Sneaking Into Image Works @ The Imagination Pavilion

Disclaimer: I DO NOT recommend that you attempt to sneak into The Image Works! As you’ll read below, there are obviously Cast Members patrolling the area at all hours, and it is highly likely that you will get caught and possibly arrested!

I had a list of various adventures I wanted to complete during my recent visit to Walt Disney World, and a tour of the abandoned Image Works area in the Imagination pavilion was right about at the top of that list. For those who don’t know, this was an area on the 2nd floor of the pavilion where there were a bunch of kick-ass hands-on exhibits. I remember spending hours up there, walking through the Rainbow Tunnel, waving my hand under the pin tables, and jumping on the musical light tiles like a maniac.

Unfortunately, this area was closed off, gutted, and left abandoned when the pavilion was “renovated” (i.e., seriously fucked up beyond any rational belief) in 1998. A few of the exhibits were moved downstairs into the gift shop area, which is a complete and total clusterfuck and a very unpleasant place to spend any amount of time. But as for the rest…. Nobody really seemed to know, and the videos and photos I’d been able to track down were either old or limited in scope. I really wanted a definitive account of the state of the place, to see what remained (if anything) of the upstairs area that had been the setting of so many fond childhood memories.

For what it’s worth, I’d tried to visit Image Works via legitimate channels by taking the “Undiscovered Future World” tour last year. But contrary to online trip reports, and much to my chagrin, we were not brought up there. That further stoked my curiosity, because I figured the place must be in really poor shape if they wouldn’t even take tours up there anymore. And I was right.

So, at about 7PM one evening, armed with my fancy new HD camera with hybrid motion stabilization, Draven Star, Pentakis Dodecahedron, and I went to the Imagination pavilion and rode the shitty ride, which continues to rape my childhood. We were unceremoniously dumped into the gift shop, where I’d previously noticed the stairway up to the 2nd floor was located, fully accessible (the elevator, on the other hand, is locked up tight). The stairway is, in theory, in the direct line of sight of the CM working the register at the gift store. But on this visit I noticed they’d placed some sort of tall rotating sales rack near the register such that this view was mostly blocked. Aside from that, the gift shop was insanely crowded and definitely understaffed, so the CM at the register wasn’t up for doubling as a low-rent security guard. Just to be safe, I told Draven and Pentakis to look sexy and distract the CM if they started looking towards the stairway as I walked up there.

I was ready, I was pumped, I had an adrenaline rush going on big-time. I strode resolutely towards the stairs, determined not to turn back like a complete wuss. Just as I reached the stairway I slammed smack-dab into a kid who had darted in front of me, way below my sight line. The little girl fell face first on the hard tile of the gift shop, stood up and started screaming her fucking head off. I tried to get her to shut up, to stop drawing attention to me, but she wasn’t having it. I literally picked this kid up and handed her back to her parents, apologizing profusely while really thinking that these parents needed to keep a better eye on their snot-nosed spawn.

“Fuck,” I thought, “that’s the end of that. No way I’m going undetected up those stairs now.”

Walking over to Draven, I told her as much.

“What are you talking about? I didn’t notice anything,” she said.

“How did you not notice?! The kid was screaming like someone had torn her limbs off!”

“Dude, every kid in this place is screaming like that.”

I looked around. I listened. It was true. The place was a complete madhouse. I looked at the CM, who was frantically trying to keep up with an increasingly lengthy line of customers. The little girl I’d smashed into was already wreaking havoc at the antenna topper display, smiling as she stuffed two of them in her mouth.

So, I decided to try again. I opened the camera, once more strode resolutely (I like to be resolute when I stride) to the stairway, and walked up the stairs. When I got to the top, it was absolutely gorgeous. The blue pavilion lighting shone through the glass ceiling, and it was just as magical a space as I’d remembered. But I couldn’t linger – I had to document the entire floor, so I moved on towards what used to be an area where you used big plastic brushes to shoot color at sculptures on the wall. Except what I found was that even though the big sculptures were still intact, the entire center area had been gutted. No more paintbrushes. Exposed wires protruded from the ground, and from there on, shit just got weird.

The Rainbow tunnel was no longer rainbow-y. It was now lit with white fluorescent lights. Coming out of the tunnel, plywood was randomly stacked against black walls. At certain points the path became pitch black, and I couldn’t see where the next doorway was located. I was starting to get creeped out. By the time I was done winding through the maze of Image Works, the whole time worried I was going to get a nail through the foot or get electrocuted by an exposed wire, I was well and good freaked. I just wanted to get the fuck out of there.

But apparently the Ghosts of Image Works Past wanted to punish me for my indiscretions! Just as I was reaching the stairway a CM walked by. Busted! I was already freaked, full of too much adrenaline, and now I was getting busted? Seriously?! So instead of trying to talk my way out of it with some creative excuse, I nonchalantly closed the camera viewscreen (leaving it rolling, of course), and just fell back into the “stupid guest” routine, which is old hat for me. You know the one: “No, I have no idea where I am! I’m not supposed to be up here? Are you sure? But it’s really nice up here!” All the while walking towards the steps, exactly where the CM wanted me to go, so they would feel like they were in complete control of the situation. “My managers will not be happy,” the CM said, which got me moving a little faster down those steps. But by the end of it, after I’d apologized, the CM responded with “Oh, that’s okay!” almost like they felt bad for me, just a stupid guest getting lost and confused as stupid guests are wont to do.

I rushed down the steps and high-tailed it out of the gift shop, nudging Pentakis on the way out, as if to say “Code Red!” I was really afraid that the CM was going to talk to their manager and soon a whole squad of DisPolice would track me down and I’d be banned for life like fucking dumbass Newmeyer. But I made it out of the pavilion safely, huffing and puffing like a fat kid halfway through a pull-up.

Turning back I expected to see Draven and Pentakis right behind me, but they were nowhere to be found. WTF? Had they been captured?! So I waited. And waited some more. I went and took a piss. Came back, no Draven or Pentakis. Shit. I was going to have to go back into the pavilion to see what had happened to them. I slowly walked to the gift shop exit, fully expecting that when I turned the corner I’d peer through the sliding glass doors and see DisCops surrounding the two girls.

Instead, I turned the corner and saw them shopping, giggling like schoolgirls as Draven tried on Figment ears. What. The. Fuck. I’m seconds away from getting hunted down and banned from the parks, and they’re shopping like nothing had happened?!?! Way to have my back, ladies! Oooh, I was pissed! I ran in there, grabbed them both, pulled them out of the gift shop, and ran through the rose garden pathway and into World Showcase until we blended into the massive Food and Wine crowd. Only then did I feel semi-safe. After much yelling and apologizing on both sides (me apologizing for yelling, them apologizing for being the worst lookouts ever), we downed some booze, watched Richard Marx, and then moved on to more debauchery, including hacking the elevator at The Land to get into the VIP lounge. But that’s another story….

I’ve put together two videos of this adventure. The first is the entire walk-thru, from start to finish. I’ve blurred the CM’s face and changed their voice so they won’t get in trouble for letting me go scott-free, but other than that, what you see is exactly what happened.

The next version is the walk-thru cut together with clips from Martin Smith’s excellent 48 minute documentary, “Imagination 82 – The Original Imageworks”. I put this together so you can compare how things used to look with how they look now. Please check out Martin’s site for the full video and for many other awesome WDW documentaries:


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17 Responses to Sneaking Into Image Works @ The Imagination Pavilion

  1. Lindsay says:

    Your Undiscovered Future World tour didn’t go up to the top of the Imagination Pavilion? When did you take it? I went up there in April 2011 & my friend went up in May. From what I’ve heard, that tour is more variable than most. A lot depends on the CM & what’s going on in EPCOT that day (but that’s more for the private lounges which may be occupied.)

    We got to go up & look out from the top of the pyramid, but we couldn’t walk back into ImageWorks. Another guest & I lingered long enough to poke our heads back there after the guide went downstairs. Our whole tour group was on the verge of staging an uprising if the guide skipped that part, since many of us had read about it in reviews online.

    • admin says:

      I took it in October of 2010, and it was just me and one other person. We only went into one VIP lounge (@ Mission Space) which was disappointing because I’d been hoping to get into all of them! The tour guide did take us behind Imagination to where they wash the 3D glasses, but not into the pavilion itself. It was a cool tour and all, but just not quite as “behind the scenes” as I was hoping it would be.

      • A. says:

        “I took it in October of 2010, and it was just me and one other person. We only went into one VIP lounge (@ Mission Space) which was disappointing because I’d been hoping to get into all of them!”

        next time you go, the Seas VIP is pretty darn easy to get to, there’s a random door on the observation deck of the living seas, over by that little area/room with mini fish tanks and facts about sea critters. Or to be sneaky take the long way through the queue of the nemo ride downstairs, there’s a door where custodians go through to get to the coral reef quickly, through there you can get to the downstairs entry, downstairs vip bathroom (nothing special, just black & white) and the stairs to the vip lounge and cast breakroom and all that junk :) the vip lounge is awesome and has a great view into the tank, and a big clear plastic piano. It’s very relaxing :)

        another really cool place that may be a LOT harder to sneak into is the lounge/vip on the second floor of the wonders of life pavilion (yes there’s still stuff up there!) during food and wine festival (or flower festival, whenever wonders of life has events) there’s a curtain you go behind to get through a kitchen by where the restrooms are, and through there and to your right you get onto an elevator, at the top is a VIP lounge, a cool circus-y restroom, and a SWEET conference room that’s oval shaped and has a floor to ceiling mural of carousel horses. That would be quite a challenge to get to without running into a CM though. Also there’s the remains of some of the old attractions like Cranium Command and the queue for that, some parts still lit up (creepy.) I’m glad I got to see some of this stuff as a CP because I know I’m not ballsy enough to explore as a guest!!

        never explored test track/spaceship earth/the others so I couldn’t tell you much about them. lol

        • admin says:

          So cool that you did the CP – thanks for the tips! I’d love to hear any other stories you have from the CP. It’s one of the cooler things that Disney does, and I’m a bit obsessed with it since I totally missed out due to pre-internet lack of information. I honestly had no idea it existed until the summer after my Junior year, and by then it was too late!

          I did sneak a look at the Living Seas VIP room once. Poked my head in and there were a bunch of people walking around, I guess for some corporate event. They gave me some dirty looks, so I got out of there pretty quickly. Oops! I’d like to spend more time in there, though – the clear piano sounds awesome!

          I’ve actually been in the kitchen @ WoL late at night during F&W but had no idea the entrance to the VIP lounge was there! Now I’m kicking myself for not being more diligent in my investigation! Do you need a key to press the button for the top floor in the elevator? Regardless, I’m actually considering legitimately booking an event up there, because apparently they still rent it out for corporate functions.

          I had an opportunity a while back to go up the utility elevator in Spaceship Earth, but I chickened out. A CM had left the door unlocked, but it was so out in the open, and it was in the middle of the day, so I didn’t do it. I kinda regret that now….

  2. Ashley says:

    Wow, thanks so much for doing this and posting your video- the second one especially brought back a ton of memories (some of which I had forgotten.) Journey into Imagination was my favorite ride at Disney, and now it’s, well…terrible. I’m really grateful for this (and other youtube videos of the entire old ride.) Well done!

  3. Keri says:

    thank you so much – this rocks. i’m bummed it isn’t around anymore. my fave picture from my childhood was in the rainbow tunnel.

  4. Anna Nonamus says:

    Because I have only ever gotten to go to WDW one time, I will admit I have not kept up with the rides that have closed. However, this area was the most memorable for me when I went, and I am more than a little peeved that it apparently is gone.

    It kind of saddens me just how much stuff Disney just leaves to rot. If they have no plans for something, why shut it down at all?

    Also? Your commentary on what the girls were doing while you ran for your life from Mouse Patrol? Sounds like my kind of girls.

    And since I am going without my husband, he has already said that he refuses to bail me out if I get arrested doing any of the things in your book. He’s just not very supportive. I tried to tell him that DIsney Jail is probably where they just stick you in a room with all the lost toddlers hopped up on pixie sticks, playing Small World over and over again. Sure, hell, but not the same as if I went to jail elsewhere.

    • admin says:

      No, the girls were being bad! Very unhelpful! Don’t encourage their behavior.

      When are you visiting in February?

      You’re right, Disney Jail is just a room in the park, off to the side of Main Street. Unless you’ve done something really bad, in which case they cart you off-property to the SunTrust building. That’s where they do the waterboarding.

  5. Renee says:

    I’ve been wanting to go up that staircase for YEARS. Thank you for having the balls to do it for me, and for letting us all take a voyeuristic voyage with you.

  6. Carrie says:

    Ahh Imageworks, it’s still a playground if you can get into quickly enough without being spotted. Sometimes the hordes of tourists are good for something! I never bothered with a camera myself, to obvious to the “idiot guest who got lost” routine although I have to say being “older” now is a nice touch, they rarely suspect those over the age of 25 of doing something sneaky!

    No, currently Wonders of Life is my obsession which shall next be tackled when returning to Orlando. That’s the one I currently want to get my grubby little self into to explore, forget walking the lines or just peeking in. No, I want in there and pictures to prove it.

    • admin says:

      Carrie, I’ll email you some WoL info I was sent recently. BTW, LOVE the shirt in your blog’s profile picture. Where’d you get that?!

  7. J says:

    I did the Future World tour as a CP around the end of the summer. Going up into Image Works was everyone’s favorite part of the tour. We got to play around on the pin board things a bit, and look around back into the rainbow hallway and such. I’ve got a bunch of pictures somewhere from being up there.

    During the tour we also poked up into the lounge @ The Seas, but they apparently use the space for focus groups now so we didn’t get to venture much, just literally poke in and out real quick.

    We also went back stage at Ellen and got to see the old dinosaur animatronics that the Ellen ones replaced when it was rethemed. They just have them hanging out back in the breakroom there.

    • admin says:

      I did that same tour but didn’t get to go up to Image Works or The Seas VIP lounge. The tour was still cool but not as good as I’d hoped it would be.

  8. Gianna says:

    I work at Image works and its in even worse shape now. We use it as a meeting place sometimes.

  9. Andrew says:

    Omg I never been in imagineworks before. The before part they showed must’ve looked very fun now it’s a dump

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