Last month saw the close of one of Walt Disney World‘s first big surprises of 2017. While many were excited for the Festival of the Arts at Epcot, most did not anticipate all of the unique experiences this new special event would bring. Social media was replete with guests singing the praises of the seminars, exhibits, culinary options, musical features, photo ops and more at #ArtfulEpcot. Photos abounded of murals, character Meet and Greets, and PopTart paintings, but one individual dominated the Festival coverage. With his two tiny wings and eyes big and yellow, Figment was featured on merchandise, depicted in several master paintings, and brought back to Epcot in topiary form.
Whether donning his chef’s hat for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival or seen flying amidst the flowers on Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival merchandise, many would argue that Figment has long been a staple of the Epcot festivals; however, his prevalence at this event seemed different. In many ways, he was the star of the show, and why shouldn’t he be? Imagination is at its best when allowed to thrive in the arts, be it written word, music, fine art or creative culinary masterpieces.
The perfection of Figment bringing a spark to the Festival of the Arts only serves to underscore that something has been missing from his signature pavilion for quite some time. While the current incarnation of the Imagination pavilion at Epcot has allowed new generations of guests to meet the loveable park icon, his creative side has long been overshadowed by skunk odor and the roar of a locomotive. Gone are the days of Figment playfully wielding a paint jar and transforming a scene from basic white to the full spectrum of the rainbow.
Journey Into Imagination with Figment is clearly in need of a re-imagining. Sadly, the ride is often a walk-on with many Figment devotees choosing to bypass it entirely, either because it is not seen as a must-do or because they long for the bygone days of Dreamfinder. But what if the attraction was given new direction. One depicting imagination at the center of art, telling the story of one little spark that grows into a burst of creativity that leads to masterworks. Whether historical such as DaVinci, Mozart and Homer or modern such as Walt Disney, George Gershwin or John Lasseter, a ride through the imaginations that have led to cultural shifts, technological advancements and captivating messages would be a journey worth taking. Now, picture this adventure featuring the best that Walt Disney Imagineering has to offer: projection mapping, next-generation audio-animatronics, enhanced lighting, interactivity and more. Such advancements could truly transform Figment’s tour into an E-ticket attraction.
But where does this leave the other half of the Imagination pavilion? While the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival would fit nicely with an art-centered Journey Into Imagination, many guests have viewed this attraction as a placeholder from the onset. Furthermore, with the shuttering of The Magic of Disney Animation in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it seems that Disney feature animation, the backbone of the company and Walt’s passion, deserves something more spectacular than a 4-D film. With the original Magic of Disney Animation as its template, perhaps a pre-show (with portions borrowed from the film festival) could usher guests into an expo that would lead them on a trip through the history and future of Disney and Pixar animation. Featuring technology beginning with the multi-plane camera up through the latest in CGI software, guests could learn, observe and possibly even try their hand at both traditional and computer generated animation.
What’s more, the second story ImageWorks has been missed since the day it closed, but with half of the pavilion as a new playground for the science of animation, possibly the love for the original could finally be eclipsed. The idea of guests trying their hand at virtual reality animating alone would surpass anything seen in the original or current incarnation of the post-show lab.
In the original Journey Into Imagination, Dreamfinder and Figment taught guests that even the structure of science is spurred forward by creativity. An idea ignites a spark that drives visionaries and scientists to create, develop, and postulate what is needed to advance, invent and discover, and those accomplishments allow artists, musicians and storytellers to share their art in whole new ways that change and inspire society. Culture and science have the ability to drive each other, and they often create the most spectacular end product when advanced in tandem. With this in mind, Epcot is the perfect location for a festival celebrating art, and Figment is most assuredly the icon deserving of sharing this idea with the world, not just at a festival once a year but every day in his pavilion.
(Photo from the author’s personal collection.)
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