Spaceship Earth, the icon of EPCOT
|Location||Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida, U.S.|
|Slogan||The magic of possibility|
|Owner||Disney Parks, Experiences and Products|
(The Walt Disney Company)
|Operated by||Walt Disney World|
|Opened||October 1, 1982|
|Previous names||EPCOT Center (1982–1993)|
Epcot '94 (1994)
Epcot '95 (1995)
Epcot (stylized as EPCOT) is a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida. It is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks, Experiences and Products division. Inspired by an unrealized concept developed by Walt Disney, the park opened on October 1, 1982, as EPCOT Center, and was the second of four theme parks built at Walt Disney World, after the Magic Kingdom. Spanning 305 acres (1.23 km2), more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom park, Epcot is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely technological innovation and international culture, and is often referred to as a "permanent world's fair".
Epcot was originally conceived by Walt Disney during the early development of Walt Disney World, as an experimental planned community that would serve as a center for American enterprise and urban living. Known as "EPCOT", the idea included an urban city center, residential areas, industrial areas, schools, and a series of mass transportation systems that would connect the community. After Disney's death in 1966, the "EPCOT" concept was abandoned as the company had uncertainty about the feasibility of maintaining an operating city. In the 1970s, WED Enterprises began developing a second theme park for the resort to supplement Magic Kingdom, as that park's popularity grew. The new park reprised the idea of showcasing modern innovation through avant-garde edutainment attractions, as well as the addition of a world nations exposition. The newly-designed park, featuring two sections—Future World and World Showcase—opened as EPCOT Center in 1982. In 1994, the park was renamed to "Epcot", dropping the acronym and "Center" from the name.
In 2019, Epcot hosted 12.444 million guests, ranking it as the fourth-most-visited theme park in North America and the seventh-most-visited theme park in the world. The park is represented by Spaceship Earth, a geodesic sphere.
1960s: Experimental concept
The park's name, Epcot, was previously an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, a utopian city of the future planned by Walt Disney, often interchanging "city" and "community." In Walt Disney's words: "EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed but will always be introducing and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise."
His original vision was for a model community that would have been home to twenty thousand residents and a test bed for city planning as well as organization. It was to have been built in the shape of a circle with businesses and commercial areas at its center with community buildings, schools, and recreational complexes around it while residential neighborhoods would line the perimeter. This radial plan concept is strongly influenced by British planner Ebenezer Howard and his Garden Cities of To-morrow. Transportation would have been provided by monorails and PeopleMovers (like that in Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland). Automobile traffic would be kept underground, leaving pedestrians safe above ground. Walt Disney was not able to obtain funding and permission to start work on his Florida property until he agreed to first build Magic Kingdom. He died nearly five years before Magic Kingdom opened.
1970s: Concept evolves into park
After Walt Disney's death, Walt Disney Productions decided that it did not want to be in the business of running a city without Walt's guidance. 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 (now Lake Buena Vista), a legislative mechanism allowing Disney 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, Disney 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 further cemented this control by deannexing Celebration from the RCID.
The original plans for the park showed indecision over the park's purpose. 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 a World's Fair international theme, and the two were combined. The park was originally named EPCOT Center to reflect the ideals and values of the city. It was constructed for an estimated $800 million to $1.4 billion and took three years to build, at the time the largest construction project on Earth. The parking lot serving the park is 141 acres (57 ha) (including bus area) and can accommodate 11,211 vehicles (grass areas hold additional 500+ vehicles). Before it opened on October 1, 1982, Walt Disney World Ambassador Genie Field introduced E. Cardon Walker, Disney's chairman and CEO, who dedicated EPCOT Center. Walker also presented a family with lifetime passes for the two Walt Disney World theme parks. His remarks were followed by Florida Governor Bob Graham and William Ellinghaus, president of AT&T.
1980s: Opening and operation
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 was gathered from major rivers across the globe and emptied into the park's fountain of nations ceremonial containers to mark the opening.
The theme park opened on October 1, 1982. Located at the front of the park is a plaque bearing Walker's opening-day dedication:
To all who come to this place of joy, hope and friendship, welcome.
Epcot is inspired by Walt Disney's creative vision. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.
May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.
1990s–2000s: Change in vision
Despite its initial success, Epcot was constantly faced with the challenges of evolving with worldwide progress, an issue that caused the park to lose relevance and become outdated in the 1990s. To maintain attendance levels, Disney introduced seasonal events such as the International Flower & Garden Festival and the International Food & Wine Festival in 1994 and 1995, respectively. In the mid-1990s, Disney also began to gradually phase out the park's edutainment attractions in favor of more modern and thrilling attractions. As a result, many of the attractions within the Future World pavilions, were either rehauled or replaced entirely. Universe of Energy was reconfigured as Ellen's Energy Adventure in 1996, World of Motion was rethemed as Test Track, and Horizons was demolished in 1999 and replaced with Mission: Space. Walt Disney World held the Millennium Celebration with the central focus of the event at Epcot. The Living Seas was closed in 2005, and rethemed with the introduction of characters from Finding Nemo, as The Seas with Nemo & Friends. That same year, the Soarin' attraction was added to The Land. Wonders of Life closed in 2007, with the pavilon being occasionally used for the park's annual festivals.
2010–present: Transformation and redesign
In November 2016, Disney revealed that Epcot would be receiving “a major transformation” that would help transition the park into being “more Disney, timeless, relevant, family-friendly”, while keeping the original vision alive. No further details were mentioned. In July 2017, The Walt Disney Company formally announced that Epcot would undergo a multi-year, redesign and expansion plan that would introduce Guardians of the Galaxy and Ratatouille attractions to Future World and World Showcase, respectively, as well as maintaining the original vision and spirit for the park. As part of the announcement, Ellen's Energy Adventure closed the following month, and the interior of the show building was gutted to be reused for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. That same year, the park reported the first drop in overall attendance ranking among the four Walt Disney World Resort parks, dropping from second to third place, the first in its history.
On August 25, 2019, at the 2019 D23 Expo, Disney expanded on the plans for the improvements to Epcot. One of the most significant changes announced was the creation of four distinct "neighborhoods", with the subdivision of Future World into three of the aforementioned areas and World Showcase remaining as the fourth one. The park's name will change from "Epcot" to "EPCOT".
Disney officials described World Celebration as the home of "new experiences that connect us to one another and the world around us". It will include the park's revised main entrance, a reimagined Spaceship Earth, and the removal of the Innoventions West buildings. Just beyond Spaceship Earth will be Dreamer's Point, which will include a new statue of Walt Disney, and a three-story festival pavilion which includes a 360-degree viewing platform on the top level.
The western side of Future World will be renamed to World Nature, which will focus on "understanding and preserving the beauty, awe and balance of the natural world". The Land and The Seas with Nemo & Friends pavilions will be incorporated into this area, along with a new attraction named Journey of Water, which draws its inspiration from the 2016 animated feature film Moana.
The eastern side of Future World will host several major thrill attractions as begin the "stories about spaces, science, technology and intergalactic adventure comes to life", including Test Track, Mission: Space, and the under-construction Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Mission: Space will be expanded to include a new restaurant, Space 220, which will simulate dining aboard a space station located 220 miles above Earth. It will be operated by Patina Restaurant Group, which also operates the two restaurants in the Italy pavilion, Via Napoli and Tutto Italia. The dormant Wonders of Life pavilion will be renovated into Play!, an attraction where guests will interact with popular Disney characters in various activities.
Changes to World Showcase
The current World Showcase area will maintain its current theme, continuing to be "a celebration of culture, cuisine, architecture, and traditions – infused with new magic." Both the France and United Kingdom pavilions will receive new attractions inspired by Ratatouille and Mary Poppins respectively. A new fireworks nighttime spectacular, HarmonioUS, will honor Disney music interpreted by various global cultures, and it was announced that a new shows' massive barges will be permanently installed on the World Showcase Lagoon, offering an ambient feel during the day.  The show will replace IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth and will feature similar elements including pyrotechnics, choreographed water fountains, searchlights, lasers, floating set pieces, and LED panels.
Epcot is divided into two main themed areas: Future World and World Showcase. The World Showcase usually opens two hours after park opening and remains open later than the Future World section of the park. Most major attractions in Future World remain open until the park's closing time. A secondary park gate is located between the France and United Kingdom pavilions of World Showcase and is known as the International Gateway. The International Gateway is directly accessible to guests arriving from the Disney Skyliner and the nearby Epcot Area Resorts and Disney's Hollywood Studios.
The Walt Disney World Monorail System passes through Future World.
The conservatory-inspired architecture of The Land pavilion
Future World consists of a variety of avant-garde pavilions that explore innovative aspects and applications including technology and science, with each pavilion featuring self-contained attractions and distinct architecture in its design. Future World also serves as the park's main entrance and features Spaceship Earth, a large geodesic sphere structure and the anchor pavilion, which also houses an eponymous dark ride attraction that depicts the history of communication. At the center of Future World is the former Innoventions plaza. From this position, the remaining six pavilions surround the plaza in clockwise order:
- Imagination! is themed to imagination and creativity and features two attractions; Journey into Imagination with Figment and the Disney-Pixar Short Film Festival.
- The Land depicts human interaction with the Earth, focusing on agriculture, ecology, and travel. The pavilion contains Soarin' Around the World, an attraction that simulates a hang gliding flight over various regions of the world; Living with the Land, a narrated boat tour through Audio-Animatronics scenes, a greenhouse and hydroponics lab; and Awesome Planet, a 4D film about the Earth's biomes and the perils of climate change.
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends is based on ocean exploration inspired by Finding Nemo and features an Omnimover attraction, Turtle Talk with Crush, and an aquarium with animal exhibits.
- Mission: Space, centered on space exploration, is a centrifugal motion simulator thrill ride that replicates a space flight experience to Mars and a low orbit tour over the surface of Earth.
- Test Track is a thrill ride inspired by the rigorous automobile testing procedures that General Motors uses to evaluate concept cars.
- The Odyssey Events Pavilion currently features a Walt Disney Imagineering preview exhibit detailing the forthcoming redesign plans for Epcot.
Originally, Future World debuted with six pavilions: Spaceship Earth, CommuniCore, Imagination!, The Land, Universe of Energy, and World of Motion. The Horizons pavilion opened the following year, and The Living Seas and Wonders of Life pavilions were added in 1986 and 1989, respectively, bringing the lineup to nine. CommuniCore, World of Motion, Horizons, Wonders of Life, Universe of Energy, and Innoventions closed in 1994, 1996, 1999, 2007, 2017, and 2019, respectively. The Fountain of Nations, a large circular musical fountain, was closed in 2019 as well. Each pavilion was initially sponsored by a corporation which helped fund its construction and maintenance in return for the corporation's logos and some marketing elements appearing throughout the pavilion.
Additionally, each pavilion of Future World featured a unique circular logo which was featured on park signage, and throughout the attractions themselves. The pavilion logos were gradually phased out in the early 2000s, as the pavilions instead were identified by name and recognized by the main attraction(s) housed inside. Several homages remain scattered throughout the park, including merchandising. However, at D23 Expo 2019, Disney revealed that the concept of the circular pavilion logos would be revived as part of Epcot's transformation, with both classic logos revived and new logos introduced.
World Showcase is a large area reminiscent of a permanent world's fair containing 11 pavilions, each themed and dedicated to represent a specific country. The pavilions surround the World Showcase Lagoon, a large man-made lake located in the center of World Showcase with a perimeter of 1.2 miles (1.9 km). In counter-clockwise order, the 11 pavilions are:
- World Showcase pavilions
There is a small pavilion between China and Germany called the African Outpost, not included as one of the official World Showcase pavilions.
Of the 11 pavilions, only Morocco and Norway were not present at the park's opening, as they were added in 1984 and 1988, respectively. Each pavilion contains themed architecture, landscapes, streetscapes, attractions, shops and restaurants representing the respective country's culture and cuisine. In an effort to maintain the authenticity of the represented countries, the pavilions are primarily staffed by citizens of the respective countries as part of the Cultural Representative Program through Q1 visa agreements. Some pavilions also contain themed rides, shows, and live entertainment representative of the respective country. The only pavilion that is directly sponsored by the government of its respective country is Morocco; the remaining pavilions are primarily sponsored by private companies with affiliations to the represented countries.
Originally, the showcase was to include partnerships with the governments of the different countries. According to Disney's 1975 Annual Report, the Showcase would:
...offer participating countries a permanent installation for such features as themed restaurants and shops, product exhibits, industrial displays, cultural presentations, a trade center, and even special facilities for business meetings.
Major sponsorships for each participating nation will be asked to provide the capital to cover the cost of designing, developing and constructing its attraction and/or ride and all exhibits, as well as the Pavilion itself. It will also have the responsibility for funding the housing for its employees in the International Village. Its land lease will cover the cost of maintaining the attraction for a minimum of ten years.
The Disney organization will be responsible for area development, including the construction of transportation systems and utilities. We will also build and operate the internal people moving system, the Courtyard of Nations and central theater facility.
Proposed pavilions and unused locations
Pavilions for Brazil, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Russia, Denmark, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Spain, Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel have occasionally been rumored as potential future pavilions but have never made it past the planning phases to date. However, Disney did go as far as announcing three of the pavilions in the 1980s with signage throughout the park.
The Israeli, Spanish, and an Equatorial Africa pavilion (blending elements of the cultures of countries such as Kenya and Zaire) were even announced as coming soon in 1982, and a model of the latter was shown on the opening day telecast, but never took off. Instead, a small African themed refreshment shop known as the Outpost currently resides where Equatorial Africa was to be. More than 50 nations, among them Israel, Brazil, Chile, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and 5 African countries (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa), took part in the Millennium Village, a project that took place in Epcot during Millennium Celebration (1999-2001) to pay homage to the cultural achievements of these nations.
There are currently eight undeveloped spots for countries around the World Showcase—including the space occupied by the Outpost—in between the locations of the current countries. Two of the potential locations, on either side of the United Kingdom, are currently occupied by World ShowPlace (successor of Millennium Village). Two more lie on either side of the American Adventure, though this pavilion's use of reversed forced perspective may preclude the construction of additional buildings as they would ruin the illusion. The new Ratatouille attraction is also taking up one of the undeveloped spots.
Unlike Magic Kingdom, which up until 2012 did not serve alcohol and now only serves it in all table service locations, most stores and restaurants at Epcot, especially in the World Showcase, serve and/or sell a variety of alcoholic beverages including specialty drinks, craft beers, wines, and spirits reflective of the respective countries. The park also hosts the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, an annual event featuring food and drink samplings from all over the world, along with live entertainment and special exhibits.
The World Showcase Adventure
Originally based on the Disney Channel animated series Kim Possible, the World Showcase Adventure is an interactive mobile attraction taking place in several pavilions throughout the World Showcase. The attraction is an electronic scavenger hunt that has guests using special "Kimmunicators" (in actuality, customized cell phones) to help teenage crime-fighters Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable solve a "crime" or disrupt an evil-doer's "plans for global domination." The "Kimmunicator" is able to trigger specific events within the pavilion grounds that provide clues to completing the adventure. Launched in January 2009 and presented by Verizon Wireless, the Adventure is included in park admission. It was succeeded by Agent P's World Showcase Adventure, based on Disney's Phineas and Ferb, on June 23, 2012. Agent P's World Showcase Adventure was later closed on February 17, 2020 and was replaced by the DuckTales World Showcase Adventure, based on the 2017 reboot of DuckTales.
Epcot hosts a number of special events during the year:
- The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, inaugurated in 1994, uses specially-themed floral displays throughout the park, including topiary sculptures of Disney characters. Guests can meet gardening experts and learn new ideas they can use in their own home gardens. The 18th annual event was scheduled for March 2 – May 15. Each event takes more than a full year to plan and more than 20,000 cast member hours.
- The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, inaugurated in 1995, draws amateur and professional gourmets to sample delicacies from all around the world, including nations that do not have a permanent presence in World Showcase. Celebrity chefs are often on-hand to host the events. In 2008, the festival featured the Bocuse d'Or USA, the American semifinal of the biennial Bocuse d'Or cooking competition.
- The Epcot International Festival of the Arts, inaugurated in 2017, is a festival showcasing visual, culinary, and performing arts. The first annual event took place on weekends from January 13 through February 20, 2017. The 3rd annual Epcot International Festival of the Arts took place January 18 - February 25, 2019.
- The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays is Epcot's annual holiday celebration. The World Showcase pavilions feature storytellers describing their nation's holiday traditions, and three nightly performances of the "Candlelight Processional" featuring an auditioned mass choir and a celebrity guest narrating the story of Christmas.
- On New Year's Eve, the park offers a variety of additional entertainment including live DJ dance areas throughout the park.
The Official Album of Walt Disney World EPCOT Center
- Side 1
- "Main Entrance Medley (Instrumental)" – 3:29
- "Golden Dream" – The American Adventure in the World Showcase – 3:27
- "Energy (You Make the World Go 'Round)" – Universe of Energy – 1:48
- "The Computer Song" – Epcot Computer Central – 2:32
- "Magic Journeys" – Journey Into Imagination – 3:36
- "Canada (You're A Lifetime Journey)" – Canada in the World Showcase – 3:22
- Side 2
- "Universe of Energy" – Universe of Energy – 2:14
- "Listen to the Land" – The Land – 2:59
- "One Little Spark" – Journey Into Imagination – 3:40
- "It's Fun to Be Free" – World of Motion – 2:14
- "Makin' Memories" – Journey Into Imagination – 3:26
- "Kitchen Kabaret Medley" – The Land – 2:20
- Boogie Woogy Bakery Boy
- Meat Ditties
- Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit
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- "Various - The Official Album Of Walt Disney World Epcot Center". Discogs. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- Alcorn, Steve and David Green. Building a Better Mouse: The Story of the Electronic Imagineers Who Designed Epcot. Themeperks Press, 2007, ISBN 0-9729777-3-2.
- Mannheim, Steve (2002). Walt Disney and the Quest for Community. Routledge. ISBN 0754619745.
|Preceding station||Walt Disney World Monorail||Following station|
| Host of FIRST Robotics World Championship