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Monday, February 26, 2024

EPCOT Part Five: Walt Disney’s Experimental Community

When Walt Disney decided to announce his latest project, the public was confused. They loved the idea of Disneyland East, but what was this EPCOT thing? Was it another theme park? For those of you who have been following along, you know that it was definitely NOT a theme park. But what exactly was Walt planning to build? Today we take a look at what EPCOT would have been like if Walt Disney had lived to see it open.

Guests would have entered the massive property at its southern end, parking their cars in massive parking lots located where Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the All-Star Resorts are located today. They would then board monorails and peoplemovers that would whisk them north to Disneyland East through Walt Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow- EPCOT. As guests pass through the city, a pre-recorded spiel would point out the important features of this real life city and encourage them to take a tour of it during their stay.

The city itself would feature working factories and mixed use development where people could actually live and work. The factories would be operated by some of the biggest names in American industry and permit guests to tour the grounds. Walt envisioned a place where people lived close to where they worked and shopped, predicting a future where mixed use development would be proposed as a way to reduce carbon emissions caused by lengthy commutes. 

Walt believed that he could convince the titans of industry to setup shop in EPCOT and he would start with the companies that already sponsored attractions in Disneyland- Monsanto, RCA, General Electric and McDonnell-Douglas. The hope was that guests of Disneyland East would head back home and encourage their hometown leadership to adopt the ideas and technology found at EPCOT. Even better, some guests might be inspired enough to pull up stakes and move to the futuristic city. While Disneyland East would be the weenie that attracted the world to Orlando, EPCOT would be the real life city that would truly inspire the world to look to a brighter future.

While Walt Disney enthusiastically pushed forward with his version of EPCOT, Roy Disney was enthusiastically pushing his brother to start work on designing Disneyland East. Walt cared little about the theme park and ordered his staff to not waste time on it. He reasoned that the original Disneyland was already perfect and he would just duplicate it in Florida without New Orleans Square and with more water. Would this impasse between Walt and Roy lead to their greatest argument ever? Sadly, fate would intervene in the most tragic way possible, forestalling the inevitable fight over Disney’s Florida Project.