Epcot Center

// THEMEPARK HISTORY

Surface of SpaceShip Earth, Future World
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The year 1975 was a turning point for the Walt Disney World Resort. After completing Phase One, the company studied the economic and creative feasibility's of building Walt's ultimate dream. On July 14, the Disney company announced plans to build an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (E.P.C.O.T). However, this project would be different from the original plans Walt had envisioned.

Instead of an actual working city of the future, E.P.C.O.T would be a showcase of ideas, a place for people to come and learn about themselves and the world around them, through the use of Disney technology and entertainment. Two key points of Walt's beliefs would remain constant. First, the past would be explored as well as the future, for the past taught mankind where it had been and where it could go. Second, there had to be an "international neighborhood," where an atmosphere of understanding could promote communication, peace, and prosperity between all the cultures of the world.

EPCOT Center was the chosen name given to the second theme park. In early planning stages, World Showcase, the salute to countries around the globe, was to open first, followed by Future World. Soon, though, it was apparent the futuristic side to the EPCOT Center attractions could and should open simultaneously. The design of the park went through countless changes before its current form was selected. One of the original concepts was to house all of the attractions from Future World and World Showcase in one gigantic building.

Construction for EPCOT Center began in October 1979. Its immense scale was regarded as the largest construction project in the country.

Over 10,000 workers were ultimately involved in bringing this theme park to life. Many of the same Imagineers that planned, designed, and oversaw the creation of the MAGIC KINGDOM Park returned for this project. Instead of building pirates and flying elephants, their task was to create dinosaurs and space colonies, advanced greenhouses and marine habitats. The experiences in EPCOT Center had to be the closest Guests could come to the real thing-past, present, or future.

Hundreds of scientific and historical experts were consulted to ensure consistent detail and accuracy of technology used and displayed. The various films in each attraction required over sixteen production crews to produce. With new and improved fiber optics, lasers, computers, and water controls, the park would have five times the amount of special effects used in the Magic Kingdom Park.

Imagineering teams traveled to foreign countries selected to open World Showcase. Along their journeys, they studied history, culture, and world contributions of each nation, then based the theme of each showcase on either a time-line, historical landmark, and/or famous cities familiar to the entire world. Merchandise, food, and even Cast Members working in the showcases would be authentic. Chefs were imported to create the perfect dining experiences for table-service restaurants.

Again, Imagineers used forced perspective on buildings to make them appear taller than they really are. The only exception in the park was The American Adventure. It was originally intended to have a contemporary style, but later changed to the historical, Georgian style typified in America's colonial days. An actual building from that time period would be too small to be seen from across the lagoon, so Imagineers used inverted forced perspective, making it much larger than it should be to achieve the far away effect.

The pavilions in Future World had corporate sponsors which helped fund and provide technical assistance in putting them together where necessary. For World Showcase, governments of those countries participated in the creation of the showcases, and also helped finance their construction.

The EPCOT Center landmark, Spaceship Earth, took two years and two months to build. As the symbol of the park and its statement of world peace, it needed a design found nowhere else on earth. Thus, the world's first geodesic sphere was created. It is 180 feet in height.

Innovative building techniques had to be used for Spaceship Earth. Support pilings are buried from 120 to 185 feet deep. The sphere is actually composed of two spheres, one inside the other. The inner sphere contains the track and rooms of the attraction, plus maintenance decking. The outer sphere is held about two feet away from the inner sphere by aluminum hubs. About 1,700 tons of steel were used to build the sphere. A special form of aluminum called alucobond was used for the 12,000 panels covering the entire globe. This material can withstand the Florida climate and essentially clean itself. A special gutter system was developed to prevent rain from cascading off the sphere. Water is channeled through the structure and sent to underground drains, where it replenishes the World Showcase Lagoon.

During construction, a group of endangered birds called the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker was discovered nesting in a wooded area destined for development. The entire construction site had to be moved 300 feet in order to preserve that area's natural state. A back service road was named after the birds as a reminder of the company's conservation efforts.

The Walt Disney Story on Main Street, U.S.A., over in the Magic Kingdom Park became the EPCOT Preview Center. It informed Guests of the new park with a film and concept artwork. Once the monorail track to EPCOT Center was completed, trains took Guests to the site for a view of the construction progress.

October 1, 1982, was the EPCOT Center grand opening. More than 100 television crews from all over the world descended on property. Bands and orchestras played before huge crowds. Celebrities and dignitaries, including Waltss wife, Lillian, helped dedicate areas of the park. The International Ceremony of the Waters took place in the large fountain behind Spaceship Earth. Young adults from 23 nations each poured a gallon of their country's water into the fountain, symbolizing the unity of world friendship. Water came from as far away as the Arctic Ocean, the Nile River in Africa, and Yangtze River in China, and as close as the Mississippi.

The dedication plaque was read by Card Walker, then Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Walt Disney Productions:

"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."

// FACTS & FIGURES
- Total cost: $1.4 billion (estimated)
- Construction time: three years (at the time the largest construction project on Earth)
- Park size: 260 acres (more than twice the size of The Magic Kingdom)
- Parking lot: 141 acres (including bus area) & 11,211 vehicles (grass areas hold additional 500+ vehicles)
- The pavement at Epcot was engineered by Disney and Kodak photography to be painted a specific custom color of pink that makes the grass look greener and pictures look brighter. In addition, the colored sidewalks give an overall cleaner look to the park.
- Unlike the Magic Kingdom, Epcot only contains tunnels underneath the buildings that contain Innoventions East, the Electric Umbrella, MouseGear, Innoventions West, and the building housing Club Cool and Fountain View Ice Cream. The tunnels are used primarily for the support facilities necessary for the merchandise shops and restaurants contained therein (stock rooms, break rooms, prep kitchens, garbage disposal, etc). There is an entry/exit corridor that runs from the northeast corner of the tunnels (the area below Innoventions East/the Electric Umbrella restaurant) to a backstage area located between the Universe of Energy/Ellen's Energy Adventure and the east side of the main entrance complex. Because World Showcase is at the rear of Epcot, backstage areas simply run behind the perimeter of World Showcase.
- Official dedication didn't take place until October 24, 1982.

// ORIGINAL PARK LAYOUT

Epcot Center Opening Map
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The park consists of two sections: Future World and World Showcase. Both are patterned after the kinds of exhibits which were popular at World's Fairs in the first two-thirds of the 20th century, in particular the 1939 New York World's Fair. Epcot has become essentially a permanent display of the world's nations.

// FUTURE WORLD & WORLD SHOWCASE

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, Future World
(c) The Walt Disney Company


// WALT DISNEY'S FAMILY ON EPCOT CENTER OPENING

In this rare 3 parts video shot during Epcot's opening days, you will see interviews of Lilian Disney (Walt's wife), Diane Disney (Walt and Lilly's daughter) and Jenny Disney (grand daughter of Walt and Lillian).




// FUTURE WORLD

Universe of Energy Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

Future World consists of a variety of pavilions that explore innovative aspects and applications of technology: Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, Wonders of Life, Horizons, World of Motion, Journey Into Imagination, The Land, The Living Seas. 

// WORLD SHOWCASE

World Showcase lagoon from the Japan pavillon.
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The second area of Epcot Center is a direct adaptation of Walt Disney's original Epcot project. In its design, Epcot featured an enclosed international shopping and entertainment center located below the central cosmopolitan hotel and themed to various cultures and countries.