Epcot Center

Epcot is a theme park dedicated to international culture and technological innovation. Located at Walt Disney World in Florida, it opened on October 1, 1982.

The name Epcot is derived from the acronym EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), a utopian city of the future planned by Walt Disney. (He sometimes used the word 'City' instead of 'Community' when expanding the acronym.) In Walt Disney's words: "EPCOT...will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing and testing and demonstrating new materials and systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise." Walt Disney's original vision of EPCOT was for a model community, home to twenty thousand residents, which would be a testbed for city planning and organization. The community was to have been built in the shape of a circle, with businesses and commercial areas at its center, community buildings and schools and recreational complexes around it, and residential neighborhoods along the perimeter. Transportation would have been provided by monorails and People Movers (like the one in the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland). Automobile traffic would be kept underground, leaving pedestrians safe above-ground. A giant dome was to have covered the community, so as to regulate its climate (this idea was later seen in the 1998 movie The Truman Show). Walt Disney said, "It will be a planned, controlled community, a showcase for American industry and research, schools, cultural and educational opportunities. In EPCOT there will be no slum areas because we won't let them develop. There will be no landowners and therefore no voting control. People will rent houses instead of buying them, and at modest rentals. There will be no retirees; everyone must be employed."

This vision was not realized. Walt Disney wasn't able to obtain funding and permission to start work on his Florida property until he agreed to build the Magic Kingdom first, and he passed away before its opening day. The Walt Disney Company later decided that it didn't want to be in the business of running a town. (The model community of Celebration, Florida has been mentioned as a realization of Disney's original vision, but Celebration is based on concepts of new urbanism which is radically different from Disney's modernist and futurist visions.) However, the idea of EPCOT was instrumental in prompting the state of Florida to create the Reedy Creek Improvement District and the Cities of Bay Lake and Reedy Creek (soon renamed Lake Buena Vista), a legislative mechanism which allows the Walt Disney Company to exercise governmental powers over Walt Disney World. Control over the RCID is vested in the landowners of the district, and the promise of an actual city in the district would have meant that the powers of the RCID would have been distributed among the landowners in EPCOT. Because the idea of EPCOT was never implemented, the Disney Corporation remained almost the sole landowner in the district allowing it to maintain control of the RCID and the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista. That the RCID is now primarily intended as an instrument of the Disney Corporation was illustrated when the RCID redrew its boundaries to exclude Celebration, Florida which would have diluted Disney's control over the RCID.

The Theme Park

Future World consists of a variety of pavilions that explore innovative aspects and applications of technology. The Epcot theme park was originally named EPCOT Center, to reflect the acronym explained above, and the fact that the park was located near the center of the Walt Disney property when it was built. Later, however, the "Center" was dropped as the property expanded and changed shape. "Epcot" was also changed to mixed-case as the park no longer reflected Walt Disney's plans for a futurist city. The original plans for the park showed indecision over what the park's purpose was to be: some Imagineers wanted it to represent the cutting edge of technology, while others wanted it to showcase international cultures and customs. At one point a model of the futuristic park was pushed together against a model of the international park, and EPCOT Center was born.

Epcot is generally regarded as more "learning-oriented" than other theme parks. It has only two thrill rides (Test Track and Mission: SPACE); the rest of its attractions are dark rides, shows, or walkthrough exhibits. Currently, Epcot's Future World is showing its age; the exhibits there can hardly be thought of as futuristic. A plan code-named "Project Gemini" is rumored to exist which would change Future World into "Discoveryland," change its theme to the idea of discovery, reduce the pressure to keep everything cutting-edge, and add a few more thrill rides. Various satirical expansions of the acronym EPCOT have emerged over time, such as "Every Person Comes Out Tired" (because of the amount of walking required in the park), "Every Paycheck Cashed on Tuesday" (the pay day for Disney cast members), and Eisner Puts Cash On his Table (in light of the high admission price to the Disney parks, and Disney CEO Michael Eisner's reported 40 million dollar bonuses in the 1990s).