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is a theme park dedicated to international culture and technological
innovation. Located at Walt
Disney World in Florida, it opened on October 1, 1982. Its original
name was Epcot Center.
Walt Disney's Planned Community
The name Epcot is from the acronym EPCOT (Experimental Prototype
Community of Tomorrow), a utopian city of the future planned by
Disney. (He sometimes used the word 'City' instead of 'Community'
when expanding the acronym.) In Walt Disney's words: "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 systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the
world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise."
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 People Movers (like the
one in the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland). Automobile traffic would
be kept underground, leaving pedestrians safe above-ground. A giant
dome was to have covered the community, so as to regulate its climate.
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." A mockup model of this original vision of
EPCOT can still be seen when riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority
attraction in the Magic Kingdom park; when the Peoplemover enters
Space Mountain, the model is visible on the left behind glass.
This vision was not realized. Walt Disney wasn't able to obtain
funding and permission to start work on his Florida property until
he agreed to build the Magic Kingdom first, and he passed away before
its opening day. The Walt Disney Company later decided that it didn't
want to be in the business of running a town. (The model community
of Celebration, Florida has been mentioned as a realization of Disney's
original vision, but Celebration is based on concepts of new urbanism
which is radically different from Disney's modernist and futurist
visions.) However, the idea of EPCOT was instrumental in prompting
the state of Florida to create the Reedy Creek Improvement District
and the Cities of Bay Lake and Reedy Creek (soon renamed Lake Buena
Vista), a legislative mechanism which allows the Walt Disney Company
to exercise governmental powers over Walt Disney World. Control
over the RCID is vested in the landowners of the district, and the
promise of an actual city in the district would have meant that
the powers of the RCID would have been distributed among the landowners
in EPCOT. Because the idea of EPCOT was never implemented, the Disney
Corporation remained almost the sole landowner in the district allowing
it to maintain control of the RCID and the cities of Bay Lake and
Lake Buena Vista. That the RCID is now primarily intended as an
instrument of the Disney Corporation was illustrated when the RCID
redrew its boundaries to exclude Celebration, Florida which would
have diluted Disney's control over the RCID.
Epcot - The Theme Park
The Epcot theme park was originally known as EPCOT Center to reflect
the acronym explained above, and the fact that the park was located
near the center of the Walt Disney property when it was built. Later,
however, the "Center" was dropped in 1995 as the property
expanded and changed shape. "Epcot" was also changed to
mixed-case as the park no longer reflected Walt Disney's plans for
a futurist city.
The original plans for the park showed indecision over what the
park's purpose was to be: Some Imagineers wanted it to represent
the cutting edge of technology, while others wanted it to showcase
international cultures and customs. At one point a model of the
futuristic park was pushed together against a model of the international
park, and EPCOT Center was born.
Epcot is generally regarded as more "learning-oriented"
than other theme parks. It has only two thrill rides (Test Track
and Mission: SPACE); the rest of its attractions are dark rides,
shows, films, or walkthrough exhibits. Currently, Epcot's Future
World is showing its age; the exhibits there can hardly be thought
of as futuristic, but as more of an 80's flashback. A plan code-named
"Project Gemini" is rumored to exist which would change
Future World into "Discoveryland," change its theme to
the idea of discovery, reduce the pressure to keep everything cutting-edge,
and add a few more thrill rides. A few Future World pavilions have
already received major renovations, including Universe of Energy
(which now features Ellen's Energy Adventure), World of Motion (now
a high speed car ride called Test Track), Horizons (now th simulator
attraction Mission: Space), and most recently The Land, which now
features the simulator ride Soarin'.
Various satirical expansions of the acronym EPCOT have emerged
over time, such as "Every Person Comes Out Tired" (because
of the amount of walking required in the park), "Every Paycheck
Cashed on Tuesday" (the pay day for Disney Cast Members), and
Eisner Puts Cash On his Table (in light of the high admission price
to the Disney parks, and Disney CEO Michael Eisner's reported 40
million dollar bonuses in the 1990s).
Opening Day Dedication Dedication Plaque reads: "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." - E. Cardon
Walker, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Walt Disney Productions.
Epcot Facts and Figures
* Epcot Total Cost: US$1.4 Billion
* Epcot Construction Time: 3 years (at the time the largest construction
project on earth)
* Official Groundbreaking: October 1, 1979
* Card Walker (President of Walt Disney Productions) reveals plans
for the theme park on October 1, 1978
* Park Size: 300+ acres
* 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.
Epcot Park Layout
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 half of the 20th century.
Future World consists of a variety of pavilions that explore innovative
aspects and applications of technology.
* Spaceship Earth, the eighteen-story-tall geodesic sphere covered
in 11,324 triangular silver panels made of alucobond, is the gateway
to Future World. Inside is a slow-moving dark ride through the history
of communication, with a focus on the development of cultures and
the future of technologies.
* Innoventions, located in two pavilions (aptly named Innoventions
East and Innoventions West), houses hands-on exhibitions from various
science-and-technology oriented companies such as IBM and Segway.
When EPCOT was first opened, Innoventions was called Communicore.
* Innoventions Plaza is the location of the "Fountain of
Nations," a large choreographed musical fountain which performs
every fifteen minutes. During Epcot's opening ceremonies in 1982,
water from 22 nations was poured into the fountain. Kristos, a circus-act
of group strength and flexibility, performs daily near the fountain.
The three performers are from Bulgaria; they include a mother and
her two sons. Nearby are Mouse Gear, Epcot's largest store offering
a wealth of Disney related merchandise; Ice Station Cool, an igloo
which offers guests a chance to taste various Coca-Cola beverages
from around the world; the Fountain View Espresso and Bakery, a
coffee shop; and the Electric Umbrella, Future World's main counter-service
restaurant with typical theme-park-style fast food.
* Inside Universe of Energy is Ellen's Energy Adventure, a show
starring Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye, Jamie Lee Curtis, Alex Trebek,
and (an actor playing) Albert Einstein in an episode of Jeopardy!.
The categories are about energy and how people generate and harvest
it. (Michael Richards, "Kramer" from Seinfeld, has a brief
cameo in the show as a caveman who discovers fire.) The audience's
seats are actually large vehicles which move slowly through the
attraction and are powered by solar cells on the building's roof.
Visitors travel through the primeval world of dinosaurs to teach
you that they will become the fossil fuels in your gas tank. Guests
also learn how shale, "the rock that burns" will be used
as fuel (a "bridge to the future") when all the fossil
fuels run out.
* Wonders of Life contains several small attractions (such as Body
Wars, a motion simulator ride through the human body) about the
human body and how to keep it in good health.
* Mission: SPACE is a ride which simulates the training required
to be member of the space program. Gary Sinise is the guide through
a simulated mission to Mars in a spinning centrifuge gravity-simulator,
which lets guests feel what it's like to blast off in a rocket.
(This attraction is built on the former site of Horizons, a ride
which compared science fiction of the past with what life might
be like in the future.)
* In Test Track, guests sit in six-seater cars and experience
the wide range of testing that automobiles must go through before
they are approved for mass production. Cars in the ride pass through
extreme temperatures, over rough surfaces, and around high-speed
turns. (This pavilion formerly housed World of Motion, a slow-moving
ride past scenes depicting the past and the future of transportation.
It was replaced in 1996.)
* The Living Seas is one of the largest indoor aquariums in the
world. Guests can view many different aquatic animals such as manatees
while they learn about the preservation of the oceans. The illusion
is that you are at the bottom of the sea in a sea station.
* The Land is about human interaction with the natural environment.
It contains a boat ride through a working greenhouse and a slowly-rotating
restaurant which serves food grown there. A copy of the attraction
Soarin' Over California from Disney's California Adventure opened
here in May 2005, along with a remodeled Land pavilion. (The new
attraction's queue area is built in the former location of, and
therefore required the closing of, the Food Rocks attraction which
itself replaced the earlier Kitchen Kabaret.) Also showing is a
movie called The Circle of Life, starring the characters from The
* Imagination! contains Journey Into Imagination, a lighthearted
ride starring Eric Idle and the Epcot mascot Figment. It encourages
guests to use their senses and their imagination. This attraction
is currently in its third incarnation: a refurbishment in 1998 removed
the little purple dragon Figment and his creator/father figure Dreamfinder
and featured Idle instead, but there were so many complaints over
the disappearance of Figment that a 2003 refurbishment added him
back, though Dreamfinder is still absent. Imagination! also contains
Honey I Shrunk The Audience; in this 3-D short film featuring Eric
Idle, Rick Moranis, and the rest of the cast of the film Honey,
I Shrunk The Kids, a demonstration of a new invention inadvertently
shrinks the entire theater. (From May 1986 until April 1994, this
theater had shown the film Captain Eo, which starred Michael Jackson,
was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and was produced by George
Lucas. Before that, the theater had shown a film titled Magic Journeys.)
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, and The
Land was sponsored by Kraft, then Nestlé. 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 was demolished to make room for Mission:
SPACE, and after MetLife abandoned Wonders of Life in 2001 that
area has been closed during off-seasons.
World Showcase is made up of eleven pavilions: in clockwise order,
Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan,
Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Each of these contains
representative shops and restaurants and is staffed by citizens
of these countries. Some also contain rides and shows. Each pavilion
is sponsored (and paid for) by the country it represents, so tourism
brochures are readily available. The sponsorship also explains why
pavilions for Russia, Spain, and Israel never made it past the planning
phase: these countries declined to fund pavilions. An Equatorial
Africa pavilion also never made it past the planning phase.
To cut costs, Disney now opens World Showcase late (usually 11:00
AM) and closes Future World early (usually 7:00 PM, except for Test
Track and Mission: SPACE which sometimes remain open until park
closing). Unlike the Magic Kingdom which has no alcohol, many stores
and restaurants in the World Showcase serve or sell alcoholic beverages
from their respective countries and beer is sold at refreshment
stands throughout the park.
A thirteen-minute fireworks show takes place in the World Showcase
Lagoon every night at the park's closing time (usually 9:00 PM).
Fireworks and lasers fill the sky above an immense rotating globe
whose continents show changing pictures of culture and technology
throughout the ages, while a rousing musical score plays over the
loudspeakers. The current show is titled Illuminations: Reflections
of Earth. It is divided into three movements titled "Chaos,"
"Order," and "Meaning." The music has an African
tribal sound to it, to emphasize the idea of humanity as a single
unified tribe on this planet; the lagoon is surrounded by twenty
large torches signifying the past twenty centuries, and the show
culminates in the globe opening like a lotus blossom to reveal a
twenty-first torch, representing the new century. The show originally
debuted as part of Epcot's millennium celebration in 2000.
* October 1, 1982: Epcot opens with World of Motion, Spaceship
Earth, The Land, Universe of Energy, CommuniCore, and most of the
* October 1, 1983: Horizons opens
* October 1, 1984: Morocco opens
* January 2, 1986: Magic Journeys closes, to reopen at the Magic
* January 15, 1986: The Living Seas opens
* May 26, 1986: Spaceship Earth reopens with narrator Walter Cronkite
* September 12, 1986: Captain EO starring Michael Jackson opens
* July 1, 1988: Norway opens
* July 5, 1988: Maelstrom opens at Norway
* October 19, 1989: Wonders of Life opens
* September 30, 1992: Kraft ends sponsorship of The Land
* November 1992: Nestle begins sponsorship of The Land
* September 30, 1993: General Electric ends sponsorship of Horizons
* January 30, 1994: CommuniCore closes
* July 1, 1994: Innoventions opens
* July 6, 1994: Captain EO closes
* November 21, 1994: Honey, I Shrunk the Audience opens
* November 23, 1994: Spaceship Earth reopens with narrator Jeremy
* 1995 Name changed from EPCOT Center to Epcot
* January 2, 1996: World of Motion closes
* September 15, 1996: Universe of Energy reopens, now starring Ellen
* January, 1998: United Technologies ends sponsorship of The Living
* January 9, 1999: Horizons closes
* October 1, 1999: Journey Into Imagination reopens
* March 17, 1999: Test Track opens
* June 1, 2001: MetLife ends sponsorship of Wonders of Life
* June 1, 2002: Journey Into Imagination reopens, this time with
* January 1, 2003: AT&T ends sponsorship of Spaceship Earth
* October 2003: Mission: Space opens
* March 17, 2004: Exxon Mobil ends sponsorship of Universe of Energy
* May 5, 2005: Soarin' opens at The Land Pavilion
Walt Disney Company
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