Happy 30th Anniversary Epcot – Part One

Written by Alain Littaye. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Walt Disney World

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Published on October 01, 2012 at 12:27 am with 6 Comments

Epcot is 30 years old today. When the park opened on October 1st 1982, it was a groundbreaking and ambitious project not unlike a large scale Tomorrowland with a World’s Fair tacked on to the side. The scale, vision and detail of the park was stunning. Since opening, the park has been transformed in lots of little ways, slowly chipping away at the cohesive opening day feel of Future World, but incorporating in popular characters and attractions which make Epcot seem more theme park and less educational in tone.

In celebration of 30 years, we’ve assembled some original Imagineering artwork and concepts. Many of these made the final cut, some didn’t and others have already come and gone over the course of time.

We’ll start at the logical spot, the iconic centerpiece of the park, Spaceship Earth.  Most of the renderings below were done by artist/illustrator Claudio Mazzoli, except the rendering on the top which was done by Herb Ryman.

Epcot

We begin with this Herb Ryman painting showing the exterior of Spaceship Earth. Next are some images for the cro-magnon cave sequence.


Strangely, it seems that a scene with dinosaurs was considered before being cancelled.


Here is the rendering of the Egyptian temple sequence.


This one is for the Phoenician scene.


Three renderings , now, for the Gutenberg press scene.


Artwork for the Michelangelo – Sistine chapel scene.


Two artwork for a scene called “the age of invention”


The model for the telephone-telegraph scene of the “age of invention”


Artwork for the outer space “planetarium” sequence as it was envisioned at the beginning

Communicore

For those of you who were too young to remember it, the area which now houses Innoventions was once a  totally different concept called Communicore.

The Imagineers developed lots of different concepts for this attraction. Here are a couple of interesting ideas for the interior.

And this one below shows what was called the Communicore Forum. Last time i walk through Communicore was in the early 1990′s, so i must admit that i don’t remember it very well. In fact, i don’t remember this Communicore Forum, but  perhaps some of you do.

Here is another drawing, obviously showing an area where guests could experiment….

THE LIVING SEAS
There was a time before Nemo when the Living Sea operated as a gee wiz must-see attraction.

As you will see, the artwork is beautiful. WDI Imagineer Tim Delaney was the show designer of The Living Seas and you will instantly identify in the artwork below his unique style.


Here is a first concept for the attraction which looks great!


This one shows the inside of the famous “Hydrolator,” a sort of elevator to the bottom of the sea.


The sea cabs transported you underwater to the main viewing areas of the pavilion.


This scene shows the guests riding in the sea cabs, through the underwater tunnel

Here is a view from “outside” . I don’t think the divers ever dressed as futuristic as they look here – not to mention the submarine vehicle…

Let’s come back to Sea Base Alpha

Does anyone else think this looks like a strange TRON costume.


This is the artwotk for the “scuba tube” scene

It seems that a “show” was envisioned with king Neptune (in the days before Little Mermaid)

And a restaurant with windows on the sea.

More Epcot original artwork coming soon! In the meantime, those of you who like seeing all these old Walt Disney Imagineering renderings, you will be happy to know that you can find 250 gorgeous WDI images in my Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality book – which is currently on sale for $40 off in the MiceChat Store.

Don’t miss the special offer. The book is wonderful to own as a collectors piece or give as a gift (perhaps for the holidays). Order a copy of the acclaimed Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality book before the price goes back up! I show off the whole book in  the video above.

Come back soon for the next part of our Epcot adventure.

About Alain Littaye

Alain is the author of Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality and a long time Disney historian and blogger. His book is known the world over as one of the best Disney theme park books ever assembled. You'll often find his work featured in the MiceChat Weekend Update and can find his latest musings on his personal blog: Disney and More Blog.

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6 Comments

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  1. [...] longing as it’s the thirtieth anniversary of the best theme park in the world, ever: EPCOT Center (okay, Epcot. And yes, even now,  with Horizons* gone and that ending to Spaceship Earth and no [...]

  2. I can tell you that’s Walt’s original vision for EPCOT was a community of “co-ops” where no single person or family owned their own home outright. I work in a community that has co-ops and in essence what you own is a “share” of the community (think of it like a mutual fund..only property). There are benefits, but also a lot of restrictions (more so than a typical HOA). Maybe back in the 1960’s when Walt’s concept came to light, it may have worked for a while, but as we know there is a great backlash against HOA’s and folks being told what they can and can’t do with their own home. Then there was the concept of using mass-transit and not owning your own car – No way! Now. if it ended up more like the overall concept of Irvine (as Celebration City did), then maybe.

  3. 30 years of Cars Land and Journey To The Center of the Earth… happy birthday Disney Second Parks. OK I’m still bitter at the “One Disney” Disneyland 50th birthday years ago(turned into Disney Parks 50th).

    Seriously though, there is something to be learned from the careful thought and passion put into these concepts and original attractions for EPCOT. The park was an intricate collection of spectacles unique in its feeling of scope, size and message. From Walter Cronkite narrating Spaceship Earth, to fun trip through your imagination, it was a cohesive unique/powerful Disney experience we’ll never see again. The addition of budget attractions like the Wonders of Life pavilion and the dumbing down of once impressive ones (i.e. adding Ellen to the Universe of Energy) was followed by the full replacement well-thought-out, highly crafted attractions/experiences with less inspirational, less fully fleshed-out/budgeted thrill attractions that didn’t contribute to the cohesive story that was EPCOT.

    Maybe this educational/inspirational experience was rightly seen as too dull and needed to be amped up with some adrenaline to compete with Universal Parks and actually changed for the better. They might have been getting bad feedback, and I know about the time of EPCOT’s straying from it’s original vision they killed WESTCOT at Disneyland (lets be honest, it would have been a ghost town, how many times a year would LA locals want to sit on a ride learning about world history or why oil companies are our friends). But the EPCOT’s inability to adjust and IMPROVE upon these these sketches and concepts with new/better immersive/educational experiences kind of depressed me the last time I was there and haven’t had a desire to go back since. I know it will eventually find its footing and get its mojo back, but all of these impressive pieces of concept art reminds me of the great achievement of EPCOT.

    • I could not agree more elcarr. The dumbing down or cheapening of Journey into Imagination broke my goddaughters heart. And for what reason other than to save money? It’s funny, after the company got rid of most of the family friendly rides they started a campaign on the cast members to remind the guests that EPCOT has plenty of wonderful children’s activities like climbing on a small viking ship. Coloring locations. Making paper masks on Popsicle sticks! Kids can do these at home!

  4. Yes I remember the original Communicore as I was at EPCOT (Center) on opening day. At the time it had a lot to offer and was a good gateway to the other areas (I think at the time you had to go through part of Communicore to get to the briges that went off to the other pavillions?).
    I also have many other the original books and remember being a little disappointed at what Lving Seas turned out to be (instead of the cool looking aqau pods that went through those tubes).

  5. Nice Article and great pictures! :)

    Timekeeper