E is for Epcot {Blogging Through the Alphabet}

Traveling along in our Disney history alphabet this week brings us to the letter E for Epcot. One of my favorite parks (I love their festivals and music) it is also one that was near and dear to Walt’s heart (although not in the form we see today).

Building a dream

I can remember my dad talking about an amazing development that Walt was planning to build in Florida. Dad said it was in response to the troubles Walt saw in large cities during the 1960s. It was a time of the Vietnam war and the fight for Civil Rights. Walt truly believed he could do something to help.

Perhaps the best way to introduce you to Walt’s original plans for E.P.C.O.T. (as it was known at the time) is to share this video from 1966 of Walt himself explaining the project. It runs about 25 minutes but I think it’s worth the watch (fyi Walt comes on about 5 minutes in, after an overview of Disneyland).

So now you have an understanding of the immensity of Walt’s original vision for his Experimetntal Prototype Community of Tomorrow (E.P.C.O.T.). Sadly, Walt passed mere weeks after this film was made, before any of his Florida project was completed. It fell to his brother Roy to carry the torch.

I know many folks believe Roy didn’t fully support his brother and his imagination but I think they were just different people. Roy was much more practical so when it fell to him to continue in Florida he decided to go ahead with the Magic Kingdom since Disneyland was such a success in California. There was certainly some sense in that since he did have to answer to the investors. (Walt’s vision was pretty forward thinking I have to say and may not have been well received by these investors.)

The Magic Kingdom

With my brother on our first visit

So 1971 came and the Magic Kingdom opened. I remember visiting that first year and seeing how impressed my father was with the construction. He was amazed at how the Imagineers had brought Main Street USA to life (we had never been to Disneyland at that point since we lived in Toronto at the time). My mom loved the place. She could sit for hours watching characters go by and walking with my brother and I to the different attractions (she always made sure to share her E-tickets with us).

The torch is passed again

Sadly, Roy passed away just after the Magic Kingdom opened. This did not mean that Walt’s dream of E.P.C.O.T. would be forgotten. Card Walker who had taken over as President of Walt Disney Productions stated that E.P.C.O.T. would go ahead. It was decided that Walt’s ideas had been somewhat unrealistic. The powers that be decided it would not be a proper place to live given that it would also be a showplace for new ideas and products that Walt himself had said would continue to develop forever.

E.P.C.O.T. is an Experimental Prototype Community that will always be in a state of becoming. It will never cease to be a living blueprint of the future. Where people actually live a life they can’t find anywhere else in the world. Everything in E.P.C.O.T. will be dedicated to the happiness of the people who live, work, and play here. To those who come here from around the world to visit our living showcase.

Walt Disney

Yes, as nice as it would seem to have a planned community where there are no traffic jams and never worry about the weather, it does seem to be a bit like something from a movie.

EPCOT Center opens

So E.P.C.O.T. took a different direction. It opened as EPCOT Center in 1982 with Future World and the World Showcase. We visited with our first daughter in October 1983, it was amazing! It was named EPCOT Center because it was the center of Walt’s Florida Project.

I can remember several of the attractions that have been retired over the years. One of these was the Kitchen Cabaret, our daughter loved that one. And let’s admit it, who doesn’t miss Figment and Dreamfinder. It’s sad but course even Walt himself said it would never be finished and would continue to grow and change with technology.

Future World

I have to say the front end of the park, Future World, has become a bit sad over the past few years with many sections closing. This is an area where there have been many educational opportunities over the years. From The Land where we learn about alternate growing opportunities to wind tunnels where we learned about the destructive power of hurricanes, families could have fun while learning to The Seas where you can watch a variety of sea life and even have the opportunity speak with a turtle named Crush!

Spaceship Earth

Of course, some of this still remains (can we ever forget Dame Judy Dench telling us it was the Phoenicians who gave us the precursor to our alphabet as we rode through Spaceship Earth?), especially during the festivals. We spent hours watching butterflies hatch during the International Flower and Garden Festival. It was one of the best displays I’ve seen.

And then we have the World Showcase with its representative countries that circle World Showcase Lagoon where for the past 20 years guests have enjoyed the night time fireworks show, Illuminations. I have to be honest, I teared up when I watched it for the last time. There was something about the music and its overall message of community, peace, and harmony that made me believe Walt would have liked it.

So now we are looking at the future (I know this is history but things change). At the D23 Expo this year there were a ton of changes announced for Epcot (in 1993 the name was changed again to just Epcot, no Center and lower case letters).

Amazing transformation

Here is the video from D23 that will give you an idea of the changes. (The news on Epcot begins at 51:54 in the video.)

As Bob Chapek announced, this will be the biggest transformation of any park ever. I have to tell you I am super excited about all of it. I always have concerns that changes will be made to the parks that take them away from Walt’s vision. Obviously times have changed since he passed and I am quite sure he would have continued to look to the future. I am happy to know the Disney company has heard what folks like me have to say, that we want the parks to continue to be a place where the entire family can have fun. That they won’t become a place where only folks who like roller coasters and fast rides will feel comfortable.

Mary Poppins topiary in the UK pavillion

I’m also super excited to hear about the Mary Poppins attraction that will be located in the United Kingdom area of the World Showcase. This was my favorite movie as a girl and I can’t imagine what it will be like to go inside of number 17 Cherry Tree Lane.

No, Epcot is not the experimental community that Walt envisioned all those years ago but I think it will continue to be one of my favorite places to visit.

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2 thoughts on “E is for Epcot {Blogging Through the Alphabet}”

  1. Annette says:

    if I ever get down the way, visiting the Epcot centre is one of my goals. 🙂

  2. Kristen says:

    I loved Figment & Dreamfinder – we actually got to go ‘behind the scenes’ to meet them up close. And I remember sitting and watching the Kitchen Cabaret with my mom, aunt, and uncle. So many good memories.

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