16 August 2018

We of Mighty Medfield

Medfield College has a storied place in the history of Disney feature films. It was the setting for the original Flubber duology, 1961’s The Absent-Minded Professor and 1963’s Son of Flubber, as well as the 1997 remake, Flubber, of the original film in the Flubber cannon. It was also home to a series of films feature Kurt Russell as Dexter Riley. The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes from 1969, No You See Him, Now You Don’t from 1972, and The Strongest Man in the World from 1975, like the Flubber movies before them, focused on the scientific achievements and engineering marvels. It makes sense, then, that glass pyramids of Future World’s Imagination pavilion would be where guests could find nods to this collection of films.

Starting off in the entry way of Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment, guests can see Weebo. Weebo was Professor Brainard’s robotic assistant in 1997’s Flubber. Weebo was voiced by Jodi Benson, most well-known for her vocal performance as Ariel in The Little Mermaid and following releases and media.

Weebo isn’t the last time we’re going to see a reference to Professor Brainard. Further on in the queue are both his picture on the wall, honoring him as one of the Imagination Institute’s Inventors of the Year, and his office door, complete with frosted glass that only slightly hides the dancing Flubber behind it. It is worth noting that Professor Brainard is featured in all of the Flubber films. In the original duology he is portrayed by Disney Legend, Fred MacMurray. In fact, MacMurrary was the first person honored as a Disney Legend. In the updated Flubber, which is the basis for all the film nods inside the Imagination Institute, Professor Brainard is depicted by Robin Williams.

As we leave the world of Professor Brainard behind and move into the films of Dexter Riley, the office hallway in the queue also feature another office door for a member of the Medfield College faculty, Dean Higgins. Dean Higgins figures prominently in the Dexter Riley films as the college’s dean who is, more often than not, plays the straight man to the antics of Dexter and his friends. It is a frazzled, put-upon role that Joe Flynn plays with ease in all three pictures.

Nods to Dexter himself come from our tour of the Imagination Institute through the attraction portion of Journey Into Imagination with Figment. A set of computer banks are visible during a turn between the Sound and Sight Labs, behind glass doors and large glass windows. In the window is a letterman’s jacket from Medfield and a sign that reads “No Tennis Shoes Allowed.” An obvious nod to The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, where Kurt Russell’s Dexter receives a shock during the installation of a new computer at the school, happening during a thunderstorm of course, and becomes a human computer. Dexter eventually returns to normal, just as he would in later films when he becomes invisible and gains super strength.

Whether you are a fan of Brainard, Riley, Higgins and the rest of Medfield’s best and brightest, there is no denying that they deserve acknowledgement for the wealth of entertainment that they have provided us with over the years. While the real Medfield College is comprised of soundstages, various college campuses, and even a high school, we shout your praises to the sky, rah, rah, for proud are we of mighty Medfield!

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