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Fridays with Jim Korkis: A Lost Dreamfinder Film

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

“A very serious, very advanced engineering project is being built in Florida around these new Disney characters: Dreamkeeper and his pet dragon Figment…It will be only part of a total experience that people will remember all their lives.” –Kodak in-house magazine advertisement, 1980

Yes, the iconic Dreamfinder was once going to be called “Dreamkeeper” after he had evolved from Imagineer Tony Baxter’s concept for a Professor Marvel for the never built Discoveryland section at Disneyland.

(c) Disney

When EPCOT Center opened on October 1, 1982, actor Ron Schneider, costumed as the character, explained to Bryant Gumbel on the Today show who Dreamfinder was supposed to be:

“Well, I’m kind of the host of the Journey Into Imagination show out here at Epcot Center. I traveled all over the Universe, collecting the stuff dreams are made of: Sounds, Colors, Ideas . . . Anything that sparks the imagination. And I store these sparks in the Journey Into Imagination Pavilion. And the guests and I recombine them into new ideas and new inspirations.”

While Dreamfinder and Figment were there at the opening of Epcot, their attraction, Journey Into Imagination, did not officially open at the Imagination Pavilion until March 5, 1983.

The Imagination pavilion was to house an attraction featuring these characters and also a 3-D film titled Magic Journeys, directed by Murray Lerner. However, there was some concern that the film might not be ready in time for the opening of the pavilion, so Imagineering decided to prepare a back-up plan.

The Walt Disney Company contacted filmmaker Mike Jittlov, who was well-known for his 1979 short film, The Wizard of Speed and Time. Jittlov was asked to produce a 70-second live-action film featuring Dreamfinder that could be used to introduce about five minute of clips from Magic Journeys as a back-up, in case the entire 3-D film wasn’t finished in time.

Contrary to other descriptions, this segment was not done in Jittlov’s well known stop-motion technique except for a few seconds, nor was it in 3-D in order to better showcase the 3D clips.

The film was titled Dream Finder Run, because, at that point, the name Dreamfinder was two separate words, and basically the character was going to run around a lot.

The film begins with Dreamfinder putting on his coat and talking to the off-camera Figment: “Figment, my impatient young friend, you can’t push creativity. It takes time to do things right.”

Figment (off camera): “And isn’t now the time for a preview of the Magic Journeys film?”

Dreamfinder: “By golly, you are right. I better hurry along.”

There was one day of filming in Florida and two days in Tujunga, California, at WED (Imagineering). The film had the character running around in the Imagination pavilion while it was still being constructed, as well as passing projects being built at the WED workshop in California.

Dreamfinder spends brief seconds in each location. Jittlov has a cameo, as does the shadowy silhouette of Mickey Mouse. Figment appears on the desk of a sculptor, as well in the basket of a bicycle (as a tribute to the film E.T.).

At one point, Dreamfinder grabs a reel of film (supposedly Magic Journeys). He inadvertently runs off the edge of a second floor hallway and lands in a pile of film cans. Looking at the audience, he informs them it is now time to put on the 3-D glasses to see the preview of scenes from Magic Journeys.

Lerner, who was directing Magic Journeys, found out about this back-up plan and rushed to finish his film. It premiered on time so Dream Finder Run was never shown in its entirety.
However, a clip of a few seconds from Dream Finder Run was shown in the television special Epcot Center: The Opening Celebration on October 23, 1982. Danny Kaye and a very young Drew Barrymore meet Dreamfinder and his puppet Figment outside the original attraction transitioning into about eight seconds from the film.

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Thanks, Jim!  And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt: Volume 10: Final Edition  Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.


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