EPCOT Construction Cavalcade: 1979-1981

By EPCOT Explorer

Sometimes, when writing and researching you come upon a group of interesting things and have no idea what to do with them, as they are just implicit pieces of a whole body of study. Although that sounds frightfully academic, this even happens in researching something fun, like EPCOT Center and Walt Disney Productions. So… in that spirit, let’s take a look at some wonderful, early EPCOT Center photos from it’s formative years. You’re not going to want to miss these…

Our first two shots come from 1979 and show the finalized model of EPCOT Center. Spaceship Earth is finally a full sphere, and most of the pavilion models have coalesced into the versions we know today. A notable difference? FutureProbe in place of Horizons. More on that later.

Above is the groundbreaking ceremony for EPCOT Center. Former Florida Governors Claude Kirk and Reuben Askew, Card Walker; the current Disney Chief Executive during this time, Robert Graham and former Governor Haydon Burns all pose with shovels and before a massive plywood mock-up of Spaceship Earth.

These next three pictures are a fun look into WED Enterprises’ model shop in Glendale, California. John Hench is posing with the model of World Showcase, probably for a press event, and Marty Sklar is candidly (hah) observing the completion of the Spaceship Earth model. Notice the artisan applying the geometric skin to one side, you can see the differences in shape and texture on the model. The Universe of Energy makes an appearance, too, in the form of its massive mural that would later be installed in the diorama. This mural was developed and billed as “the largest backdrop built for a show feature in history”. Considering the scope of the Universe of Energy, this is certainly no stretch of the imagination.  All photos are from 1980.

Speaking of large murals, Jack Lindquist stands in front of a small mock up of the Mexico pavilion’s tableaux. The pyramid and backdrop planned for World Showcase would eventually grow to be 220 feet long, complete with an erupting volcano, towering above the Yucatan wilderness. Jack Lindquist, though the Senior Vice President of Marketing was formally in charge of World Showcase Promotion and can be attributed with finalizing many of the agreements between Disney and the respective nations to be exhibited in EPCOT.

Mid 1980, and the ride system for Horizons is being tinkered with…. though Horizons isn’t called Horizons, yet. This is FutureProbe, and although it bears a different name, the intent and experience matches the one to come to EPCOT in 1983. What you see here is a model of the Omnimax domes that the ride boasted and that surrounded guests with imagery. Also visible is the train of modified and hanging Omnimover vehicles that transported visitors from the FuturePort to under the sea, over the land, and even to out in space. The final version of Horizons would not have 3 levels of trains, however, just one.

1981 takes us into the realm of construction photos… The Universe of Energy’s dinosaurs are making their way from Asian Way to be installed in their pavilion, and the Journey into Imagination is merely a flat warehouse. The iconic glass pyramids will be installed much later, using a unconventional space frame construction method. Meanwhile, the warehouse containing the ride was been water sealed and installation of the ride began. Fatefully, though, Journey into Imagination proved to be problematic and would not open until March of 1983, five months into EPCOT Center’s operations. Also pictured is the “laser ballet” scene, part of the “Arts and Literature” scene. Although this picture shows off the lasers formulating an image of Figment out of thin air, this effect didn’t make the cut, and instead the lasers projected more simple images in the final version of the ride. Most notable were music notes and the theatrical masks of comedy and tragedy.

And to cap off this batch of photos, the groundbreaking ceremony for Journey into Imagination. Interesting to note is the artwork featured on the sign that Dick Nunis is standing next to: It’s much more homespun and less futuristic and grand, perhaps to better tackle the earlier concept of Dreamfinder as a magical professor who toured the world, with his pet dragon, Figment.

What really makes all these photos remarkable is the amount of detail and care that went into crafting, creating, and molding each part of EPCOT Center into the park that finally emerged in 1982. Each detail has a story, design process, and reason for being there. EPCOT Center delights in these details and was a work of art, the culmination of vision and talent for a large group of very dedicated artisans, engineers, and planners.

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EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer’s first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM

You can find all of EPCOT Explorer’s articles here.

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Epcot’s SMRT-1 and Computer Central Exhibit

By Keith Mahne

Back in the early days of EPCOT Center when CommuniCore was still a pavilion dedicated to technological advances, there was a couple of really wonderful attractions that have always mesmerized me. SMRT-1 and the Computer Central Exhibit located in the northeast quadrant of the area continue to live in old EPCOT Center admires memories. Let’s take a look back at these two CommuniCore favorites in today’s new article…

EPCOT Computer Central, sponsored by Sperry Univac, was an attraction that could only have existed at EPCOT in its prime. It was, essentially, the computerized nerve center of the entire park. Guests could look down upon the mainframes from above, while a brief show (using the same Pepper’s Ghost effect as the Haunted Mansion’s ballroom) explained how the operation worked. “Earlie the Pearlie,” played by Broadway actor Ken Jennings, was the Cockney song-and-dance man who hosted the show and performed the Sherman Brothers’ cult classic, The Computer Song, that you can listen to below…

 
(Please pause the Disney Avenue Music Player above prior to playing the song below if you are on a desktop computer.)
 
 
 


 

Take a look at this wonderful illustrated pamphlet from Sperry that provides a conceptual overview of EPCOT Computer Central…

Having debuted at the dawn of the modern computer era, the emphasis throughout CommuniCore was primarily on educating the public about computers. The feature exhibit was a tour through EPCOT Computer Central, the computer hub of EPCOT Center that ran nearly everything throughout the park.

The original version was named the Astuter Computer Revue (featuring the song heard above by the Sherman Brothers, “The Computer Song”). Listen to this rare recording of the complete Astuter Computer Revue below…

 


If guests walked away from the original show learning anything, it was that one viewing of this show was more than enough. Disney recognized that guests weren’t really connecting with the show and quickly closed it in January 1984. Only a month later it was replaced by Backstage Magic, a show that booted out the Englishman in favor of Julie, a girl-next-door-type hostess and her electronic sidekick I/O. They presented a more intelligent and less grating take on the computer story that ran for nearly ten years before closing in October 1993.

You can see a few more important photos of the Computer Central exhibit below…

Computer Central under construction.

EPCOT’s sole Utilidor, under construction

Elsewhere in Computer Central were interactive displays that were popular with guests. SMRT-1, a purple and chrome robot set on a rotating pedestal surrounded by telephones, involved a never-ending stream of guests in trivia and guessing games.  When your turn came up, SMRT-1 asked you (in its synthesized voice) to speak your answer loud and clear through the phone.  It also spent some time ad-libbing and singing between games: “If I keep this up I might graduate from Solid State.”

 
 
 
 
 
SMRT-1 seemed to be related to other robots such as BIT from the WorldKey Information System and ORAC-1 of the Magic Kingdom’s WEDway Peoplemover, that all oozed cuteness and lovability.  Of the three, SMRT-1 was definitely the least sugary and accordingly the most enjoyable.  Sadly, SMRT-1’s shell could be seen for several years in the Contemporary Resort Hotel’s Grand Canyon Concourse as a piece of restaurant décor.
 
 
 
 


Now, let’s watch the 1982 opening of the Epcot Computer Central exhibit that is pure early 80s goodness. With that comes jumpsuits, bland colors with the occasional use of sequins, and some funky dance moves. I really enjoy the flag bearers holding the Communicore logo. This is vintage 1980s Epcot at its finest…

As E. Card Walker, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said at the opening of Epcot on October 24, 1982…

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.

My hope is that Epcot can find it’s way once again and return to a time when it really did entertain, inform and inspire as these classic attractions once did for so many.

******
 
 
 
 


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

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Pictures of Progressland – The Artistry of Corporate Showmanship

By EPCOT Explorer

The New York World’s Fair, a billion dollar enterprise, was one of the great spectacles of the 20th century. Among its many outstanding attractions was General Electric’s Progressland. Out of all the pavilions that Walt Disney exuded influence over for the New York World’s Fair of 1964, the one that bares the greatest hallmark of Walt’s personal touch was also General Electric’s Progressland. The star of the show was the Carousel Theater of Progress, a depiction of suburban life throughout the 20th century and how appliances and the electric age influenced how the typical American family lived, worked, and played in a quickly changing and dynamic time. Let’s take a look back at GE’s Progressland Pavilion and at the artistry of corporate showmanship…

As a matter of the happenstance, the General Electric exhibition was also the one pavilion that reflected the true nature of the New York World’s Fair- part trade show, part international summit, all parts space age optimism wrapped up in the flash and glamour of striking googie architecture and corporate might. Of course, to any student of theme park history, this will sound familiar, with the earliest iterations of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center both reflecting optimistic, corporately branded futurism.

Progressland, being no different, was driven by General Electric’s desire to exhibit their product and industrial roles in a commercial and public light. As most corporate entities at the fair did, they signed on specific design firms to create their thematic exhibits. General Electric chose Walt Disney’s WED Enterprises to lead such an effort and their final product remains, to this day, one of the most beloved and long running theme park attractions left from this point in time. The Carousel of Progress still spins happily along in Disney World’s Tomorrowland, even if the 21st century has caught up with it and its thematic background drastically altered. But, this is only one part of the Progressland Pavilion that originally graced the shores of Flushing Meadows’ Pool of Industry. In 1964, Disney had designed a whole series of ancillary attractions for the pavilion, attractions that would have accompanied the carousel’s message of industry and optimism, and would have represented GE’s full breadth of services and appliances. In media, today, these attractions rarely are discussed, and even by fairgoers were relegated to the back seat, when compared to the audio animatronic laden rotating theater show. However, they bear interesting insight to the nature of the World’s Fair of 1964 and prove to even be a object of longing for some theme park fans, today. For those of us that enjoy EPCOT Center and the thematic showmanship of specific industries and trades, Progressland and her Medallion City, her SkyDome Spectacular, and her Nuclear Fusion Demonstration will be very redolent of the shows we’ve lost along the wayside in places such as CommuniCore, Spaceship Earth, and the World of Motion. The concept is very much the same- a multilateral company hiring Disney to design and showcase their commercial triumphs and endeavors. What follows is a rare and in depth look at the Progressland pavilion and its intents, aesthetics, and exhibits.

While I won’t go into the details of the 1964 iteration of the Carousel of Progress, as that’s been assessed and documented with descriptive powers far better than my own, I would like to point out the aesthetics and details that the rotating theater cars had. What you see here is a Kaleidoscope Screen, reflective glass and plastic that lined the walls of the pavilion’s theaters. During the introduction to the Carousel of Progress, these lights would flash and glow in sequence to the narrator’s voice and the iconic music of the pavilion.

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

The carousel theater show, from then on out, progressed in a manner very much akin to the experience you can still find in the Vacation Kingdom, today. When the show ended, though, guests were lead up to the second level of a pavilion by a speed ramp that was connected directly to the theater, and in place of the stage. This unique feature of the 1964 carousel only existed in the first two versions of the show, and streamlined the entire experience. Also, the visceral experience of “walking forward” and “springing up out of your seats to meet the future” help crystalize the optimistic sand hopeful message and imagery of the presentation. The speed ramp was quite the sight, too. Clad in mirrors and brushed metallic trappings, the entire corridor was a spectacle of light and luminosity.  Images of GE engineers and scientists were projected onto the walls and mirrors and had the effect of floating in space. Much of the focus of this imagery is on energy technology and industry, the theme of next show. Disney dubbed this area a “Time Tunnel”, one that transported you from the present to the far-flung, but foreseeable future.

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Once guests exited the tunnel, they were deposited in the second part of the Progressland show: The SkyDome Spectacular and Fusion Demonstration, prefaced by another corridor of mirrors and informational plaques detailing GE’s work on electrical energy and new technologies with fuel cells, thermionic conversion, and magnetohydronamics. After a short wait, guests entered the SkyDome, and, at the time, the world’s largest projection screen on the interior of General Electric’s iconic domed pavilion. With terraced viewing, guests were shown the history and adventure surrounding man’s struggle to temper nature and making fire serve civilization on a 200-foot screen in the round. Dramatic lighting and projections highlighted both topic and theme. Once the show ended, guests descended from the top level of the pavilion to see the actual technologies described to them in use.

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Considered the climax of the Progressland experience, the Fusion Demonstration beneath the domed screen and in another, smaller, theater in the round. Standing on a plinth was a large quartz tube, with control panels and displays detailing the process of fusion that would be attempted. After a countdown, brilliant flashes of light and a loud, popping, crack would signify that GE was successful in tapping into the nuclear science of sun building. Billed as a first public demonstration of fusion, this feat took place every 4-6 minutes. Clerical workers that staffed the pavilion soon grew accustomed to the loud explosions emanating from the dome, according to memoirs and recollections many years after Progressland had closed and moved to Disneyland.

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Finally, guests would make their way into Medallion City, back on the first level of Progressland. The city was named for the “Total Electric Award” medal that GE popularized for its products. Widely considered to be the post show of the pavilion, this was the main exhibition hall for General Electric and was a stylized city with buildings dedicated to each of the company’s initiatives and appliances. Among the topics showcased were beauty and comfort products, business and industrial solutions, and even a town hall and hospital featuring the latest in electrical ingenuity. Fully air-conditioned and comfortable, Medallion City was very much the showroom for GE and guests could even place mail orders for the products they had seen in the Carousel Theater, and now, in person, and in use. The idea of allowing guests to browse a “city of the future” certainly wasn’t new to the World’s Fair, either. General Motor’s Futurama at both the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fair exhibited an “Avenue of Progress” in which guests would see their automobiles on display. Ford’s Wonder Rotunda, another Disney creation, also showed off automobiles to their guests. This degree of cooperate was the widely accepted modus operandi of the fair, and this style was replicated, much later, in EPCOT Center.

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

Courtesy of Bill Cotter, www.worldsfairphotos.com

In summary, the Carousel of Progress’ charm and place in thematic history reaches far beyond the carousel theater show that we still have, today. In part, it is the base of the experience, and the most memorable. But the entire Progressland Pavilion was a thematic bastion of industrial artistry and extravagance. Corporate and commercial advertisement? Yes. But it left a lasting mark in the minds of those who saw it and were inspired by the spirit of progress and optimism the pavilion fostered. The art of corporate showmanship hasn’t changed much, since the days of international exhibitions and World’s Fairs.

For an added bonus, here now is a newsreel created for GE’s Progressland exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair:

 
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EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer’s first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM


You can find all of EPCOT Explorer’s articles here.





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Tale of Two EPCOTs – Part II

By EPCOT Explorer

Although the ideas and plans surrounding EPCOT in its formative states deal holistically in futurism, technology, and industry, the project was equally peppered with an international flair and a driving cultural theme. From the earliest concepts of Walt Disney’s EPCOT City, areas of the complex were to be dedicated to international shopping and cuisine. This was an inclusion of Walt’s own choosing, as various attempts to make Disneyland support an international venue to exhibit and showcase had faltered. Walt Disney always had an eye toward international fellowship in his productions, both the product of an optimistic message that his studio fostered, but also as a reaction to the calamitous 20th century itself. From an ethos of a peaceful future in the earliest iterations of Tomorrowland, to the “prayer for peace” that is “it’s a small world”, the idea of any EPCOT entity bearing a home for international culture and learning comes from what Walt Disney set out to do with themed entertainment. Continue after the page break for Part II of a Tale of Two EPCOTs

You can read Part I of a Tale of Two EPCOTs here.

Tale of Two EPCOTs: Part II – EPCOT Internationalism and the Walt Disney World Showcase

As early as 1956, Disney planned for the areas off to the side of Main Street USA to feature a series of alleyways and streets to be themed to exotic and international environments. Formally billed as a coming attraction, “International Street” had a sign erected off to the side of the Town Square where a arcade would have lead to the area. In 1957, “The Complete Guide to Disneyland” exhibited that International Street had become International Land, and had settled on an empty plot of land between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. The Matterhorn sits in this location, now.  Meanwhile the area adjacent to Main Street would shift its intensions to house Edison Square and Liberty Street, both concepts that were also abandoned for Disneyland but grew into Walt Disney World’s Liberty Square and the New York World’s Fair’s Progressland Pavilion. In much of the same spirit, the ideas and wishes for an international venue would once again fly east to Disney World and undergo a long and storied transformation, there.



This transformation, of course, is the change of EPCOT City into EPCOT Center and all of the dichotomies in policy and concept in between.  When I last wrote of EPCOT’s prehistory, I focused on the Future World side of operations and how that concept grew out of the basic intent and Walt’s hope for what EPCOT would accomplish. Along the way, and as city became park, technology was separated from the planned international and cultural attractions to serve as the main focal point of the EPCOT satellite programs. Ideas for a world showplace would not be forgotten, though, and, in fact, would be a stepping-stone for Walt Disney Productions in creating their new vision for EPCOT. What follows is the evolution of Disney’s internationalism and how it settled to be part of the EPCOT program and almost a separate entity in the Vacation Kingdom of the World.

Formally announced in 1974, and truly gathering momentum in 1975, The Showcase would have looked beyond the scientific and technological aspects of EPCOT and focused on the advancement of international cooperation and understanding. As much as the EPCOT Theme Center was to be a meeting place for representatives from different governments, industries, and corporations, World Showcase would have served as the same forum for culture. Much in the same way it operates today, the World Showcase of 1974 and 1975 would have been a showplace and culture, history and tourism. The real differences revolve around the execution of the project and it’s separation from the Future World side of the EPCOT Theme Center.

Planned for a debut in 1979, The World Showcase would have not been open for nonprofit exhibition as the EPCOT Theme Center would have been. It would have also opened before the Theme Center and perhaps helped offset the cost. Encompassing an area similar in size to the Magic Kingdom, The World Showcase would have been composed of two imposing and sleek structures, semi circular in shape, facing each other to form a “Courtyard of Nations”, complete with flag park, theater, observation tower, and amphitheater for parades, pageants, and special events staged by entertainers from participating nations.  A Disney PeopleMover would link the complex, with a new system designed by the Community Transport Services Division arm of WED Enterprises.  The entire project would be housed just south of the Magic Kingdom’s Transportation and Ticket facilities, in a prime location to the rest of the Vacation Kingdom’s amenities and future ventures with the other EPCOT Satellites.

The individual national pavilions would all be housed inside the complex, and vary in size, though each would receive an equal amount of façade exposure. The afore mentioned PeopleMover would also give guests a preview tour of the World Showcase in its entirety. Each pavilion was planned to house facilities for permanent exhibition and a meeting place for visiting foreign dignitaries. In the same manner that the EPCOT Theme Center was to be focused on providing a forum for futuristic industry and imagination, the World Showcase was designed to almost emulate the United Nations, if just for meeting and even trade. The World Showcase, according to Card Walker in his 1975 annual shareholders report, was also to be totally run and staffed by cultural representatives from each nation portrayed in the forthcoming exhibits. Out of all of the plans for the World Showcase, this one has remained a constant, not only in the creative process, but in the actual completion of what would become EPCOT Center.

Card Walker spelled out a vision of cooperative fellowship that would allow Disney to grant visas and passports so that “young future leaders” could operate the shows, restaurants, exhibits, and meeting facilities of the conceptualized showplace. Walker hoped that the enterprise would attract young people with the potential of being versed in a wide variety of fields… not only for a showcase of diversity, but also to better the other half of EPCOT: The Future World Theme Center. Walker details that he desires those skilled in medicine, science, business, and education to come to the World Showcase for a period of one year to begin work on the monumental task of allowing EPCOT to work and flourish, not only as an idea, but a working system.

This “working system” of EPCOT relied on one of its oldest ideas and precepts: Housing! Though, not the slick and streamlined urban environment that Walt Disney hoped for, WED did design a housing complex for their incoming international cast.

International Village, as it came to be known, would have been centrally located to both the EPCOT Theme Center and the World Showcase and featured a relaxed atmosphere in contrast to the stark presentational and exhibition driven aspects of the showcase complex. International Village, while also housing he dormitories and living spaces for the cast would have also featured restaurants and shopping venues for Vacation Kingdom guests. Essentially, this would have provided the “experience center” of the World Showcase while the main structure existed only for pure exhibition and showmanship. Card Walker explains this separation for the reasoning dwelling in Disney’s desire to actually charge for admission to World Showcase, as in contrast to the not-for-profit  EPCOT Future World Theme Center. The Village itself would have been similar to World Showcase, as it exists today. An open air complex, linked by swaths of promenades and open walkways, dining and shopping would have been the main attraction, for both guests and cast members, allowing for what Mr. Walker expected out of this “people to people exchange”. Most interestingly about this entire part of The World Showcase project is the fact that each nation was expected to provide capital for this part of the venture, while Disney would be tasked with designing the pavilion’s entertainment and rides. This idea of “land leasing” out the World Showcase was said to ensure the cost of maintenance for at least 10 years.

The matter of stimulating the financing and involvement of the nations in question was a venture totally removed from the operations of Walt Disney World itself, meanwhile. Setting up shop in Washington DC, Walt Disney Productions embarked on an ambassadorial voyage to entice and interest and sign nations to participating in The (new) EPCOT Project. In all, 31 nations would eventually come to Disney’s outpost in the capitol to see plans and models for the World Showcase. The office was staffed by C Langhorne Washborne, formerly the Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Tourism, who joined the Disney organization specifically to work on this venture of international fellowship. Enthusiastic support also came from other legislative officials in the United States. Florida Governor Ruben Askew made frequent visits to Disney’s DC office and often attended information conferences at Walt Disney World to ensure international participation in EPCOT. Governors Goodwin (VA) and Busbee (GA) also were often on hand to lend their support to persuading nations to join in on the World Showcase. Even Secretary of State Henry Kissinger traveled to the Walt Disney World Showcase office in Washington DC and pledged his assistance in securing success for international participation. In the end, Secretary Kissinger arranged for Disney’s marketing team to have access to meetings in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Brussels, and Paris.

Furthermore, Kissinger even went so far as to summon Disney executives to hold a presentation on EPCOT and World Showcase concepts before members of congress so as to allow congressmen to help in the effort of recruiting nations for Disney World’s international venue. On December 12th, WED and delegations from both Florida and California presented World Showcase to the legislative branch of the US government in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill.

And thus, it is not hard to imagine that national representatives came pouring in to Disney’s Washington DC outpost ready to sign onto the forthcoming World Showcase satellite to EPCOT. From 1974 to 1976, WED was a powerhouse of creativity and dreamed up unique and lavish concepts for almost all of the 31 nations that were interested. While 9 would only be built in 1982 for what would become EPCOT Center, each national pavilion plan was detailed and essentially ready for execution. Each plan was meticulous and detailed, every one offering a differentiated experience similar to how today’s World Showcase actually works.

Mexico, one of the earliest pavilions planned, and one that actually came to fruition would have boasted an entryway with a grand fountain with carvings speaking to the mystical heritage of the indigenous peoples of Central America, while a boat excursion to Lake Xochimilco was planned for the interior, not unlike the final version of El Rio Del Tiempo.

Japan would have boasted a simulated bullet train through the countryside, after passing through a courtyard with an amalgamation of Japanese landmarks. This courtyard might have also housed an Omnimover attraction, as pictured below that detailed the narrative of Japanese history. It is highly possible that this concept evolved into “Meet the World”, a carousel theater show that was planned for both EPCOT Center and Tokyo Disneyland, but was only built in the former. The Japanese pavilion was also designed to include a indoor pond for a kabuki dinner show, and the Ginza district of Tokyo.

Venezuela was also planned at this early stage and would have sported an areal tram through the rainforest, in addition to a greenhouse Audio Animatronic show.

France’s concept is relatively unchanged, when compared to what was actually built in 1982. In 1975, WED developed a series of Parisian streets, all leading toward a central movie theater for a travelogue about the sprit and beauty of France.

West Germany and her industry was captivated by Jack Lindquist, a marketing expert of Disney’s who ended up signing most of the nations in World Showcase, so much that they signed on to exhibit and sell German made toys, glassware, beer, wine, and also the “Rhine River Cruise”, a storybook journey into the fairytales of German ancestry.

A bevy of Arabian nations were also in talks to unveil a collaborative pavilion at the World Showcase: Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt planned on showing off a “magic carpet trip through the wonders of the Arab world….a journey through time and space, guided by a genie who shows guests the Arab contributions of astronomy, navigation, mathematics, chemistry, and the wonder of the world’s first library.”

…..and the list goes on and on, though these are the most fascinating and the most detailed. Comfortably familiar to the roster of pavilions that would open in 1982, once the EPCOT Center concept had coalesced around both Future World and World Showcase, the earliest World Showcase concepts are seen as not stagnant, but simply stalwart in the sense that they represented the true essence of what the EPCOT project intended to do: Show “people to people” systems that involved the exchange of ideas, concepts, and goodwill. The execution only being different in terms of all the pavilions being linked in one central structure notwithstanding, the sentiment of international fellowship is a realization of one of the earliest ideas of Walt’s EPCOT City, though vastly expanded from an international shopping district to a place that would allow guests to interact with and learn about culture.

In closing, the Walt Disney World Showcase is as vital to understanding the EPCOT concept as the Future World Theme Center is. Both are equal parts of one idea, though they were planned separately from each other for most of EPCOT Center’s conceptual history. Though the Future World Theme Center is more closely related to the ideas of an urban cityscape of untold innovation and optimism, the World Showcase concept besets the rudimental ethos of how EPCOT actually worked: fellowship, understanding, and a shared use of knowledge. 



Marty Sklar, Claude Coats, and John Hench survey their handiwork for building the World Showcase in the Vacation Kingdom of the World.

 
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EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer’s first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM

 

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A Walk in the Park: WDW Edition – Flower and Garden Festival 2015

By Krista Joy

Welcome to another edition of A Walk in the Park! Spring has definitely sprung at Epcot! Let’s take a stroll and check out what the Flower and Garden Festival 2015 has brought to the front entrance, the UK pavilion, and some of the merchandise being offered for this beautiful time of year! There is so much more to see  – so stay tuned to Disney Avenue for more photos coming up in the next edition! Continue after the page break and enjoy this week’s “walk in the park”…

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Krista Joy is a former Disney cast member, current head author at Disneyways.com and a co-host for the Disney Parks Podcast. She was born, raised, and has never lived any where else but in the heart of Orlando Florida. Not knowing what it’s like to be away from Walt Disney World for very long – the magic has truly become a part of who she is. Krista’s Disney dream is to bring magic and fun to the every day lives of her fellow Disney fans – while sharing some laughs along the way. She is very grateful to Keith and the team at DisneyAvenue.com for helping her to make this dream a reality! You can read more about Krista at http://disneyways.com/connect/


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Tale of Two EPCOTs – Part I

By EPCOT Explorer

EPCOT has always had the rare distinction of having its conceptual core rooted in Walt Disney’s litany of personal products and projects. As one of the last ideas to come from the world’s greatest showman, The Walt Disney Company has always striven to tie EPCOT, as an entity, to their founder so as to appear respectful to his legacy and grand plans for the Walt Disney World Resort. Of course, the Florida property itself was the engine for Walt’s original idea for a grand center of urban planning and industry, so the narrative of both city and resort are highly intertwined. All of this remains inherent, even today, despite the city never materializing, and instead a theme park being built bearing the iconic and storied acronym. Continue after the page break for part 1 of a Tale of Two EPCOTs

Part I- The Challenge and Commitment to the EPCOT Theme Center

Although the lofty goals for the city were abandoned and instead its thematic underpinnings of futurism and world fellowship were slowly shifted toward a park, this infamous dichotomy is even more fractured and convoluted than it appears. Dick Nunis was a major influence in shifting the concept of EPCOT City to EPCOT Center. This was done for a multitude of reasons, excuses ranging from the sheer difficulty of building an urban center in the middle of what was slowly becoming the world’s premier vacation destination, to the fact that the techniques and technologies used in Walt Disney World were very similar to the plans that Walt had for his city. The latter fact was espoused in a especially flamboyant way. Nunis declared that Disney World was already EPCOT and the plans for a theme park were the capstone of an already grand achievement.

But even before all this, in 1974 and 1975, the ideas for EPCOT were scattered and varied. Painfully obvious to Disney leadership, the city that Walt Disney planned for his Florida venture would not be built. So, instead, they co-opted the main points of the idea and set them in motion in the most curious of ways. The first was expanding Lake Buena Vista into a more urban setting and applying some of EPCOT City’s organization and futuristic treatments, such as a large extension of Disney World’s transportation line, with a WEDway Peoplemover and a monorail track. These plans faltered.

The other two plans are much more familiar: A large showplace for the cultures of the world and international fellowship, and another series of showplaces dedicated to the enterprise and industry that drove the futuristic and streamlined operations of WDW itself.

Keeping in mind that these two projects were separate, the transition from EPCOT City to EPCOT Center begins in a state of independence and slow transformation from one idea, to two ideas, and back to one idea again. This split is intrinsically based in the politics and economy of the Walt Disney World Resort in those heady, early days.

Walt Disney Productions Chairman, Donn Tatum

On July 15th 1976, Walt Disney Productions Chairman, Donn Tatum, spoke at the EPCOT Future Technology Conference, hosted at the Contemporary Resort to express the hope that the Vacation Kingdom could become the host of corporate investment, technological enterprise and an example of practical urban fellowship.

Expounding on the lofty goals of the “EPCOT Theme Center”, Tatum reveals the premise for this “EPCOT Satellite” is one concurrent with the later plans for Future World. Regardless, there are differences in intent, scope, topics, and the corporate reasoning backing the project. The most striking of these philosophical proposals is the notion that the concept of enterprise was well within the bounds of the entertainment industry that Tatum placed Disney squarely into. In his own words, Tatum refers to this as the  “presumptuousness that we have had in a long experience in communication with the public through tangible means, many which were innovative and usually effective, in understanding the importance and empathy in science and technology”. 

Despite being very long winded, this isn’t far from the truth. Disney’s brand of entertainment had always been centered in fantasy, but aspects of it reflected educational and forward thinking ventures into the worlds of nature and science. Tomorrowland, at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, had been the first real examples of that, as showplaces dedicated to subjects such as aerospace and industrial chemistry. The EPCOT Theme Center was to be the culmination and “master plan” of these individual efforts. And, in a more oblique sense, this showplace of industrial know-how would have backed up the mission statement of Walt Disney World and it’s bevy of space age and progressive operations.

Tatum’s reliance on Nunis’ segue concerning the Walt Disney World property as the original EPCOT hinged on how WDW and EPCOT was perceived by the public, and more importantly, the industry leaders he brokered his plan to in May of 1976. In this change, specific wording was chosen to emphasize the broad nature of “community” in EPCOT’s meaning. Instead of employing the strict term of community in the sense that involved people living in an urban setting, the definition was stretched to match Donn Tatum’s meaning of “meeting place for ideas and information transfer”. This center for communication, was essentially to be a company forum to “stimulate comment and discussion within scientific communities” and the forum itself was conceptualized  “with the grand ambition of establishing EPCOT as an on-going meeting place where creative people of science and industry from around the world may gather to discuss and communicate concerning specific solutions to the specific needs of mankind.” 

This, here, is the catch. EPCOT has been altered from a grand city in the center of Walt Disney World to a meeting place, a place where the public could see the testing of technologies and systems that helped run the Disney organization, and even the world. Tatum’s perspicacious wording (All of mankind! All of it! ) certainly give the connotation of grand challenge and promise to be met and found with EPCOT. Card Walker writes that in order to attain Walt Disney’s goal for EPCOT, “We (Walt Disney Productions) must avoid building a huge, traditional “brick and mortar” community which might possibly become obsolete, in EPCOT terms, as soon as it is completed. We believe we must develop a community system oriented to the communication of new ideas, rather than serving the day-to-day needs of a limited number of permanent residents. EPCOT’s purpose therefor will be to respond to the needs of people, everywhere in a Disney designed and Disney managed forum.”

The city is no more. A plan for a showplace is just beginning.

I won’t comment on if this is a bad thing or a good thing for Disney history. I can’t. I don’t think anyone can. Walt’s dream of the future was utterly sublime. I believe that he, and he alone, could have established a working city in the middle of a Florida swamp that was now becoming the paramount entertainment destination in the world. This is not to say that I think his subordinates and followers could not have done this. But I think in the heady days of Walt Disney’s passing and the stressful years that accompanied the opening of Walt Disney World, the company was paralyzed with self doubt, and the need to assert themselves as being dynamic and driving in the world of entertainment. Modifying the EPCOT concept was, perhaps, a way to be broader in terms of public reach and understanding. Tatum makes several illusions to this.

Happily ahead of the Five Year Plan designed by Walt for the resort, The Magic Kingdom was at an operating capacity of 70,000; equal to Disneyland, a park 16 years its senior! Disney World had increased it’s capacity with a flurry of construction in Tomorrowland, adding the Carousel of Progress, the WEDway Peoplemover, the Star Jets, and the iconic (and first!) Space Mountain. Disney also added Pirates of the Caribbean, which contributed to operational capacity in the theme park. All of this, in turn, would set up Disney World to have the ability to plot the course for a new venue and stage in their entertainment development.

Tatum alludes to this progress as being part of the EPCOT Building Code, one of the oldest components of the EPCOT concept to be instituted in Walt Disney World. This specific mandate for building and growth in WDW was set in place in the planning stages of the resort to foster  “an environment that will stimulate the best thinking in the industry” and to exemplify Disney’s commitment to progressive initiatives, technologies, and techniques. This commitment was the foundation of the Reedy Creek Development District’s (Walt Disney World’s governmental association) modus operandi for construction and the use of new techniques.  One of these techniques was the WEDway Peoplemover, newly instated in Tomorrowland. The EPCOT Satellite program would have instituted the use of this transportation to great effect with a series of trains and lines linking the separate pavilions. It is possible that a secondary monorail system was also conceptualized, as these rare renderings show.

 
 

All of these concepts and plans had originally been in place in preparation for the development of EPCOT City. Considering the similarities in intent between city and showplace, the transition to the EPCOT Theme Center is not complicated. It simply means that instead of creating an environment in which people would live in, an environment of showcasing and exposition would be built with the same underpinnings, instead. The drive of Walt Disney Productions in terms of their educational entertainment, their practices in building and running a resort, and the growth of that resort expedite the transformation and transition of City into Theme Center. The fundamental ideology remains; only the face of the initiative is to be different.

Thus, the EPCOT Theme Center is the main EPCOT Satellite to be conceptualized. Closest to the ideas that Walt Disney had for his Florida Project, the design and topics to be addressed will look familiar in more ways in one. First, this is a reflection of the past hopes for company, hopes set on revolutionizing urban planning and industry. Secondly, they are in step with the final product, EPCOT Center’s Future World. There are some large differences in execution, but for all intents and purposes, the ideological drive of Future World and the EPCOT Theme Center are one and the same.

Card Walker, President of Walt Disney Productions, explained the EPCOT Theme Center some time after Tatum’s address:

Taking a broad approach to showcasing the world and its challenges the EPCOT Theme Center would have been a series of exhibits and shows dedicated to vital topics. The headliner attraction in 1975? CommuniCore! Described as a communications corridor, CommuniCore was set to be a multilateral pavilion, and part of the EPCOT Theme Satellite that would have  introduced guests to the EPCOT concept and exhibits.  Included in this would have been the EPCOT Overview Circle Vision Theaters which would have tailored their content to meet the guests on the day of their arrival, and the ongoing events at the EPCOT Satellite Centers.

The World City model would have “combined advanced entertainment techniques in miniaturization,  projection, and animation to show and trace the evolution of urban life that would show off the model community that EPCOT hoped to inspire. This concept seems very similar to the 1939 New York World’s Fair exhibit “Democracity”, which was housed within the Trylon and Perisphere and would have shown off a model city of the future. It is very possible that this idea inspired EPCOT’s vision of an urban display, and in turn, that vision of a city inspired the smaller tabluex seen in Spaceship Earth, the World of Motion, and Horizons, once EPCOT Center actually came to fruition. The World City model would have been at the center of the Information Gallery, which was described as an “Information Main Street” and would have centered on global and corporate communications. It is very probable that this entire concept would evolve into Spaceship Earth. The EPCOT Information Network was a major educational component to this, and in the built version of CommuniCore a similar idea did come to exist in the Teacher’s EPCOT Discovery Center.

Surrounding CommuniCore would have existed three major pavilions dedicated to three separate areas of interest. Think of Future World East and West in separate, large buildings, that contained all of their respective pavilions.  The three pavilions to the EPCOT Future World Theme Center would have centered in Community, Science and Technology, and Communications and The Arts. Keeping in mind that these plans are highly conceptual, there is a lot of overlap between the three main pavilions and the afore-mentioned CommuniCore pavilion.

The first in the series of Theme Center Pavilions would have been the Science and Technology Pavilion, which would have housed many attractions similar in theme to final versions that came to populate Future World in 1982.. Energy, Transportation, Oceanography would have all been featured in interlinking exhibits.

The Community Pavilion would have been a more humanistic experience, and dealt with health care, education, and even economics and government services.

And finally, the Communication and the Arts pavilion would have served as an engine for abstraction into the worlds of performance, be it in a physical, visual, or design based sense. Considering the topics the pavilion would have covered, this might be the first instance of the idea for an imagination pavilion.

What’s different about these pavilions from the final, topic driven attractions that were finally built in 1982 is their emphasis on education and the viability of having people come to EPCOT to learn and to apply their ideas in whatever profession they came from. There are various references to allowing for government workers and even economists to demonstrate and communicate their ideas and works in these settings. On the lowest level, it sounds like some corporate fantasy camp. On its most sincere, hopeful, and optimistic level, this version of EPCOT is made out to be a forum of futurism and promise. The heart of the matter is what astonishing potential the entire project exudes. Despite being corporately founded, Card Walker seems to rely on the fact that the EPCOT Theme Center is to be nonpartisan and non biased. Hopefully true, it is hard to imagine this without a veneer of cynicism directed to a corporation that is trying to be benevolent. Interestingly enough, Card Walker made the distinction of the EPCOT Theme Center as being non-profit for Disney, but leaving them in control of the design process. However, the content would have been totally in the power of the companies and agencies directing the pavilion’s intent. This is a fine line to walk in the power struggle between presenter and the intended effect of the instillation. At every turn there could have been conflict and clashing intents between Disney’s almost benevolent need to display industry, and a corporate desire to make profit.  Then again, this is Disney. This was the 70’s. Anything was possible. The final product of EPCOT Center, itself, while very corporate, was not biased in its intensions, and quite optimistic in its outlook. It is very possible that this similar mood would have dominated this early EPCOT venture.

In closing, it is appropriate not to truly compare these concepts and ideas to the final product, nor is it altogether plausible to bemoan the fact that they never happened. Instead, one must thoughtfully consider the background in which these concepts were dreamed up, and how and why they either reached fruition after being remolded and reshaped dozens of times. These concepts and ideas for EPCOT and the EPCOT Theme Center are part of the dynamic history and story that comes to settle around the grand vision for civic and technological betterment. Further, they are snapshots of the ideology governing a rapidly changing Walt Disney Company. Together, they form an indelible story of daring, optimism, and strike an interesting chord for the enterprise of themed entertainment and exhibition.

In Part II we will look at the ideas and plans that were behind the Walt Disney World Showcase, the other half of EPCOT.

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EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer’s first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM
 
 

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An Appreciation of Spaceship Earth’s Mirror Column

By EPCOT Explorer

Sometimes you just get a strange idea about something very simple and fairly obvious. This is one of them. A few months ago, I visited EPCOT to say goodbye to Maelstrom. As I always do, I took numerous photographs of Spaceship Earth, but this time I focused on the mirror column that graces the front of the structure. And as I did so, I realized how many people stopped to take a picture of themselves, reflected on the structure. Noticing that sparked this odd but, hopefully interesting line of thought: Spaceship Earth’s mirror column offers an architectural trick to make the building seem like it is floating… but it also offers a chance for symbolic introspection. Continue after the page break for more…

“Man and his Spaceship Earth” was the original title for the communication pavilion as early as 1978 when Ray Bradbury was brought into WED to serve as a creative advisor for EPCOT Center. “Man and his Spaceship Earth” as both a phrase and an idea come true when you see yourself reflected in the column. That you see this image of yourself before you enter the park, proper, and are faced with (what once was?) a showplace of limitless optimism and futurism is a subtle thematic turn. Where, at a base level, Future World could be seen in lacking in humanity and relatable emotions, a mirror stands at the entrance in which you can indeed see yourself in a futuristic environment, denying this criticism any breadth. Spaceship Earth might be seen, from afar, as a monolithic symbol and almost as a monument, but when you are closest to it, you and your peers are reflected at ground level.

 
 

I think that this possible and subtle symbolism truly illustrates EPCOT Center’s original intent and aims in exposing the better parts of humanity. I would like to think that WED placed the mirror column in the way that it did at least on a subconscious level so as to affect this sort of introspection and symbolism. While the ideas expressed in Future World were grand and lofty, at the base level, the place was about people and their interactions and reflections on a grander future world to come.

Your EPCOT Explorer on his first visit to EPCOT Center. Notice that the Mirror Column has the Spaceship Earth pavilion logo on its side, that its base is surrounded by planters, and that the crystalline pylon fountain in front of it almost echoes and softens the architectural motif.
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EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer’s first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM
 
 
 

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EPCOT’s Journeys In Space

By EPCOT Explorer

As early as 1975, the EPCOT Theme Center (Future World) boasted a Space Pavilion that would have featured a massive omnimover detailing the perils and positives of man’s history in space. Today, let’s take a look back at EPCOT’s long, and frankly, painful history of the Space pavilion concepts designed for the park…

NASA was actively courted by Disney so as to help with the direction and presentation of the pavilion. So sure were Walt Disney Productions on the completion of a space pavilion for EPCOT Center, that NASA frequently appeared in concept art and seemingly would have served as a official showplace for upcoming missions and new technology emerging from the Kennedy Space Center, only a few miles to the east.

While not officially a sponsor, as NASA is a national entity, they could have appeared in the guise of a partnership in exhibition, as they did for many years with Listen to the Land and their antigravity testing. Only this time, the tests and technology would be much more relevant, and be honed in on the actual theme of the pavilion. Not to mention the credence NASA would give Walt Disney Productions, and EPCOT.

By 1978, plans for the Space Pavilion become a bit clearer, as the concepts for Future World had coalesced into a version thematically similar to what was finally built. Further, famed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury was brought into WED’s fold to lead an effort in planning and conceptualizing the forthcoming pavilion. Bradbury’s version of the pavilion retained the omnimover from the mid 70s, but also added a massive interstellar space vehicle, in which dozens of guests would travel into space by illusion of omnimax screens acting as windows out into the cosmos.

The exterior of the planned pavilion was a departure from the sleek lines and contours of the rest of Future World. Designed to look like a launch station, gantries and space age texture defined the look of the structure. Only the entryway emulated Future World’s monumental and monolithic aesthetic, while taking a page out of Horizons’ iconic wedge like shape.

Sadly, none of these concepts would reach fruition as Horizons and The Living Seas would all receive sponsors and funding first. However, all of these concepts reflect the ethos of early EPCOT Center.  Holistically in line with the EPCOT ideal of the park as being a place for “information transfer”, NASA in EPCOT is a clear cut example as EPCOT as a showplace, made for exhibiting and interacting with the technology and topics of tomorrow.

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EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer’s first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM
 
 



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EPCOT Origins

By EPCOT Explorer

Thanks to a loyal reader, I’ve fortunately come into some fantastic and rare pictures of EPCOT Center in its formative years. The photos you are about to see are from all years of EPCOT’s construction, dating back to 1979, and just up to a few months before the turnstiles were thrown open to the Vacation Kingdom’s second gate. Continue after the page break and have a look at these amazing pictures…

The first picture is perhaps the most alien and unrecognizable of all of them, despite being related to one Walt Disney World’s most iconic landmarks and structures. Those concrete pylons in the ground are the support system for Spaceship Earth, which will soon rise nearly 180 feet into the air. Spaceship Earth is supported by six legs, in three groups,  though each are connected to one another so as to equally distribute the structure’s weight and allow the sphere to gracefully “float” above the ground. Two of the groups above are the familiar blue legs that stand at the entrance to Future World, while the third leg group sits behind the sphere and is hidden by the Earth Station structure, which houses the loading, unloading, and post show areas. That leg also houses the mechanics for the assent and descent ramps.

This next picture gives us a great look at this system in action. The legs, now with vertical supports, are beginning to support Spaceship Earth’s “core” structure, with provides the weighted center of the building. This core column is the heart of the building itself, with the rounded and spherical edges being “hung” and constructed off of that much simpler structure. The picture below illustrates that point in a much clearer way, as you can see the vertical and cylindrical support core, and Spaceship Earth’s spherical body being formed around that. Also note the fantastic view into the structure itself, the spiraling flooring being constructed up and down the sphere’s body will soon house the mechanics for the omnimover ride and its show scenes.

This one is also notable for being taken from The Land’s roof, leading me to believe that this picture is from mid 1981, when The Land would have been structurally complete, and awaiting its show elements. The Universe of Energy is also nearly complete and visible in this shot.

The Land is also our subject for the photo above and below. The one above shows off EPCOT’s third geodesic structure under construction for Listen to the Land’s greenhouse. EPCOT’s other two geodesic structures can be found in Spaceship Earth: The interior and waterproof hull of the building (as seen in black in the last photo)  follows a triangular pattern, and of course, Spaceship Earth’s silver alucobond skin, which in itself is a separate structure, attached to the sphere’s side. A gap of several feet exists between the silver tiles and Spaceship Earth’s interior building.

This one is a wonderful vista of the interior of The Land and Walter Peregoy’s original atrium murals. Walter Peregoy was one of Walt Disney’s early animators and had been with Disney since the first productions at the studio. Peregoy is also known for painting the whimsical murals in Journey into Imagination’s loading zone.

This next photo shows off Canada’s rocky façade under construction, at the ground level to the pavilion, just where the entrance is to the CircleVision 360 theater is, today.

And finally, these next two photos feature some great views of France, in 1982 and almost to opening day and late in 1981, with still a bit of work to go. Note that Chefs de Paris does not have its expanded dining room yet, as that won’t be added on until the mid 1980s. Also interesting is the great view of the model of the Eiffel Tower, unceremoniously tacked on to the back of the Impressions de France theater. The earlier picture doesn’t have the Eiffel Tower constructed yet, though you can see its base, ready and waiting. The bottom photo also has a look at both England and Canada being pieced together, as Spaceship Earth is beginning to be clad in its triangular skin, as I mentioned earlier.

Thanks again to the reader that sent these along- these are delightful images of EPCOT Center in the making and proof of how intricate and daring the original park was. Enjoy!

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EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer’s first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM



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