6 Fun Facts About Figment
As mentioned last week, Epcot’s Festival of the Arts is up and running, a month-long celebration of creativity and creative expression. That also means that you’ll be seeing the world’s most delightful purple dragon throughout the park. Figment is THE star of the show at Festival of the Arts, so here are six facts you may not know about everyone’s favorite figment of imagination.
If you want to read about some of our other favorite Disney dragons you can check out this piece from 2018:
1. Professor Marvel’s House of Illusions
Prior to the opening of Epcot, Disney was designing attractions to fill the park. As they looked for characters to populate Epcot, the decision was made to revisit an abandoned project designed by legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter. The project was known as Discovery Bay, and it was meant to be located at Disneyland. One Discovery Bay attraction was titled Professor Marvel’s House of Illusions. Professor Marvel was to be an eccentric scientist who, among other hobbies, bred dragons. This concept was tweaked slightly, becoming Figment and the Dream Finder in Journey Into Imagination (the first iteration of what has since become Journey Into Imagination With Figment).
2. Magnum P.I.
The name Figment was inspired by an episode of Magnum PI…No, seriously…it’s true. Tony Baxter explains that he was watching an episode of the Tom Selleck drama. In it, Magnum is hiding a goat on Robin Masters property. The goat, as goats are wont to do, is eating all of the greenery at the house. When Magnum is questioned about it by Higgins, he replies that it’s probably just a figment of his imagination. Higgins responds, “Figments don’t eat grass.” Somehow, this was a lightbulb moment for Baxter and he realized he had found the name for the little dragon in his upcoming attraction.
One of Figment’s most distinctive features is his color. He’s a purple dragon. However, that wasn’t always the case. During the majority of the planning process Figment was green. Kodak served as the sponsor for the original attraction, and they decided that the color was too similar to that of FujiFilm. That’s why it was changed to purple.
4. Speaking of Kodak…
You’ll occasionally see Figment wearing a yellow sweater with red trim. It’s no coincidence that those are also the brand colors for Kodak. It occurs to me that some of our younger readers may not be particularly familiar with Kodak film. You see kids, back in the olden times you took pictures with cameras that used film which…you know what? I better stop right there or I’ll ramble on forever. Just ask your parents, kids.
5. A Trio of Voices
Figment has had three distinct actors provide his voice over the years. The original voice was provided by Billy Barty. A true legend, Barty’s acting career began in the 1920s when he co-starred with Mickey Rooney in a series of shorts known as Mickey McGuire based on the Toonerville Folks comics. He had numerous roles over the years with appearances in Bride of Frankenstein, two Elvis Films, in the Spike Jones ensemble, and more. In the 1980s, he would appear in fantasy films like Legend and Willow.
As Disney searched for the perfect voice for Figment, they issued a casting call in one of their employee newsletters. They asked for anyone who believed they had a distinctive voice to provide a cassette tape that would display their ability to portray the, “youthful, restless, mischievous, excitable, daydreaming purple dragon.” However, despite the internal call, the role eventually went to Barty.
In 1999, Journey Into Your Imagination replaced the original attraction. In this new incarnation, Corey Burton provided the voice of Figment. Burton has performed as a voice actor in numerous roles over the years, including: Big Bad Pete, the Evil Queen’s Magic Mirror, Grumpy, Yen Sid, Peter Pan (in Back to Neverland), Gruffi Gummy (in the Adventures of the Gummi Bears).
When Journey Into Imagination With Figment opened in 2002, it opened with the third and current voice of Figment. This time, the voice was provided by Dae Goelz. In addition to his voice work, Goelz is a puppeteer and one of the primary performers for the Muppets for over 40 years. He has performed as Gonzo, Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and others. He also took over the role of the cantankerous Waldorf after Jim Henson. He was also responsible for numerous characters in the Henson classic television series Fraggle Rock.
To learn more about the voice of Dreamfinder, Figment’s original companion, check out this 2018 piece about Chuck McCann:
6. The Sherman Brothers
You can’t talk about Figment without talking about the Sherman Brothers. The duo are responsible for some of the most memorable music in Disney history. In fact, they wrote Walt Disney’s favorite song: Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins. Among the music in their oeuvre are the songs from The Jungle Book, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Sword in the Stone, The Aristocats, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and many more. In Disney parks, some of the songs the Sherman Brothers wrote include Miracles from Molecules for Adventures Thru Inner Space, There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow and The Best Time of Your Life for Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, The Glorious Earth for America on Parade, and The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room.
The pair are also the composers of One Little Spark, the theme song for Figment and the various incarnations of his attraction. Even Journey Into Your Imagination included the song (though not the lyrics) in its score.
It would be impossible to sum up Figment any better than the Sherman Brothers did in their song, so we’ll leave you with their words:
One little spark, of inspiration
Is at the heart, of all creation
Right at the start, of everything that’s new
One little spark, lights up for you
Two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow
Horn of a steer, but a lovable fellow
From head to tail, he’s royal purple pigment
And there, viola! You’ve got a Figment!