29 – A Little Help from My Friends

Immediately following Tony’s presentation at Disney University I head up to Wally’s Dressing Room and call WED Enterprises. An old friend from my Magic Mountain days, Ken Lisi, is in charge of the WED Recording Studio and I ask if he can get me a recording of the Dreamfinder’s voice from the upcoming attraction. Ken is only too happy to help and invites me to come by and pick up a cassette of the attraction’s opening scene the following afternoon.

The next day I arrive at 1401 Flower Street in Glendale. Ken meets me in the lobby with a cassette marked ‘Imagination Turntable’ and I’m ready to head home and start working on matching the voice on the tape. But before I can go, Ken leads me past the receptionist and back into the maze of Imagineering offices where he introduces me to Tony Baxter and Barry Braverman.

The three of them take me back to a staging area where I get my first look at the Dreamcatcher Flying Machine from the Journey Into Imagination. It’s set up on sawhorses in the middle of the huge room, connected by cables to a bank of computers. Tony explains that they have just finished programming the opening scene of the ride; and so saying he pushes a button and the Audio-Animatronic Dreamfinder and his airship spring to life.

Dreamfinder & Figment aboard The Dreamcatcher

The most amazing moment. To stand there and know I’m the first to see this technological miracle, this brilliant piece of storytelling and to know that what I’m seeing could be the model for my next creative goal. Even as I stood there thoroughly enchanted I was aware of the responsibility I’d be taking on – to bring this character and everything he represents into the real world. And as Dreamfinder creates Figment out of his component sparks I feel like a single parent seeing his adopted child for the first time… charmed and challenged.

Tony, Barry and I sit down for a long chat about the evolution of ‘Imagination’, the creative, inspirational agenda of EPCOT Center and their hopes for the new characters. As one desperate for direction I take their words to heart and start to plot my path toward inhabiting the being and world of Dreamfinder.

# # # # #

My old friend from Universal, Jeff Palmer, is working in commercial production at Chiat Day Advertising. We meet up in his Downtown L.A. Recording studio where he helps me learn to recreate the Dreamfinder sound. Originally performed by talented comic actor Chuck McCann, the voice is a nimble impression of MGM Studio contract player Frank Morgan – aka The Wizard of Oz.

Jeff is a talented voice director and he coaches me into the proper inflection and vocal placement for matching the character and spirit originated by Chuck McCann. When I get home I can’t wait to try out my new pipes, so I create a new outgoing message for my phone machine in the Dreamfinder voice:

“Hello there! So glad you called… Ron’s off on a Flight of Fancy and won’t be back for some time, so leave a message after the tone and he’ll call you the moment he gets back!”

I head out for the evening to run errands and when I return my phone machine indicates that I have received ten calls. However when I try listening to the messages – one after another after another – they are all blank. Only the last caller left a message: it was my friend Ken from the WED recording studio, telling me to call him first thing in the morning. I can’t help imagining that all those other callers might have been Tony and Barry and other Imagineers calling to hear the voice of the Dreamfinder.

The next morning I call Ken at WED Enterprises and he tells me I guessed right the night before. And can I come in that afternoon to record some pickup lines for the new attraction?


About Ron Schneider

Creative Consultant, Lecturer, Freelance Writer, Director & Show Doctor, Actor and Voice-Over. Lifelong student of themed interactive entertainment.
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