EPCOT: 30th Anniversary

Today EPCOT celebrates 30 magical years and Disney Avenue would like to join in the celebration. Continue after the page break for some history, photos, videos and more in honor of EPCOT’s 30th Anniversary…

To all who come to this place of joy, hope and friendship—welcome. EPCOT is inspired by Walt Disney’s creative vision. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, 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 in the world.

—E. Cardon Walker, March 1, 1982

 

Epcot is one of the world’s most beloved theme parks. The park is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely international culture and technological innovation. The second park built at the resort, it opened on October 1, 1982 and was initially named EPCOT Center. In 1994, the “Center” was dropped from the park’s name, and by 1996, the park was simply named Epcot. In 2011, Epcot hosted approximately 10.83 million guests, ranking it the third most visited theme park in the United States, and sixth most visited theme park in the world.

EPCOT is an acronym of Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which was the name originally given by Walt Disney to a conceptual Utopian city of the future that he had wanted to build on the site that is now Walt Disney World. Disney’s original vision of EPCOT was for a model community, home to twenty thousand residents, which would be a test bed for city planning and organization. Disney’s vision was not realized as funding and permission to start work on his Florida property would not be granted until he agreed to build the Magic Kingdom first. Disney died before the Magic Kingdom opened and the Walt Disney Company decided that it did not want to be in the business of running a city.



Walt Disney’s original vision of EPCOT was for a model community, home to twenty thousand residents, which would be a test bed for city planning and organization. The community was to have been built in the shape of a circle, with businesses and commercial areas at its center, community buildings and schools and recreational complexes around it, and residential neighborhoods along the perimeter. Transportation would have been provided by monorails and PeopleMovers (like the one in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland). Automobile traffic would be kept underground, leaving pedestrians safe above-ground. Walt Disney said, “It will be a planned, controlled community, a showcase for American industry and research, schools, cultural and educational opportunities. In EPCOT, there will be no slum areas because we won’t let them develop. There will be no landowners and therefore no voting control. People will rent houses instead of buying them, and at modest rentals. There will be no retirees; everyone must be employed.” The original model of this original vision of EPCOT can still be seen by passengers riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority attraction in the Magic Kingdom park; when the PeopleMover enters the show house for Stitch’s Great Escape!, the model is visible on the left (when facing forward) behind glass. This vision was not realized. Walt Disney was not able to obtain funding and permission to start work on his Florida property until he agreed to build the Magic Kingdom first. Disney died nearly five years before the Magic Kingdom opened.

Before the park debuted on October 1, 1982, Walt Disney World Ambassador Genie Field introduced E. Cardon Walker, Disney’s chairman and CEO, who dedicated EPCOT Center. Walker also presented a family with lifetime passes for the two Walt Disney World theme parks. His remarks were followed by Florida Governor Bob Graham and William Ellinghouse, president of AT&T.
As part of the opening-day ceremony, dancers and band members performed We’ve Just Begun to Dream. The Sherman Brothers wrote a song especially for the occasion entitled, “The World Showcase March”. During the finale, doves and many sets of balloons were released.

Performing groups representing countries from all over the world performed in World Showcase. Water gathered from major rivers across the globe was emptied into the park’s fountain of nations ceremonial containers to mark the opening.

Located at the front of the park is a plaque bearing Walker’s opening-day dedication, as seen above.


The park consists of two sections—Future World and World Showcase—laid out in an hourglass shape.
Future World

Future World consists of a variety of pavilions that explore innovative aspects and applications of technology. Originally, each pavilion featured a unique circular logo which was featured on park signage and the attractions themselves. The logos, including that of Epcot itself, have been phased out over recent years, but some remnants still remain scattered throughout the park.

  • Spaceship Earth
  • Innoventions
  • Universe of Energy
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Test Track
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends
  • The Land
  • Imagination!

Each Future World pavilion was initially sponsored by a corporation who helped fund its construction and maintenance in return for the corporation’s logos appearing prominently throughout the pavilion. For example, Universe of Energy was sponsored by Exxon from 1982 to 2004, and The Land was sponsored by Kraft from 1982 to 1993, then Nestlé from 1993 to 2009. Each pavilion contains a posh “VIP area” for its sponsor with offices, lounges, and reception areas hidden away from regular park guests. In the years since the park’s opening, however, some sponsors have decided that the branding wasn’t worth the cost of sponsorship and have pulled out, leaving some of the pavilions without sponsors. Disney prefers to have sponsors helping to pay the bills, so pavilions without sponsors have an uncertain future. After General Electric left Horizons in 1993, it closed for a couple of years, then reopened temporarily while neighboring attractions Universe of Energy and World of Motion were renovated. Horizons closed permanently on January 9, 1999 and was demolished in the summer of 2000 to make room for the opening of Mission: SPACE on October 9, 2003. Metlife sponsored Wonders of Life from 1989 to 2001, until that area was closed. However, the Wonders Of Life pavilion is still mostly intact and is used for both the Flower and Garden Festival and the Food and Wine Festival. Test Track opened in the World of Motion pavilion and is still sponsored by General Motors. Mission: SPACE is sponsored by Hewlett-Packard. Spaceship Earth was sponsored by Bell System from 1982 to 1984, then AT&T (Bell System’s parent company, following the Bell System Divestiture) from 1984 until 2003. It was not sponsored between 2003 and 2005. It is now sponsored by Siemens.

World Showcase

World Showcase contains pavilions representing eleven countries—click on the links below for more information about each. In clockwise order, the pavilions are:

  • Mexico Mexico
  • Norway Norway
  • China China
  • Germany Germany
  • Italy Italy
  • United States The American Adventure
  • Japan Japan
  • Morocco Morocco
  • France France
  • United Kingdom United Kingdom
  • Canada Canada

Of the eleven pavilions, Norway and Morocco were not present at the park’s opening, and were added later. Each of these contains representative shops and restaurants and is staffed by citizens of these countries, as part of the Cultural Representative Program. Some also contain rides and shows. The only pavilion that is sponsored by the country it represents is Morocco. The remaining country pavilions are all sponsored by private companies.

Pavilions for Russia, Switzerland, Spain, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, and Israel have never made it past the planning phase to date. An Equatorial Africa pavilion was planned but never built. It would have featured a large African presentation film hosted by Alex Haley. A small African themed refreshment stop is now in its place, known as the Outpost. After Disney’s Animal Kingdom—an African-and-Asian-themed animal preserve and park—opened, any plans for an African Pavilion were dropped.

The World Showcase usually opens two hours after park opening and remains open later than the Future World section of the park; however, most major attractions in Future World including Test Track, Soarin’, Mission Space, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Spaceship Earth remain open until park close.

There is an entrance to the park between the France and United Kingdom Pavilions known as the International Gateway. Guests staying in a number of the Epcot Resorts and guests coming from Disney’s Hollywood Studios can access this gate by walkway or boat.

EPCOT 1978 Preview Video:

EPCOT Opening Ceremony:




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