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Monday, January 29, 2024

EPCOT Part One: In the Beginning…

EPCOT has always had a complicated history. Though Walt Disney’s original plans for the Florida Project would have put his version of EPCOT at the center of Disney World, the few guests who arrived at the resort in October of 1971 would not have found anything called or resembling Walt’s version of EPCOT. In this new series, we’ll take a look at the genesis of EPCOT, its troubled planning process, its complete cancellation and its eventual rebirth as a troubled theme park that bore no resemblance to Walt Disney’s original plans.

EPCOT, as originally envisioned by Walt Disney, had its origins at DISNEYLAND. After the wild success of Walt’s original theme park, American industry welcomed Walt Disney and his imagineers into its research facilities. Many imagineers found wide open doors at companies such as Monsanto, General Electric and McDonnell-Douglas. These companies offered Walt Disney a chance to look at technological advances they were working on and new technology that they thought he might be able to use in DISNEYLAND. 

These peeks at the amazing new technologies these companies were working on amazed Walt Disney, who became confident in American industry solving complex problems with science and research. Many of these technologies were highlighted in Tomorrowland and used behind the scenes throughout the rest of the park in its amazing attractions. The Peoplemover and Disneyland Monorail were intended to show the world how mass transit could be updated to solve the problem of pollution and smog.

As Walt Disney quickly discovered, however, the presence of alternate modes of transportation inside DISNEYLAND proved to work against their adoption in the real world. Any time a major monorail or Peoplemover project was proposed, detractors dismissed them as theme park rides that would prove to be a boondoggle for any city planning to build them. Walt Disney then sought to fix this perception problem- and he’d find inspiration just outside the gates of his Magic Kingdom.