Happy Birthday to Epcot!! It’s been 35 years since the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow opened its gates.
Originally Walt Disney wanted to create a residential community where people could live in a utopian society filled with futuristic technology. Walt himself described it this way: “EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed but will always be introducing and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.” The idea was that this would be the demonstration of new city planning, manufacturing, and living standards. Companies and people would visit Epcot, and then take the best ideas home to improve their own communities. Unfortunately, Walt passed before he could begin work on this new kind of city.
When work finally begun on creating Epcot, creating that city was difficult. To be more practical, Disney instead merged two ideas into one. These ideas were distinct from the community concept, but carried the same innovative, work-together spirit: future world and world showcase. Future world was the showcase of new technology. World showcase was an introduction to foreign cultures to encourage international collaboration and friendship. Pieces of the original community have survived, though, like the Living with the Land attraction which shows how food can be grown in a sustainable way.
EPCOT Center had a lasting influence on the theme park industry. When work started on EPCOT, Disney hired hundreds of Imagineers to develop and build the park. When everything was done and it was dedicated, WED Enterprises had a bunch of employees with nothing for them to do. Massive layoffs occurred, and suddenly there were hundreds of theme park designers looking for work. Many started companies (like Alcorn McBride Inc., WET Enterprises, and Birket Engineering) and began building theme parks across the country. Many say Disneyland started the theme park industry, but it wasn’t till after Epcot that it really boomed.
My favorite description of Epcot is on its dedication plaque:
To all who come to this place of joy, hope and friendship, welcome.
Epcot Center is inspired by Walt Disney’s creative genius. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.
May Epcot Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.
— E. Cardon Walker, October 24, 1982
Few people who visit EPCOT each day will think of it as a place that is “Instill[ing] a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.” But this lesson is at the core of Epcot’s purpose. Remembering the influence you have on creating a better world will help you get the most out of your visit to Epcot.