Maybe you’re considering a trip this summer. Isn’t it nice to think about that again? If you are, you certainly won’t be alone if you trek to Central Florida and perhaps the most visited theme part on the planet. Since 1971, Walt Disney World has been providing the Disney company’s take on entertainment to billions of people, all of whom happily shell out a month’s rent or more for a few days spent at the house of mouse.
Back in the distant past, there was just Disneyland, and it was really just about traditional Disney characters. If you’ve been to a Disney park lately you know that there’s a lot more there now. Not only will you see your favorite Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar characters, but you’ll see a variety of adventures sponsored by other companies.
Walt Disney himself envisioned an Experimental Protoype Community of Tomorrow as a permanent residential and research facility, not necessarily a theme park. He bought enough land in Florida to build not only Walt Disney World, but also his vision of EPCOT.
After his passing, however, the dream of EPCOT morphed into something else: a theme park dominated not by movie characters but by ideas. EPCOT Center debuted in 1982 and originally, it was about a lot of learning and a lot of understanding. There was a heavy focus on understanding the earth and its diversity, as well as a permanent World’s Fair-esque exposition of multiple nations.
And of course, it was heavily sponsored by other companies, not just Disney.
Transition to Epcot
Over time, the purity of the EPCOT vision got softened, and the name was changed to “Epcot,” just a word without a meaning. But it didn’t matter because all you needed to know was that it was a fun destination.
Today’s Epcot is a lot more tied to the Disney ecosystem, with rides and attractions featuring classic Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars characters. It’s still full of places to learn, but there’s a lot more emphasis on pure entertainment. The market spoke, and Disney listened. That’s what they wanted.
The original vision restored
I found this video online (because YouTube literally has everything):
This pre-opening video, produced by Disney, was intended to give people an idea of what the park would look like on opening day. I’m not sure exactly when it came out, but I would have to say about mid-1981 based on some of the things that were said. If you visited EPCOT before 1990, this is the park you saw. It was a place filled with upbeat music and lots of science. Back in those days there was no internet and little geek culture. EPCOT was a great place for young nerds to gather and just be who they were.
Yes, it probably wasn’t as interesting a place as it is today. And, if the Disney company hadn’t remodeled over and over it would look incredibly creaky by now. But, look back at this video, full of flythroughs of the architectural model. If you’re like me, you can’t help but smile and think of the future by way of the past.