Episode #158 — Dreamfinder Ron Schneider

We’re going to let you in on a little secret: Luke’s that guy. No, he’s not the star of a sitcom about leaving his small town to become an actor in NYC — you’re thinking of “That Girl.” It’s easy to confuse the two considering Luke also enjoys running through fields, flying a kite with his face on it. And he’s forever musing his hair in a playful fashion before a freeze frame. No, Luke’s that guy who always gets singled out in an interactive show or a tour, much to his visible dismay. Did you see “Cats” and watch someone act extremely uncomfortable while a feline-inspired dancer crawled all over him? That was probably Luke. Did you go to a stand-up comedy show and have the comedian call out someone in the audience for not smiling? Most likely, it was Luke. Did a magician make someone join her on stage that definitively did not raise their hand to volunteer? Luke. We’d feel terrible for him if only it wasn’t so damn funny.

Ultimately, let this be a public service announcement to stop making the professional observers participate. Heidi, on the other hand, doesn’t mind the attention — it’s forced participation that she has a problem with. Especially if it involves Criss Angel, Mindfreak®. He knows what he failed to do…

Why do we have interactions with entertainers on the brain? It’s because for this week’s episode we spoke with Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder at EPCOT Center in Disney World. He’s made a living interacting with and entertaining people, and after talking with him we’ve concluded that he’s not the kind of person to ever make Luke feel uncomfortable on purpose. Plus, he worked with Figment, a dragon puppet. This is a very big deal, considering dragons are dinosaur adjacent. We’re guessing he’s seen “The Land Before Time” more than once.

It should be noted that when we say, “worked with a dragon puppet,” we actually mean Ron was the puppeteer. But it’s a testament to the work he put into the character of Figment that people think of Dreamfinder and Figment as two completely separate entities and are such fans. Ron shared with us how he started studying puppetry at a young age, and how analyzing the Muppets helped him figure out the best way to have Figment interact with the public at EPCOT. It sounds like a complex system in which he constantly calculated angles, so if you ever interact with a puppet that has dead eyes you know the puppeteer didn’t work like Ron did!

Ron gave us some insider’s insight into how Dreamfinder and Figment came to be, along with what made their particular style of entertainment different from what came before at Disney. He also shared the day-to-day aspects of being Dreamfinder, including how the way he and Figment interacted with people was dictated by paying attention to each person’s age and demeanor. In other words, if you’re at a theme park and you want your small child to meet a character, don’t set them down and expect them to run with open arms to a total stranger. Really, that should always go without saying that it’s good when children don’t want to run to people in costume…

While Ron originated the role of Dreamfinder, he’s been entertaining at theme parks and other interactive venues for most of his life, including at Universal Studios, Disneyland, Six Flags, and various interactive restaurants. With that kind of resume, he has a unique perspective on people — especially considering he worked where other people went to get away from their everyday lives. He’s even written a book about it called “From Dreamer to Dreamfinder: A Life and Lessons Learned in 40 Years Behind a Name Tag.” Ron shared just a fragment of his journey with us, so if you want to know more, check out his book or find him on Facebook and Twitter. He also has a YouTube page that features theme park interviews on a show called “Ron Schneider’s Wild Rides.” We’re guessing he has far more fascinating ground to cover than Mr. Toad does. Enjoy this week’s episode! We’re off to try and get “Dreamweaver” out of our heads.

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