Dreamfinders Do Come True-Meeting Ron Schneider

Dreamfinder 1985
Dreamfinder, Figment & me in 1985

Most little girls have a favorite princess, and while I’m pretty sure I grew up being most attached to Princess Aurora, I was never really fanatical about princesses. I was more a Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake girl anyway. Until my 1983 trip to EPCOT Center of course. You’ve heard me wax poetic on that magical trip before. While I cannot find a photo of Dreamfinder and I from that first trip, I can assure you, his impact was felt for decades to come.

Princesses were prim and proper and always said the right thing, while Dreamfinder was a bit of a jokester and would react to the guests around him accordingly. Unlike many rides of the time, where you rode passively through them, Dreamfinder spoke directly to you in Journey into Imagination. “Oh, hello there, so glad you could come along. I am the Dreamfinder!” (I still have that entire spiel memorized in my head.) As an impressionable young child, I felt that Dreamfinder and Figment really were bringing me along for the ride to the Dream Port and that imagination was a powerful force within us all. And just as I cried through my entire last ride through Journey into Imagination on that last day of my first trip, I was all the more excited to see Dreamfinder after we moved to Florida when I was 10.

Dreamfinder 1986
Dreamfinder, Figment and me in 1986

I wouldn’t always stop to take a photo with Dreamfinder and Figment, but any time he was out there, I always said hello – and of course, riding Journey into Imagination multiple times was a given. I consider myself particularly fortunate to have had EPCOT Center as my playground during that time in my life. It wasn’t an easy transition, moving from a small New England town, close to family and surrounded by friends, to a really tiny central Florida town where I had a three cousins but not much else. EPCOT Center and Journey into Imagination (and Horizons) became my happy place, my refuge from the trials and tribulations of a tween existence, before that age group even had a name. And just as the sweet scent of l’oranges signaled Horizons, Dreamfinder was synonymous with Journey into Imagination. In summary; I liked him.

Fast forward 28 years from that first encounter and I am still as in love with Journey into Imagination and Dreamfinder as I ever was. I walk up to the Imagination pavilion and am flooded with happy memories of joking with Figment, getting soaked with the jumping fountains, the scent of roses, the beautiful white room inside the ride and countless hours playing in the Image Works. I am of course saddened by the changes made to Tony Baxter’s masterpiece, but I hold my version of the attraction within my heart. If you did not get the chance to experience the original attraction, check out Martin Smith‘s video tributes: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Attending D23’s Destination D in Florida back in May, I was brought to tears when Dreamfinder and Figment made a surprise appearance for a sing-a-long with Richard Sherman. My love and appreciation for Disney was renewed that magical night.

Destination D Dreamfinder
Destination D's very special guests

In a random turn of events, I happened to be reading the comments of an old post here. Within the comments, I saw one from a “Ron” that went as follows:

Zanna — It’s a funny thing… Figment & I posed for a million photographs back then but I’ve seen precious few of them. Thanks for posting this one!

I was shocked and amazed that THE Dreamfinder had commented on my silly little blog. Then I realized the comment was a year ago and was disappointed I hadn’t seen it prior to now! I replied to the comment and was filled with such joy and validation, as if little 10 year old me had come full circle in life. Or so I thought.

Enter Lou Mongello, well-known Disney fan, expert, and Podfather who runs the WDW Radio podcast and live news show. Lou writes and records audio guides, trivia books and more, has conducted interviews with amazing Disney legends, and given back through fundraising efforts for the Make a Wish foundation. In addition, he is a great friend. During the past weekend Lou and his WDW Radio team were engaging in a 40-hour LIVE web broadcast to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World and raise funds for Make a Wish. (They raised close to $18,000 that weekend alone!) When, on last week’s live show, Lou announced a “Special Guest” would be appearing on Sunday, October 2, my mind immediately went to Ron Schneider. Before I discovered Ron’s comment on my blog, I never would’ve guessed, but I just had that on the brain and something told me it was a good possibility. After a series of meet-ups on Sunday, I ventured over to the Imagination building, where I heard the WDWRadio crew would be. Sure enough, there was Ron Schneider, in his Imagination symbol shirt (which I almost wore that day!). I stood close and listened to the tales Ron shared of his time as Dreamfinder and with the Disney company. One of the funniest was the story of how Ron had recorded several takes for the exit safety spiel, including his favorite, “Your ride vehicle and the moving platform are traveling at 5000 miles per hour! Good luck!” They never used that take. I can’t imagine why?

Ron Schneider with Lou Mongello
Ron Schneider with Lou Mongello, while Lou's beautiful children look on. Scott Otis holds the laptop broadcasting the show live.


I had prepared my phone in hopes of getting a chance to show Ron the photo about which he commented, in person. When Lou asked if there were questions from the audience, I patiently waited for others to ask Ron to describe favorite memories or parts of his work experiences. Then I raised my hand and let him know that I didn’t have a question, but rather a photo to show him, which I did (the photo at the top of this post). He was tickled to see it and remarked again about how rare photos of him as Dreamfinder were. He portrayed the Dreamfinder from 1982 – 1987. I thanked him for the wonderful memories he gave me as a child and how I grew up with EPCOT Center. Tears began to flow as I remembered little 10 year-old me and the lifetime of experiences that has passed between then and now. Hearing my voice break, Ron said, “Oh, come here and give me a hug.” So I did. I hugged the Dreamfinder, without the blue suit and top hat, without that little purple dragon, but the man that gave life to both was all that mattered. It was perfect.

Dreamfinder 2011
Dreamfinder - Ron Schneider and me, 2011 ♥

While storm clouds may gather…and stars may collide, nothing can take those amazing moments that Disney and Dreamfinder provided. I truly had come full circle. It’s not often you can thank your childhood influences in person, much less hug them. I was so very grateful for the special chance to do so. My oldest son was standing behind me as I was speaking (and crying) to Dreamfinder. I think it was a special moment for him as well, to see that his mom is human, and was once a child full of wonder too. Perhaps he has a bit more understanding as to why Disney is so special to me and such a part of my life. So thank you to Mr. Schneider for taking the time out of your weekend to be there last weekend, and for being a part of childhood memories I hold most dear. Also many thanks to Lou Mongello for making this meeting possible and giving back to Disney fans in so many ways.

Imagination is something that belongs to all of us…and every sparkling new idea can lead to even more! – The Dreamfinder



  • Vanessa Woods

    JII (original flavor please!) is my all time favorite attraction!  I can’t stomach the new version but the old one was so wonderful (Image Works included!).  Fabulous post! 😀

  • Vanessa Woods

    JII (original flavor please!) is my all time favorite attraction!  I can’t stomach the new version but the old one was so wonderful (Image Works included!).  Fabulous post! 😀

    • Thank you so much. I know I’m not alone with my treasured memories of early EPCOT Center, Journey into Imagination and the Image Works especially. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • love this post!!! and thank you for the links to the original Journey Into Imagination. I still cannot believe that version is gone.

    • I am still sad when I realize we can never ride it (or Horizons or World of Motion) again, but thank goodness for Martin’s vids so we can ride them at home. Thank you for the kind words! 🙂

  • Jenn

    I love this!  Ron also emailed me through Flickr awhile back after he saw a photo of himself as Dreamfinder (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlovely/332502409) from 1983 when I went for the first time to WDW.  I have to make sure that I emailed him the photo…time to go hunt it down!

    • That is one FABULOUS photo, thank you so much for sharing it!! It’s amazing what impact one character had on so many. Ron is also on facebook so you could get in touch with him there as well. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Oh Zanna – I love, love, love this post. Some of my happiest memories were meeting and getting to spend time with Dreamfinder. I used a photo of us on my blog from one of our special visits. So wish I had been there. What an amazing man. Here’s a link http://www.theangelforever.com/2010/12/my-cake-request/

    • Great photos! That’s the 2nd one I’ve seen where he uses little ones as an arm rest! Guess I was a little too tall for that when I met him? Or it’s in one of those photos that I don’t have anymore from when I was 9. Either way, love it. I also have an EPCOT 15th birthday cake photo too. Will have to post that some day. Thanks for sharing – it’s so wonderful to see all the amazing memories Ron and the Dreamfinder created over the years.

  • What a wonderful story! I often wish I’d gotten to meet Dreamfinder during my visits to EPCOT Center in the 80s, but he was never out and about when I was in the Imagination pavilion.

    • Thank you, D. I’m sorry you never got to meet him in person. We can only hope Dreamfinder will make daily appearances in a perfect future EPCOT. 

  • D23Fan

    Wonderful blog. As someone watching from ‘The Box’ it was easy to see how special that day was for everyone involved. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, I truly appreciate it. I’m glad “The Box” got to experience Ron as well. 🙂 

  • Anonymous

    This is an awesome story! Wish I would have gone by!

  • Anonymous

    This is an awesome story! Wish I would have stopped by!

    • Thanks, Charles! 

  • MomsPanelErin

    Best post ever. I am in tears.

    • Aw, Thank you, Erin. I may have teared up again writing it. So grateful for these memories, old and new. 

  • What a wonderful touching post!!  Simply amazing.  🙂

    • Thank you so much. 🙂 

  • You just made me cry. How incredibly special to have Dreamfinder post a comment on your blog and then to get to meet and spend time with him. Ron sounds like an all around great guy. I’m wondering if I have any pictures of Dreamfinder and I tucked away in my parents photo boxes. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Sorry to make you cry! Thank for for the kind comments though, they are greatly appreciated. Definitely look in your photos, I wish I had more to share!

  • Great article. Mr. Schneider and I corresponded a bit after I posted a photo of him on Flickr from Destination D. Part of me wishes I had been there this weekend to meet and thank him, but part of me always wants to see him as Dreamfinder, and not lift the veil on the magic, so to speak, as odd as that may sound. I guess I’m glad I didn’t know about this in advance, as it would have been a tough decision to make.

    • I understand. If I hadn’t had the comment a few days prior, I would’ve been debating too, but knowing that he was really out there and still as committed to how great Dreamfinder was, was reason enough for me to give my thanks in person. 

  • Kim

    Well that just brought me to years as I’m sitting waiting for teacher inservice to begin. Thanks for sharing the magic with us!

    • Sorry to make you cry, but thank you for reading! We are all so affected by the magic!

  • Suzannah! I have tears in my eyes! (Girlfriend, I love it when you WRITE!) So, am I understanding that Rob was DreamFinder AT the parks as well? As in he WAS the character we had our pictures taken with? Or only part of the time for special stuff? Because *I* have a pic with him, too!


    • That is indeed Ron in your photo!! He portrayed The Dreamfinder from 1982-1987, when another person took over until the ride closed for refurbishment. 😀

      Thank you so much for the kind words. I love writing like this too and clearly with the comments and reactions I’ve seen, it is worth it and what I need to do more of. Thank you for always being my cheerleader my friend. ♥

  • I also loved the original Dreamfinder and Figment ride. The EPCOT Center that existed in the early to mid-80’s was an extra special place for me and one that I visited many times. Your post really helped me to re-connect with those primal feelings of youth, combined with a fascination for the future and the possibilities of hope it would bring to the world. It was the golden age of EPCOT. Thanks so much.

    • Thank you so much, Dale. The golden age of EPCOT was a great one, and while I wish it had stayed the same from the start, perhaps it wouldn’t mean as much as it does now that it’s gone. We’ll always have our memories of the future past. 

  • Daydreamingdisney.com

    What a lovely post. As a loyal Lou ‘follower’ I know that there were a lot of happy people there on Sunday because of this opportunity 😉 Thanks for sharing xx

    • Yay, thank you!! 

  • KathyRN137

    Hi Zanna! I was there to witness your touching reunion with The Dreamfinder; it was one of my favorite moments of a very magical day! ~ Kathy Kelly

    • Thank you Kathy, it was such a treat to meet you last weekend as well!! 😀

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  • I saw this moment on the 40-hour podcast and it brought tears to my eyes, too!  It amazed me to see Ron’s dedication to the character of Dreamfinder and his sidekick, Figment, after all this time.

  • NatalieP

    What a great post. Thank you for sharing- you had me in tears!

  • Annie

    sooooo great!  Dreamfinder and Figment have been my favorite for years.  I was tormented when Imagination closed temporarily.  I’m glad others miss the ‘original’ version….this cheered me since I missed out on WDW Moms Panel 🙁

  • Chris Queen

    What a sweet story! It’s a truly unique experience to get to meet a childhood hero, isn’t it?

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