Epcot is an experimental Disney theme park based in Orlando, Florida. Originally based on Walt Disney’s theories of city planning and new technologies, the park has since become a landmark theme park of the Walt Disney World Resort. Its emphasis on world culture and innovation has lead to some conflicting design elements throughout its history, and some critics believe the park is never quite sure which way it’s going.
Walt Disney, the visionary founder of the Disney empire, originally wanted to build an experimental community utilizing the latest technologies and urban planning ideas. The city was to be designed for 20,000, and would be constantly re-inventing itself as new advances came along. The name “Epcot” is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. The vision of Disney was never completed; after his death, Disney officials decided to take the park in different direction.
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Imagineers, the designers that create and build Disney attractions, clashed over the theme for Epcot. While some favored honoring Walt Disney’s futuristic ideals, others insisted that the park should be a celebration of world culture. Eventually, a compromise of sorts was reached, with half the park being devoted to each theme.
In Futureworld, the dreams of Walt Disney are applied to a variety of futuristic attractions. Spaceship Earth, the enormous metal sphere that is the signature feature of the park, is a time-machine ride through the history of human beings, from cave-dwelling times to modern day. Innoventions provides several rooms full of frequently-updated new technology and machinery to play with and learn about. On Mission: Space, riders experience a simulated rocket-ship blast-off and journey to Mars.
The other half of Epcot is devoted to the World Showcase Pavilions, a series of 11 sections each designed to represent the customs, décor and cuisine of a different country. The Norway Pavilion features a ride on a Viking ship replica, a model of a Norwegian church, and a bakery where traditional pastries are sold. In the Japanese Pavilion, a giant pagoda and ornamental garden give guests a place to rest and relax while sampling Japanese food. Perhaps the best known attraction is the American Adventure, a theater-like exhibition of the past 200 years of America, narrated by Ben Franklin and Mark Twain.
Epcot opened to mixed reviews in 1982. Some experts believe the park has suffered from a lack of overall direction, but it continues to attract many fans in the 21st century. In 2007, the park recorded 10.9 million guests, making it the third most visited theme park in the country. While Walt Disney’s dream of a model community was never built by the Disney Corporation, other areas in Florida adopted his ideals toward city planning. The town of Celebration, Florida is believed by some to have been designed with clear indications of Disney’s influence.