Journey into Imagination was one of the original dark rides created for EPCOT Center. It opened in March 1983, around six months after EPCOT’s opening, and was intended as an all-ages dark ride that provided a bit of whimsy to a park that could be surprisingly dry and technical compared to the Magic Kingdom.
JII featured an Omnimover ride system where the vehicles move continuously without stopping, requiring riders to use a conveyor belt to board the ride. There are still a few of these systems in operation at Disney parks; the most famous example is probably The Haunted Mansion.
In the opening scene of JII, the Dreamfinder, riding the contraption pictured above, greets the guests and creates the character Figment out of human imagination. This scene is longer than the other scenes in the ride, but the Omnimover ride does not allow for some ride vehicles to stop or slow down, so a new solution was devised. Several versions of this scene sit on a continuously rotating turntable that moves along with the ride vehicles. This produced a great effect, but I don’t believe it was ever used again, likely because it was a maintenance nightmare (rumor has it that the heavy turntable was slowly corkscrewing into the foundation).
After the opening scene, several more scenes showed off various aspects of imagination, including a scene dedicated to books and writing where words come to life, and a scene representing show business where Figment watches moves of himself. The above picture is of my favorite scene — the Art Room, featuring abstract white sculptures lit up by kaleidoscopic colored lights.
Unfortunately, this beautiful ride was removed in the late 90s for a new version done on a shoestring budget. This version shortened the track and remove the troublesome turntable, and replaced all of the fanciful scenes shown above with new, bland scenes without much in the way of set dressing. The original version lives on in the form of Figment, who remains EPCOT’s unofficial mascot to this day.
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