Walt’s presentation on EPCOT as the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow aired in a press conference with Roy Disney on February 2, 1967.
On this day, Roy Disney held a WDW construction press conference at a theater in Winter Park, Florida. Here, they would view Walt’s last movie, a proposal for a prototype city of tomorrow. Let’s take a look back at his presentation.
Walt Disney’s EPCOT Press Conference Film
Walt Disney’s original plan for EPCOT was hardly similar to the park Guests to the Walt Disney World Resort see today.
In 1966, Walt met with Marty Sklar, Imagineering vice-chairman and principal creative executive, to discuss his plans to create an entirely new concept for an American city, bringing together industries, recreation, enhanced transportation systems, and a World’s Fair atmosphere all within a single community.
For some time, only Marty and other Imagineers who had worked on the project were in the know regarding EPCOT, and while the film showing Walt presenting his grand idea was created in 1966, Walt Disney unfortunately, passed away only eight weeks after it was recorded.
The following year, however, investors, city managers, members of the media, and more joined Roy Disney for a conference in Winter Park where the film would be shown.
While so much of the film focused on the now-defunct concept of EPCOT as a city, the recording was used to get legislators on board with Walt’s initiatives in Florida. Even though EPCOT came to be in an entirely different way, Walt’s presentation was ultimately successful in getting approval to build what we now know as the Walt Disney World Resort.
Importance of Technology and American Industry
Praised by Walt as the most important part of his Florida project, EPCOT, as it was depicted in the film, was to be a host for American industries. The city’s town center would have featured a World’s Fair setting featuring pavilions and shops representative of various countries, along with high rise apartment housing.
The further out from the center of the city one went, you would encounter schools and city buildings, plus recreational areas and greenspace for residents to enjoy. Further from there, you would find yourself in the suburbs divided up into smaller neighborhoods.
The technology already in use at Disneyland would have come into play at Walt’s EPCOT, as PeopleMover vehicles would transport residents from their neighborhoods into the city center.
In the city center, a central monorail station would be housed beneath a hotel, complete with a conference center and entertainment conference. The monorail would be used to transport residents longer distances, like to their offices or manufacturing jobs located a lengthier distance from their suburban or apartment-style homes.
Everything was thought of in terms of how residents of EPCOT would commute, work, and play while in the city, down to details like central roadways that would run underground to keep cars away from pedestrians.
Under the Dome?
At one point in the EPCOT presentation, the narrator, while going over some of the city center’s concept art mentions that the 50-acre area would be fully climate controlled. Following this line, a bubble, or dome, appears over the artwork.
If you are watching the film today, with the ability to click the “pause” button or rewind if you miss something, you might pick up that the “dome” was only intended to cover the retail and recreation portion of the city center (think of the concept like a large scale shopping mall).
For media participants only viewing the film one time in a quick theater presentation, however, it seemed as though the dome was intended to create a climate controlled environment for the entire city.
A climate-controlled dome might make our current version of EPCOT as a theme park easier to experience on humid Florida days today; however, a dome of this type was never originally intended. It does make for a fun rumor and piece of trivia, though!
Original EPCOT Concepts Today
The EPCOT that Walt intended never came to fruition because executives could not know for certain that the concept would work.
A concept they knew to be a success, however, the Magic Kingdom, proved that a Florida Disney theme park was possible, so with the help of then-Disney president Card Walker and creatives like Ray Bradbury, EPCOT Center as a theme park was on the table.
The park took cues from some of Walt’s original ideas, with World Showcase acting as a cultural World’s Fair of sorts, similar to what Walt’s film mentioned around the city center. Collaboration with the pavilion’s host countries came into play similarly to how the original EPCOT would have had corporate sponsors involved in different facilities.
Future World took Walt’s interest in technology and fused it with Ray Bradbury’s thought that EPCOT should show the history of humankind alongside where we would be going technologically.
As such, Bradbury ended up consulting on the attraction held within the park’s icon, Spaceship Earth, and he even designed the mural guests see as they enter the sphere today.
In the Magic Kingdom today, Guests can ride around Tomorrowland aboard the PeopleMover, the vehicle system whose original concept would have transported EPCOT residents to and from the city center.
While onboard the PeopleMover, Guests will also glide by a scale model of EPCOT as the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, similar to some of the models featured in the original film.
And of course, monorails are a staple of Disney transportation today, bringing Guests around the Magic Kingdom resort loop, and express to the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT via the Transportation and Ticket Center.
Next time you visit EPCOT, take a moment to savor all of the details in World Showcase and Future World and note how the original concept for Walt’s dream city became the theme park we know and love today!
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