My favorite mid-'80s memories of Epcot Center involve exploring Kodak's Journey Into Imagination pavilion, presided over by the jovial Dreamfinder and his inquisitive dragon, Figment. Apparently I'm not alone, as the original actor behind the red beard and purple puppet still gets a reverent reception at Disney fan events. But as his memoir From Dreamer to Dreamfinder: A Life and Lessons Learned in 40 Years Behind a Name Tag reveals, Ron Schneider is much more than the personification of a long-mothballed animatronic; as a performer, writer and director, he's been involved in many of Orlando's entertainment successes, most notably as the first manager of Universal's once-vaunted celebrity look-alikes.
Schneider's book is filled with all the juicy stories an attraction aficionado could want, from substance-abusing Belushi impersonators and duplicitous Disney middle managers to brutally honest observations on Medieval Times, Pirate's Dinner Adventure and other tourist traps. (Anyone remember Fiascos?) But what makes it a worthwhile read is Schneider's insight into the art form of interactive entertainment and its practical application in theaters and theme parks.
The volume's six exceptional appendices, covering topics such as "Five Keys to Great Themed Entertainment" and "Notes on Narration," could each be expanded into a textbook and made mandatory reading at performing arts schools. But even outside those explicitly educational chapters, Schneider sprinkles his text with aphorisms and advice that apply to almost any art or discipline. A select few should be tattooed