Featured Attractions

Monday, April 15, 2024

EPCOT Part Twelve: In Conclusion

EPCOT never became the real life city that Walt Disney envisioned, nor did it remain the educational showcase that it was when it eventually opened as a theme park in 1982. When The Walt Disney Family Museum opened in 2009, EPCOT was featured, for the very first time in a high profile setting, as Walt Disney’s final, unrealized dream. The Magic Kingdom park for the very first time acknowledged that the futuristic model city displayed alongside the Peoplemover tracks was not, as the narrator previously insinuated, a generic model of a futuristic city, but was actually what EPCOT might have looked like if Walt Disney had lived to build it. It was a huge change from the company’s confusing insinuation that EPCOT as built was exactly what Walt Disney had envisioned.

While it seemed that the company was going to be more open about EPCOT’s development, a recent major construction project added a statue of Walt Disney sitting down and staring out at EPCOT as though he was enjoying the sights of the theme park he had designed. So it appears that going forward the company will still rely on the public’s murky belief that the EPCOT that Walt Disney spoke about in 1965 is similar to the EPCOT that opened in 1982 and remains open today. While the difference between EPCOT the city and EPCOT the theme park might not be something that the average guest even thinks about, the company’s continued insistence that the EPCOT of today has any ties to the EPCOT of Walt’s dreams is infuriating to Disney historians.

But the biggest question that comes to mind when thinking about EPCOT- would Walt Disney’s original vision of EPCOT have been successful? Would the public have embraced a town built and designed by American industry and Walt Disney Productions? The public’s view of large corporations and industrial development has dramatically changed since the mid 20th century. Historically, the titans of industry were seen as benevolent entities who could be trustworthy stewards. That had definitely changed by the late 1960’s. By 1982, when EPCOT Center opened as a theme park, the idea of a company town planned and operated by a private business had become an entirely foreign concept. While Disneyland had been an untested concept back when it opened in 1955, Walt Disney was only asking people to spend a few days in his Magic Kingdom. At EPCOT, he would have been asking people to spend their lives in his planned community- a much bigger feat than just asking them to spend their vacation time. 

While Walt Disney was always determined to see his dreams come true- he was also a practical person. Had he lived to build his version of the Florida project, he very well might have downsized his plans if he determined them to no longer be practical. Even if he had canceled EPCOT completely, however, he probably wouldn’t have used the same name for a lesser project. While the EPCOT we got was not the EPCOT of Walt’s dreams, it is a nice place to spend a day or two. If Disney fans want to see Walt Disney’s last fully realized dream come true they would still need to head to Anaheim- the home of Walt Disney’s One and Only Magic Kingdom.