Epcot Center – The Symbol Of A Failed Cultural Ideal

Epcot Center: Ever since the park’s inception, it has been a top name in advancement and technology. It is one of the most visited theme parks in the entire world and will continue to be just that: a theme park. Little do vacationers know of the crushed potential for the area that died together with Walt Disney.

The park’s name stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, a name that was given to the project by Disney in its early stages. His ambition with the park was to establish a utopian society that might have engulfed the entire property of Walt Disney World in Florida. He wished to make a city that was self-dependent and capable of growing its own food in a sustainable manner. It was aimed as a place where occupants could live separately from the surrounding communities.

The park is modeled after the ideals laid out by the original city plans, and has been called a perdurable Worlds Fair. At over 300 acres, EPCOT is a lot more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom.

“EPCOT… will take its cue from the new ideas and new invention and technology 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 examining and displaying new materials and systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.” – Walt Disney

The persons mover ride, for example, which is a continuous transit system, relying on the movement of the track rather than motors in the vehicles, would have been the city’s main form of transportation and work together with the monorail system. No car or trucks would have been allowed downtown, avoiding accidents and promoting pedestrian well-being. Main roads for delivery trucks and autos entering and leaving the city would be located underground, preventing traffic congestion and preserving householders from seeing the behind the scenes work. No one in the city would be out of work, eliminating run-down neighborhoods and ghettos. The Worlds Showcase was also an original aspect of his concept. It was meant to be a shopping and recreation area where one could taste the cultures of various lands to promote learning, acceptance and diversity.

The project was a huge undertaking, and Disney was refused funding until he wrapped up building The Magic Kingdom. He died right before the park ever opened and with him, the dream of his city was extinguished. Those left behind to continue his work didn’t have the same vision for the area, and didn’t feel capable of running a city without him.

It makes one wonder; if Walt had prevailed, Disney World would be a huge community, excelling in science, innovation, and technology. Eco friendly living is now an important end goal the country is trying to reach, and Disney was ahead of his time with his ideas of making that dream come true. How would this project have changed the world? Would it have been a success?

The city was to be a model only; an experimentation that once prosperous could spread all over the country, and finally the world. Celebration, Florida is a community owned by the Disney Corporation that seemingly fulfills Walt’s dream. However, the city is based on new urbanism, a system that differs greatly from his ideas of futurism and modernism. New urbanism does have close ties to environmentalism, with the main focus being on walk able communities: areas with jobs, shopping and doctors close enough to walk, promoting a far healthier lifestyle not dependent on vehicular transport. This is a way to get back to what living neighborhoods were like a long time ago, fixing the problems that have led to the detrimental and energy consuming neighborhoods of contemporary society.

However, what Walt Disney wanted was a modern, futurist approach. Modernism rejects tradition and invents new ways of doing things. It does not revert back to the traditions that have gone wrong in the past. Strong lines, anti-historicism and a sense of urgency mark futurist architecture. The art of this movement proposes speed, motion, and a constant push into the future; in contrast to the slow paced neighborhoods that make up Celebration. Both Epcot Center and Celebration are a mere taste of what could have been had Disney’s genius been permitted to flourish among the commercialism of theme parks and gift shops. As the park reaches its 30th year, Disney World celebrates their accomplishments with guests, recognizing that what has been done, though impressive and successful, is only a fraction of what was possible.