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How to resuscitate Journey Into Imagination?

Walt Disney World: I want to revisit the question of how best to "resuscitate" the Imagination! pavilion at EPCOT. Can it be salvaged? I'll share my own thoughts below, but what are yours?

From Jonah Sirota
Posted April 18, 2012 at 1:46 PM
(This is my first new discussion thread, so go easy on me!)
Journey into Imagination, for a kid who aspired to be creative, was such an awesome pavilion. The ride, to me, was the best, most inspired use of the dark ride format that I had ever seen, because it was really about the limitless possibilities of the creative imagination. The rest of the pavilion really supported that idea, especially ImageWorks, which felt seriously cutting-edge at the time. Computer graphics, awesome colors, great environment. It basically rocked. The architecture of the building, the jumping fountains. It was all overwhelmingly awesome.

Nowadays it looks old, underwhelming, and just barely maintained. The current ride is about sensory experience in a very limited and uncreative way--a cynical exercise in dark-ride design, and, basically, a far cry from anything truly imaginative…

So here are my thoughts, both about what I’d like to see in a new Journey into Imagination, and about how it might be feasibly accomplished:

Disney needs a new sponsor, someone big. This has to be a major player who can project optimism about the idea of creativity itself. This is kind of a no-brainer. It's just a question of whether Apple would say yes. With the Steve Jobs/Pixar ties, it makes a ton of sense. Apple could once again set up the kind of awesome technology "play-station" that Kodak was able to do in the '80s. Really highlight cutting-edge stuff. But, it has to stay abstract and creatively-focused enough to keep people's creative juices flowing. (What about a huge floor canvas where you can "paint" virtually like Jackson Pollack, with extremely realistic drips and plops that you can also smear and blend? Definitely revive the walk-through rainbow tunnel, except make it high res OLED and multitouch, highly interactive, with color "tug-of-war” or catch games? And how about something where you stick your hands into gloves and they use haptic feedback to make it seem like you are modeling a real piece of clay, when in fact you are creating a 3D computer model?) I think Apple's desire to be at the crossroads of technology and the liberal arts makes them the ideal choice, and it also is good PR for them at a time when they need it.

Ironically, I think that the subject of imagination, which was originally a strange fit in Future World, makes a lot of sense as a truly forward-thinking topic in an increasingly idea-driven world. Get the redesign right, in other words, and you go far towards bringing EPCOT closer in line with its original mission.

For the ride, here’s what you keep:

-THE DREAMFINDER—Figment--the hot-air balloon thing. These are essential.
-The Sherman Brothers Song.
-Some kind of cool photo op (that was the first one I had ever seen in a ride!), maybe a 3D photo?
-Art direction by Tony Baxter (he designed the original, and he understands what was lost in the remodels)
-The original story line about the different uses of imagination (creativity, science, storytelling, etc)

What should be new?
Almost everything else. Creative tools have come a long way. Let's highlight the most cutting edge stuff. It needs a creative ride motion system, and I think this would be a great place to bring the Huny Hunt and Waterworks ride system from Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea to the Florida parks. (I've never been, but I've seen footage… it's a trackless system that is computer controlled. The cars are basically free to move around in space, but sometimes stay on a virtual "track" and sometimes behave more freely). I imagine an almost overwhelmingly detailed environment, including a large room or two where your focus is brought into certain aspects of the imaginative spirit by the "random" motion of your ride vehicle. Visually, I think you can play up the Steampunk vibe of Dreamfinder's balloon, with some incredibly detailed set pieces (think Journey to the Center of the Earth), and contrast that with extremely colorful and cutting edge 4G projections, perhaps glasses-free 3D. I like the idea of a "blank canvas" room (like the old "white room" with only white objects, except as the imagination starts to "create" the objects become intensely colored. Over at DCA, World of Color is such a similar abstract concept to the original Journey into Imagination (trying to get down to the very building blocks of Disney creativity). Why not pay homage to Disney’s World of Color by having a room of those LED-lit water canons? (and while you’re at it, stick them out front too…)

Finally, Music. Yes, the Sherman Bros. song is perfect as is. However, it needs updating. And They Might Be Giants is the group to do it. They already have a relationship with Disney. They have a love for retro theme-park kitsch (check out their remake of the Disney Electrical Parade soundtrack). And they would be able to generate the variety of musical styles needed to sustain the various rooms of the dark ride.

So, these are my 23 cents. It will be expensive, but worth it.

Oh, and for Captain EO? I don’t know, a Lady GaGa remake?...


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Dominick D
Posted April 18, 2012 at 1:59 PM
Welcome to TPI! I agree Imagination isn't maintained. Look at this video of a guy sneaking into the top floor of Imageworks (DON'T TRY THIS AT EPCOT. YOU CAN GET BANNED FROM WDW):

I'd like the original Imagination ride back, and a Phineas and Ferb show in Captaion EO.

From Jonah Sirota
Posted April 18, 2012 at 4:00 PM
Thanks, Dominick! Cool video. Sad, but cool.

From Skipper Adam
Posted April 19, 2012 at 8:17 AM
I think there is a new sponsor. I think in a few years maybe we can expect updates or a new ride.

From Dominick D
Posted April 19, 2012 at 9:38 AM
LEGO has been rumored to be the sponser ever since Kodak left.

From Skipper Adam
Posted April 19, 2012 at 9:48 AM
It's Colorvision.

From Jonah Sirota
Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:40 AM
I guess this Colorvision thing is happening. This is on the EPCOT website:
http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/attractions/image-works/
and the Colorvision site has a new Image-works sign on their homepage.
Strange, though, as they are not really a household name. Maybe they are just sponsoring the image-works stuff they know how to do? (it seems like they are contracted to do on-ride photos for all of the Orlando parks.)

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