What? You still here!? Boy, you must be really bored OR you’re a true connoisseur of Disney Theme Park history!
We left off with WED’s final decision to move forward with a remixed vision of Walt Disney’s original EPCOT. This time, the business plan was one the Imagineers could justify to the stockholders with sound corporate and foreign investors. The official presentation was made in July 1975. By 1978, the design phases for Epcot Center were well under way. We’re at the tail end of the disco age.
The Carter Administration was limping towards it’s last year in control. Ronald Reagan (one of Disneyland’s Opening Day hosts) would soon be nipping at their heels with a new brand of 1950s style Conservatism for America. Star Wars was a worldwide phenomenon that affected the cultural context forever. Science Fiction would have a hand in the style and design of many art forms. Computers and satellites were molding our future into our present.
Strong thematic influences for a new theme park…
As Disneyland before it, the WED designers of Epcot Center knew the cornerstone of their new park had to address the current public consciousness. Epcot had to engage it’s audience by not only showcasing the present state of the World, but offer a tangible forecast of what the future would hold for them. Luckily, this era contained lots of great inspiration to the writers and designers of Epcot Center. Computers and interest in space perhaps had the greatest influence on the creative direction of the park. Both were the most prominent within its many pavilions.
Everything from the architecture to show presentations to the park signage had to project optimism…better yet, DISNEY OPTIMISM. Using some of the finest designers from within WED and the studio, the Disney team went whole-hog with an extremely tasteful approach.
Some of the key figures in Disneyland’s creation were applying almost 30 years of experience to the project. John Hench, Herb Ryman, Rolly Crump, George McGinnis, Bob Gurr, Collin Campbell, Blaine Gibson, Wathel Rogers, Gene Johnson, Claude Coats, Walt Green, and Marvin Davis were among the many veterans lavishing unbelievable amounts of good taste and visionary audacity to the project. Add to them WED outsiders such as Ray Bradbury, Robert McCall, Claudio Viazzoli and Ward Kimball and things quickly gelled into something very new.
The Disney hype machine wasted no time in the marketing of this new wonder. I first read about this “Epcot Center” from Starlog magazine in 1978. A several page article showed concept art and linked the project to a ‘lost’ Walt Disney concept finally brought to life. Soon newspaper articles, posters, radio ads and TV specials followed. The anticipation within the public was masterfully stoked as the countdown to October 1982 drew closer.
Driving through the sprawling, well-manicured Disney turnpike one could see the rising ball of Spaceship Earth over the horizon. At the turn off to the Epcot construction site, there was an Epcot Preview Center that showed what was in store for guests in the future. The presentation was amazing. A beautiful scaled model of the park was angled in the middle of the gallery and if you weren’t hooked before you walked in, the model harpooned you with fascination.
In a gesture of goodwill and good marketing, Disney offered Florida residents a Monorail Preview of the construction site starting in the late Spring of 1982. The tour took you from the main WDW Transportation Center across the property to the Epcot Center construction site. A brilliant plan as the Monorail prevented guests from seeing too much or somehow getting loose in the park. It was just the right taste to get you hooked on that Disney brand of primal entertainment heroin!
The views were a striking glimpse upon the shape of things to come…
Tomorrow: The Style of Epcot Center 1982!