Recently, there have been reports about Orlando's theme parks in the mainstream media rehashing fan-fueled internet rumors and recycling the rants of unreliable bloggers. Rather than rely on speculation from anonymous sources, I've gone straight to some unimpeachable insiders who are true attraction icons.
Dreamfinder (Jeff Jones), formerly of Epcot's Imagination pavilion, and Abraham Lincoln (Josh Siniscalco), from the Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents, are usually bolted down in Walt Disney World, but they've escaped to the Parliament House for a revival of their award-winning Fringe comedy The Animatronicans. I caught up with the pair after their play (which runs through April 21) to get the real inside scoop.
Orlando Weekly: What have you been up to since the last time we saw The Animatronicans?
Dreamfinder: Searching the universe for sounds, color, ideas, anything that sparks the Imagination. Also, binge-watching Stranger Things.
Abe Lincoln: I participated in a local recount of election results from a recent Disney castmember-of-the-month winner. Due to the fact that the panel who decided the winner did it in haste, I suspected the Russians were involved. I was right.
How do you feel about the current state of your attraction?
DF: It's a disaster! I've had many nights just imagining a wrecking ball going right through it. Put it out of its misery, for crying out loud. (I'm mostly just pissed they dismantled my Dreamcatcher and made it a decoration in a retail store.)
AL: Strange things have been happening since the Muppets moved in. Miscellaneous Presidents at the Hall have complained of loud partying happening at night above our stage. While no one can prove the Muppets are behind the noise, we suspect that the puppeteers have a hand in what is going on.
Do you often socialize with other audio-animatronics, like Figment, or John from Carousel of Progress?
DF: Figment and I are still friends. I had dinner with him, the Timekeeper and Chad last week – Chad is the name of the alien from the Alien Encounter. Nice guy, drools a lot.
AL: John and I tend to avoid crossing paths while at work in the interest of Presidential secrecy. In John's show, The Carousel of Progress, exaggerated rumors get around. I can't risk another misunderstanding like with the cast of the Enchanted Tiki Room who, to this day, give me the bird when I greet them.
What is your opinion of Guardians of the Galaxy coming to Epcot, and have you spoken to the Ellen animatronic since her show closed?
DF: Meh! My good friend John always says it seems like progress but I'm not optimistic. Those dinosaurs were happy they were getting shipped out to Disneyland to be part of their Primeval World exhibit. What they didn't tell them is that they were going to be stripped and used for spare parts! That's a ghastly thought. Ellen is super-depressed, though. In October 2016 she was being fitted with a new head and pantsuit for a relocation to the Hall of Presidents. Unfortunately, we know that didn't happen.
How are you and the other presidents getting along with Trump's animatronic?
AL: I can't say any of us except for a few have been graced with even a bit of eye contact, much less conversation, with AnimaTrump, due to the fact that he's facing the wrong way. He's only attempted to make nice with Benjamin Franklin because he's on the $100 bill. He has no appreciation for the $5 bill or the penny.
What do you think of the seasonal food festivals that have overtaken Epcot's World Showcase?
DF: I'm resentful because I'm animatronic and will never know what a pickle margarita or Canadian cheese soup tastes like. Though I imagine they taste like overpriced disappointment.
How do you cope with the crazy crowds in the parks?
AL: While we all love a full audience of those who appreciate the history of our great American nation, spring break tends to bring the disinterested air-conditioning seekers to our theater. At the end of the day, however, if nobody has yelled "LOCK HIM UP," I'm a happy robot.
With all the new changes planned for Epcot, do you think the original spirit of Imagination still has a place in the park?
DF: Anything is possible as long as the people who love Epcot have a little spark still in their heart and mind. Imagination will live on forever at Epcot ... and so will REO Speedwagon.