The Imagination Pavilion in Epcot® is like a love letter to an older era of Disney films (actually, two older eras), especially Journey Into Imagination With Figment. Our journey starts in the queue of the ride, and the first reference is pretty easy to find. As we enter the lobby of the Imagination Institute there is, on display, is a small yellow robot. Her name is Weebo, and she was the assistant to Professor Phillip Brainard in the 1997 movie, Flubber, which was a remake of the 1961 movie, The Absent-Minded Professor. (Bonus fact: In the movie, Weebo is voiced by the little mermaid herself, Jodi Benson). Turning the corner, we see three large portraits on the wall commemorating three inventors of the year. The first is Wayne Szalinski, connecting this ride not only to the now extinct, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience attraction but also to the trilogy of movies as well. The second portrait is that of Professor Brainard (played by Robin Williams) continuing the connection to Flubber, and the last portrait introduces us to Dr. Nigel Channing and Figment.
Moving through the queue, we pass the offices of these three inventors as well as the first of two deans, Eugene Higgins, Dean of Medfield College. Medfield College was the setting for a whole group of movies in the 60’s and 70’s, including The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and The Absent-Minded Professor.
On the ride, just before you enter the Sound Room you will pass by an office door for the second dean. Dean Finder is an homage to the Dreamfinder, the beloved and oft-missed host of the ride in its original iteration. The last inside joke is also on the ride. After you catch your train of thought in the Sound Room, your car moves past a computer room. Outside of the room hangs a college jacket with the letter “M” on it (guess which college that is) and a pair of red shoes on the floor, and if you haven’t picked up on the movie reference yet, there is a sign on the window that reads “No Tennis Shoes Allowed.”
A lot of people miss the original attraction, but I really enjoy this incarnation because of these inside jokes. The references go back to movies my parents watched growing up and through to the movies that I watched as a kid. There is something here for everyone.
(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
Chris grew up during the Disney renaissance of animation and took his first trip to Disney World when he was ten. Even though he has loved Disney his whole life, his obsession didn’t start until he began planning a trip for his honeymoon. Right now, his primary job (at least the one that doesn’t pay the bills) is to indoctrinate his daughter with his love of Disney while at the same time convincing his wife to move to Orlando so he can become a tour guide in the parks.