How Orange Bird and Figment Became as Big as Mickey Mouse

by | Apr 3, 2024 | Walt Disney World Events, WDW Blog

Whether you’re a new Disney fan or have been visiting the parks for decades, you’re probably familiar with Orange Bird and Figment. Here’s a look into why these two characters are so beloved!

While Mickey Mouse is likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Walt Disney World, two other “mascots” have almost just as big of a fan following – Orange Bird and Figment! But you won’t see them in any big motion picture or series. These two characters are actually original characters created for the parks!

So, how exactly did Orange Bird and Figment end up in Disney World? And what’s kept fans intrigued by them ever since? Here’s what you might not know about these two lovable Disney characters!

The Origins of Orange Bird and Figment at Disney

Orange Bird in Magic Kingdom

Orange Bird made his debut appearance in Magic Kingdom in 1971 when the park first opened (you can read more about it in WDW Magazine’s 1970s Issue). The character was created as part of a partnership between the Walt Disney Company and Florida Citrus Growers for The Enchanted Tiki Room attraction. It was (and still is) attached to Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland. This sort of sponsorship deal was pretty common at the time, as working with organizations like Florida Citrus Growers was a way that Walt Disney could secure funding for the construction and maintenance of the attraction to eventually open Magic Kingdom.

So, Magic Kingdom officially opened with Orange Bird as the big attraction at The Enchanted Tiki Room (now known as Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room) and he was kind of a big deal! He even had his own official song called “The Orange Bird Song,” written by the Sherman Brothers of Mary Poppins and The Jungle Cruise fame.

Photo Courtesy of Disney

After seeing Orange Bird in the attraction, guests exited Sunshine Tree Terrace, where they could purchase citrus drinks and Orange Bird souvenirs. Plus, Orange Bird even appeared here as a character that guests could meet!

However, Orange Bird entirely disappeared from Disney World in the early 1980s when the partnership with Florida Citrus Growers ended.

Figment in EPCOT

Figment, on the other hand, came to Disney World a few years later when a brand new park was in the works – EPCOT! He was created to be part of the EPCOT Center when the park opened in 1982. Then, he appeared as part of the original attraction, Journey Into Imagination. He played the role of the fun sidekick to the host for the ride, Dreamfinder. But how did Disney land on a small purple dragon for the ride?

Dragons had long been a part of Disney Animation, and Figment was created to pay an ode to that history and encompass the child-like wonder that is imagination. He was initially planned to be the color green, but Disney eventually settled on purple. Disney had gotten so far in the concept art with a green Figment that they even sent out a pre-opening EPCOT Center postcard featuring concept art with him as a little green dragon!

As people started visiting EPCOT and riding the attraction, they fell in love with Figment’s enthusiasm for exploration and positive attitude, and a growing fan base began to form. Shortly after, Disney started using him on other company projects, including Disney Educational Media. This was a series of short films starring Figment that was distributed to schools nationwide. Each short examined abstract subjects like sound, time, and language (much like the ride featuring Figment in EPCOT now).

Despite Disney fans’ love for Dreamfinder and Figment, the original attraction eventually closed in 1998 and was reimagined into Journey Into Your Imagination. The ride has an entirely new storyline and characters, and there was one big thing missing – Figment.

Orange Bird and Figment Return to Disney World

Orange Bird Returns to Magic Kingdom

For 25 years, Orange Bird was merely a character in Disney history. But, he eventually re-emerged in 2004…just not in Disney World. Orange Bird was actually first brought back to an international park – Tokyo Disneyland – as part of the Orange Day Celebrations. He ended up being such a hit among park-goers that Disney started to sell merchandise featuring Orange Bird in Tokyo Disneyland as well as some U.S. Disney Stores.

It wasn’t until Spring 2012 that Orange Bird officially returned to Magic Kingdom. As part of Disney World’s 40th-anniversary celebrations, the original Orange Bird statue on display at Sunshine Tree Terrace in the 1970s was retrieved from the WDI Sculpture Studio in California. The anniversary also marked Orange Bird’s return to Sunshine Tree Terrace signage. Plus, new merchandise, including an Orange Bird drink cup.

Figment Returns to EPCOT

It didn’t take nearly as long for fans to demand that Figment return to EPCOT. Guests were so disappointed with his disappearance that Disney opted to update the ride even further in 2002 to become the current Journey Into Imagination With Figment. And that was forever the return of the little purple dragon!

Figment eventually returned to more than just the EPCOT attraction. In 2014, Disney released a comic book series titled Figment. The first five issues were so popular that they even made more the following year.

Orange Bird and Figment Today

Orange Bird Today

Orange Bird has become an iconic character in Disney Parks, and his popularity has only grown over the years. He is now regularly featured in merchandise throughout the parks, and his image can be found on everything from t-shirts to sippers. Plus, he can still be found in his original home at Sunshine Tree Terrace at Magic Kingdom (though the location in Adventureland is different now).

Orange Bird merch at 2024 EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival

Photo by Timothy Moore

He also plays a big role in the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival every year, serving as a sort of unofficial mascot for the popular event. The Orange Bird Sipper is always one of the most popular merchandise items at the festival. Disney creates an exclusive merchandise line for the festival that features the Orange Bird annually.

So, whether it’s enjoying Orange Birds’ signature treat (the Citrus Swirl) or wearing Orange Bird gear from head to toe, it’s safe to say that this historic character is here to stay!

Figment at Disney Today

Much like Orange Bird, Figment might be even more popular now than he was 40 years years ago in EPCOT. In addition to being a popular character at EPCOT, Figment has also become a pop culture icon of the Disney universe. His playful personality, mischievous nature, and infectious giggle make him instantly likable and endearing.

At EPCOT, he can be found in various forms, including co-host (or, rather, troublemaker) of the attraction Journey Into Imagination With Figment. Plus, a meet-and-greet character in the Imagination Pavilion, the unofficial mascot of the annual EPCOT International Festival of the Arts, and in merchandise collections. And fans are still flocking to them all! 

Perhaps the best indicator of Figment’s continued popularity is the fact that people waited HOURS for a Figment popcorn bucket when it was first introduced as part of the Festival of the Arts in 2022. A version of the bucket has been brought back every year since, but now Disney uses a virtual queue to hand out the buckets so guests can enjoy the rest of the park until it’s their turn to pick up a bucket.

Curious about the rest of Disney’s untold history? Be sure to check out our Today in Disney History series and learn more about things like the opening of Journey Into Imagination and other popular attractions across the Disney Parks!

 

Posts by Jenna Saxton

epcot-clothing_creations-shop_chiu
Jenna is a contributing writer at WDW Magazine and stay at home mom. When she's not chasing her toddler around the parks, you can find her out for a run or curled up with a book. She has contributed to multiple Disney and travel blogs including Eat Sleep Cruise, 365 Atlanta Traveler, Disney Food Blog, and AllEars.
epcot-clothing_creations-shop_chiu

Authored by
Jenna Saxton

Jenna is a contributing writer at WDW Magazine and stay at home mom. When she's not chasing her toddler around the parks, you can find her out for a run or curled up with a book. She has contributed to multiple Disney and travel blogs including Eat Sleep Cruise, 365 Atlanta Traveler, Disney Food Blog, and AllEars.
0
    0
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop