For the first two weeks of February 2016, the WDW Radio Blog Team will be reviewing great moments in Disney History. These moments have impacted the history of the company through film, parks, innovation, events and more.
October 1, 1982 is a memorable day in Walt Disney World history. On this day, EPCOT opened its doors to park goers. Located in front of the park, is a plaque that displaying a portion of the dedication from E. Cardon Walker, one time chairman and CEO: “To all who come to this place of joy, hope and friendship…Welcome!”
EPCOT is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. This was Walt Disney’s dream community, a utopian city of the future. In his own words, Walt Disney stated the following:
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 Epcot will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.
Walt Disney’s original vision for EPCOT was to be a model community of the future, complete with a radial design, which would house businesses, schools, and recreational facilities in the center, while residential neighborhoods would line the perimeter. Walt’s idea was to keep traffic underground, leaving pedestrians free to move about above ground. (To take a peek at the original model, just hitch a ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and watch for it by Stitch’s Great Escape).
Sadly, Walt Disney passed away before realizing his dream for EPCOT. Without Walt’s leadership, the Walt Disney Company decided to move in a new direction. In an effort to combine the latest technologies and highlight international cultures and customs, much like the popular World’s Fair theme, the ideas were merged and a new EPCOT was born. Originally named EPCOT Center, the park was considered the most expensive construction project in history. The estimated cost was upwards of $900 million dollars. With almost 300 acres, EPCOT took nearly three years to complete.
On opening day, the park celebrated with ceremonies, dancers, music, marching bands and dedications, which lasted for most of the month. Over a three day period from October 22-24, special invited guests such as Walt Disney Company executives, VIPs, celebrities and family members participated in the festivities with over a thousand balloons and doves released in celebration.
Perhaps the most symbolic, was the International Ceremony of the Waters on October 24, 1982. CEO Card Walker addressed the crowd:
It is a great thrill, really a wonderful thrill. Lilly, thanks for being with us. Joining us around this magnificent fountain are representatives of nations from around the world. They have brought with them waters from the great oceans, the seas, the rivers, and the lakes on our planet, Spaceship Earth. These waters will flow together as a symbol of the oneness of humankind and the hope for peace among nations, making this truly a fountain of world friendship.
Countries such as Canada, Denmark, Italy, Korea, Japan, Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Colombia, Mexico, Barbados, Puerto Rico, China, Philippines, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Yugoslavia all poured a vessel of water into the Fountain of Nations.
Card Walker’s speech concluded;
EPCOT Center is inspired by Walt Disney’s creative vision. 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 in the world. Thank you.
The day also included a flag raising ceremony with a special gift from President Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Reagan, a flag that was flown at the White House.
Disney fan favorites, the Sherman Brothers, wrote an original song for the big opening. The World Showcase March was played during the day for guests.
In true Disney style, the crowd was also treated to a fireworks display and enjoyed a jet flyover by the Florida Air National Guard.
World Showcase and Future World
World Showcase opened with 9 pavilions (Morocco and Norway would be added later). Here, each guest could experience some of the culture and customs of each country. This was largely inspired by the World’s Fair, allowing guests to sample food, artwork, music and dance from each region. To add to the experience, each pavilion is home to employees from that country.
Opening Day World Showcase pavilions included:
Future World pavilions focus on innovation, technology and science. Many of these pavilions had corporate sponsorship, which aided the construction and operating costs. Big names such as Exxon, Kraft, General Electric and Nestle participated in the beginning of the park opening. Each pavilion explored new technologies in energy, imagination, and communication. Films, animation and robotics were used to educate.
Opening Day Future World pavilions included:
Spaceship Earth and Earth Station
Universe of Energy
World of Motion
Journey Into Imagination
Epcot has certainly grown over the years. Today, it is host to many seasonal festivals and events. A busy park calendar keeps this place in high demand. People enjoy Epcot for many reasons. There is so much to do and see there! Whether you go for a futuristic good time or enjoy learning about another culture, it is a park with something for everyone!
Walt Disney’s wish was that Epcot would never be completed. It is a work that should be forever changing and evolving. Clearly, that wish has come true!
(Fountain of Nations, China, and Universe of Energy photos from the personal collection of Kendall Foreman. Other photos ©Disney.)
Maureen Petrone and Pamela Rose are moms, avid Disney fans and elementary school teachers from Long Island, New York. When they are not in the “House of Mouse” with their families, they can be found in their classrooms. They call themselves “TeachEars.” They love the thrill and wonder of the Disney experience. The educational opportunities are endless! Walt Disney was a visionary, who taught us all to think big and dream bigger. It’s a wonderful message for their students. The classroom/Disney connection is a perfect fit! They hope to bring you some interesting blog posts about the Wonderful & Educational World of Disney.