From Dreamer to Dreamfinder Book Review

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Features, The Disney Review, Universal Hollywood, Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

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Published on August 11, 2012 at 10:43 pm with 6 Comments

George: From Dreamer to Dreamfinder has just been released and is 295 pages of amazing awesomeness. This is Ron Schneider’s professional memoir, yet it is more than that. Most adult Disney fans know Ron Schneider as the Dreamfinder from Journey Into Imagination, when he portrayed the charming wizard from 1983 to 1987.  But after devouring this book, I am shocked and amazed by everything Ron has done over the past 40 years.

Jeff: Just like George, I was blown away by some of the things Ron had to deal with and overcome in all of his years in the business. But what really struck me was the incredible amount of information that Ron packs in here. This is quite possibly the best (unofficial) manual about theme park and entertainment performers ever written. And even for people who do not want to be performers, this is an amazingly entertaining book. Ron makes the material incredibly approachable and unbelievably funny. As a performance guidebook, it’s invaluable. As a memoir, it’s incredibly rich and extremely entertaining.

George: I ran across so many amazing quotes from the book, including a bathroom break. Ron is taking a tour of the Studio Archives from Dave Smith:

“I’m suddenly struck with an over-powering urge, the kind no man can resist… so I ask Dave where the bathroom is. I fully expect to have to go back out into the hall to use the men’s room, but he points to an adjacent door and I step into Walt Disney’s personal bathroom. I would have known it anywhere… the wallpaper is covered with small graphics of antique steam trains. Humbled, I take a seat.”

The book is full of great stories like this as he meets and works with Disney legends like Wally Boag from the Golden Horseshoe Revue.

Jeff: While we’re throwing out quotes from the book, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this one that really stuck with me, from when Ron was working as Dreamfinder:

“One day I’m working upstairs, surrounded by guests and having a swell time, when I notice a young man with a clipboard and a hand clicker standing on the far side of the room, watching me and clicking away madly. Once I’ve worked my way through the waiting guests I amble over and ask what it is he’s doing. “I’m counting the number of people you’re affecting. Not just the ones who interact with you, but the number that stop and smile or stay and watch for any length of time. You’re averaging about 600 people every thirty minutes.”

That, to me, shows the incredible value of these walk around characters, not just at Disney, but in other parks as well. And this only adds to the impact that Ron had on many a child’s memories of early EPCOT Center. Being able to remember these moments of interaction with Dreamfinder, albeit only briefly, brings me back to such a warm, fuzzy place of my younger years.

But really, working at Disney is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things that come before, and after, in Ron’s career.

George: For someone who spent about 20 years employed by Disney, he spent just as much time working at Magic Mountain, Universal Studios Florida and various dinner shows in California, Florida and Canada. I was completely blown away by the range of characters and jobs that Ron did over the years. He managed and ran a popular dinner theater at Universal and even had the ear of Jay Stein, president of Universal during his many years as creative writer at Universal.

Jeff: I think people will be amazed at just how many beloved theme park and entertainment attractions that Ron actually had his hand in. But of course, with all the good, comes the bad. Ron just a good job of portraying his frustrations during his various jobs without coming off as too cynical. Some of the things that management did will leave you scratching your head and wondering just who the heck put them in charge!

George: But you also see the slow change that seems to permeate every theme park endeavor: new ideas, fresh thoughts and a willingness to wow guests slowly turns into a moribund process that is more about efficiency than creating a lasting guest experience. It seems like every time this happened, Ron fought the law and either moved on or was seen as a champion.

Jeff: Not to spoil any parts of the book, but I was especially surprised at one section where Ron is helping to run a themed restaurant, both in a managerial and creative aspect. His ideas are loved by the staff, but as soon as upper management finds a way to make things more efficient and cost effective, it’s bye-bye to Ron’s ideas and hello penny pinching. How he deals with each of these situations that arise are unique in their own way, and truly show Ron’s diverse style of creativity.

George: Even if you approach this book solely as a Disney fan, or even as a Dreamfinder fan, you’re still going to find plenty that will keep you entertained. Ron has a great style and you will find yourself immersed in his world and the worlds of his character. It is obvious that both of us loved the book and feel that it should be in every fan’s collection.

Have you read From Dreamer to Dreamfinder: A Life and Lessons Learned in 40 Years Behind a Name Tag? Are you looking forward to it?


By George Taylor and Jeff Heimbuch

The Disney Review is written and edited by Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor

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Tickets are now SOLD OUT for the  COMMUNICORE WEEKLY LIVE SHOW & EPCOT 30 YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION!

But we’ve still got a great way for you to celebrate along with us!

Disney World expert, noted author and MiceAge man about town, Kevin Yee, will be holding a FREE scavenger hunt before the Communicore Weekly live event. And we invite all of you (and your friends and family) to come join us. So save the afternoon of September 29th for us and we’ll have more information for your shortly about this great way to celebrate Epcot’s 30th anniversary!

About Jeff Heimbuch

Jeff has been in love with all things Disney since a very early age. He writes From The Mouth Of The Mouse and The 626 every week for MiceChat. He also collaborates on The Disney Review every weekend. Aside from that, he is one half of the devastatingly good looking duo of the weekly vid/podcast Communicore Weekly (the other half being fellow MiceChat columnist George Taylor), which you can find at www.communicoreweekly.com Jeff is also writing a book with former Imagineer and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. You can find out more about the book at www.itskindofacutestory.com

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6 Comments

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  2. Just finished reading this fantastic book. Figured I’d only enjoy the stuff about Disney but it really is only a small part of Ron’s career. So many great stories from so many different venues. Great stuff. Go get it.

    • Thanks!

      I thought the same until I got into the first few pages. I was hooked from the beginning!

  3. I worked with Ron in 1977 at Magic Mountain when he played Professor Spilliken in the Spilliken Corners craft area. He had an amazing knowledge of Disney even then. I also saw him star in a production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

    Ironically, I never saw him as Dreamfinder. My first visit to EPCOT was on his last day. I asked about him at the pavilion, but they said he was done for the day. I later learned they were having his farewell backstage. If only I had said I was an old friend. Oh, well….

    Ron is an amazing entertainer and one of the greatest characters I have ever met. I look forward to reading his memoir.

    • P.S. I was lucky enough to know two major Disney aficianados in my early life–David Mumford, who I met at the Anaheim Library when we were still in high school, and Ron Schneider a few years later. I greatly regret not staying in touch with both of them–I was incredibly fortunate to count them as friends. Ron introduced me to the book The Princess Bride before it was ever a movie and I think of him every time I read or watch it (which is often). He also tells a hysterical story about his father and Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein.

  4. I’ll try and see if I can read this soon.

    Timekeeper