Pressed by fans, Walt Disney World is expanding its observance of Epcot's 25th anniversary by providing company-sponsored public events to go along with private celebrations already set for Oct.1.
Disney is now planning a public "rededication ceremony" inside Epcot that day that will echo much of the original 1982 dedication. It also will have an exhibit hall dedicated to the park's first 25 years; a special "IlluminNations" light show at the close of the day; and retro guide maps, restaurant menus and other souvenirs.
Still, the observances are far less involved than those Disney has already organized for Epcot employees -- less even than some of the private events organized by Disney fans.
Disney officials had indicated earlier this year that there would be no company-sponsored public observances of Epcot's silver anniversary. Instead, they said commemorations would focus on the theme park's employees.
Many Epcot fans used various Internet forums to criticize Disney for not planning a public marking of the Epcot milestone. The fans also used the Internet to organize private celebrations. As their private arrangements picked up steam this summer, Disney apparently reconsidered its plans.
Epcot's new vice president, Jim MacPhee, announced in June that some sort of public celebration would take place. He also disclosed that Disney would take down the wand-and-arm structure that had towered over Epcot's signature attraction, Spaceship Earth, since 1999.
Now Disney is providing details of the public observances that will be available to paying visitors to the park on October 1st.
MacPhee, one of Epcot's original employees from 1982, said the anniversary is still focused on employees, particularly the 300 who both opened the park and still work there. That effort began earlier this month, with various commemorative decorations, giveaways and employee recognitions.
"We've always planned to celebrate the 25th anniversary for our cast. It began to evolve very quickly as we focused on what a great milestone it is," MacPhee said. "It's great. I love the fact that people have such huge passion about what we're doing."
The resort's change of heart may be partly attributed to the emerging success of various private Epcot parties -- including "Celebration 25," which is being spearheaded by Adam Roth, a 16-year-old Dr. Phillips High School junior.
Celebration 25, which will feature Epcot history tours, get-togethers and parties Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, started as an Internet-networked get-together of Epcot fans. Initially, it was expected to draw 100 or so participants, but the latest count tops 1,100 registrants.
Another private celebration, "The Epcot Thing," sponsored by the unofficial Disney-fan Web site MagicalMountain.net, also involves various parties and get-togethers Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. And the annual Florida convention of the National Fantasy Fan Club will take place at Disney World that weekend.
Disney officials have noticed the private preparations, and have called organizers to help coordinate the official and unofficial events.
Roth does not think the private celebrations goaded Disney into creating a public Epcot celebration. But he thinks they may have inspired Disney to do more than was originally intended.
"All our efforts combined -- I think it does show we do have a presence out there of fans," he said. "I think it was a polite reminder that it does mean something to us."
Source: Orlando Sentinel