LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The park that Walt Disney described as his ‘Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow,’ or ‘Epcot’ for short, opened to the public 39 years ago today.
After successfully running the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California, for over a decade, Walt Disney and his brother, Roy O. Disney, took to the east coast for their next theme park project. They reportedly held a news conference on November 15th, 1965, in Downtown Orlando to discuss their ‘Florida project,’ which is what eventually became known as ‘Walt Disney World Resort.’
"After taking a look at the land this morning, I say we are starting from scratch. We have many things in mind that could make this unique and different than Disneyland," Walt said. "To have this enthusiasm on the part of our whole organization and on the part of the people of the state of Florida really is a good start."
A year later, on October 27th, 1965, Walt filmed a video about the Florida resort, including details on Walt Disney World’s location.
"We have a perfect location in Florida – almost in the very center of the state," he explained. "Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland – the blessing of size. There is enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine."
Walt also highlighted the park’s location between Orlando and Kissimmee, stating that "the important thing is that the Disney World is located just a few miles from the crossing point of Interstate 4 and Sunshine State Parkway: Florida’s major highways carrying motors east to west and east and south to the center of the state."
In the same video, Walt also discussed the idea of Epcot, which he said stood for ‘Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow.’ He described the park as "the most exciting and by far the most important part of our Florida project — in fact the heart of everything we will be doing in Disney World."
He added that "Epcot will take its queue 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. That will always be introducing and testing and demonstrating new materials and new systems."
So, while Magic Kingdom was the first park to open at Walt Disney World Resort, clearly Walt really valued Epcot and its potential to educate and innovate. Unfortunately, he passed away before ground broke at either park. His brother, Roy, took over the Florida project and named it ‘Walt Disney World’ to ensure that the world would always remember his brother’s dream, Disney confirmed.
The first phase of Walt Disney World opened on October 1st, 1971. Disney said that it included the Magic Kingdom park, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Eight years later, on October 1st, 1979, construction officially began at Epcot.
November 1978: Disney World, Epcot Centre, Florida, as it was expected to look in 1982. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
Employees Working at Disney Epcot Center (Photo from Getty Images)
During the final stages of construction, workers bolt aluminum panels onto the frame of Spaceship Earth, the 180-foot-high geosphere that is the centerpiece of Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center. Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Kevin Fleming/Corbis via Get
It took another three years to complete the park and Epcot officially opened on October 1st, 1982, which is exactly eleven years after Magic Kingdom’s debut. It was the second of four Disney parks to open in Florida.
At the time, Disney said that Epcot had five ‘Future World’ pavilions — Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, World of Motion, Journey Into Imagination, and The Land — and nine ‘World Showcase’ pavilions, representing Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, the American Adventure, Japan, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. In September 1984, Morocco would join the World Showcase. Norway then joined in June 1988.
1980s: Spaceship Earth attraction at Epcot Center, Disney World in Orlando, FL. Epcot opened on October 1, 1982. (Photo by Roger Viollet via Getty Images)
Grand opening ceremony at EPCOT in 1982 at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Photo from Walt Disney World)
The EPCOT Center (Photo by Bernard Annebicque/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)
Mickey and pals at EPCOT in 1989 at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Photo from Walt Disney World)
Disneyworld On January 1st, 1997 In Orlando, United States - Epcot (Photo by Gilles BASSIGNAC/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Over the next 39 years, several new attractions and experiences would debut at Epcot.
For example, ‘The Living Seas’ attraction, now known as the ‘The Seas with Nemo & Friends,’ opened at Epcot on January 15th, 1986. It is home to over 200 species of sea life in 5.7 million gallons of saltwater.
The Living Seas (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)
Then, on April 29, 1994, the first-ever ‘Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival’ is said to have debuted. Other festivals dedicated to food and wine, the arts, and holidays were introduced in the years that followed.
Fast-forward to August 2019, when Disney announced that Epcot would undergo the "biggest transformation of any Disney park in history" over several years, bringing in new attractions, restaurants, and experiences.
With these changes, Disney said that Epcot will be unified by four neighborhoods: World Showcase, World Nature, World Discovery, and World Celebration. These officially take effect on October 1st, 2021, which is also the first day of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration, dubbed ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration.’
As part of its historic transformation, EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., will be unified with four neighborhoods that each speak to important aspects of the world and its people: World Showcase, World Celebration, World Na
"These neighborhoods are filled with new experiences rooted in authenticity and innovation that take guests to new destinations, where the real is made fantastic in a celebration of curiosity, discovery and the magic of possibility," they added.
Disney has also outlined some of the new experiences coming to each neighborhood.
Disney said that World Showcase will "continue to be a celebration of culture, cuisine, architecture, and traditions -- infused with new magic." The existing country pavilions will be located in this world.
At the center of this neighborhood is the ‘World Showcase Lagoon,’ where one of the largest nighttime spectaculars ever created for a Disney park will debut on October 1st. Called ‘Harmonious,’ the show is said to celebrate the way Disney music inspires people all over the world.
It features Disney tunes reinterpreted by a group of 240 artists from around the world, massive set pieces, custom-build LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics, and lasers, Disney said.
"Harmonious" will debut Oct. 1, 2021, at EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. As one of the largest nighttime spectaculars ever created for a Disney park, the show will celebrate how the music of Disney inspires people the worl
’Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure’ will also reportedly open on October 1st inside World Showcase, specifically in the expanded France pavilion.
The real is made fantastic in a reimagining of Paris in a new section of the France pavilion at EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., featuring the new family-friendly attraction Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and new restaurant
The new attraction is based on Disney and Pixar’s Academy Award-winning animation, ‘Ratatouille.’ Riders are transported to Paris that feels straight out of the film. Those onboard reportedly "shrink" down to the size of Chef Remy as they race through Gusteau’s restaurant on an adventure.
The grand opening for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is set for Oct. 1, 2021, at EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The family-friendly attraction makes guests feel as if they shrink to the size of Chef Remy as they scurry thro
FOX 35 got a ‘squeak peek’ at the attraction in early September.
Also opening on October 1st inside the France pavilion is ‘La Crêperie de Paris,’ a new restaurant that will offer table-and quick-service options, Disney said. The menu includes sweet crepes, buckwheat galettes, and French hard cider.
Then, there is also the ‘Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along’ inside the France pavilion. Disney said that the show is directed by Don Hahn, the producer of both the animated and live-action versions of this tale.
Finally, Disney said that there will be a new fast-casual restaurant at the American Adventure pavilion. ‘Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue’ will serve classic barbecue dishes and home-style craft brews.
‘World Celebration’ will "offer new experiences that connect us to one another and the world around us," Disney said. This neighborhood greets guests with open pathways and green spaces as they enter Epcot. It bridges the gap between the past, present, and future of the park with a new fountain and three pylons at the base of the ‘Spaceship Earth' attraction. There will also be new lighting, music, and flags around the fountain, representing the six original Epcot icons.
(Disney Parks Blog)
Starting October 1st, ‘Spaceship Earth’ will transform at night into a ‘Beacon of Magic’ with new lights shining across the geodesic sphere’s reflective panels. The lights connect together in what Disney says is a "symbol of optimism resembling stars in a nighttime sky."
(Disney Parks Blog)
Epcot's new flagship merchandise destination, ‘Creations Shop’ is said to have opened inside World Celebration earlier this month. The store celebrates the park’s past and the exciting future by using one-of-a-kind art installations, meaningful souvenirs, and a contemporary architectural design.
Creations Shop at Epcot (Photo from Walt Disney World)
For example, Mickey Mouse, who has served as a symbol of creativity at Disney for decades, can reportedly be seen in a number of homages throughout the space, like in murals or as a sculpture.
Creations Shop at Epcot (Photo from Walt Disney World)
The merchandise sold at Creations Shop includes unique items sold only at Epcot. For instance, Disney said that the ‘Epcot Light & Color Collection’ is exclusive to this store specifically. It showcases futuristic designs inspired by the park’s historic transformation.
EPCOT Light & Color Collection (Photo from Walt Disney World)
There is also ‘Club Cool Hosted by Coca-Cola’ inside World Celebration. Visitors reportedly get to taste drinks from around the world.
Disney said guests in World Celebration will also get a chance to take in a new, breathtaking view at ‘Dreamers Point.’ The spot overlooks the World Showcase and features natural environments, global design elements, and a new statue honoring Walt Disney.
Finally, around Dreamers Point, there are said to be several new merchandise and dining locations. There will also be a reimagined festival area that will allow for future events.
Disney said that ‘World Nature’ is dedicated to "understanding and preserving the beauty, awe and balance of the natural world." This neighborhood will include ‘The Land’ and ‘The Seas with Nemo & Friends’ pavilions. The ‘Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana’ area will come later.
Inside ‘The Land’ pavilion will be the ‘Awesome Planet’ film, which Disney said showcases Earth’s beauty, diversity, and dynamic story. It lasts ten minutes and features both in-theater effects and an original musical score from Academy Award-winning composer Steven Price.
Then, the ‘Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana’ experience is said to be an exploration trail where guests can meet and play with "magical, living water." It is the first Disney Parks experience based on the hit Disney animation.
Journey of Water, Inspired by "Moana" at Epcot will be the first attraction inspired by the hit Walt Disney Animation Studios film. (Photo by Disney Parks Blog)
"Just like Moana’s friend the ocean, water will have a personality of its own, helping guests learn how to protect the natural water cycle in a fun and engaging way," Disney said.
Finally, the last of the four new neighborhoods is ‘World Discovery.’ Disney said that it will bring stories about science, technology, and intergalactic adventure to life. It will include the existing ‘Mission: Space’ pavilion and the first ‘other-world’ showcase pavilion at Epcot.
Earlier this month, the ‘Mission: Space’ pavilion expanded as the ‘Space 220’ restaurant opened. It features a panoramic view of Earth from space and prix fixe menus that take fine dining to a whole new level.
Space 220 restaurant outside (Photo from FOX 35's David Martin)
"Your immersive experience begins as you check in to the Space 220 Departure Lounge in Future World," Disney explained. "From here, you’ll board one of ‘Space Elevators’ that will transport you in what seems like 220 miles above Earth to Centauri Space Station. As you begin your ascent, you’ll look down through a viewport to see Epcot shrink away; looking up you’ll see the Space Station come into view."
Once in space, guests can purchase meals and drinks while taking in the extraordinary views.
Space 220 restaurant inside (Photo from FOX 35's David Martin)
Also coming to World Discovery is ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.’ Disney described the attraction as a "family-friendly ‘storytelling coaster’ that will feature a groundbreaking ride system with vehicles that rotate 360 degrees and can even do a reverse launch."
Photo by DisneyParks Blog
They explained that riders will begin their adventure in the ‘Galaxarium,’ a planetarium-like exhibition that explores Earth’s galaxy and Xandar, a planet from Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films. From there, riders will go on to learn about the treasures found on the planet but are interrupted when the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive.
Disney previously shared a video of the ride vehicle for the coaster, stating that "each individual cab in the attraction’s OmniCoaster ride system will direct your eyes to the story happening around you. Instead of whizzing by the action, the system will fully immerse you in the attraction’s story from the minute you take off."
Epcot guests can visualize the upcoming transformations at the ‘Walt Disney Imagineering presents the EPCOT Experience’ in the Odyssey Events pavilion.
That’s just a small taste of what’s to come during The World’s Most Magical Celebration. For more of what you need to know about the anniversary festivities planned for the next 18 months, check out ‘What to expect during Disney World's 50th anniversary celebration’ by FOX 35.
In addition, watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest theme park updates.