Happy Birthday EPCOT Center!
Where I’m from, the 21st Century began on October 1st, 1982. It was on this day that EPCOT Center opened at Walt Disney World Resort at Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
EPCOT Center felt like the future of the 1980s as envisioned by Atari. Walking up to the park for the first time, you were greeted by massive eighteen-story glistening geodesic sphere — an attraction called Spaceship Earth that took passengers on a journey through time. EPCOT Center is laid out in two basic areas; Future World exploring science and technology, and World Showcase celebrating community and the different cultures of the world.
“You are now cleared for departure to the 21st century!” bellowed over the loudspeakers when first boarding Horizons, a closed attraction that once served as EPCOT’s living thesis of tomorrow. The “tomorrow” EPCOT envisioned was both ambitious and optimistic. When EPCOT Center opened on October 1st, 1982 it really was like you were stepping into the future.
Originally, EPCOT Center was never intended to be a theme park. Walt conceived it as being a real, living city, where new ideas and advanced technology would be in a perpetual state of evolving. People who lived in EPCOT would reside in homes of the future, to be built with new products and prototypes being tested in the real world. (Walt Disney himself presents these concepts in his video below.) It was a massive undertaking, and while Walt Disney the man was up to the task, Walt Disney the company was not.
When Walt passed away, those left in charge of Disney had trouble wrapping their heads around just exactly what they were supposed to do. Walt was quite literally playing a real life game of Sim City, and those who lacked his vision had trouble with the process. The result wasn’t a city (not initially anyway) but a theme park that was to be a permanent World’s Fair, expanding on Walt’s initial themes of fostering community, discovery and future technology.
EPCOT’s history is far too expansive to cover in one blog post, but if you’re curious about exploring more of EPCOT’s past you should definitely check out Walt Dated World, E82 The EPCOT Legacy, and Lost EPCOT.
Justin is a Technology Entrepreneur, Futurist and Raconteur, and an avid Atari aficionado behind the creation of Atari I/O. He is also a contributing writer at The Retroist under the name Atari I/O. You can follow him at his website http://www.atari.io