Dragons have been at Epcot at Walt Disney World in Florida since the park was known as EPCOT Center. Epcot's mascot, the purple dragon named Figment, made his first appearance in the Journey Into Imagination attraction in 1983. Originally, Maleficent as a dragon (from Disney's 1959 film, Sleeping Beauty) would have made a cameo appearance on the ride.
I think it's time to finally bring Maleficent to the Journey into Imagination with Figment ride, as part of a re-imagined attraction. While we're at it, how about going back to the original Figment character design, which looks quite a bit like Maleficent.
The new Imagination ride could pit the original version of Figment against Maleficent. It could also feature some of the elements of the proposed attractions for Beastly Kingdom at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This would have focused on imaginary animals from around the world, like the Sphinx, Griffins, Dragons, Gargoyles, and a Unicorn. The Quest for the Unicorn labyrinth planned for Beastly Kingdom would have had all these creatures in a lush garden setting. Epcot is very famous for its International Flower and Garden Festival. Epcot would be a great place to celebrate imaginary creatures from around the world, with the Imagination Pavilion right on the border of World Showcase.
Journey Into Imagination originally starred Audio Animatronic characters Figment (voiced by Billy Barty) and Dreamfinder (voiced by Chuck McCann) in a fun, creative (and in some places, a bit scary) dark ride through the world of the Imagination.
For 1999, the ride was changed into Journey Into Your Imagination. The animatronic characters were dropped. The elements that made the ride innovative, like the cars splitting off and following an extended scene with a flying airship, were eliminated. The ride was even less popular than the original version. I wonder why.
For 2002, the ride was changed again, and became Journey Into Imagination with Figment. Figment animatronics returned, but Dreamfinder did not. The incredible flying airship sequence (I still don't know how they did that) failed to return.
The current Journey Into Imagination with Figment attraction never had much of a wait during my August 2011 visit to Walt Disney World. Figment used to be a very popular Disney character in Florida, but I don't know if he is anymore.
A small bit of merchandise, like this 2008 "One Little Spark" baby Figment pin from Walt Disney Imagineering, can still be found in some shops.
Maleficent is a very busy dragon. You can find her at Disney's Hollywood Studios, which is not too far from Epcot. Maleficent appears in the nighttime spectacular, Fantasmic!
I've never seen the Florida version of Fantasmic! I got this pin at Disney's Boardwalk Resort.
Dragons have lived at Epcot's World Showcase, too.
Surprise in the Skies was a daytime show at Epcot, presented at World Showcase Lagoon.
This show was promoted for Walt Disney World's 20th Birthday in 1991.
It featured dragon boats, kites, fireworks and large Disney character balloons. I never saw this show. I know this show had a balloon of Disney's Robin Hood, though I haven't seen what it looked like.
Surprise in the Skies was actually a re-worked version of a show called Skyleidoscope.
Note the Viking Goofy balloon, which was introduced for Surprise in the Skies in 1991.
Walking around World Showcase can make you tired. If you happen to be staying at one of the Epcot Resorts, you can leave the park through the International Gateway (between France and the United Kingdom) to go back to your hotel to relax.
In this picture, you can see the top of the Walt Disney World Swan (left) and in the middle, the Walt Disney World Dolphin. I took this picture as I was walking from Epcot to Disney's Yacht Club Resort. On this day (Saturday, August 27th, 2011) I went to Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Epcot.
Here we can see Disney's Boardwalk Resort, and in the background, the top of the Walt Disney World Swan.
It is fun to explore Disney's Boardwalk Resort at night. There's some great shops and restaurants here. Disney's Boardwalk Resort opened in 1996.
Disney's Yacht Club Resort is beautiful at night! This resort, and its neighbor, Disney's Beach Club, are very popular, and it is easy to see why. I discovered that there are quite a few people that spend a great deal of their vacation time at these resorts. Day or night, there were people enjoying activities here.
You can't go swimming in this water, but Disney's Yacht Club and Beach Club have a big pool/water play/water slide area called Stormalong Bay. Movies are shown on the beach every night (see the movie screen in this picture). Toy Story 3 was the movie shown on this night.
In keeping with the futuristic theme, Epcot Resorts are staffed with Robot Butlers, Robot Maids, and Robot Chefs.
When asked, Resort Staff will deny that they are Cyborgs created by Walt Disney Imagineering.
Staying on Disney property has some huge advantages. There's Location, Location, Location for one. They are also beautiful resorts with friendly people.
I think these Disney Resort logos are cool. This roster is from the early 1990s, and there have been some additions and changes since then. The Disney Inn was a Snow White themed resort. I have stayed at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort (it was nice!). I've visited Disney's Polynesian Resort (for the luau show). I've visited, but not stayed at Disney's Dixie Landings Resort (it was not open when this ad was made, but it eventually just became part of Disney's Port Orleans Resort).
The Walt Disney World Resort is huge. It's two times larger than the island of Manhattan. Can you find the Epcot Resort area on this map?
The Resort is about the same size as San Francisco. There's quite a bit of Walt Disney World that I've never seen.
Disney's Yacht Club and Beach Club opened at Walt Disney World in 1990.
How does the New England theme fit Epcot's World Showcase? Well, from Epcot, it is accessed between the United Kingdom and France. It's NEW England. Yes, that's my explanation.
I had never seen the Epcot Resort area before. It is beautiful, and a destination itself.
If you plan on spending a lot of time at Epcot or Disney's Hollywood Studios, this is the place to stay.
Map out a day of fun at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts.
Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resorts were designed by Robert A.M. Stern.
The Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin, designed by Michael Graves, are located within walking distance to the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. They opened in 1990.
With their giant Swan and Dolphin Statues, these resorts are hard to miss. You can even see them in World Showcase.
The Swan and Dolphin are not owned by Disney (though it looks like they own the hotel's mascot "characters").
The Swan is operated by Westin, and The Dolphin is operated by Sheraton.
On Sunday, August 28th, 2011, I visited Epcot, Downtown Disney and the Magic Kingdom.
For my Epcot visit, check out Epcot: Space Elephants On Parade And Horizons, The Movie.
After I went to Epcot, I returned to Disney's Yacht Club Resort to catch the bus to Downtown Disney.
Downtown Disney has seen many changes over the years. It used to be known as Walt Disney World Village. The Walt Disney World Village was my first Disney experience, way back in 1981. This trip did not include a visit to The Magic Kingdom or any other place at Walt Disney World, due to a family member getting sick. I would finally get to a Disney Park in 1983 (The Magic Kingdom and the nearly brand-new EPCOT Center).
Dragon Maleficent has made Downtown Disney a new stomping ground. You can find her outside the LEGO store.
You'll also find other Disney Characters here constructed out of LEGOs, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Toy Story's Buzz, Woody and RC.
This part of Walt Disney World has always had a big character shop. For many years, it was called Mickey's Character Shop.
This particular store is long gone. However, there are multiple Disney character shops in Downtown Disney now. You can visit the World of Disney, Once Upon a Toy, and D Street to name a few.
The Dad in that picture is holding a shopping back that many people probably remember.
Yes, I still have a postcard-size version of this great bag.
Look at the cool Giftz sold at Walt Disney World in 1994.
During the early 1990s, the plural of a word looked edgier when the "s" was replaced with a "z."
Pleasure Island was the place to go at Walt Disney World for liquor and lambada dancing.
Pleasure Island opened near the Disney Village Marketplace (now called Downtown Disney) in 1989.
This was a lively place at night, and stayed open until the early morning hours.
This was something new for Walt Disney World. It was a theme park for adults.
I visited Pleasure Island in the early 1990s, when I was in high school. I loved the Comedy Warehouse, which was decorated with old Walt Disney World props.
I remember that I loved seeing Prince John the lion (from Disney's Robin Hood) on the parade drum on the wall here.
Jessica Rabbit could also be found on Pleasure Island. She's not bad, she's just drawn that way!
Jessica was a natural fit for Pleasure Island, and she had her own store called "Jessica's."
The idea of Pleasure Island was eventually discontinued, with the clubs closing down in 2008.
After having lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express and doing some shopping, it was time to head back to Disney's Yacht Club Resort, so I could catch a bus to the Magic Kingdom.
Remember when Walt Disney World turned 20? I remember when that seemed old. It doesn't anymore. At all.
This visit to the Magic Kingdom was pretty much a repeat of my first day at Walt Disney World on this vacation.
The first thing I did was visit Pirates of the Caribbean. I never had to wait very long for this attraction, as it can handle large numbers of people.
This Goofy pin is from the early 1990s.
Up next, I took a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. A big, quick rainstorm hit during my ride, which made for a very memorable trip.
I later went on the Walt Disney World Railroad, and got a picture of some of the Audio Animatronic characters in Big Thunder Mountain's flooded town of Tumbleweed. I remember thinking the donkeys were real when I was a kid.
After my ride in the rain on Big Thunder Mountain, I went to the Haunted Mansion.
This nice Haunted Mansion was being sold at the World of Disney Store in Downtown Disney.
After the Haunted Mansion, it was time to use my FastPass for Splash Mountain.
Splash Mountain was brand new when Walt Disney World celebrated its 20th Birthday.
After Splash Mountain, I took the train to Main Street, and then went to Tomorrowland. I rode Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and Space Mountain. The park was getting very, very crowded.
I had a late dinner at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland. I had never seen Sonny Eclipse, the Audio Animatronic alien, perform. That did not change this time. Sonny was on stage, but not moving or singing.
It was kind of odd. The spotlight was on him, but he was just frozen.
I then went to Fantasyland, to say my final goodbyes to Snow White's Scary Adventures. At this point, parts of Fantasyland were roped off in preparation for the fireworks show (it looks like they spray the Fantasyland roofs with water). My last attraction of the day was Mickey's Philharmagic.
Before I left the Magic Kingdom, I had to stop in Adventureland to get a Dole Orange/Vanilla Swirl ice cream. This is my new Magic Kingdom tradition, and one that I share with many people.
SpectroMagic was the new Magic Kingdom nighttime parade for Walt Disney World's 20th Birthday in 1991. On this trip, Disneyland's Main Street Electrical Parade was shown at the Magic Kingdom. On this day, I did not see the Parade (I did see it on the first day of this vacation).
Day Five (Monday, August 29, 2011): The Vacation Ends
Before leaving Walt Disney World, I made the most of the morning by visiting the shops at the Yacht Club, Disney's Boardwalk, and the Beach Club.
One day during my trip, Halloween merchandise magically started to appear everywhere.
For some reason, I just had to get Werewolf Mickey. I got mine at Disney's Beach Club Resort.
By 11:00am, it was time to leave the Yacht Club and go to the Orlando International Airport.
If only I had flown Delta! Wow, that's service!
While I was at the airport, I ate lunch at the McDonald's in the Food Court. I had eaten there when I arrived in Orlando on the first day of my trip.
When Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, McDonald's heavily promoted the park. There was a set of Disney's Animal Kingdom Happy Meal Toys and there was a set of cups.
I had totally forgotten that I've had this AVATAR McDonald's Arch Card in my wallet since 2009. Maybe I could have used this at the Orlando Airport!
I was given this as a Christmas gift. When AVATAR debuted in theaters, McDonald's promoted the movie with Arch Cards and with a set of interactive Happy Meal toys.
With the world of Pandora expansion planned for Disney's Animal Kingdom, I'm sure AVATAR will be seen at the Orlando International Airport in a big way in a matter of years.
While I was at the Airport, I made sure to check out the shops.
Here, I found some cartoon versions of Walt Disney World transportation vehicles. I was tempted to get them, but I decided to just take a picture of them instead.
I bought a couple last-minute souvenir items for co-workers at the airport shops. There are actually two Disney stores and two Universal stores here, and some of the merchandise selection is a bit different. There's also a Sea World store, too.
Soon, it was time to catch a plane and head back to reality.
Happy 40th Birthday, Walt Disney World! Roger Rabbit has a special Birthday wish for you. He wishes you would use him more often. He used to be everywhere!