When you think of the Imagination Institute, you likely think of one of two things. One, Figment and his interactions with Dr. Nigel Channing that make up the primary attraction of the pavilion, or two, Professor Wayne Szalinski’s award ceremony for Inventor of the Year turned shuttered 3D adventure known as Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. These were the two pillars around which the glass pyramid that is the Imagination pavilion reimagined itself as. These additions and changes were slow and took place between 1994 and 2002, but there is a third, perhaps most crucial, scientist that calls the Imagination Institute home.
I am, of course, speaking of Professor Phillip Brainard. Although depending on the source, Phillip should either be spelled with one ‘l’ or two, but we’re going with the sign on his door for our mental sake in this article. The name Brainard is well-traveled throughout Disney film history and is tied to one invention in particular, Flubber. While Fred MacMurray was the original Professor Brainard to cook up a batch of Flubber in 1961’s The Absent-Minded Professor, the Imagination Institute is home to the latter day inventor, portrayed on screen in 1997’s Flubber by Robin Williams.
So, just how entrenched is Professor Brainard in the Imagination Institute? Would you believe that there are no less than five references to Brainard and his inventions between the time you enter the Imagination pavilion and the time you start your tour in the attraction?
The first of which is Weebo, seen in a display case on the left as you enter the Imagination Institute. This is Professor Brainard’s personal assistant. This invention is more of a friend to Brainard than an invention, but she is also the reason he was one of 97th recipient of the Inventor of the Year award.
As you make your way around the corner, you will see a wall depicting three recipients of the Inventor of the Year award. Among those pictured are Dr. Nigel Channing, Professor Wayne Szalinski, and Professor Phillip Brainard. While Brainard is shown mixing up a batch of what we can assume to be Flubber, remember, this is not why he received the award.
Next up is Brainard’s office door. While we’re not sure if he’s in the office, you can definitely see that his version of Flubber, which definitely has more sentience than other versions seen before, is home. Multiple blobs of Flubber can be seen dancing around behind the frosted glass of the office window.
The last two are relatively quick hits. One, there is a door, with a bright green window, marked as Flubber Storage. This Flubber currently hasn’t found its way out… yet. Lastly, if you listen closely, you can hear the secretary doing an all call over the intercom for Professor Brainard as, apparently, some of his Flubber has gotten loose.
Professor Brainard is a massive part of the Disney brand of imagination, particular in the realm of film. I would be hard pressed to believe that we would have had as many zany scientific fantasy films and stories coming from Disney if it hadn’t been for the success of the original Brainard in The Absent-Minded Professor. It’s no wonder that Brainard has his fingerprints, and Flubber, all over the Imagination Institute!