Concept Art for Epcot the city

October 1st, 1982 the theme park industry would never be the same. Walt’s concept for a futuristic city was abandoned after his death, and the concept would go on to become Epcot Center. A theme park ahead of it’s time and destined for rapid change. But as technology began to outpace the budget of attraction updates, Epcot fell out of favor. Parents demanded characters, as original Epcot lacked Disney characters initially. Today everyone loves Epcot for different reasons, and we overlook the park’s shortcomings as we look forward to the next festival. Major changes were announced for Epcot at this years D23 Expo 2017. The entrance and central plaza will change considerably. Epcot will add several new attractions and an effort to wrangle and shift the theme is at hand.

Epcot Center concept art from Herb Ryman

On the parks 35th Birthday Disney held a ceremony to honor not only it’s legacy but the cast members who had been there since opening day. The day was fraught with challenges as it rained most of the morning and we were unsure the ceremony would happen. Thankfully, the skies opened up and the ceremony was able to happen. Mariachi Cobre, which has been at Epcot since opening day, opened the ceremony.


Walt Disney World ambassador Brandon Peters introduced the ceremony which included banners from all of the lands, countries and attractions at Epcot.

Melissa Valiquette, the VP of Epcot was next to speak. She said, “Welcome to this momentous day of reflection and celebration”. Melissa took time to celebrate the 100 cast members who still worked for Disney that started at Epcot on opening day. “Epcot is a place for fun. Its a place where the real is made fantastic by the magic of Disney. Its a place where we make cherished memories with our friends and our families. After 35 years Epcot is still beloved for its focus on imagination, innovation, fun, food and family. And with a very bright future ahead, the best part is we’ve only just begun to dream.”

George A. Kalogridis, president of the Walt Disney World Resort, was also there to speak about the momentous day. “It’s been an amazing 35 years, and as we look toward the future, there is so much more on the horizon.”

“Epcot has always been, and always will be, an optimistic celebration of the real world, brought to life through the magic of Disney. I promise you the exciting plans we have on the horizon will honor Epcot’s rich legacy of creativity and innovation while continuing to exceed the expectations of our guests, for decades to come.”

“The spirit of the expansion will continue to evolve Epcot to make it more timeless, more relevant, more family and more Disney, while staying true to its original vision.” Epcot remains “a place for family, a place for fun and a place for faith in our vision as a people. It is little wonder that so many have fallen in love with this park and its story.”

Voices of Liberty came out to sing a medley of Epcot songs that ended in a parade of Disney characters and an explosion of confetti ribbon.

It was clear for many fans that I met this weekend, Epcot holds a special place in a lot of Disney fan’s hearts. For me, it was an introduction to futuristic dreaming. A glimpse at time travel and science and technology. These things inspired me to become the person I am today. It was with that knowledge that I was excited to go to the D23 Fanniversary event held in the World Showplace between England and Canada in the World Showcase.

This event featured several panels featuring the imagineers who helped create Epcot and included lunch and was available exclusively to D23 members only.

The first panel was called “Epcot Attractions of Yesteryear” hosted by imagineer Daniel Joseph and historian Michael Crawford.

This panel featured fun facts related to the former attractions.

In Communicore, in a time when people didn’t yet have computers at home, it was a big deal to come to Epcot and see a working computer. Many of the computers that ran the park were housed in Communicore.

One of the reasons World of Motion was special, was that the model city of the future you saw at the end, was the original plan for Epcot. So when we were looking to the future, we were looking at Epcot the city.

A running theme at Epcot in the 1980’s was to end each attraction with a city view.

Center Core’s use of lasers was first of it’s kind and inspired the use of lasers in later attractions.

Journey into Imagination was not an opening day attraction, but it is not any less celebrated. It’s amazing to think that the interactivity in Image Works, the technology playground at the end of the attraction, was likely the first time all of us used a touch screen. Now they are as ubiquitous as can be, since most of us own a touch screen cell phone.

Peter Doctor (Pixar, Inside Out, etc) recorded a segment to talk about his involvement in Cranium Command. He was an intern at the time, and he was put in charge of some animation. He animated all the heads that were chopped off to reveal their brain and he made the heads resemble each person that was a part of the team. So you could see his head as well. He also remarked that, it could be that his involvement in Cranium Command, may have helped be the inspiration for the movie Inside Out.

Horizons brought state of the art technology (for it’s time) to the park. Omnimax film was used to project on giant screens in the first couple of scenes of the attraction. You might know omnimax better today as IMAX. So if you rode Horizons, you saw an IMAX screen before those that never rode Horizons!

Horizons also brought incredible scent technology to WDI. Using scent cannons they were able to project smells far to precise locations. This laid the ground work for scents to be used in storytelling in modern attractions like Soarin, Flight of Passage and others.

Horizons also used a special projector, shown here, that used magnet fluid that bounces off light.

Universe of Energy was one of the first buildings outfitted with then brand new solar technology and with Tesla building solar rood tiles, it correctly predicted the power of solar in our lives.

Universe of Energy also presented a few challenges. Like creating realistic lava. Yale Gracey mastered the art of light illusion using reflections and all sorts of magic illusions like lava.

Not sure what the attached memo said. But somehow the snails made it!

They even brought the snail himself! Meet Reggie!

Was that enough to entice you into three more panels, a look at Epcot 35 merchandise and a special announcement from D23? You’ll have to wait! Look for part 2 of my pics and write up featuring Epcot 35 coming soon, featuring the following panels:

  • 35 Things You Didn’t Know About Epcot featuring Disney Legend Tony Baxter, and imagineers Jason Grandt and Diana Brost.
  • Epcot Dreamers and Doers Panel featuring Imagineer Jason Grandt, Walt Disney Parks Senior Vice President Jim MacPhee, Disney Legend Bill “Sully” Sullivan, Future World Leader Rick Allen, Imagineers Zach Riddley, Wyatt Winter and Alex Wright and former Disney imagineer Patrick Brennan who each played a role in shaping the world of tomorrow, from 1982 to today!
  • Epcot Entertainment through the years, a showcase of music, dance and the arts. Featuring Epcot President Melissa Valiquette, show directors Marsha Jackson-Randolph and Forrest Bahruth, Mariachi Cobre leader Randy Carrillo and Epcot Entertainment leader Christopher Stewart.

Thanks for joining me! What do you think so far? Would you spring for a birthday celebration theme park trip in the future? Let me know! Is Epcot’s history special for you? Tell me why! Let’s usher in the future together!