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!
I read somewhere that if you were in the midst of trying to discover where you wanted to go in life, then you should look retrospectively on your imagined life. Sounds kind of strange doesn’t it? So many times, when we try and think of what we want to become or do in life, we subconsciously place all kinds of limitations on it. We don’t realize many times that we are doing this. We somehow use the successes and the failures of our past to place mental leashes on our dreams. Since we live in the real world, that play world that we lived in as kids slowly disappears as life slaps us in the face. Bit by bit, we stop dreaming during the day; sure we dream at night, but daydreaming just stops. My teachers used to write to my parents on my report card that I daydreamed too much in class.
I will admit that I did daydream in class. I had so many things that I wanted to become and had quite a vivid imagination. Imagination is very underrated. It is necessary for the advancement of almost any discipline or task we put our hands to. If it wasn’t for imagination, the wheel would never had been invented, much less self driving cars.
After thinking of the challenge put before me, I knew that it was going to take some effort since I hadn’t done this in quite awhile. Most of my daydreaming of late had taken on a very pragmatic nature. Dreaming like I did when I was a kid was going to be a task.
Ground rules for daydreaming
First off, there are some rules you have to keep in mind or rather non-rules. Keep these in mind as you start daydreaming.
If money were not an object
If there were no time constraints
Throw every pragmatic or logical assumption out the window
Let your dream have absolutely no boundaries
Nothing is silly or stupid
Don’t judge your dream even before you get started
To hell with thoughts like “it’ll never happen so why dream it”
Don’t be afraid to even include friends and associates that you have enjoyed working with in the past in your dream
Once you have come up with your dream, write it down amping it up even more
To get you started, I am going to share my wild, no holds barred dream. As I said, this is a retrospective dream, looking back on my imaginary life. Here we go, don’t judge me!
My daydream – an example
“I can’t believe where I am today. At one time, I felt as though God had forgotten why He created me, but now I see that it was to prepare me for where I am today.
It started long ago. All of my life’s experiences created skills that were necessary to prepare me for this. I thought that I was only created to do one thing, but God showed me He created me to do many things, not just one thing. I was always interested in Rocketry. Little did I know that I would discover anti-gravity. This allowed man to escape earth’s gravitational pull without the use of millions of pounds of thrust. We were able to lift more payloads to space using the space that once was used for propellant to hold mission critical payload. After we escaped earth’s gravity, my team, using photon power, propelled the spacecraft to light speed, enabling man to explore new worlds that were once impossible to reach.
Anti-gravity also has commercial success as hover boards, passenger planes and other gravity bound products that suddenly “took off”. Tires on cars are a thing of the past. With my profits from anti-gravity, I was able to finally create Walt Disney’s Epcot. It is a place where the most creative minds live and work to create things that benefit mankind. It is not an amusement park, it is what the original plan for Epcot was supposed to be.
The friendships that I created came out of retirement to pull together to make the vision a reality. Steve Story is our corporate attorney who oversees our legal department. Phillip Shucet has found civil engineers like Gary Mackey to create the structure and thoroughfares in Epcot. Jim Tomlinson heads up the hospital. Mike Padden heads up our architectural department. Laurie, my wife makes sure that my creative thinking time is undisturbed. She heads up the ice rink as well as the culinary school.
We now have hologram vision, another invention of mine that beams the picture from your TV into your living room. Fortunately the FCC keeps bad content from jumping into people’s living rooms!
I have a weekly TV show called “Don’t Stop Dreaming”. I found out in my 60’s that acquiring stuff wasn’t important, acquiring dreams was more important. I had stopped asking “What if…” but one day I decided to rekindle my imagination and let it go wild. It had been so long that the rusty gears took awhile to get going, but once they did, they started spinning like a top. Something in my life had jammed the gears, but now they were making up for lost time. I couldn’t stop the ideas from flowing. It was as if God was birthing new ideas in me every day. I said that I wanted to be used and was I ever! There were a lot of obstacles along the way, but with God’s help and a faithful team of dreamers, doors kept opening. A half century ago, I felt as if God had whispered in my ear that He was going to use me for something extraordinary, and let’s just say, it has been far more extraordinary than I could have dreamed.”
Ok, that was my dream. What is yours? You may have no idea. First you have to learn to daydream again. Learning to daydream, using your imagination is not as easy as it once was when we were younger. It’s going to take a little bit of practice. I do this best when I am in a quiet place with paper and pen.
As a baby boomer, I often wonder why I’m suddenly interested in history. I hated history class in both high school and college. Now, I can’t wait to go to Colonial Williamsburg, watch the history channel or visit Monticello. Anything nostalgic or retro is in. The 50’s furniture we grew to hate as teenagers is now affectionately called “mid century” style and very popular. Talk to any Baby Boomer guy and they will tell you they love to watch ‘American Pickers’ on the history channel. The two guys on this show, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz are the epitome of our generation. They look for anything old and nostalgic. When we watch this show, we see things from our childhood that flood our memories with an easier time, at least in our own mind. Maybe this is why I enjoy renovating things, be it an old home, car or old piece of machinery. Don’t get me wrong, I also love thinking about the future and all of the inventions that people are coming up with. It’s as if I have one hand in the past and one hand in the future with my body in the present. My two favorite places in Disneyworld are Epcot, where you can learn about nation’s history and Tomorrowland, where a child could dream of going into space and learning about all of the technologies that were emerging.
I’ve often threatened to buy a “mid century” home and totally furnish and decorate it in “mid century” style; I mean down to the old black and white TV’s with reruns of ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘Leave it to Beaver’. Somehow, even though there were a lot of scary things going on in the 50’s like the cold war, as youngsters, we felt insulated. There weren’t reality TV shows and continuous news networks that bombarded us with more than we could handle. There were only 3 channels and the quality of the video wasn’t that good so that reality and fiction weren’t blurred as they are today.
We were told as kids that we could do anything. We were trying to figure out how to get men to the moon. Buck Rogers was the precursor to Star Trek. We were thinking of the future. That future included leaving our past behind. People were moving out of the city into the suburbs. We wanted the new ranch style homes. We didn’t want to live on the farm or in a row house. We wanted a 100 x 100 lot with an attached garage. Most families had only one car, a modest home and making a living wasn’t as hard. We were a more formal nation. We wore a coat and tie to the movies as well as on an “air”plane. I know there was social unrest and the past wasn’t as kind to many, but the present isn’t exactly kind to all of us either.
There is a saying that if we don’t remember our history, we are doomed to repeat it, both good and bad. Many of the books that my teachers tried to get me to read while I was in school, I now actually buy and read in my spare time! Talking to many of my peers, they say the same thing, they became interested in history over the past 10-15 years. Colonial Williamsburg is having a hard time staying afloat due to their attendance waning. The Rockefellers felt that our nation’s history was important enough to save, so they funded the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg.
I don’t know why I have become so nostalgic about the past. Maybe I see the unrest in our nation and the uncertainty of the present, wishing that I could somehow go back to what seemed like a more calmer period in our history. I know that I’m probably looking back through rose colored glasses, but let me continue to live in my memories, as memories can be changed to fit whatever we want to remember.
I’m interested to know if you find yourself more interested in history as you get older or is it just me and those in my circle.
I’ve been thinking lately, and that is a dangerous thing! Much of our life is on auto-pilot, much like getting in the shower to shampoo, rinse and repeat; the instructions on the side of our shampoo bottle. In all actuality, I only shampoo my hair once each time I shower, not twice, but alas I regress.
It is so easy to go through life doing the exact same thing we did the day before. I know that I get in a routine. I leave the house each day, vowing to make this day unlike any other day, but when I get to work, I see the exact same visual clues and I settle back into the same actions that I did the day before. Don’t get me wrong, many of these actions have proven very successful, but when the actions that you do are not giving you the intended results, then something has to change.
I believe that the reason that many of us do not veer off of our routine is due to comfort and fear. It is very comfortable to experience the same thing every day, even though it may not be healthy for us. We know the outcome, we don’t have to really put our mind in creative gear, we just put it in drive. Just like going to the gym, our muscles get used to the routine and stop developing. We are told by trainers, you have to switch up your routine or your muscles will not develop as they should. Our minds do the same thing, we stop growing as individuals when we go to that comfortable routine that isn’t delivering results any longer. The other reason I believe is fear. Doing anything new has some level of fear to it. Here I am writing this during my work day. Since I own the company, I should be able to be creative and write to my blog, right, but do I typically? The answer is no. I do not because I fear that if I don’t do the same thing that I did yesterday, my work results would change at the end of the day, and that is very uncomfortable. I can talk all I want about making changes, but do I really do it? Doing the same thing gives you consistent results, even when the results are not what you want, but hey, that are consistent. Doing something different or new makes us venture to that unknown land that takes us out of our comfort zone. God forbid that we might end up with superior results.
The same visual clues can also be a hindrance I believe. These are triggers. They cause us to repeat the same action the last time we were in that place. Why? I believe again it is comfort. Our brain associates an image with an action or thought process. It’s hard to stop thinking or doing something that has been ingrained in us. For instance, when I walk by my computer, instead of thinking of how can I write a really interesting story, I look over my work schedule, look at a profit and loss statement, look at our recent web rankings, look at my budget, check my email and any creative thought that would have been birthed has now vanished. You have to figure out what visual triggers cause you to fall into that trance that steals your life. Don’t get me wrong, many of our visual triggers are good, they get us moving and we get stuff done, but when you wake up with a purpose for the day, promising to brainstorm, don’t let the visual triggers side track you.
Purposeful living is hard. It’s much easier to simply repeat what you did the day before, in the exact same way that you did it yesterday. Also, being creative is hard as well. It’s much easier not to be creative. Creativity takes real effort. I don’t see being creative and routines as going hand in hand unless you call sitting still every day (the routine) to let God drop some really out of this world ideas into your head.
When I was a kid, my teachers used to tell my parents that I sat and daydreamed too much during class. I was guilty of this for sure, but I wasn’t daydreaming about the kind of cereal I ate that morning, I was dreaming of all kinds of inventions like space travel, underground cities and flying cars. I am also off the charts when it comes to dreaming each night. I joke about my multiple dreams per night, saying that I should have popcorn to go along with my dreams since many of them feel like cinematic experiences.
Somehow, the older we get, we seem to stop daydreaming or dreaming in general. We get into a routine that has proven to work for us. It pays the bills, keeps us out of prison and doesn’t cause people to hurl insults at us as we walk down the street. I guess you can say that we start to settle. What if our shampoo bottle said, “Shampoo, rinse, wait a couple of days, rinse, then shampoo and if you feel like it, shampoo some more.” Well, they wouldn’t sell as much shampoo and for those of us that like instructions, we would just melt into total confusion. Shampooing twice in one day does sell more shampoo, but for those of us that shampoo every day, that’s just too much shampoo in one’s life! Back to the analogy. Routines are not all that bad. For instance, I started playing cello two years ago. Unless I set up a routine to practice, I won’t get better. I know that for myself, I also have to set up a time that I practice each day, which for me is around 9PM each night. My teacher gives me different techniques to help me improve. I use these multiple exercises which are all different, yet I use the routine of my practice to perfect these. This “routine” works for me and gives me the desired result that I want in this area of my life. Exercising is another routine that I know is good for me. I need that routine to keep my body in good shape, but even with exercising, I choose different activities to keep my body from getting used to the same motions so that I can get a full workout.
One good routine that I have started to do is to take the first part of the day to write down 10 different ideas. (By the way, this isn’t my original idea, I borrowed this from James Altucher) These 10 ideas are not a to do list or a task list, they are ideas where I let my mind go wild. Some of them are great practical ideas and others are Buck Rogers type ideas. When I write down many of these ideas, I think of how silly they are, but when I go back and read through many of the old ideas, they don’t look so silly. Anyway, who said when we grow up our ideas have to become all serious and boring? I don’t think that Elon Musk starts his day by thinking, “I just need to start thinking of some boring ideas and businesses that nobody will get excited about, but will guarantee that I will make loads of money.” Nah, I think that Elon Musk believes that the future doesn’t have to be as bleak as we are all signing up for. It doesn’t hurt to have investors and the financial backing to make your dreams a reality, but we can all dream. This is the thought behind the movie Tomorrowland, that I wrote about last year. The future can have some golden moments and opportunities if we will start to dream again. We don’t have to stop dreaming just because we are older than the age of 12.
I remember when I finished college. The biggest wake up call was that the summer season would take on a whole new meaning. When you are in school, you have the summers off, for the most part. This was a time of going on vacation with your family or finally inventing that really cool rocket part that you didn’t have time to do during the school year. When you finally finish going to school, every month is like the previous, shampoo, rinse and repeat. Maybe you get a week or two of vacation during the year, but for the most part, it’s groundhog day. My wife and I recently read a book by Bob Goff called Love Does. Bob has these zany stories where he strives to live a life that has a good amount of whimsy in it. He is an attorney, but he does not let his vocation dictate how he lives his life. He allows ideas to pop into his head, then has the bollocks to act on them. Our home group read his book. Most of the people in our home church group are retired. This book really challenged many of them and made us think differently about how we should live each day.
I feel that each day is a gift from God. I don’t know about you, but when I receive a gift, I’m very thankful. I take time to write a thank you note to let the person who gave the gift know how much I appreciated the thought, and for remembering me. My thank you note to God is taking the time each day to allow Him to fill my mind with the vast possibilities of what this world was meant to be and for allowing me to be just a small part of that grand plan. Maybe someone one day will look back on one of my ideas and say, “Wow, that idea was bigger than Gill, he must have had someone help him with that one.” My answer would be, “You’re right, I don’t have that kind of imagination, but let me introduce you to the One whose imagination started this whole planet we live on!”
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?