Monday, October 01, 2007

Epcot at Disney - 25 years old

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Disney's Epcot, which opened on October 1, 1982.

1982 was a futuristic year. Schools were offering the first computer classes for kids. Blade Runner and The Road Warrior were two stunning and scary futuristic films destined to become classics. On the same date as the Epcot opening, Sony introduced the first CD player.

Epcot was something that Walt Disney himself had imagined as an experimental community, where people would live and work. The Epcot of 1982 was far from Walt's grand vision. Epcot was more of a World's Fair, offering a glimpse of an optimistic future and a celebration of world culture.

The Epcot that stands today is different than the one in 1982. The World of Motion, Horizons, and other exhibits have been demolished and or modified. Rides like Mission SPACE and Test Track have replaced them.

Several blogs have sprung up to discuss what Epcot has become and what its future might hold. Some lament that Epcot has become more of a kiddie ride than an expo for learning about the future.

One may argue that Epcot is more of a relic than a park, made obsolete by the rise of the Internet. With tools like blogs and Wikis, the amount of information available on the web makes any information a park exhibit might share old news before it even gets off the drawing board.

But Disney has a legacy of inspiring the future. Aerospace engineer Burt Rutan has said he was motivated to pursue a career in aviation, and eventually spaceflight, after watching Disney's Man In Space shows as a child. Tomorrowland left an impression on me that was enough to start blogging. Who knows how many countless children passed through the gates of Disney parks and left to follow creative lives as they matured.

Epcot's identity crisis is a sign of how predicting the future has changed. I jokingly made the slogan of this blog "Until I get a flying car or a jetpack...this will do". Flying cars, jetpacks, space colonies were practically assured to be reality by the time the 21st century came along. Some of Epcot's demolished or retired exhibits were filled with such lofty visions.

The kids of the 1980s are all grown up now. Raised on computers and science fiction, they now face the very real problems of e-waste, climate change, and preserving a fragile planet. All humans are all forced to become futurists now, not just speculating about futuristic gizmos and techno-wonders, but for our very survival.

Epcot has always faced a daunting challenge. How do you get easily-bored kids and their parents, who are paying for a pricey vacation, to go to a place to have fun and actually learn something? Disney parks have been able (with generous corporate sponsorship...of course) to make it work. I will be watching closely to see what Disney's imagineers will do to help Epcot adapt.

The world of Epcot enters its 25th year facing an uncertain future. So do we all.


Epcot Central - A blog about Epcot
Re-Imagineering - A blog written by Disney Imagineers and with several entries about the future of Epcot
The Official Epcot Homepage - The Epcot Page on
Walt Disney's Original Plan for Epcot - A film where Walt Disney himself proposes the original idea for Epcot
The CDP-101 - The first CD player by Sony. Introduced on this date.

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