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EPCOT Center

EPCOT Center

Articles that highlight the history of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT Center.

This is an open letter to Tom Fitzgerald - Please re-tweet, re-share until we know he has seen it. Comments and thoughts welcome!


You have no idea who I am and I'll be honest, I only know you from your personal submarine welding experience at Sea Castle as well as the demonstration of imagineering excellence you have bestowed up on the Disney theme parks over the years. This letter doesn't serve as anything more than part rant, part excitement, part sadness for the EPCOT Center that is gone, but most importantly, part relief that someone of your stature will soon be in charge.

I don't have to tell you that EPCOT needs help. Otherwise, you wouldn't have been put into this position and there never would have been such an audible cheer across the twittersphere when it was announced that you would soon be at the helm. I'll admit, I had this overwhelming feeling of excitement and ideas quickly bubbled up when I thought about possible changes and all the things that EPCOT was years ago. The ideas kept coming and coming, so much in fact that I had to write them down and get them out into the open.

So that's what this letter is, a brain dump of ideas, but it's spoken not from someone who misses the EPCOT of old, but from the entire community that loved EPCOT years ago and wants to feel the same again.

Whats in a Name?
     So lets start with names, we all know EPCOT is an acronym, and there is no point going into what it means and stands for - we all know. The full name should be EPCOT Center. No, it's not Epcot, and it's not Epcot in a cute circa 1998 script font with a sequined wand hanging over Spaceship Earth. It's EPCOTCenter because it would have been the - Center - of Walt's original plan, and now it should be the center of the creative visions of tomorrow and demonstration of the world and its inhabitants.

    Each Future World pavilion used to have its own stylized logo. Via color or symbol you knew what the pavilion was; the signs easily told you where to go. The distinct character of each logo gave a uniqueness to each pavilion, yet all combined, they created a symbiotic relationship between the entire set. It made sense and we all liked it. Sometime, somewhere, someone though it would be a great idea to remove those logos and colors, now the signs look like nothing more than some corporate industrial park entrance sign. Maybe it won't be colors, maybe you'll make new symbols, but bring the pavilions together again in a cohesive fashion, even if it is for the sake of maps and navigation.

    Years ago there was an amazing sense of wonderment as you walked through the park. The songs that could be heard playing toyed with our imagination and are now engrained in our heads until the end of time. Where did that instrumental version of One Little Spark go? Why can't I hear the overatures that were written for EPCOT, are they just not "hip" enough for today's mp3 techno crowd? They are as classic as any Disney song and they should be piped in around the park once again. The musical geniuses at Disney can certainly whip up some new ones as well.

Main Entrance
    Time to move "Leave a Legacy" to a more fitting location; navigating this maze of gravestones and cheap 4bit graphics gives no sense of wonder as you approach Spaceship Earth. There was a time when the wide open tracts of space with flower plantings all pointed in one direction and lead you to the fountain. Bring back the fountain, bring back the open feeling. I don't doubt there are those that want to see their leave a legacy images preserved, and they have every right to have them kept, but either scatter them around the park or move them to another location that isn't obtrusive to the integrity of the park. Oh, and that music I mentioned, it should be playing everywhere in the entrance area.

Spaceship Earth
    This attraction has been minimally touched over the years [in the grand scheme of things], and for the most part the changes have done well to keep the original message of the attraction. However I do have some criticism towards some of the improvements... Years ago, as you approached the apex of the attraction, the music reached a crescendo and you were treated to an amazing view of the earth rising and the powerful soundtrack taking over. Chills would run down my spine, I was proud and amazed at the same time. But now reaching the top of Spaceship Earth is anti-climatic and lacks any awe or desire to do it again. It is time to fix this, and while you're at it, make the descent a proper tribute to the future and tomorrows child. We don't have to hear that song again, but give us something to look at other than 9" LCD screens, we get enough of that every day on our smart phones.

Make us want to change the future with our children, not just how how we will be a part of it.

    Yes, Communicore. Dump the cheesy Innoventions name, it sounds like it was an Innovention itself. I agree these areas should be fluid and ever-changing as new companies come and go. Isn't that what Walt wanted? Change and display of new technologies. This is the place to do it. Yes of course, it is "kind of" being done with Innoventions, but it could be done on much grander scale, and the presentation could be improved as well.

    Sum of all thrills - Good idea, but not quite. This should be a tribute to classic Disney attractions. Through the use of video, 3D/4D and virtual reality technology create experiences of now closed/dismantled attractions. Imagine climbing in and descending 20,000 leagues under the sea, zipping around with Mr Toad or cruising through the World of Motion. Wait, what is that I smell, oranges? We must be at Mesa Verde!

Ultimate Horizons Tribute - Win over the fans that keep the retro-EPCOT movement going; simple and can be done in multiple pavilions:
    Integrate Brava Centauri into Mission Space
    Integrate Mesa Verde into the Land
    Integrate Sea Castle into the Living Seas
    'nuff said.
The Living Seas
    A pavilion that once truly felt like you were visiting another location was turned into a dark void of speckled blue paint. What on earth was the team thinking? No no no.. A few hundred gallons of paint, some stencils and Imagineering know-how will bring back the brightness that was once Sea Base Alpha.

    Yes I know, people will tell me that the characters should go, but I respect and understand the importance of character integration for today's short attention span crowd. They want reasons to go into an attraction and a character they know and love is easy bait. Doesn't mean you can't educate them and let them enjoy their characters at the same time. Think Donald in Mathmagic Land...

    The new beach entrance is good, but no one ever realizes that you "descend" underwater. They all look up and say "hey look, a boat" giggle and move on. That area should be changed so the that queue is ON the dock. With the sea-cab track expanded to the original layout and those boarded up windows once again opened to the big blue world, visitors would board the new sea-cabs above the surface at the edge of the dock. Sea Cabs should look like something that could go underwater; then as the ride starts Nemo and his friends take you down into the water (something like Little Mermaid, but better) and quickly introduce you to the undersea world. Going past darkened LCD screens with lame projections of characters screaming for each other is not immersive. And please don't forget, at the end of the line make sure you hear "Welcome, to Sea Base Alpha".  I'd ask for the hydrolators to make an appearance again, but that is probably asking for too much.

The Land
    Oh Simba, every time the light touches the film it gets older and older. Seriously good message; time for a new film - but you already know that. I understand the cost cutting measures on the Living with the Land removed the live spiel, but make the tour more enticing, and bring back the heat in the desert scene; that was gone years ago. We would love to see Tiny Little Seed come back, cheesy and catchy all at the same time. Focus the ride on organics and non-GMO foods; more alternative foods and healthy choices.

    Soaring, well yeah, the bones of Kitchen Kabaret has become Food Rots behind some false walls, Soaring is what it is and will do fine over time, it's too popular to replace; but man, that queue is a disaster. It's like walking through a mall that has no stores and no purpose. One last request, can you make the balloons in the main pavilion go up and down again?

Journey into Imagination
    I don't think I have to write much about this here. If you want to win the hearts of fans, you know that our favorite purple dragon and his bearded steam-punk owner need to return in some shape or form... I'm not asking for the original ride, but bring back the feeling that was lost. And while I personally enjoy British humor, Eric Idle isn't in the right place at the "Institute". Ditch the white coats. This isn't a lab - your imagination is in your head and what you make it to be.

    Imageworks - Do we even have to to discuss this one? There is an amazing neon rainbow tube and shell of a former imagination playground just waiting for new technology. I won't be offended if you replace the neon with LEDs, they will be more eco-friendly, just retain the same feel and awe we used to have.

Universe of Energy
    This needs help, 99% of the visitors call it "the ride with the dinosaurs in it". Children crave to see 5 minutes of dinosaurs while suffering through 40 minutes of droning on and on. You've got a 30 year old, yet still innovative, rotating screen technology that could be amazing if done right with hi-resolution LED screens. On top of that, you have a moving theater, and huge movie screens. Yet, other than the dinosaurs, the ride continues to bore most visitors. The running time needs to entertain guests; they have more entertainment in their pockets these days. It's time make it immersive; feature new energy technologies such as solar and wind; explain and demonstrate how energy can be used in the home more efficiently, CFL vs LED lights, petroleum products from algae...the list goes on. Think first half the history and dinosaurs, smog, choking and over-use, second half the promise of new clean, safe and reliable energy methods. Then hands on exhibits to inspire; breaking the attraction up into smaller chucks and interactive hands-on activities. And "Oil Shale, the rock that burns" should be put back into the script and never ever be removed.

Wonders of Life
    You may have this one ready for something other than private and special events. I'm not proposing the previous pavilion come back, but you've got space for something new and exciting. Others will say the Body Wars simulators still exist, I'm not about to touch that. Now I do understand that with a portable AED we may be able to shock Buzzy back to life for a reprise role in an all new setup - hmmm, with Pixar releasing "Inside Out" in a year or so, this could be promising.

Mission: Space
    This is begging for a proper tribute to Horizons, make this a departure from Futureport and a trip to Brava Centauri where we see the vision of the future. Don't go the hokey Hollywood effects that you have now. Besides looking dated, do we really need Gary Sinise? I know he was in Apollo 13 but he didn't lend much here. I know there is tons of money sunk into this building, but for an E-ticket ride, no one really cares to run to it, its self-demoted itself to a C-ticket attraction just by the nature of it. I know it would be too much to ask to bring back Horizons, but something is needed. 

Hey, I hear there were some plans waaaay back for a "Space Pavilion"... Now that sounds cool...

Test Track
    There is no way to bring back the World of Motion, but you've gone from an immersive ride to one that is highlighted by blacklights and lame neon lines. The "story line" of testing your car is hard to follow. It's overloaded with to-dos and options and the ending is lacking something. I know what was aimed for, and I think with a few tweaks the nail could be hit on the head. Since this change is so new there is no way this will be on your first-hit list; so I'll let this one slide.

World Showcase
    Not much has really changed here, well physically speaking, since opening day. Promises and visions of new countries have long disappeared, so much in fact, that if a new country was announced tomorrow, I'm not sure if people would actually believe it. What has changed is the lack of pride by the hosts and hostesses; they used to be so much more charming and proud of their countries. Now you have Norwegians telling you to skip the movie because Norway isn't even like that. Eek.

     Yes new countries are needed and new attractions should go along with them. We'd love to finally see the Germany Rhine River Cruise or the Mt. Fuji roller coaster (don't even go there with the Kodak vs Fuji Film debate); but in our hearts we know those will never materialize. But new visions of new countries and other attractions could breed new life into the showcase. I will commend Imagineers of days gone by on a job well done with World Showcase - My grandmother would see a foreign country on television and comment "That's just like EPCOT"... we didn't have the heart to tell her it was the other way around. Oh one more thing for my grandparents, bring back the "Jitney Bus", but please don't load it with a steel drum band again.

Promise of a New Tomorrow
    So that the end of my rant, wish list, whatever you want to call it. By no means is my list of ideas complete, these are just things to get you and your teams' creative juices flowing. I'm not expecting you to call me up and ask me to join your team (not that I wouldn't mind doing that), but I'm just one voice speaking for many out there that want to see EPCOT Center return. You probably know everything I spelled out here, but for me it was important to put it down and call it all out.

    I'm not asking for the 1980's EPCOT to come back in all its glory...I know it may sound that way as I took a very retro-centric view at this. My main point is that EPCOT has lost over time what it was designed to do. When we look back on our memories we see aspects of the park that are now gone, one by one they don't fell like a huge loss, but on the whole they all contributed to the loss of the original EPCOT vision. If you can re-inspire those feelings and memories then EPCOT will resurface as an amazing theme park. What EPCOT needs is the spirit of free enterprise, the promise of tomorrow and a clear vision to be a showcase to the entire world. Bring that back, and you bring back EPCOT and instill new memories to new generations.

  If there is one thing that EPCOT Center taught us all, it's the promise of a better tomorrow and hope for the future. Call it cliche, but Tom, you are now Tomorrow's Child for EPCOT Center.

I wish you well in your new position and look forward to the new horizons ahead of us. Would love a tweet or a shout out if you do wind up reading this (Twitter: @RetroWDW)

Todd McCartney

PS - Did you ever finally get the laser locks welded to the sub?

Tonight, I again took a good look at the Norway grand opening celebration hosted by Willard Scott from 1988. The guy clearly had about 8 jars of Smuckers before they shot this; he's on a sugar high that rubs off into the other actors like a bad cologne. What surprised me comes at the 5:51 mark where the adventure of Maelstrom begins. Do we hear "You are not the first to pass this way..." followed by the Norwegian cyclops god Odin? Nope, it is Just like Heaven" by the Cure! It did reach 40 on the Billboard charts that year, so why not rock the grand opening in a music video style. If you listen carefully you can hear two people call the trolls "goblins". Um no, this is Norway. The rest of this feast for the eyes is disaster of editing as a good portion of the ride is shown in the wrong order. And don't forget the buckets of water thrown on the guests to make this "thrill ride" [no joke, that is what they called it] more appealing to the viewers.

How would have this attraction turned out if this was indeed the soundtrack to Maelstrom? Somehow, I can imagine the rays of light emanating from Rob Smith's head [see photo above], he kind of resembles Odin in that shot.

See and hear for yourself how the Cure infiltrated Maelstrom:

Willard is now 79, any bets on how old he will be when they replace the aging film? Maybe they should just swap it with this:

Over the past few months we have been working closely with Jason at Deep Water Studios, he is our key 3D guru for our Retro Replicas project (for more on that, visit When Progress City posted a photo of an 1982 EPCOT Center Map a few days ago, Jason followed the conversation and realized there is a demand for a high resolution and zoom-able version of the map. Jason quickly reached into his bag of tricks and in a few hours had re-created exactly what people are clamoring for.

Today we give to you his gift to the Retro Disney World community, the 1982 EPCOT Center map recreated in Hi-Resolution vector formats. Feel free to download and print for your own personal use.

Adobe Illustrator CS2
Adobe Illustrator v8
EPS Format

If you get a chance please tweet out a thank you to @jasondws He's a great guy that loves all things Retro Disney World like we all do!

Saturday, 03 November 2012 00:00

It's Always Fun to be Free

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World of Motion When EPCOT Center opened on October 1, 1982, one of the original attractions that day was World of Motion.  In my opinion, World of Motion was good.  It wasn’t Horizons, but as far as favorites go it was up there. 

World of Motion was sponsored by GM, the first corporation to sign with Disney to sponsor an EPCOT pavilion.  World of Motion was located in Future World East, next to Horizons.  It was a large, stainless steel, round building.  It was 65 feet high and 320 feet in diameter.  Basically, it was a giant silver wheel, which offered guests a visual clue of what the attraction was about.

World of Motion was designed by Animators/Imagineers Ward Kimball and Marc Davis.  Buddy Baker and X Atencio wrote the lyrics for the attraction’s theme song “It’s Fun to be Free” and Gary Owens provided the narration.  Gary Owens’ manner of delivery was very serious and provided much of the humor in the attraction because it contrasted with the scene you were seeing.  While Gary Owens was serious giving us a very historical account of transportation, the scenes were humorous.  For example, Gary Owens tells us, “Another kind of horse arrives.  A steam powered, iron horse bringing fast, dependable, safe travel to the new frontier.”  But, what we see is a steam powered locomotive being stopped by bandits who are demanding the passengers’ valuables.    World of Motion

World of Motion traced the development of human transportation from foot power to the present and into the future.  It was a fun, whimsical, 15 minute ride and it hosted the largest audio-animatronics cast ever produced by Disney at the time.

As guests approached the building they walked up a ramp and boarded omni-mover cars on the second level of the pavilion.  As the ride began, the cars made their way up another ramp on the exterior of the building.  In fact, guests passed under this ramp as they entered the attraction.  Once inside, we were treated to nearly 22 different scenes on the history and future of transportation.

One of the most iconic scenes from this ride was the “world’s first traffic jam”.  It looked as if a new-fangled motor car collided with a horse drawn cart carrying fruits and vegetables, which were strewn all over the street.  Kids, a police officer and bus passengers stared in awe at the mess.  One worker popped up quite regularly from a man hole with fruit spilled on his head. 

The ride ended loWorld of Motion oking at the future of transportation with another iconic scene – the city of tomorrow – Center Core.  Center Core was six stories high and featured gleaming blue and green buildings, streets, airships and people movers.  Once guests exited the ride vehicles they entered the post-show area – the TransCenter.  TransCenter contained five main exhibit areas.  Aerotest demonstrated aerodynamics; Bird and the Robot was a comic presentation about robots working in the automotive industry; the Water Engine featured nine cartoon characters debating the pros and cons of internal combustion engines; Concept 2000 looked at automotive design procedures; and the Dreamers Workshop showed future technologies.  The TransCenter was interactive and even had current GM cars for guests to sit in, look at and dream.  I have to admit, I never spent much time in the TransCenter.  I never was very interested in cars.  I usually just breezed through the post-show area on my way to the next attraction.

World of Motion’s last day of operation was January 2, 1996.  I remember visiting Epcot in 1997 and riding the monorail through Epcot.  I was shocked to see over the construction walls the piles of dirt and the entire ride being gutted.  On March 17, 1999, Test Track opened where World of Motion once stood.   You can still see the stainless steel exterior and the building is still huge, but that’s about all that remains of the original World of Motion.  Test Track has become one of my favorite rides, but I will always miss World of Motion.

Click here to view more World of Motion photos


Saturday, 13 October 2012 22:36

'84 EPCOT Promo Film - Targeted for Seniors?

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EPCOT Center promotional videos always start with Future World and give it most of the billing, then usually the producers realize that they have about 74.6 seconds to review all of World Showcase. The result is a super quick tour around the lagoon that misses the entire concept of the countries and skips over the attractions. Viewers are left  at a complete loss regarding this area of EPCOT.

In this rare 1984 video brochure the opposite is true; our host in the beginning stands outside the American Adventure and introduces World Showcase. During the entire 9:35 running time of the film, only at the 5:45 mark do we get a 80s style quick zoom to Spaceship Earth. Smart-1 starts to chime in and give us his robo-mechanical tour of SSE and then on to Communicore. He gives a quick chat to a World Key attendant and soon the rest of the pavilions are given only 1:30 minutes of quick clips and no audio overlays.

Dreamfinder and Figment come out of nowhere and wrap up the last 30 seconds with this charmer: "I guess that about does it for Future World..." WTF kind of statement is that Dreamfinder? User your imagination and give us a decent tour of Future World!! Nope, fade to is all over...the jovial lady from the start of the film never came back...she departed only never to be seen or heard of again. Where did she go? Is she ok? Wake up Dreamfinder! Get out of your trippy rainbow neon tube and find her!

So just who was the target audience of this film? Got to be seniors... I'm suspect this film was either made out of the "its too educational" comments that surfaced after EPCOT opened, or, and more realistically, this was made to show Perillo tour goers the following:

"Hey, EPCOT isn't filled with Mickey and technology crap you can't understand. There are cultural things to do, such as creepy mimes stalking you in France. Besides you'll never figure out how to properly use a 13" CRT touch screen, you'll continue to "press" the screen instead of gliding your fingers over it. Go see EPCOT, its awesome, take it from this random woman and Dreamfinder!"

One more thing, what is up with the guy in Great Britain saying "Here's your beer mate!" in an Australian accent? I know Australia was once part of the British empire, but isn't that stretching it?

Click here to watch if you will not get these 9 minutes of your life back..


Friday, 12 October 2012 11:15

Willard Scott Previews Maelstrom - 1988

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You are not the first to pass this way...'nor shall you be the last...

In 1988 there was much buzz about Norway opening... little did we know that would the last country added to World Showcase until, oh wait.. no other country has been added yet... Willard Scott, King of Smuckers jams and jellies and spokesperson for all people over the age of 100, co-hosted the 1988 WDW 4th of July Spectacular. I've never been fond of the word spectacular, especially when it is used as a noun... But I digress..  The "spectacular" is so sticky sweet perfect, it almost hurts to watch it...This segment however is pure marketing by the folks at Disney; it implies that a scared Willard just can't handle the terrifying voyage to the nordic lands that lie ahead. All aboard the viking ship have donned yellow rain slickers because hey, you "may" get wet. In the end we know there were people off camera making the water splash, it never rained inside the north sea scene, and in the end the ride, albeit a great place to cool off and grab a sniff of pirate water is quite tame.

Click here for all of its 1988 glory...

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