Imagination technically, but Figment is in the shot…and it’s a really cool photo of the Magic Kingdom hub with trees and flowers. I couldn’t resist!
There are multiple pages and over 100 photos in this Vintage EPCOT Center photo showcase. Navigate to the next page below!
Being a child of Disney obsessed parents allowed me to grow up going to Disney World at least once a year. Many of those memories fade, and since I was 15 in 1998 my memories of the original have faded. However, it was always a favorite growing up and looking at these amazing photos bring them back into sharp focus.
Thanks so much for the trip down memory lane and the salute to an iconic attraction!
This post touched me and brought such warm memories to mind. I loved Journey Into Imagination. It was my favorite ride. I spent all my souvenior money purchasing items from this ride… quite dedication for a tween girl. Thank you so much for helping me relive those moments in time.
Tom, thanks so much for an amazing compilation. Glad I could be a part of it. This was my favorite pavilion when I was little. I sure do miss it. Can’t wait for more of your 30th anniversary coverage.-Amanda
Thanks for sharing!
What a trip. I went to EPCOT for the first time around age 7. Immediately fell in love with every aspect of this ride, and then came the ImageWorks which just rocked my mind at that age. Love, Love, Love every aspect of this post. Thank you so much! Two questions though:
-why is that child being suffocated by Dreamdinder?
-does anyone else have the theme song totally ingrained in their heads now?
YES!! The song is playing on repeat in my head
Amazing compilation! Thank you for this trip down memory lane 🙂 here’s hoping there are brighter days ahead for Journey!
One part of ImageWorks that I didn’t see depicted above was the pin table. Funny how something so simple has stuck with me into my late twenties. Also, I really love the photo at the top of the last page with the looong outdoor line. I have high hopes that the next incarnation of the pavilion will inspire future Disney fans the way this original one inspired us…and that we are enjoying it by the time EPCOT40 arrives!
Yeah, I didn’t receive many ImageWorks photos; I remember that, too, though!
As you know, I’m a huge fan. The pictures here are so beautiful and really took me down memory lane. It reminded me why I loved that original ride so much.
And I am so, so jealous of the people with Dreamfinder and Figment!
Looking back at these photos, it’s amazing how well maintained they’ve kept Future World, the concrete, paint etc… look just like it did in the early 80s when it was all brand new.
Wonderful post! I caught your teaser on FB yesterday, so was eagerly anticipating it. The Imagination Pavilion has always held a dear spot in my heart. Being an artist and in the early stages of my art education, it completely captured me the first time I rode Journey Into Imagination in 1986. I could not get over the creativity of the ride and fell in love with the character Figment. The ride, the characters, the rainbow tunnel and all the ImageWorks activities in the upstairs still tug at my memory and make me wonder why they went away. I so miss the original ride, and these pictures helped to bring back some of those wonderful memories for me.
Thank you for this post!
This is so cool! I’m so glad to see I’m not the only one nostalgic about Epcot in the early days …
Wow, did that ever bring back some memories! I still remember seeing the rainbow tunnel for the first time back in 1983. As a 5-year-old girl, nothing made me happier than rainbows! But I’d forgotten the Figment topiary and the unique fountain until looking at these pictures. Thanks for a fantastic post, Tom! Great job, as usual!!
Like many, i do miss the original Journey Into Imagination ride. Hopefully, someday, Disney will decide it’s worth revisiting and greatly improve this. It’s sad how it stands right now.
Great job with this Tom! Can’t wait to see the rest of the posts this week.
In looking at these photos, it is interesting to see just how many people went ahead and took flash photos on the ride. And for once, I am rather glad they did.
What a glorious post! Thanks for pulling this together, Tom…
Glad YOU liked it!
Thank you! I loved the original ride (and the Image Works). These pictures are wonderful reminders — I have to go listen to the music, now! 🙂
This blog made my day! I love the pics. Sure brings back so many fond memories of this truly magical journey into imagination !
Thank you for the flashback. The original Imagination pavillion was my favorite WDW attraction as a child. I had to be dragged out of Image Works every time. What’s there now…. I’m barely even interested.
Thanks for this post. The original ride was one of my all time favorites. I really miss it and am disappointed I had to show my children something that was just a shadow or what I experienced.
Here’s hoping Disney rights the ship at some point. I suspect there are bright days ahead for Imagination.
I hope so. I would love to see the pavilion come back to life. : )
Me too!!! Thanks for letting us relive the memories. The video was a blast!
I almost cried looking at these pictures! That was my favorite place in all of WDW when I was growing up! My kids still love it, but I can’t imagine how much more they would have loved the original!
Awesome post Tom!
I loved the original Journey…But it is still a great ride and I love taking my kids on it.
Once again Great Job!