Epcot was supposed to be a creative space where the brightest minds in many different disciplines would gather together to advance technology and improve the design of our larger cities. It was quite a stretch for even Walt Disney. Walt had so much success with creating movies and a theme park where people could leave feeling better than when they arrived, other than exhausted, from all of the walking in his theme park. From what I have researched, Walt had a pretty positive outlook on life. I’m not saying he was always right or eternally happy. He pushed himself and others to get the most out of them. He was not an easy man to work for, but many people still want to work for the company or subsidiaries that he started.
A place to let your creative side out
Epcot was to be that creative space where the mind could flourish. There would hopefully be synergy when you put a bunch of talented and creative people together, giving them the tools necessary to make these ideas a reality. In the original plan, there would also be residential and commercial areas within the city. You would work and live in Epcot. This would be a vast planned community, not just for appearances, but a way of life, a model city that hopefully other cities in America would want to copy so that we could break the cycle of crime and many of the problems that we are having with our inner cities.
Nowadays, you hear the word ‘Creative Space,’ and it has come to mean a place where techy people gather to create new things. Most of the ones that I am familiar with are merely a place to use Wifi and your laptop wearing earbuds while being charged by the hour, day or the month. Good grief, you can do that at home for much less money. Collaboration is the key as well as having tools to take these ideas from napkin to reality. Everything can’t simply be done on a laptop, but this is what I see most of these spaces being used for. I don’t know about you, but a laptop is good for putting your ideas somewhere, just like this blog or researching what others are doing, but as we all know, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. It requires actually meeting with people and hitting the pavement or the laboratory to do the testing and then performing the actual work.
Who are the creative minds that would live in Epcot?
Today, who are the creative minds that you would want to bring to Epcot? I’m talking the original concept of Epcot, not the theme park we know today.
Let me know who you think would be an inspiration to a modern-day Epcot by category.
Have you ever been to Epcot in Disney World? Many of us have. If you haven’t been to Epcot, you probably have been to Disneyland or the other parts of Disney World. For adults, Epcot seems to be the most popular of the four parks at Disney World.
1. Are you a baby boomer?
I am a baby boomer. I grew up with Walt Disney coming into our homes weekly. I remember Walt promoting Epcot, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Walt was at the point in his life where he had acquired success in the movie industry and Disneyland. He was ready to apply these successes to a much bigger project. He was a dreamer and was interested in new technology, just as he had learned to blend this new technology into his movies. Disneyland had many innovations; the monorail, the WED people mover and all of the automation required to keep the parks going. Walt was now ready to try his hand at finding like-minded people in all types of vocations. He wanted to find dreamers who would push the envelope to find new ways of doing things.
2. Epcot was a promise of a greater future
As Walt was getting older, thinking of the cities his grandchildren would grow up in, He saw what was happening to many of our large cities, between the crime, pollution and poorly designed communities. Walt wanted Epcot to be his attempt at developing the city of the future, different than what many American cities were becoming.
Above is an early artist rendering of what Epcot would look like.
Its purpose was to be a “real city that would ‘never cease to be a blueprint of the future,” designed to stimulate American ideas for urban living.
3. The success of Disneyland gave birth to many ideas in Epcot
Realizing that he and his Imagineers had learned a good number of things in the development of Disneyland, they could be put to use in planning communities, and perhaps even cities. Walt began to immerse himself in books about city planning, such as Ebenezer Howard‘s Garden Cities of To-morrow. This had a significant influence on Walt’s design for the Epcot he had dreamed about.
4. You remember Walt’s 25-minute talk about Disney World
A recording on October 27, 1966, less than two months before Disney’s death, was a 25-minute film about his plans for the Florida Project, then dubbed “Disney World.” Epcot was supposed to be the central attraction. Walt showed the radial design of the city using his long pointing stick to describe this new Florida Project. As you can see at the top of the picture is Epcot. Before the public was made aware of Epcot, it was called Project X by Disney’s team.
5. The space race of the 1960s
Many of us remember seeing rocket launches during school, especially the momentous ones, like the first Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. If you were alive during Apollo 11, you know where you were when Neil Armstrong placed his foot on the lunar surface. All of the technology that went into the space race was set before our eyes. Walt’s company had even been contracted to produce animated films about space travel and what the future might look like for humans. Tomorrowland in Epcot was an extension of what the world was experiencing, in a theme park venue. Going to Tomorrowland in Epcot didn’t feel that foreign to most of us, because we had been a part of this technology revolution if only observers.
I don’t know about you, but the dreams that Walt had were shared with us before Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color each Sunday evening had been planted like a seed within me. There wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do. If man could go to the moon and Walt was going to build a city of the future, then why would I limit myself for my future? Some people might say that I am ignoring all of the problems that we are facing in the world today. But, I simply choose to focus on the future with the hope that I can be a part of making it better than it is now, that my excitement that I share isn’t too far off from what Walt must have felt. Here’s to you Walt, let’s get this thing built!
Since Elon Musk is in a way a modern day Walt Disney, how about Elon taking his business ideas and actually create a real EPCOT, the way that Walt Disney imagined it, not a theme park.
Walt said “EPCOT will be an experimental prototype community of tomorrow that 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 systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.”
I’ve wanted to be a part of Walt’s original EPCOT idea since I heard about it. I remember in October of 1966, just 2 months before Walt’s death, Walt airing his whole EPCOT idea. What a concept I thought. I want to be a part of this. In 1966, Nasa was in the midst of the Apollo program, eventually headed to the moon. Walt wanted to play a part in it, if nothing else, to get people excited through his animation team explaining the dream to America. What Walt really wanted was to see what the brightest minds of our country could come up with. Walt saw the advances that science was making. As scientists, first there has to be an idea, an aha moment, then the testing of the hypothesis, and finally the creation. EPCOT was going to try and bring together the brightest minds as well as those with incredible imagination. Brad Bird, the director of ‘Tomorrowland’, the Disney movie about a boy that invented a rocket pack that ended up in a sort of EPCOT, was a tribute to the original EPCOT idea.
Fast forward 50 years to today. With Elon Musk’s ‘The Boring Company’, he could actually use this company to accomplish the underground roads that Walt’s crew conceived to keep traffic out of the city. Elon seems to be echoing many of the thoughts that Walt had, creating underground tunnels to mitigate traffic in high congestion areas, primarily in EPCOT. Musk’s new company hopes to increase the speed of these tunnel boring machines 10 fold to reduce the cost of the whole tunnel boring process.
Walt also saw the direction that our cities were headed and wanted to build a city that showed what was possible, for those that wanted something different, something that was forward thinking. Elon has also said that he wants to do something to stop our dependence on fossil fuels, thus helping with climate change. This is forward thinking, not just thinking about the present, but to the future.
It’s obvious that Hyperloop, one of Elon’s other projects could also be integral to a modern day EPCOT. It would be Walt’s version of the WED PeopleMover on steroids. I actually had this idea when I worked at a fossil fuel testing facility 30 years ago. I’m glad that Elon is pulling this off. We can use low pressure air to move pods, much like the drive through bank teller pods that you put your money in to make a deposit. This would be a great way to get people in the city to the place they need to go.
Creating EPCOT would be a small scale prototype city, one that if it works on a small scale could be applied to larger cities. If the main purpose of this new EPCOT would is to be an incubator of ideas, it would hopefully spurn other cities to follow this lead. Instead of declining cities and wringing our hands about the future, it would put a more hopeful slant on our existence, being excited about what would be thought of next. Heck, EPCOT could stand for Elon’s Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
I realize that I’m not the first person to make this connection, but maybe if enough of us keep planting this bug in Elon Musk’s team, they may realize that there is some merit to it.
I’ve often thought that maybe there would be enough people out there who wanted to see this become a reality and to put together a ‘Go Fund Me’ site, but really a ‘Go Fund EPCOT’ site. If the likes of Elon Musk or Richard Branson, who are billionaires don’t think that creating the original concept of EPCOT is for them, maybe the rest of us who do believe that there is merit to the idea could create a collective entity that is funded by individuals like you and me. Sounds far fetched, but then again isn’t that what EPCOT was in the first place?
There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow,
Shining at the end of every day.
There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow,
And tomorrow’s just a dream away.
Tomorrowland is a place that most of us know in Disneyland and Disneyworld. It’s also the name of a movie directed by Brad Bird. The story created by Damon Lindelof, Jeff Jensen and Brad Bird asks “What happened to our “anything’s possible” spirit?” The movie picks up where Tomorrowland at Disneyland left off. When Walt left this earth, man had not yet landed on the moon. We had passed through the Mercury and Gemini missions and were deep into the Apollo missions, yet we still had not reached the moon. Man was launched into space for the first time to orbit the earth in 1961. We landed on the moon in 1969, only 8 years after figuring out how to even get a man to orbit the earth, not bad for such a short time period. In 1964, I attended the NY World’s Fair. It was quite an experience. It sported all of the achievements and future hopes of what the world’s inventors, artists and businesses had accomplished up until that time as well as exhibits that teased us by showing what should be possible in the future. It was a great time of pride for our nation.
We were racing the Russians to the moon. The economy was growing and most families were able to survive by just one wage earner working; though there wasn’t much extra to spare. America wasn’t perfect, we had racial upheaval and growing pains that left a lot of scars, but there was hope, even in the midst of the conflict in Vietnam.
In regards to Disney’s Tomorrowland, Walt said,
“Tomorrow can be a wonderful age. Our scientists today are opening the doors of the Space Age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come. The Tomorrowland attractions in Epcot have been designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future.”
Walt was very interested in the future. He was a man who didn’t understand the meaning of the word “can’t”. He was always asking “what if” which is probably why he built a Tomorrowland in the first place.
Brad Bird and his other two co-writers wanted to expand on this question. “What if there was another dimension where that world never stopped believing in “what if”. It is a story about people who keep “what if” alive in their hearts. Casey, played by Britt Robertson is a young student and daughter of a NASA engineer, Eddie Newton played by Tim McGraw. Casey has that type of “what if” spirit. She is chosen by Athena, played by Raffey Cassidy to return to the other dimension of our world to save their world by using her “what if” mentality to return them back to hope and world peace. Casey isn’t the first person who exhibited this hope, Frank Walker, played by George Clooney was a young boy that was chosen also by Athena, (an android human), but due to Frank’s discovering that the world was going to end and giving up hope, he was banished years ago from Tomorrowland (the other dimension of our world). Frank is bitter for having been banished, sitting in his dooms day room waiting for the 56 days left prior to the world ending as we know it. Athena has hope that Casey has enough of what Frank used to have, enough to save the world. Casey is led to Frank by Athena in order to use Frank’s knowledge to return to Tomorrowland.
I won’t spoil the end, in case you have never seen the movie. For some reason, I really like the spirit of this movie. We live in an era where wars, terrorism, social injustice and political upheaval seem to dominate our thinking more than “what if”. The protagonist David Nix, played by Hugh Laurie has some great lines below:
“Let’s imagine… if you glimpsed the future, you were frightened by what you saw, what would you do with that information? You would go to… the politicians, captains of industry? And how would you convince them? Data? Facts? Good luck! The only facts they won’t challenge are the ones that keep the wheels greased and the dollars rolling in. But what if… what if there was a way of skipping the middle man and putting the critical news directly into everyone’s head? The probability of wide-spread annihilation kept going up. The only way to stop it was to show it. To scare people straight. Because, what reasonable human being wouldn’t be galvanized by the potential destruction of everything they’ve ever known or loved? To save civilization, I would show its collapse. But, how do you think this vision was received? How do you think people responded to the prospect of imminent doom? They gobbled it up like a chocolate eclair! They didn’t fear their demise, they re-packaged it. It could be enjoyed as video-games, as TV shows, books, movies, the entire world wholeheartedly embraced the apocalypse and sprinted towards it with gleeful abandon. Meanwhile, your Earth was crumbling all around you. You’ve got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation. Explain that one! Bees and butterflies start to disappear, the glaciers melt, algae blooms. All around you the coal mine canaries are dropping dead and you won’t take the hint! In every moment there’s the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it. And because you won’t believe it you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason, because *that* future does not ask anything of you today. So yes, we saw the iceberg and warned the Titanic. But you all just steered for it anyway, full steam ahead. Why? Because you want to sink! You gave up! That’s not the monitor’s fault. That’s yours.”
So, I have a question for all of us, do we want to sink? Have we given up? Is it easier to not resist and to do nothing than to change our world? I for one, choose not to give up. What have we been doing since 1969 when we landed on the moon? It’s as if we won the Olympic Gold medal and now were ready to live the easy life and sign on to all of the corporate sponsorships, no more training and working for that gold medal. As Peter Thiel said so succinctly, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” Big whoop! Our dreams have shrunk. Who cares about another new Iphone or Windows update. We need big dreams! Maybe it’s because we have put God in the attic of our world home. I believe that God put those big dreams in our heads, or at least gave us the brainpower to figure it out. Now our nation is into political correctness. You can’t even mention God without getting in to trouble in our schools or government. What do you think that God is thinking when we say as a nation, “Sorry God, we don’t really want you involved anymore. Life is too complicated, you wouldn’t understand.” Well, God isn’t pushy. He will simply say. “Ok, I will let you be.” Many of you reading may be saying, “Oh brother, here is some guy pushing religion on me.” Actually I am not. I’m just putting that thought out there. Is it possible that all of these inventions and accomplishments in the 60’s weren’t 100% dreamed up just by ourselves? I don’t know about you, but I need all of the help that I can get! Our world needs all the help it can get.
If we believe that tomorrow can be better than today, that is a good place to start. If we believe that things will never improve, then we have thrown in the towel. It’s easy to throw in the towel. It doesn’t require anything of us. In the movie Tomorrowland, there is a story that Casey shares, a take off on the Native American Cherokee proverb: “There are two wolves and they are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. Which wolf wins? ……Whichever one you feed.”
Which wolf will you feed today?
I just finished a book titled ‘Disneyland: Inside Story’ by Randy Bright, a Disneyland employee since 1959, once the VP of Concept Development. The book is almost 30 years old, but was a great read. It chronicled the inception of the idea in Walt’s mind and follows him through the planning, construction and future planning of his second park in Florida. The last chapter follows Walt’s death and the challenges and triumphs the Disney team faced upon the sudden death of their leader. Walt’s idea of Disneyland came after taking his daughter’s, Diane and Sharon, on their weekly trip to the park to ride the carousel in Los Angeles. He wanted to create a park where the entire family, not just children, could enjoy themselves without the “carny” atmosphere that was typical for pretty much all amusement parks of the time. Disney had in his mind what he wanted to create and that is the place where all of his creations began. Disneyland isn’t loved by all though. Many feel that it is a candy coated version of a false reality where “there is always a happy ending”. Walt had earthen berms built around Disneyland so that guests in the park would not be jolted back into reality by the busy highways and activity beyond the park. He wanted his guests to enjoy their day within the fantasyland that his imagination had created. Many Hollywood stars as well as world leaders have and continue to visit Disneyland when in the area. Maybe they need a dose of happy endings as well! Today, we have supposed reality shows abounding on every channel on TV. Entertainment of every sort seems to blast as many holes in the earthen berms of our temporary escape from reality. The atrocities and crimes that are happening in our world are self evident; we don’t need a reminder via the entertainment industry for an hour or two that reinforces what we already know we will face the minute we leave the theater. Disneyland was only the beginning. Walt wanted a place where people could enjoy a respite from the troubles of the day on an ongoing basis. He and a few Disney employees would begin a plan called ‘Project X’. This is what we know today as Epcot. Walt had originally wanted Epcot, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, to be a residential and commercial city that was designed in such a way that would show what a city could be like that was planned through proper design, instead of the dirty crime laden cities that are found in most of our larger cities in the U.S. Obviously this part of Walt’s dream was never realized. Epcot became simply a blueprint of that original idea. Whether or not the original idea of Epcot could have ever been realized, the dream of creating something that is better than most of the cities that all of us live in was idealistic. They say that Walt had a childlike imagination. He didn’t know the meaning of the word “can’t”. One of his favorite phrases was, “Isn’t it fun to do the impossible?” All it takes is a thought such as “what if” or “I wonder” to spark an idea that with hard work and determination can result in Disneyland, the Ipad, the light bulb and thousands of other things that we enjoy today. Many many people told Walt that his ideas were impossible, but this never stopped him. He seemed to have an insatiable desire to go on to the next thing, to push the limits of technology and art so that we today can enjoy the fruits of his labor and imagination. As Walt once said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” I challenge you to have the courage to pursue them!