Walt Disney's Original Vision for Epcot
The name Epcot was coined by Walt Disney and is an acronym of the following phrase:
"Experimental Prototype Community (or City) Of Tomorrow"
Another unofficial interpretation; "Every Person Comes Out Tired!" is even more relevant for many visitors due to the sheer scale of this theme park - Epcot is twice the size of the Magic Kingdom.
Walt Disney's intention was to build a 'city of the future' in Florida, which would be carfully planned to provide the ideal place for mankind to work, rest and play in the 21st century and beyond. Although this vision was never to be realised, Epcot represents many of the features which Disney had highlighted, and it is this history which gives the park its unique character. This film, produced shortly before Walt Disney's death in 1966, sets out the vision (full text is reproduced below).
Sadly, Walt Disney died before the development of Epcot began, and the Disney company changed direction away from running a city, to creating a theme park representation of the Epcot vision instead.
The park was initially known EPCOT Center (note the upper case) which reflected the fact that it represented Disney's original vision of the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. The format of the name has sinced changed and it is now nown as 'Epcot' - no longer upper case, no longer an acronym.
This is the transcript from the film, starting first with the narrator:
"Welcome to Disneyland, USA. This was all a Disney dream a dozen years ago - a far out project that was totally untrue. Today, 60 million people have come here from every state in America and from almost every nation around the world. In Town Square, on Main Street, many have paused to read the dedication plaque that symbolizes the warm and friendly spirit of Walt Disney's magic kingdom.
To all who come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts which have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.
Disneyland grew out of Walt Disney's own feeling that an amusement park should offer more for the entire family. Here was no mere amusement park. Here was a whole new concept in entertainment where parents and children could have fun together.
The touchstone of Disneyland's success has been its concern for people: a whole-hearted dedication to the happiness of the people who visit here. Today Disneyland has established standards of performance unsurpassed in all the world. Yet in the planning and building there were no standards to follow; whatever worked became the code. Whatever failed to meet the public need was changed, replaced by a better idea.
People and vehicles are constantly in motion at Disneyland. Here people travel aboard almost every method of transportation man has ever designed. Provocative new ideas like the first monorail system in the western hemisphere have demonstrated their potential in this practical proving ground. Disneyland vehicles have carried 340 million passengers in comfort and speed and have traveled more than 19 million miles in unequaled safety.
To plan Disneyland Walt Disney long ago established a design organization called WED Enterprises. Today the staff at WED includes designers, architects, and engineers skilled in the "Disney way." And also fine craftsmen and technicians skilled in the arts of the space age.
What WED does is called Imagineering: a blending of creative imaginations with technical know-how. The talents of WED have gone to work outside Disneyland, too. At the New York World's Fair, four of the most popular attractions were Disney shows and corporate exhibits that skillfully welcomed and entertained more than 150,000 people every day.
Tribute to the achievements of the Disney design staff was paid by many highly respected planners and builders, among them James W. Rouse, developer of the new town of Columbia. In his keynote speech before the 1963 Urban Design Conference at Harvard University, Mr. Rouse said in part:
"I hold a view that may be somewhat shocking to an audience as sophisticated as this: that the greatest piece of urban design in the United States today is Disneyland. If you think about Disneyland and think of its performance in relationship to its purpose, it's meaning to people—more than that, it’s meaning to the process of development—you will find it the outstanding piece of urban design in the United States. It took an area of activity—the amusement park—and lifted it to a standard so high in its performance, in its respect for people, in its functioning for people, that it really does become a brand new thing. It fulfills all its functions it set out to accomplish, un-self-consciously, usefully, and profitably to its owners and developers. I find more to learn in the standards that have been set and in the goals that have been achieved in the development of Disneyland than in any other piece of physical development in the country."
Yesterday, Disneyland and the New York World’s Fair…tomorrow, a project so vast, it has been called a whole new Disney “world.”
And now, here's Walt Disney..."
"Welcome to a little bit of Florida here in California. This is where the early planning is taking place for our so-called Disney World project. Now the purpose of this film is to bring you up to date about some of the plans for Disney World. But before I go into any of the details, I want to say just a word about the site for our Florida project.
As you can see on this map, we have a perfect location in Florida, almost in the very center of the state. In fact, we've selected this site because it’s so easy for tourists and Florida residents to get here by automobile.
Now in larger scale on this map, our Florida land is located partly in Orange County and Osceola County between the cities of Orlando and Kissimmee. And the important thing is that the Disney World is located just a few miles from the crossing point of Interstate 4 and Sunshine State Parkway, Florida's major highways carrying motorist east and west and north and south through the center of the state.
The sketches and plans you will see today are simply a starting point: our first overall thinking about Disney World. Everything in this room may change time and time again as we move ahead, but the basic philosophy of what we’re planning for Disney World is going to remain very much as it is right now.
We know what our goals are. We know what we hope to accomplish. And believe me, it’s the most exciting and challenging assignment we've ever tackled at Walt Disney Productions.
Today I want to share with you some of our ideas for Disney World. Now the prologue for this film told you some of the philosophy that made Disneyland in California what it is today. Of course, there will be another amusement theme park in Florida similar to the one in California. We’re now developing a master plan that encompasses the theme park and all the facilities around it that will serve the tourist: hotels, motels, and a variety of recreational activity. In fact, just this little area alone is five times the size of Disneyland in California.
As you can see on this master plan, the theme park and all the other tourist facilities fill just one small area of our enormous Florida project. According to this scale, I am six miles tall! Now, it’s twelve miles from here up to here and the whole area encompasses 27,400 acres. That is forty-three square miles: twice the size of the island of Manhattan. Now, the area we propose to develop is between the Reedy Creek swamp and the Bonnet Creek swamp. So one thing we don't need is a fence to protect us from trespassers.
Here in Florida we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland: the blessing of size. There's enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we could possibly imagine.
Right now our plans include an airport of the future (down here in Osceola County), an entrance complex where all visitors will enter Disney World, an industrial park area covering about 1000 acres, and of course, the theme park area way up here. And all these varied activities around the Disney World will be tied together with a high-speed rapid transit system running almost the full length of the property.
But the most exciting, by far the most important part of our Florida project—in fact, the heart of everything well be doing in Disney World—will be our experimental prototype city of tomorrow. We call it EPCOT, spelled E-P-C-O-T: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Here it is in larger scale.
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.
I don't believe there is a challenge anywhere in the world that's more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities.
But where do we begin? How do we start answering this great challenge? Well, we’re convinced we must start with the public need. And the need is not just for curing the old ills of old cities. We think the need is for starting from scratch on virgin land and building a special kind of new community. So that's what EPCOT is: an Experimental Prototype Community that will always be in the state of becoming. It will never cease to be a living blueprint of the future where people actually live a life they can’t find anyplace else in the world.
Everything in EPCOT will be dedicated to the happiness of the people who live, work, and play here, and those who come here from around the world to visit our living showcase.
We don't presume to know all the answers. In fact, we’re counting on the cooperation of American industry to provide their very best thinking during the planning and the creation of our Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. And most important of all, when EPCOT has become a reality and we find the need for technologies that don’t even exist today, it’s our hope that EPCOT will stimulate American industry to develop new solutions that will meet the needs of people expressed right here in this experimental community.
Well, that's our basic philosophy for EPCOT. By now, I'm sure you're wondering how people will live and work and move around in our community of tomorrow, so in the next few minutes we will go into detail about some of our preliminary sketches and layouts. Remember though, as I said earlier, this is just the beginning! With that thought in mind, let’s have a look."
"No city of today will serve as the guide for the city of tomorrow. EPCOT will be a planned environment demonstrating to the world what American communities can accomplish through proper control of planning and design.
EPCOT begins with an idea new among cities built since the birth of the automobile. We call it the radial plan. Picture a wheel: like the spokes of a wheel, the city fans out along a series of radials from a bustling hub at the center of EPCOT.
A network of transportation systems radiate from the central hub carrying people to and from the heart of the city. These transportation systems circulate to and through four primary spheres of activity surrounding the central core. First, the area of business and commerce…next, the high-density apartment housing…then the broad greenbelt and recreation lands… and finally the low-density, neighborhood residential streets.
EPCOT's dynamic urban center will offer the excitement and variety of activities found only in the metropolitan cities: cultural, social, business, and entertainment.
Among its major features will be a cosmopolitan hotel and convention center towering thirty or more stories. Shopping areas where stores and whole streets recreate the character and adventure of places ‘round the world…theaters for dramatic and musical productions…restaurants and a variety of nightlife attractions. And a wide range of office buildings, some containing services required by EPCOT's residents, but most of them designed especially to suit local and regional needs of major corporations.
But most important, this entire fifty acres of city streets and buildings will be completely enclosed. In this climate-controlled environment, shoppers, theatergoers, and people just out for a stroll will enjoy ideal weather conditions, protected day and night from rain, heat and cold, and humidity.
Here the pedestrian will be king, free to walk and browse without fear of motorized vehicles. Only electric powered vehicles will travel above the streets of EPCOT's central city.
This towering motel is the visual center of EPCOT, a shining jewel at the center of the city. It will offer tourists and vacationers not only the most modern guest rooms and convention facilities, but also a seven-acre recreation deck located high above the pedestrian and shopping areas of the city.
But hidden from view, directly beneath the hotel, is another kind of vital center: EPCOT's transportation lobby. Although out of sight to hotel guests, this transportation terminal will play a key role in the City of Tomorrow's ability to meet the needs of both visitor and resident.
Two separate but interconnecting transit systems will move people into and out of EPCOT in speed, safety, and comfort through the central terminal. Both are electrically powered: the high-speed monorail for rapid transit over longer distances, and a concept new to the American City for shorter travel distances, the WEDWAY People Mover.
Automobiles and trucks will not be barred from EPCOT; in fact, a vast armada of vehicles will continuously flow through the heart of the community, traveling below the pedestrian level on roadways reserved for specific types of vehicles.
Let’s look at another view of EPCOT's transportation hub and see how traffic flows through the heart of the city on three separate levels.
At the bottom of the stack is the truck route, reserved for supply vehicles. Trucks will have easy access to all loading docks and service elevators for the delivery of commercial goods.
The middle level is the automobile thruway, exclusively for cars. Adjacent to the roadway are parking areas for the convenience of hotel guests. For the motorist just driving through, no stoplight will ever slow the constant flow of traffic through the center of EPCOT.
But automobiles and freeways will not be EPCOT's major way of entering and leaving the city. The transportation heartbeat of EPCOT will be the two electric powered systems—monorail and WEDWAY—that radiate to and from the transportation lobby, and the key system in this coordinated network will be the WEDWAY People Mover.
The first People Mover installation is already in daily operation at Disneyland. On peak days, it carries nearly 40,000 passengers. The cars you see here are approximately 5/8ths scale, considerably smaller than full-sized passenger cars would be for city use.
EPCOT's People Mover is a silent, all-electric system that never stops running. These cars continue to move even while passengers are disembarking or stepping aboard. Power is supplied through a series of motors embedded in the track, completely independent of the cars. No single car can ever break down and cause a rush hour traffic jam in EPCOT. Because the cars run continuously, there will be no waiting in stations for the WEDWAY People Mover; the next car is always ready.
Now let’s go back to the Transportation Lobby and see how the WEDWAY will travel along one radial between the center of EPCOT and a typical residential area.
Leaving the Transportation Lobby, the WEDWAY trains travel above the downtown streets. Within minutes, the WEDWAY passes through the first station. Many people who work in the offices and stores of EPCOT's city center board the WEDWAY here for their trip home. Some people leave the WEDWAY here, too: they live in EPCOT's high-density apartments surrounding the metropolitan center.
Most passengers who ride the WEDWAY live beyond the apartments and stay aboard the People Mover as it crosses EPCOT's sheltering greenbelt.
EPCOT's greenbelt is more than just a broad expanse of beautiful lawns and walks and trees. Here too are the communities’ varied recreation facilities, its playgrounds for children, its churches, and its schools.
Beyond the greenbelt are EPCOT's neighborhood areas of single-family homes. This [pictured in the film] is one radial neighborhood. Here and throughout the community, residents returning from work or shopping will disembark from the WEDWAY at stations located conveniently just a few steps from where they live.
The homes are located in a wide green area that provides light recreation activities for adults and play areas for children. Circulating through this area are footpaths reserved for pedestrians, electric carts, and bicycles. Children going to and from schools and playgrounds will use these paths, always completely safe and separated from the automobile.
The resident leaving home in his automobile will drive down a street reserved for motor vehicles. He then enters a one-way road that circles the city center. This road carries the motorist onto the main throughway connecting EPCOT with other points in Disney World and with Florida's nearby network of major highways. But most EPCOT residents will drive their automobiles only on weekend pleasure trips. From all over the community residents going to their jobs converge by WEDWAY on the Center City. Many work downtown in offices, stores, and shops, but most employees go beyond the city core to their jobs. From the Transportation Lobby, monorail trains carry employees either to the theme park or to EPCOT's one thousand-acre industrial park.
At this central station in the industrial complex, passengers disembark from the monorail and again board WEDWAY cars that radiate through each facility. This industrial complex will provide employment for many people who live in EPCOT. But it will mean much more, not only for this community but also for American industry. Here the Disney staff will work with individual companies to create a showcase of industry at work.
In attractive park-like settings, the six million people who visit Disney World each year will look behind the scenes at experimental prototype plants, research and development laboratories, and computer centers for major corporations.
So this is EPCOT, the heart of Disney World. In other parts of the country, a community the size of this prototype could become part of an entire city complex composed of many such communities, planned and built a few miles apart. In Disney World, about 20,000 people will actually live in EPCOT. Their homes will be built in ways that permit ease of change so that new products may continuously be demonstrated. Their schools will welcome new ideas so that everyone who grows up in EPCOT will have skills in pace with today's world.
EPCOT will be a working community with employment for all. And everyone who lives here will have a responsibility to help keep this community an exciting living blueprint of the future."
"That's the starting point for our Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. And now, where do we go from these preliminary plans and sketches? Well, a project like this is so vast in scope that no one company alone could make it a reality. But if we can bring together the technical know-how of American industry and the creative imagination of the Disney organization, I'm confident we can create—right here in Disney World—a showcase to the world of the American free enterprise system. I believe we can build a community that more people will talk about and come to look at than any other area in the world. And with your cooperation, I’m sure that the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow can influence the future of city living for generations to come. It’s an exciting challenge; a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone who participates. Speaking for myself and the entire Disney organization, we’re ready to go right now."