Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
Rich: Of all of the Here-Are-Some-Scientific-Notions-That-Exist-And-That’s-All-We’re-Saying-About-That attractions at Epcot, Journey Into Imagination with Figment is the absolute dumbest. Here you are informed that there are things called senses and, in yet another slow-moving ride through a giant building, you experience audio/visual depictions of some but not all of them. Your hosts for this trip (through what you’ve been knowing since your first moments of self-consciousness) are Eric Idle and Figment, a small purple dragon that exists only in this ride and some horrible-looking merchandise available in the attached gift shop.
Figment is as big of a flop as any Disney character (Duffy, “the Disney bear,” who exists only to appear in pictures with park visitors but clearly does not have the self-discipline or diet that a model needs, is similarly floppish). Figment never starred in his own movie or one-off holiday-themed special for the Disney Channel, though he did appear in some “educational” Disney videos in the early ‘80s. Sorry, man, that resume is not extensive enough to convince me that you know what you’re talking about. Nor is the actual talk. Figment’s just here to remind you that you smell, see, and hear (tasting and feeling are the senses the ride explicitly bypasses because no one felt like figuring out how to depict them in 3D). He also informs you that, “Imagination is just turning your thinking upside down,” and then as your cart travels on, you see several scenarios of him attached to the ceiling, doing totally normal purple dragon activities like dining at a kitchen table and shit. You just proved that imagination is actually not that easy, ya big purple dummy. I can’t eat at a kitchen table upside down!
Caity: This was one of the rare occasions when the walk to the ride itself was more entertaining than the actual ride. On our way to the cars, we traipsed down a hallway that featured the portraits and offices of some of Disney’s greatest fictional scientists: Dr. Wayne Szalinski, who famously shrunk both his kids and himself; the late Dr. Brainard, who invented the mysterious substance known as “Flubber.” I loved that part, which demonstrated a real Disney-esque attention to detail.
Unfortunately, the ride itself—which, with its 1980s dragon graphics and 1980s Eric Idle, felt even more dated than Captain EO—sucked. The premise of the ride is that Dr. Nigel Channing (Idle) is routinely sabotaged by a purple dragon (who I guess is imaginary? but also very real?) while attempting you give you a tour of his laboratory. Dr. Channing wants you to smell roses; Figment the dragon makes you smell a skunk instead. Etc.
I hated Figment for essentially ruining what could have been, if not a particularly informative tour, at least a pleasant one. He also sings a horrible little earworm about how imagination is the key, which I kept detecting (in various instrumental forms) piping through speakers all over the park, like it’s some sort of hit song we all know and love.
We know it, from this bad ride no one should go on. But we do not love it.
Rich: Eeee-maaaaajjjj-in-aaaay-shun. Oh my god, it’s in my head. Again. “Imagination” is taking up space where actual imagination could be. This is dark-sided. Figment is here to control our minds.
The ride lets out into a sort of interactive playground where you can do things like create your own annoying little dragon on a touch screen and “play” music by swinging your hands in between two sensor bars (what you seem to be doing is controlling the tempo and intensity, not pitch, because that would require actual knowledge of music and one doesn’t need knowledge for Epcot—just an open mind that knowledge is somewhere out there). Nowhere to be found was the iconic rainbow tunnel that you used to be able to walk through in that complex, which is one of the only memories I have of visiting Epcot in the ‘80s. Thank you for destroying my childhood, Disney.
Caity: I did love the music conducting station. I guess everyone who visits it must think “This is crazy, but...I’m actually really good at this” because they eliminate the challenge of pitch. That’s definitely what I thought. The thing is: I actually was really good at it.
Epcot has a lot of these interactive playgrounds at the ends of rides, and they are uniformly terrible. I guess Disney doesn’t want people to feel ripped off by waiting 45 minutes for a six minute ride, so they provide a boring (but air conditioned) place for them to decompress afterward. You can do stuff in the Figment Imagination Lab, but none of it is worth doing.
Ride Report Card
Rich: Don’t let a purple dragon tell you how to think, or what to do. Think for yourself. Do for yourself. Smell for yourself, feel for yourself. Journey Into Imagination gets a double F for Fuck Figment.
Caity: Per the ride’s Wikipedia page, “The Kodak company ended its sponsorship of the pavilion in August 2010, after nearly 28 years,” and I don’t blame them. F.
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Images via Rich Juzwiak and Caity Weaver.