By: Jennifer Romano
Whenever I get nostalgic about Walt Disney World or attend a Disney history event, I can’t help but think about Epcot in its infancy. If you watch the Epcot opening special with Danny Kaye, you are treated to an explanation of what EPCOT Center is. He tells us that EPCOT Center is the center of EPCOT, which is made up of the 27,000 acres that is WDW. He goes on to say that all of WDW is considered EPCOT. Now if you think about this claim, you can see his point to some extent, but does this definition of EPCOT truly fit the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow? Well, if you refer back to the Florida Project video where Walt explains his plans for the Florida Park, I would say, “no.” I don’t think that Walt meant theme park when he described his version of EPCOT.
With all of this in mind, we can move past what Walt intended and remember what Epcot the theme park started out as and what it has become. Epcot began as the home of edutainment, a term that means learning while being entertained. It is as if you are learning, but you are having so much fun that the learning is not painful or boring. This edutainment was achieved through attractions like the Land, World of Motion, Communicore, Spaceship Earth, Horizons, the Living Seas, and Journey Into Imagination, just to name a few. These experiences represent the Epcot of my childhood. There was no Nemo, no characters, no Dame Judi Dench, no Mission Space, and although these experiences are enjoyable, they just lack that certain intangible quality that was so palpable in the EPCOT Center of the mid 1980s. Epcot as I remember it was a place filled with a hope for a future that could be brimming with endless possibility.
Although I do have some fond memories of EPCOT Center, this particular park was never my favorite part of a trip to WDW. I know this is blasphemy among all hard core Disney fans, but the fantasy and escapism of the Magic Kingdom appealed to me more strongly. I was always (and still am) a huge fan of the Magic Kingdom, but there are aspects of Epcot that I do enjoy. For example, I was thrilled to visit the Kitchen Kabaret as well as Horizons and Spaceship Earth. I remember waiting for Kitchen Kabaret to start in that pre-show area inside the Land, eagerly awaiting the catchy tunes that were a part of this memorable show. In addition, I always liked choosing the ending of our Horizons ride before my brother could press the button. The ominimax movies always scared me just a little. Finally, the Sistine Chapel section of Spaceship Earth was also amazing to me. Anything with audio animatronics fascinated me. They just looked so real to my young eyes. I wanted to believe that the future could be full of infinite possibility; we could go anywhere and do anything.
As Epcot continues to grow older, I can only long for the EPCOT Center in my memories of the past and hope for the bright future of this park that started out as Walt’s greatest dream for a highly functioning city of the future. Whenever you find yourself thinking about Epcot, take a minute and remember that Danny Kaye opening special and ask yourself, “What is an Epcot?”. I am sure that the answer to this question will continue to change as Walt Disney World® Resort continues to grow and change as time marches on.
-Disney Pins Blog