(A version of this article was shared with Laughing Place and published on January 31, 2022.)
Figment – the colorful little dragon enjoyed by millions – has been a part of any EPCOT visitor’s experience almost since the park opened as EPCOT Center in October 1982. He began starring in his own dark ride – Journey Into Imagination – in March 1983, and has delighted EPCOT guests ever since.
The pink and purple dragon is more popular than ever with Disney Parks fans. The infamous Figment Popcorn Bucket at EPCOT’s 2022 International Festival of the Arts commanded lines as long as six hours.
As Figment’s popularity continues to persist, let’s take a look at ten things you may not know about EPCOT’s famous dragon.
Figment’s Origin Story
Every classic character has an origin story. Figment’s tale began in a time and place before EPCOT even existed. In 1979, Disney Imagineer (and Disney Legend) Tony Baxter was considering ideas for reimagining a closed portion of the Nature’s Wonderland space in Disneyland. Among his ideas was a Jules Verne-inspired land, created with a theme of Victorian science fiction. This land – with a working title of Discovery Bay – would have included fantasy and science fiction inspiration from authors Verne and H.G. Wells.
One of the attractions on the slate, tentatively titled “Professor Marvel’s House of Illusions” was a carousel theater show featuring whimsical characters and wacky inventions. This attraction and the associated land never came to be, but the professor and his tiny pet dragon would later emerge in EPCOT as Dreamfinder and Figment.
What’s In a Name?
Everyone has heard the phrase “Figment of your imagination.” It’s an easy way to explain something that can’t be explained or just doesn’t seem quite right. When you hear the phrase, it’s quite easy to connect the dots and conclude that this is where Figment got his name. Well, this is true, but there is more to the story than that.
Disney Legend Tony Baxter is the Imagineer responsible for first coming up with the name for our lovable little dragon. Tony said he was inspired to use the name Figment while watching the 1980s American television show Magnum P.I.
The character Higgins saw his garden being destroyed by a goat that Magnum hid in his backyard. When Magnum tried to convince Higgins it was just a figment of his imagination, Higgins replied “Figments don’t eat grass!” According to Baxter, “there is this name, the word ‘figment’ that in English means a sprightly little character. But no one has ever visualized it, no one had ever drawn what a figment is. So, here is this great word that already has a great meaning to people, but no one has ever seen what one looks like.” There, in Tony Baxter’s imagination, Figment was named.
Figment Meet and Greet
Back in the early days of EPCOT, Figment and Dreamfinder appeared in the Imagination Pavilion to greet guests. Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder face character in the park, would hold and operate a small Figment puppet while interacting with guests (especially children).
Currently, a life-size Figment (without Dreamfinder) makes appearances in EPCOT’s Imagination pavilion. While fun to see, this giant purple Figment didn’t have the same whimsy as the pint-size original.
So About That Voice…
The Figment we know and love has a “unique” voice. Heard by some as an irritating sound, Figment’s raspy, squeaky voice was originally performed by actor Billy Barty for the Journey Into Imagination attraction. When the attraction was reimagined as Journey Into YOUR Imagination, Figment’s voice was recorded by long-time Disney voice actor Cory Burton. Muppeteer and voice actor Dave Goelz gave Figment his voice in the third (and current) iteration of the attraction – Journey Into Imagination With Figment.
Did You Know? According to former Imagineer Tom K. Morris, one of Imagineering’s original pie-in-the-sky ideas for Figment’s voice was legendary actor and comedian Robin Williams. The attraction’s budget did not allow for large spending on a voice role, so the idea was not further pursued.
Sponsored By Kodak
Tony Baxter and fellow Imagineers originally conceived of the loveable dragon with a color combination of green and white. But Kodak – the original sponsor of the Imagination Pavilion – did not want Figment’s colors to be similar to those of its top corporate rival FujiFilm. So at Kodak’s request, Disney changed Figment’s colors to purple and pink. And how about that adorable sweater? It’s colored yellow with red trim – the exact colors of Kodak.
One Little Spark
“Two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow…”
One Little Spark (often referred to as “The Figment Song” or “The Imagination Song”) is another in a long line of classic Disney earworms, courtesy of Disney Legends Richard and Robert Sherman. Walt Disney’s most trusted music writers and composers gave us the Disney Parks classics “It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”, “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room”, “it’s a small world”, and many others. Outside the parks, they provided the music for countless Disney films. Thanks to the Sherman Brothers, Figment has been immortalized with his own theme song.
In the late 1980s Figment hosted his own series within the EPCOT Educational Media line titled “Language Arts Through Imagination.” In these short films, Figment invited children to his playhouse in an imaginary land of “Figonia.” These short films – eleven in total – combined live-action, animation, and stock footage from the Disney library to interact with Figment in a way that would teach children different reading and writing concepts. With titles like Would You Eat a Blue Potato?, Do Dragons Dream?, and How Does Sound Sound?, wouldn’t you be curious to learn more?
Guest characters in the series included Peter Pan, Wendy, Alice, Merlin, the Reluctant Dragon (identified as Figment’s Uncle Max), Owl, Gopher, and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.
Comic Book Dragon
Comic fans might know that Figment briefly appeared in his own comic series in 2014. Disney Kingdoms: Figment is a five-part comic book miniseries published by Disney/Marvel Comics under the Disney Kingdoms line.
The series was described in Disney’s marketing as follows: “Dive into a steampunk fantasy story exploring the never-before-revealed origin of the inventor known as Dreamfinder, and how one little spark of inspiration created a dragon called Figment.” A sequel series was published in 2015.
Between you and me, I’ll take the Tony Baxter origin story.
EPCOT Scavenger Hunts
Besides being the mascot for EPCOT, Figment is the official mascot of EPCOT’s International Festival of the Arts. A fan favorite activity at the festival is the Figment Scavenger Hunt. For a nominal cost, guests can buy a map and game board, and turn it in for a small prize when completed (or even if it’s not completed). This year’s iteration is called “Figment’s Brush With the Masters” where the mischievous dragon finds his way into many classic paintings and portraits.
The Figment shown above was caught in the France Pavilion. If you’re not committed to seeing the game through, you can still enjoy spotting Figment throughout the World Showcase pavilions without the map.
Outside of EPCOT, Disney has sprinkled a little Figment dust into a few other locations.
Pixar gave Figment his props by virtue of tucking a glimpse of the dragon into a couple of their feature films. But have your finger ready on the pause button, because these cameos are quick.
Not surprisingly, a portrait of Figment appears in the film Inside Out. When Bing Bong is in Imagination Land, watching the train of thought, there is a framed picture of Figment in the foreground.
Figment also appears in the background of the carnival scene in Toy Story 4 as a lighted marquee for the carnival game Dragon Zone.
If you want to see Figment in another Disney park, head to Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! in Disney California Adventure. You can find Figment among the cases in the Collector’s treasure trove.
Of course, Figment was the most popular EPCOT statue in the Walt Disney World Fab 50 collection, released around the parks in 2021.
I hope you enjoyed this deep dive into our favorite “Figment of imagination.” How many of these Figment fun facts did you know? Did any of these surprise you? Join the conversation on social: Instagram Facebook X (formerly Twitter)