Epcot is the second of four theme parks built at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida, near the city of Orlando. It opened as EPCOT Center (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow) on October 1, 1982, and spans 300 acres (120 ha), more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom park. It is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely technological innovation and international culture, and is often referred to as a "permanent World's Fair." In 2014, the park hosted approximately 11.45 million guests, ranking it the third most visited theme park in North America and the sixth most visited theme park in the world. The park is represented by Spaceship Earth, a geodesic sphere that also serves as an attraction. Epcot was known as EPCOT Center until 1994, when it was later renamed Epcot '94, then Epcot '95, now commonly known simply as Epcot.
The theme park opened on October 1, 1982. The dedication plaque near the entrance states:
To all who come to this place of joy, hope and friendship, welcome.
Epcot Center is inspired by Walt Disney's creative genius. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.May Epcot Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.
The park's name, EPCOT, is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, a utopian city of the future planned by Walt Disney, often interchanging "city" and "community." 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 new systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise." His original vision was for a model community which would have been home to twenty thousand residents and a test bed for city planning as well as organization. It was to have been built in the shape of a circle with businesses and commercial areas at its center with community buildings, schools, and recreational complexes around it while residential neighborhoods would line the perimeter. This radial plan concept is strongly influenced by British planner Ebenezer Howard and his Garden Cities of To-morrow. Transportation would have been provided by monorails and PeopleMovers (like that in Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland.) Automobile traffic would be kept underground, leaving pedestrians safe above ground. The original model of EPCOT can still be seen by passengers riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority attraction in the Magic Kingdom park; when the PeopleMover enters the showhouse for Stitch's Great Escape!, the remaining portion of the model is visible on the left (when facing forward) behind glass. Walt Disney was not able to obtain funding and permission to start work on his Florida property until he agreed to first build Magic Kingdom. He died nearly five years before Magic Kingdom opened.
After Disney's death, The Walt Disney Company decided that it did not want to be in the business of running a city without Walt's guidance. 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 (RCID) and the Cities of Bay Lake and Reedy Creek (now Lake Buena Vista), a legislative mechanism allowing 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; Disney further cemented this control by deannexing Celebration from the RCID.
The original plans for the park showed indecision over the park's purpose. 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 a World's Fair international theme, and the two were combined. The park was originally named EPCOT Center to reflect the ideals and values of the city. It was constructed for an estimated $800 million to $1.4 billion and took three years to build, at the time the largest construction project on Earth. The parking lot serving the park is 141 acres (57 ha) (including bus area) and can accommodate 11,211 vehicles (grass areas hold additional 500+ vehicles). Before it opened on October 1, 1982, Walt Disney World Ambassador Genie Field introduced E. Cardon Walker, Disney's chairman and CEO, who dedicated EPCOT Center. Walker also presented a family with lifetime passes for the two Walt Disney World theme parks. His remarks were followed by Florida Governor Bob Graham and William Ellinghaus, president of AT&T.
As part of the opening-day ceremony, dancers and band members performed We've Just Begun to Dream. The Sherman Brothers wrote a song especially for the occasion entitled "The World Showcase March". During the finale, doves and many sets of balloons were released. Performing groups representing countries from all over the world performed in World Showcase. Water was gathered from major rivers across the globe and emptied into the park's fountain of nations ceremonial containers to mark the opening. Located at the front of the park is a plaque bearing Walker's opening-day dedication, as seen above.
Epcot is divided into two main themed areas, Future World and World Showcase.
Future World consists of a variety of pavilions that explore innovative aspects and applications including technology and science, with each pavilion featuring self-contained attractions. Future World also serves as the park's main entrance and features the park's iconic landmark, Spaceship Earth, a large geodesic sphere structure which houses a themed attraction inside. Originally, each pavilion of Future World featured a unique circular logo which was featured on park signage and the attractions themselves. The logos, including that of Epcot itself, have been phased out over recent years, but some remnants are still scattered throughout the park; the pavilions are now instead identified by name and recognized by the main attraction(s) housed inside. The various pavilions located in Future World include the following:
Each pavilion was initially sponsored by a corporation which helped fund its construction and maintenance in return for the corporation's logos and some marketing elements appearing throughout the pavilion. For example, Universe of Energy was sponsored by Exxon from 1982 to 2004, and The Land was sponsored by Kraft from 1982 to 1993, then Nestlé from 1993 to 2009. Each pavilion contains a private "VIP area" for its sponsor with offices, lounges, and reception areas hidden away from regular park guests. While some pavilions still retain active sponsorships, in recent years several pavilions have lost sponsorships due to lack of interest from partner companies in renewing expiring agreements. After General Electric left Horizons in 1993, it closed for a couple of years, then reopened temporarily while neighboring attractions Universe of Energy and World of Motion were renovated. Horizons closed permanently on January 9, 1999, and was demolished in 2000 to make room for the opening of Mission: SPACE on October 9, 2003. Metlife sponsored Wonders of Life from 1989 to 2001, until that area was closed. However, the Wonders Of Life pavilion is still mostly intact and is used for both the Flower and Garden Festival and the Food and Wine Festival. Current active sponsorships include the following:
World Showcase is a large area reminiscent of a permanent world's fair containing 11 pavilions, each themed and dedicated to represent a specific country. The pavilions surround the World Showcase Lagoon, a large manmade lake located in the center of World Showcase with a perimeter of 1.2 miles (1.9 km). In clockwise order, the 11 pavilions are:
Of the 11 pavilions, only Morocco and Norway were not present at the park's opening, as they were added in 1984 and 1988, respectively. Each pavilion contains themed architecture, landscapes, streetscapes, attractions, shops and restaurants representing the respective country's culture and cuisine. In an effort to maintain the authenticity of the represented countries, the pavilions are primarily staffed by citizens of the respective countries as part of the Cultural Representative Program through J-1 visa agreements. Some pavilions also contain themed rides, shows, and live entertainment representative of the respective country. The only pavilion that is directly sponsored by the government of its respective country is Morocco; the remaining pavilions are primarily sponsored by private companies with affiliations to the represented countries.
Originally, the showcase was to include partnerships with the governments of the different countries. According to Disney's 1975 Annual Report, the Showcase would:
...offer participating countries a permanent installation for such features as themed restaurants and shops, product exhibits, industrial displays, cultural presentations, a trade center, and even special facilities for business meetings.
Major sponsorships for each participating nation will be asked to provide the capital to cover the cost of designing, developing and constructing its attraction and/or ride and all exhibits, as well as the Pavilion itself. It will also have the responsibility for funding the housing for its employees in the International Village. Its land lease will cover the cost of maintaining the attraction for a minimum of ten years.
The Disney organization will be responsible for area development, including the construction of transportation systems and utilities. We will also build and operate the internal people moving system, the Courtyard of Nations and central theater facility.
Pavilions for Puerto Rico, Russia, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Spain, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, and Israel have occasionally been rumored as potential future pavilions but have never made it past the planning phases to date. The Israeli, Spanish, and an Equatorial Africa pavilion (blending elements of the cultures of countries such as Kenya and Zaire) were even announced as coming soon in 1982, but never took off. Instead, a small African themed refreshment shop known as The Outpost currently resides where Equatorial Africa was to be. Israel, five African countries (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa), as well as eight other countries (Brazil, Chile, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, and Sweden) took part in the Millennium Village during the Millennium Celebration.
There are currently nine undeveloped spots for countries around the World Showcase—including the space occupied by The Outpost—in between the locations of the current countries. Two of the potential locations, on either side of the United Kingdom, are currently occupied by World ShowPlace. Two more lie on either side of The American Adventure, though this pavilion's use of reversed forced perspective may preclude the construction of additional buildings as they would ruin the illusion.
A secondary park gate is located between the France and United Kingdom pavilions and is known as the International Gateway. The International Gateway is directly accessible to guests staying at nearby Epcot Area Resorts and also guests coming from Disney's Hollywood Studios via "Friendship" taxi boat travel or landscaped pedestrian walkways. The World Showcase usually opens two hours after park opening and remains open later than the Future World section of the park; however, most major attractions in Future World including Test Track, Soarin', Mission Space, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Spaceship Earth remain open until park close. Guests entering via this gate prior to the opening of World Showcase are directed by staff to Future World.
Unlike Magic Kingdom, which up until 2012 did not serve alcohol and now only serves it in one location, most stores and restaurants at Epcot, especially in the World Showcase, serve and/or sell a variety of alcoholic beverages including specialty drinks, craft beers, wines, and spirits reflective of the respective countries. The park also hosts the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, an annual event featuring food and drink samplings from all over the world, along with live entertainment and special exhibits.
Originally based on the Disney Channel animated series Kim Possible, the World Showcase Adventure is an interactive mobile attraction taking place in several pavilions throughout the World Showcase. The attraction is an electronic scavenger hunt that has guests using special "Kimmunicators" (in actuality, customized cell phones) to help teenage crime-fighters Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable solve a "crime" or disrupt an evil-doer's "plans for global domination." The "Kimmunicator" is able to trigger specific events within the pavilion grounds that provide clues to completing the adventure. Launched in January 2009 and presented by Verizon Wireless, the Adventure is included in park admission. It was succeeded by Agent P's World Showcase Adventure, based on Disney's Phineas and Ferb, on June 23, 2012.
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is an award-winning show taking place in the World Showcase Lagoon every night at the park's closing time (usually 9:00 pm). It features fireworks, lasers, fire, and water fountains timed to a musical score over the World Showcase Lagoon. A large rotating globe with curved LED screens is the centerpiece of the show and is used to display images of people and places. The current version premiered as part of the park's Millennium Celebration in 2000. The show tells the story of Earth and is divided into three movements titled "Chaos," "Order," and "Meaning." The music has an African tribal sound to it, to emphasize the idea of humanity as a single unified tribe on this planet; the lagoon is surrounded by nineteen large torches signifying the first 19 centuries of the common era, and the show culminates in the globe opening like a lotus blossom to reveal a twentieth torch, representing the now-completed 20th century.
Epcot hosts a number of special events during the year:
The Official Album of Walt Disney World EPCOT Center was the official album for EPCOT Center in 1983. It was originally released on LP and audio cassette and is no longer being produced.