It’s Day 12 of our series 50 Days to 50 Years! We are thrilled to welcome Molly from The Real Disney Mom to mark another milestone year in the history of Walt Disney World 1982.
Some of you might be surprised by the fact that I was not even born yet in 1982! Despite this, it is still my favorite year in the history of the Disney Company. 1982 hails as the year that Epcot, formerly known as EPCOT Center, opened in Walt Disney World on October 1st.
I am a huge fan of Walt Disney himself, and EPCOT was Walt’s great dream. The acronym EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. The original idea for EPCOT was not for it to be a theme park at all. It was supposed to be exactly what the acronym states. Walt envisioned EPCOT as a living, breathing, working community. He dreamed of a utopia, where all people were equal. He even had hopes of this community being encased underneath a glass bubble. Imagine- even the weather could be controlled! That is something I am sure many of us would enjoy in Walt Disney World today.
EPCOT Center: The Opening Celebration aired on CBS October 23, 1982 (Hosted by Danny Kaye)
Walt Disney World 1982
EPCOT Center was billed as a “showcase to the world for the innovations of tomorrow and the nations of today.” Walt had not intended for EPCOT to be a theme park. However, after Walt’s passing, the Disney Company found it more fitting to honor Walt’s dream as a companion to the Magic Kingdom. This would become the second theme park in Walt Disney World.
The icon of EPCOT Center was, is, and hopefully forever will be Spaceship Earth. Spaceship Earth was the first geodesic sphere ever completed. It is truly an architectural wonder. (Especially considering that you travel through this great sphere on the attraction “Spaceship Earth”.) It is fitting that Spaceship Earth resembles a “futuristic globe”. EPCOT Center was, and still is comprised of two parts. Future World, whose main focus is of course, the future. And secondly, World Showcase, which is a collection of what is now 11 “countries” situated around World Showcase Lagoon.
Sadly for many of us, in 1994, the “Center” was dropped from EPCOT’s name. And in 1996, the capitalization of Epcot was no longer used, therefore signaling that the acronym was no longer being used.
EPCOT Center Opens
In Epcot’s opening year, 1982, Future World was comprised of 6 parts. Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, World of Motion, Imagination, The Land, and CommuniCore. I first visited Epcot in 1989 at the age of 3. My second visit there was in 1991 at the age of 5. Despite being very young, I remember very fondly these original parts of Future World.
The attraction inside of Spaceship Earth was different than it is now. Instead of the ending where you “create your own future” on a screen in front of you, there were animatronic scenes of what the future might look like. I remember one scene in later years of a boy and girl on different sides of the world, taking to each other using computers, and they were able to see each other’s faces on their computer screens. Remind you of anything we use today?
The Universe of Energy did not include Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye. What I remember most about this attraction were the immense dinosaurs. I also remember what I can only describe to you as a “swamp-like” smell.
The Land Pavilion was very different. I absolutely loved the Kitchen Cabaret Revue as a child. This was an audio-animatronic show that consisted of food that sang and talked. What’s a child not to like?! Living With the Land was then called Listen to the Land, and was much like it is today, except instead of a pre-recorded voice narrating your journey, there was an actual person.
The former CommuniCore buildings are now home to the InnoVentions buildings. I remember a crank that you could turn with your arm to light up a light bulb, and a circle of telephones surrounding a robot called SMRT-1 that you could communicate with using the phones.
EPCOT World Showcase Opens
In 1982 only 9 of World Showcase’s country pavilions were built. Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, The America Adventure, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada were present. Norway and Morocco were added later.
In 1982, the attraction in the Mexico Pavilion was called El Rio Del Tiempo (The River of Time), and did not showcase “The Three Caballeros”. I remember passing by scenes of merchants that were seemingly talking right to you, trying to get to you purchase whatever they were selling.
In Japan I remember watching the candy artists making birds, blowing the candy into a bubble to make the birds body and stretching the candy out long to make it’s beak. Fondly, I look back on this tradition. We started the first time I visited Epcot and that we still do today, is to pick out our own oysters, and have the women harvest pearls from them!
Also, I remember mimes as well as men walking around in giant plastic balls in the France Pavilion. I always got a great kick out of these street performers!
Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow
One of the amazing things about the World Showcase that still rings true today, is that they bring in people from all over the world to be Cast Members in their respective countries. It is wonderful to sit down for dinner in Italy, and have your server be able to tell you about his country in his own native accent. Not exactly Olive Garden!
Honestly, there isn’t much I wouldn’t give to go back to what EPCOT Center used to be. But, some of the magic from Epcot’s opening year must still be lingering around the park somewhere because every time I walk through the turn styles, and into what Epcot has become, the little hairs on the back of my neck still stand straight up. Being in Epcot is a feeling like no other. We can only hope that it will be here long enough for my children and grandchildren to enjoy as much as I did, and continue to.http://about.me/mollybeckley
Walt Disney’s vision for a utopian community, EPCOT, was never realized. So of course, many of us fantasize about what might have been… Luckily, as Molly shows so well, the reality of Epcot the theme park is also pretty darn appealing! Thank you so much for walking us through 40 years of this Park’s history. Perhaps a hint to the next series??
Please stop by tomorrow as Mike from My Dreams of Disney returns to the series and brings us the year 1983.