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.
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 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.
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.
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.
25 years of Epcot fun: Epcot has always had a futurist bent, but today, the eve of its 25th birthday, we stroll through the past and present of the second theme park built at.
Sep 30, 2007; Byline: Dewayne Bevil Sep. 30--epcot has always had a futurist bent, but today, the eve of its 25th birthday, we stroll...