April 4, 2016

EPCOT Center Dreams Fill Coffee Table Books

In the long ago, the money men of the Walt Disney Company were focused on continuing Walt's tradition of providing exceptional themed entertainment versus just making a quick buck by shoving their latest intellectual property (i.e. acquisition) into the parks. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Robert Iger and your thoughtless plans for shoving a Guardians of the Galaxy overlay to the terrific, iconic, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Almost makes fans forget how you are shoving Frozen into World Showcase) For decades, satisfying guests from the moment they entered Disney's worlds was the goal. 

The plan when EPCOT was a real community.

Back in the 1970s, when the plans for EPCOT Center morphed from a full-fledged real life community into a theme park, Disney Imagineers created some of the most beautiful pieces of concept art ever designed. Artist and gentleman Herb Ryman was the go to guy for most of these pieces. He was a great choice! His knack for injecting elegance into any Disney project was well known and appreciated. 

New Horizons for you and me. 

Originally thought of as two distinct parks, World Showcase would stand on its own as would Future World. Wiser heads prevailed, and the two were joined together, resulting in the park that eventually premiered in 1982.

World Showcase Courtyard.

In the earliest plans, the original World Showcase offered a World's Fair experience within the a mall-like environment. The top piece of concept art shows how the country of Spain would have been represented. Two particular aspects of this piece are worth pointing out. Did you notice the ceiling? Much of the park would have been indoors, no doubt a concession to Florida's often rainy weather. Secondly, did you happen to see the elevated Peoplemover in the upper left hand corner? The transportation system would have made it easy to navigate around the world by offering several stations at strategically placed locations. 

Underground cutaway view of the transportation hub.

The lack of a solid, friendly, transportation system in the park did become somewhat of a nightmare, low capacity Friendship boats and buses aside. Guest had to walk quite a distance to get from one end of the park to the other. The "blessing of size"seemed to allow EPCOT Center to absorb extremely large crowds and still offer visitors an acceptable level of comfort. 

Another look below street level. 

This was not a problem below ground as the main transportation hub was designed to be incredibly friendly to use as well as highly efficient. As you can see from the pieces of concept art directly above, automobiles, trams, the monorail, and the beautiful WEDWAY Peoplemover all comfortably co-exist on multiple levels, bringing thousands of guests to EPCOT.

Today, the landscape of Walt Disney World is cluttered with tired buses, busy roadways, and frustrated guests spending too much time to get to where they are going. Looks too much like the regular world! Certainly, other means of transportation should be considered and built. Yet that would mean the suits would have to invest in guest comfort at the expense of their inflated bonuses, leaving these cutting edge concepts just fodder for additional coffee table books.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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