Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Promise of EPCOT

At 11 a.m. on Oct. 24, 1982, EPCOT Center officially opened to the public.

Huh? What about Oct. 1, you say? Well, that was indeed opening day, but "The Grand Opening Dedication Ceremony," as Disney called it, came two weeks, two days later. Participants received a lovely souvenir booklet commemorating the ceremony.

It contained the words below. I find these fascinating to consider in light of many discussions I've had with readers about whether Disney "gets it" when it comes to EPCOT and its theme parks. Those debates will not be settled by remembering these words. However, the following inarguably reflects what Disney publicly said about why EPCOT was built, what it means and how it reflected on the entire Disney company.

At a time when Disney's public comments tend to be focused on things like on EBITDA, return on shareholder investment and analyst opinions, it doesn't hurt to remember how Disney used to approach their theme parks: with a sense of excitement, enthusiasm and a little bit of mystery:


Some twenty years ago, long before the opening of Walt Disney World, Walt Disney envisioned a place where the greatest feats of human imagination and invention could be communicated to the benefit of all people. He called his idea "EPCOT" -- the Experimental Protoype Community of Tomorrow -- for he wanted to present alternatives and possibilities for a better life ahead.

From the beginning, Walt Disney World has been planned, constructed and developed with Epcot concepts in mind. Futuristic designs and technologies have been put into action as a matter of policy -- monorail and linear induction power transportation systems, a solar-powered office building, state-of-the-art waste treatment processes, the first all-electronic, fiber-optics telephone system, and much more. Then, too, since 1971 Walt Disney World has been host to the world -- 130 million people from 100 nations have visited this community.

Now we have a way to bring real focus to the importance of creative and futuristic processes and the value of friendship among nations. EPCOT Center is a permanent World's Fair of imagination, discovery, education, and exploration built with the help of leading American and international industries and with the cooperation of a number of governments. The Grand Opening and Dedication of EPCOT Center is a milestone. Walt's greatest dream is now a reality.

Walt Disney Productions


Anonymous said...


Epcot82 said...

You're right. But the conventional wisdom was and always has been that without Walt Disney alive, there was no way EPCOT the city would be able to progress. (Some believe, including great admirers of Walt Disney, that even if he had lived, this one would have been too big for him to pull off.)

There were trade-offs, no doubt, and Walt's vision suffered. Then again, if you go back and watch the original movies he made about the Florida project, "Disneyworld" would have included an ice-skating rink, high-rise hotels and a heliport. Things changed.

What didn't change (quite arguably, I admit) was the desire to fulfill Walt's dream in some way, to create a place where the greatest minds of industry, science, culture and arts could showcase and work on their newest ideas to better our world. That was the basic idea of EPCOT the city, and it did get translated to a degree in EPCOT Center the theme park.

My own belief, regular EPCOT Central readers know, is that this desire to maintain the spirit of what Walt Disney imagined did drive the ideas of EPCOT Center, and are slowly but surely being driven out of Epcot as it exists today and is being developed. It is quite illuminating to me to see how singular a vision Disney had back in the 1970s and 1980s, and how diluted that vision has become.

If it's true that EPCOT was never "intended" to be a theme park, then a character-filled, "happy" place with princesses, thrill rides and kiddie-oriented attractions is even further from any notions of EPCOT that ever existed.

Anonymous said...

For which part did they give out silver (foil?) tickets? I seem to remember them, but can't remember if those were just for the first day.