Epcot is a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. The park is dedicated to international culture and technological innovation. The second park built at the resort, it opened on October 1, 1982 and was named EPCOT Center until 1994.
In 2007 Epcot hosted approximately 10.93 million guests, ranking it the third-most visited theme park in the United States, and sixth-most visited in the world.
The planned community
The name Epcot
derives from the acronym EPCOT
(Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), a utopian city of the future planned by Walt 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 PeopleMovers (like the one in the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland). Automobile traffic would be kept underground, leaving pedestrians safe above-ground. Walt Disney said, "It will be a planned, controlled community, a showcase for American industry and research, schools, cultural and educational opportunities. In EPCOT, there will be no slum areas because we won't let them develop. There will be no landowners and therefore no voting control. People will rent houses instead of buying them, and at modest rentals. There will be no retirees; everyone must be employed." The original model of this original vision of EPCOT can still be seen by passengers riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority attraction in the Magic Kingdom park; when the PeopleMover enters the showhouse for Stitch's Great Escape, the model is visible on the left (when facing forward) behind glass. This vision was not realized. Walt Disney was not able to obtain funding and permission to start work on his Florida property until he agreed to build the Magic Kingdom first. Disney passed away before the Magic Kingdom opened.
After Disney's death, The Walt Disney Company later decided that it did not 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 (RCID) 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. Disney's intent appears to be that it wishes to keep the RCID as an instrument of the company, as witnessed by the method by which the RCID redrew its boundaries to exclude Celebration rather than allow Celebration's resident landowners to dilute Disney's control over the RCID.
The theme park
The theme park originally was known as EPCOT Center
to reflect the fact that the park was built to embody the ideals and values of EPCOT the city. In 1994, the name was changed to Epcot '94
and subsequently Epcot '95
a year later. By 1996, the park was known simply as Epcot
, a non-acronym, mixed-case word.
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—a theme park with the flavor of a World's Fair.
Before the park had its debut on October 1
, Walt Disney World Ambassador Genie Field introduced E. Cardon Walker
, Disney's chairman and CEO, who dedicated EPCOT Center with a short speech:
Walker also presented a family with lifetime passes for the two Walt Disney World theme parks. His remarks were followed by Florida Governor Bob Graham and William Ellinghouse, president of AT&T.
As part of the opening-day ceremony, dancers and band members performed We've Just Begun to Dream. The Sherman Brothers wrote a song especially for the occasion entitled, "The World Showcase March." During the finale, doves and many sets of balloons were released.
Performing groups representing countries from all over the world performed in World Showcase. Water gathered from major rivers across the globe was emptied into the park's lagoon from ceremonial containers to mark the opening.
Located at the front of the park is a plaque bearing Walker's opening-day dedication, as seen above.
Facts and figures
- Total cost: $1.4 billion (estimated)
- Construction time: three years (at the time the largest construction project on Earth)
- Park size: 300 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.
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 pavilions
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.
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 closed for a couple of years, then re-opened temporarily while neighboring attractions were renovated. Horizons closed permanently in January 1999 and was demolished in the summer of 2000 to make room for the opening of Mission: SPACE in 2003. MetLife abandoned Wonders of Life in 2001 and that area is closed. Test Track is sponsored by General Motors, Imagination! is sponsored by Eastman Kodak, and Mission: SPACE is sponsored by Hewlett-Packard. Spaceship Earth was sponsored by Bell System from 1982 to 1984, then AT&T (Bell System's parent company, following the Bell System Divestiture) from 1984 until 2003. It was not sponsored between 2003 and 2005. It is now sponsored by Siemens.
World Showcase contains pavilions representing eleven countries—click on the links below for more information about each. In clockwise order, the pavilions are:
Of the eleven pavilions, Norway and Morocco were not present at the park's opening, and were added later. Each of these contains representative shops and restaurants and is staffed by citizens of these countries, many of them college students living in Walt Disney World College Program housing. Some also contain rides and shows. The only pavilion that is sponsored by the country it represents is Morocco. The remaining country pavilions are all sponsored by private companies.
Pavilions for Russia, Spain, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, and Israel never made it past the planning phase. An Equatorial Africa pavilion was planned but was never built. It would have featured a large African presentation film hosted by Alex Haley. A small African themed refreshment stop is now in its place, known as the Outpost. After Disney's Animal Kingdom—an African-themed animal preserve and park—opened, any plans for an African Pavilion were dropped.
To cut costs, Disney now usually opens World Showcase two hours after park opening and closes certain Future World rides and attractions at 7:00 PM. However over the years as new rides are built, the newer more popular attractions like Test Track, Soarin', Mission Space, and most recently The Seas with Nemo and Friends, as well as the iconic Spaceship Earth, have been remaining open from park open through to park close.
Unlike the Magic Kingdom, which does not serve alcohol, many stores and restaurants in the World Showcase do serve or sell alcoholic beverages from their respective countries, and beer is sold at refreshment stands throughout the park.
There is an entrance to the park between the France and United Kingdom Pavilions known as the International Gateway. Guests staying in a number of the Epcot Resorts and guests coming from Disney's Hollywood Studios can access this gate by walkway or boat.
World Showcase Lagoon
World Showcase Lagoon
is a man-made lake located in the World Showcase pavilion. It has a perimeter of 1.2 miles.
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
This thirteen-minute fireworks show takes place in the World Showcase Lagoon every night at the park's closing time (usually 9:00 PM). The show features Fireworks
and water fountains
timed to a musical score over the World Showcase Lagoon. A large rotating globe with curved LED screens is the centerpiece of the show and is used to project images of people and places. The current version premiered as part of the park's Millennium Celebration in 1999. The show tells the story of Earth and 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 nineteen large torches signifying the first 19 centuries of the common era, and the show culminates in the globe opening like a lotus blossom to reveal a twentieth torch, representing the now-completed 20th century.
Epcot hosts a number of special events during the year that have proven very popular with guests.
- The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, inaugurated in 1994, brings out the real color of Epcot in specially-themed floral displays throughout the park, many including topiary sculptures of Disney characters. Guests can meet gardening experts and learn new ideas they can use in their own home gardens. The 16th annual event is scheduled for March 18–May 31, 2009.
- The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival debuted in 1996. The festival draws amateur and professional gourmets to the park to sample delicacies from all around the world, including nations that do not have a permanent presence in World Showcase. Celebrity chefs are often on-hand to host the events. The 13th annual edition of the festival is scheduled for September 26–November 9, 2008, which will feature the American semifinal of the biennial Bocuse d'Or cooking competition.
- Holidays Around the World is Epcot's annual holiday celebration. The World Showcase pavilions feature storytellers describing their nation's holiday traditions, and a nightly "Candlelight Processional" features a mass choir and a celebrity guest narrating the story of Christmas. During "Holidays Around the World," Illuminations: Reflections of Earth features a special extended ending. The next edition of the celebration is scheduled for November 28–December 30, 2008.
- October 1, 1978: Card Walker, CEO of Walt Disney Productions, reveals plans for the theme park
- October 1, 1979: Official groundbreaking and start of construction
- October 1, 1982: EPCOT Center opens with Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, World of Motion, Imagination (Magic Journeys and ImageWorks only), The Land, CommuniCore, and 9 of 11 current World Showcase countries
- March 5, 1983: Journey Into Imagination ride opens.
- October 1, 1983: Horizons opens
- October 1, 1984: Morocco opens
- January 15, 1986: The Living Seas opens
- February 9, 1986: Magic Journeys closes, to reopen at the Magic Kingdom
- 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
- 1994: Name changes from EPCOT Center to Epcot '94
- 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
- 1995: Name changes from Epcot '94 to Epcot '95
- 1996: Name changes from Epcot '95 to Epcot
- January 2, 1996: World of Motion closes
- September 15, 1996: Universe of Energy reopens, now starring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye
- October 10 1998: Journey Into Imagination closes in its original form
- January 9, 1999: Horizons closes
- March 17, 1999: Test Track opens
- September 29, 1999: The Mickey Mouse arm holding a wand is dedicated with "2000" (later changed to "Epcot") over Spaceship Earth. The wand is removed in 2007
- October 1, 1999: Journey Into Imagination reopens as Journey Into Your Imagination and Millennium Village opens
- January 1, 2001: Millennium Village closes, marking the end of the Millennium Celebration
- June 1, 2002: Journey Into Imagination reopens as Journey Into Imagination With Figment
- May 22, 2003: Reflections of China replaces the former Wonders of China
- August 15, 2003: Mission: Space opens
- January 3, 2004: Food Rocks closes
- May 5, 2005: Soarin' opens at The Land
- October, 2006: The Living Seas is refurbished and becomes The Seas With Nemo And Friends
- January 2, 2007: El Rio Del Tiempo closes in its original form
- April 6, 2007: El Rio Del Tiempo reopens as Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
- July 9, 2007: Spaceship Earth closes for major renovations
- September 1, 2007: O Canada! re-opens in an updated form, hosted by comedian Martin Short
- October 1, 2007: Epcot celebrates its 25th Anniversary with a rededication ceremony, special fireworks display, a gallery exhibition showcasing EPCOT Center memorabilia, and exclusive presentations by Disney Legend Marty Sklar
- February 15, 2008: Spaceship Earth reopens with new sets, narration, soundtrack, and interactive ending