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Park Name
Statistics

Location

Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA

Opened

October 1, 1982

Owner

Disney

Official Website

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/epcot/

Epcot is an amusement park located in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

HistoryEdit

Already an entertainment master, Walt Disney wanted to expand the Disney name further. He accomplished this by opening Disneyland, a one-of-a-kind park in Anaheim, California in 1955. The park was divided into different themed lands to create the theme park environment. The park was a huge success, more so than Walt ever dreamed. It continued to grow but the growth was limited by the small amount of land the park sat on. Walt was determined a way to fix this.

The search for a new resort location began only four years after the opening of Disneyland. Initially a population survey was conducted to see where the best area of the United States would be to build this new resort. Early on, Walt decided that he wanted it to be located on the eastern end of the Mississippi River where the majority of the U.S. population was located. Many sites were flown over, but eventually land just outside Orlando, Florida was chosen. At the time it was mostly swampland but Walt favored the location due to its close proximity to major Florida highways and a nearby airport.

This time around Walt made sure that his new project would have plenty of leg room to avoid the “neon jungle” that had sprung up just outside the borders of Disneyland. Due to the area’s minimal usage the land rates were low, but they would have been jacked up if the owner found out who was buying the property. To avoid this, fake companies were invented to buy the land separately although they were all actually Walt Disney Company employees. The first land was bought in October 1964 by the Ayefour Corporation which is a gag on Interstate 4 which runs just outside of Walt Disney World. Land was bought by these fake companies for the cheap price of about $185 per acre.

This went on for a year before the information was leaked. Fortunately by this time most of the land had been bought. The prices spiked to a whopping $80,000 per acre. Soon after the incident Walt held a press conference to explain the new project. The Magic Kingdom was revealed along with EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. Walt’s vision was a futuristic city where people lived and worked, however the plans would dramatically change after Walt’s death. The company had purchased so much land that their own district was formed, entitled Reedy Creek Improvement District. This allowed Disney to have their own “government” and weren’t under the control of anyone but themselves. Later on two new cities would be formed, both within the Walt Disney World property. They were the City of Bay Lake and the City of Lake Buena Vista both named after artificial lakes constructed by Disney on the property.

On December 15, 1966 a wrench was thrown in the project and brought about the end of an era. Walter Elias Disney died of lung cancer at the age of sixty-five, five years before his Florida project would be completed. Roy Disney, his brother, canceled his retirement and went on to lead the project until its opening. In memory of his brother Roy officially gave the resort its name, Walt Disney World. Despite Walt’s death, construction officially began in 1967.

The Magic Kingdom was the complex’s first theme park and the only to open on the resort’s opening day, October 1, 1971. It featured a very similar layout to the original Disneyland, with some unique ideas to call its own. A system of utility corridors, coined utilidors, were made for cast members to get around the park without guests seeing them. Since nothing can be built very far underground in Florida these utilidors were built at ground level. The Magic Kingdom was then constructed on top of these, so the Magic Kingdom is actually built about twenty feet above sea level. When the property was bought, the only body of water on site was Bay Lake. Just next to it the 172 acre Seven Seas Lagoon was constructed by Disney. After it was filled over 70,000 fish were added.

For opening day, the Magic Kingdom would have a total of twenty-three attractions and six themed lands. Of the fairly small number of attractions, twenty were copies of rides at Disneyland and only three were brand new, unique rides. It was a similar situation with the lands; five were from Disneyland and only one was new, Liberty Square. The park would expand rapidly over the next few years as guests continued to pour in. Things slowed down a bit as 1980 neared however, as a new construction project was underway.

The slow development of the late seventies was due to the planning and construction of EPCOT Center, Walt Disney World’s second theme park. However, Walt Disney himself had not intended for EPCOT to be a theme park. It was originally designed as an Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow (EPCOT). It would be an actual functioning city and was supposed to be the headline attraction of the entire Walt Disney World Resort. From the beginning Walt had a hard time convincing everyone else the idea would work. When Walt died, the original idea for EPCOT went to the grave with him.

Originally Walt Disney Imagineers were designing two separate theme park models, one of which focused on different nations of the world. The other was like a permanent World’s Fair, and explored all the ideas of the future. One day someone pushed the two models together, and EPCOT as we know it was created. When EPCOT Center was built it was the largest Disney theme park on Earth and would remain so until Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998. The plans for EPCOT Center were revealed to the public in 1978, four years before the park would open. Like Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, the park needed an icon. Spaceship Earth was decided on and designed with the help of Ray Bradbury, a science fiction author. At the time, the construction of EPCOT Center was the largest construction project on Earth. Spaceship Earth took over two years to build and takes up nearly 110,000 square feet. The massive structure weighs over 15,000,000 pounds. To make it even more interesting, a ride that explores the history and future of mankind and communication was built inside the structure and still remains popular with guests to this day, though it has been reworked a few times.

The park was divided into two main sections, Future World and World Showcase. Future World consisted of multiple pavilions each exploring something different, and were sponsored by a different real-life corporation. The Universe of Energy was sponsored by ExxonMobil for the majority of its lifetime. The original attraction clocked in at about forty minutes, and explored everything to do with energy. A highlight of the ride was the thirty-four audio-animatronics, all dinosaurs. Like many EPCOT Center attractions, the ride contained a pre-show and a post-show.

The Land pavilion was meant to explore the way humans interact with the land. Its original sponsor was Kraft Foods. The main attraction in this pavilion was Listen to the Land. The ride was just under fifteen minutes long, and like The Universe of Energy, was filled with audio-animatronics. There were exactly thirty-five of them. The ride vehicles are boats and the ride focuses on agriculture and how humans interact with it. Originally, there were cast members on board each boat who acted as tour guides and narrated throughout the course of the quarter-hour ride. The ride still exists today, but is known as Living with the Land and has received minor updates since the original opening, including pre-recorded narrations taking the place of live "tour guides".

Just behind Spaceship Earth at the center of EPCOT Center, was CommuniCore, now known as Innoventions. This pavilion was separated into two, semi-circular buildings designated “East” and “West.” The main focus of this pavilion was science and technology and even more specifically, computers. This was the only EPCOT Center pavilion to not have a sponsor. Instead, it has exhibits from many different sponsors inside of it. It acts as the central pavilion of Future World. For the vast majority of its life, no ride existed there, but it now hosts a state of the art Kuka robot arm simulator attraction sponsored by Raytheon.

TheWorld of Motion was the transportation pavilion at EPCOT Center and has been sponsored by General Motors for its entire lifetime, though it received a major makeover in the late 90s. World of Motion was designed differently from the other pavilions, in that it was the most humorous of the original attractions. The same man who designed the scenes for World of Motion’s ride had designed parts of legendary Disney rides such as the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise. The Imagination pavilion was the last pavilion that opened with the park. The building’s roof is made completely of glass and is in the shape of two pyramids. The pavilion opened it has been sponsored by Kodak since it opened.

The back half of EPCOT Center was host to the World Showcase. As the name suggests, park guests would be able to explore multiple countries from across the world, in just a matter of hours. On opening day there were nine countries represented, all in a circular formation around the man-made World Showcase Lagoon. Starting from the Future World/World Showcase border and moving clockwise guests can experience Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, the United States of America, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada. All of these countries are staffed by people from their nations. Only one country, Mexico, had any sort of ride while many others featured movies showcasing their homeland. The American Adventure actually featured state of the art audio-animatronic "actors" in conjunction with a film exploring the history and growth of the nation. Many restaurants and shops were scattered around World Showcase, giving guests a taste of the varying cultures across the globe. There were originally plans for Russia, Venezuela, Israel, United Arab Emirates, and Spain but they were never built.

After three years of construction, $1.4 billion, and the development of over 440 acres EPCOT Center held its grand opening on October 1, 1982 exactly eleven years after the Magic Kingdom opened. Strangely enough, no official dedication was held until October 24 of the same year. This was just the beginning for EPCOT Center, as it would begin to go through some drastic changes that would continue throughout the life of the park as it reflected the ever advancing world that it showcased. The first addition to EPCOT Center came the year after the park opened, in 1983. Horizons was unique among all Disney rides in that the guest actually got to choose their own ending to the ride. The purpose of the Horizons pavilion was to focus on the future, and what lay on mankind’s horizon. The new building was built between Universe of Energy and World of Motion and was sponsored by General Electric. Also in 1983, Journey Into Imagination opened as an attraction in the Imagination pavilion. The ride explored all the crazy concepts involving imagination and was hosted by then-EPCOT Center mascot, Figment.

World Showcase received its own addition in 1984. Morocco became the first and only World Showcase pavilion to represent the continent of Africa, bringing the total number of continents represented to four. Disney wanted to be so spot-on with their design for the country, that they actually contacted the Moroccan king. He fully agreed with the idea and wanted it to go full steam ahead. He sent some of his best craftsman and artisans to central Florida to help with the design of the pavilion. The pavilion opened with two restaurants, one show and multiple places to shop.

Continuing with the rapid expansion of EPCOT Center, a second new Future World pavilion opened in 1986. The Living Seas opened on January 15 as the world’s largest man-made tank filled with living sea creatures ever built. The whole purpose behind this pavilion was for park guests to be able to interact with sea animals while vacationing. It was essentially a Walt Disney World aquarium. There was no single attraction, but rather a slew of miniature attractions put together. A guest traveling through The Living Seas would go on a short ride through the aquarium, and then interact with various displays once in the exhibit area.

1988 was another big year for EPCOT Center. A second new country was added to the World Showcase and is the most recent addition to date. Norway represented the farthest reaches of northern Europe in the humid heat of Central Florida. The pavilion resembles a Norwegian village complete with a church, a Viking ship that was actually a playground for children, and multiple shops. Norway also features World Showcase’s only thrill ride. Maelstrom is a five minute boat ride that explores the history and mythology of Norway, including encounters with trolls and ends with a 20 ft plunge into the stormy North Sea. IllumiNations was the second addition to EPCOT Center that year. This amazing pyrotechnics show featured lighting effects, water, fire, lasers, and of course fireworks all set over the World Showcase Lagoon.

Amidst all of the changes being undergone at the Walt Disney World Resort, a new man had stepped into the CEO position of the Walt Disney Company in 1984. When Michael Eisner first took control of the company, the parks progressed the same way as they had previously, with no noticeable difference from the change in management. However, this would drastically change beginning in the late 80s and continuing until his resignation. EPCOT Center was continually growing, and Disney executives order for two new pavilions to be drawn up for the park. One of these was Wonders of Life which would go on to open in 1989. The second, called the Great Movie Ride pavilion was to explore the history and magic of the movies. Eventually, this idea would become so big that it morphed into the third Walt Disney World theme park, the Disney MGM Studios (now known as Disney's Hollywood Studios).

The 1990s were announced by CEO Michael Eisner to be known as the “Disney Decade.” The plan for this was to feature multiple new Disney parks across the world and greatly expand all of the existing properties. While some of these ideas never came through, such as a California version of EPCOT Center, the Walt Disney World Resort greatly benefited from these ten years. In fact they were among the most expansive in the resort’s history. One of the reasons for this was due to the Disney hotel boom. With Universal Studios Florida opening its gates, and SeaWorld Orlando not far behind, Disney knew there was a problem. Guests would stay at an Orlando-area hotel and split up their vacation time between the three entertainment venues. Disney wanted guests to be able to spend their whole time at Walt Disney World without leaving. The answer to their problem was to build hotels, and an in-resort transportation system, as well as giving Disney hotel guests benefits they wouldn’t enjoy anywhere else.

In the first year of the Disney Decade, two separate hotel complexes each opened on Disney property. Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, and the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin became the first hotels to open in celebration of the Disney Decade. The Yacht & Beach Club Resorts were actually two separate hotels, right next to each other. Disney’s Yacht Club Resort was styled after New England, and gave guests the impression that they actually were on board a luxurious resort. It was the more formal of the two resorts. Disney’s Beach Club Resort like its sister resort, sat on the shores of the man-made Crescent Lake. Both of these hotels share and expansive pool complex complete with a large water slide. Along with these resorts came the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin. Once again, these were two hotels that often acted as one and shared many facilities. These two hotels are officially Disney hotels, but are run by a third-party hotel company. The Swan & Dolphin combined have over 2,200 rooms.

Starting in 1994, EPCOT Center became officially known as Epcot ’94, while most just referred to it as Epcot. Avid Disney fans would notice that the name of the park was no longer in capital letters; this is due to the fact that it was no longer used as an acronym. This was the beginning of a transformation in Epcot. It was declared that the park had to be completely updated and revamped by the resort’s twenty-fifth anniversary, which was October 1, 1996. The changes began as early as the second half of 1993, with numerous rides shutting down for renovation. The Land’s main attraction, Listen to the Land, was closed down for four months in late 1993 for renovation purposes, and opened with a new name, Living with the Land. Kraft’s contract had run out, and Nestle took the reigns as the pavilion’s new sponsor. One change Nestle made to the pavilion was its color scheme. The entire interior received a whole new layer of paint that featured more vivid and bright colors. Also during this time, many of the shops and restaurants within The Land changed names, likely to separate them from their old sponsor. A second original attraction in the pavilion, the Kitchen Cabaret, was closed and replaced in early 1994 by the new show, Food Rocks. This attraction showed guests the best way to eat, and how to try to stay away from junk foods.

As part of the preparation for the twenty-fifth anniversary, CommuniCore was closed. This had been located just behind Spaceship Earth in two semi-circular buildings. Innoventions opened in 1994, and filled the vacant spot formerly held by CommuniCore. The pavilion was divided into Innoventions East and Innoventions West for each of the two buildings which hosted it. There were no real attractions in this pavilion; rather it was a walk-through, featuring some of the most advanced technology at the time. Over the years Innoventions would literally hold dozens of different temporary displays that were always changing to keep up with the times. Also that year, the Imagination pavilion received a brand new show, replacing Captain EO which had been showing since 1986. Honey, I Shrunk the Audience opened on November 21, 1994 and was based on the popular Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movie. This 3-D show shrunk guests to an extremely small size, and through the use of those crazy 3D glasses, allowed guests to get up-close and personal with mice, snakes and other objects that seem immense when one is shrunk down to a nearly microscopic size.

1996 saw the closing of the Epcot’s World of Motion. This GM sponsored attraction had existed since the park’s opening, but was finally closed in order to make room for Test Track. To counter this, the Universe of Energy celebrated its grand reopening with the all-new Ellen’s Energy Adventure featuring Ellen Degeneres, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Alex Trebek. Just around the corner from Epcot, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn also opened in 1996. This deluxe hotel features just under 300 rooms that, as the name implies, are located in an environment resembling the great era of boardwalks, from the 1920s to the 1940s. One of the many highlights of the resort is its free water transportation to Epcot and Disney’s MGM Studios, as well as other Disney resort hotels on the EPCOT-Studios waterway. Opened on the same day was , Disney’s BoardWalk Villas, Walt Disney World’s second Disney Vacation Club Resort.

More than two full years after the World of Motion at Epcot closed, its replacement finally arrived. Test Track opened as the fastest attraction ever built at a Disney theme park, a record it still holds today. Upon boarding the attraction, guests are seated in “test cars” and experience firsthand the rigorous process a car must go through before passing safety inspections. Among those tests are exposure to extreme heat and extreme cold, swerving at high speeds, sudden braking, and turning at very high speeds where the ride reaches its maximum sixty-five miles per hour. Oh and there's also the barrier test. This was also Epcot’s first true thrill ride, and it would be joined by more in the near future.

In 1995 Walt Disney World had announced their fourth theme park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park was set to open sometime before 2000. On April 22, 1998 Disney’s Animal Kingdom officially became Walt Disney World’s fourth theme park. At the dedication Michal Eisner proclaimed, “Welcome to a kingdom of animals . . . real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama and learn.” Something along the lines of Disney’s Animal Kingdom had been something Walt himself envisioned in the distant future. He was very interested in animals and felt that humans could learn a lot from them. This can be seen in his attraction, the Jungle Cruise.

The park opened with six themed area spread out over 500 acres, which makes Disney’s Animal Kingdom the largest Disney theme park in the world. In fact, Kilimanjaro Safaris is larger than the entire Magic Kingdom. The first land of the park which acts as the entrance area is the Oasis. Immediately after the entrance gates is Walt Disney World Resort’s second Rainforest Café, the first being in the Marketplace of Downtown Disney. Throughout this area are multiple animal exhibits including giant anteaters, ducks, turtles, deer and more. Once through the Oasis, the path opens up to Discovery Island which acts as the hub of the park. In the heart of this land is the park’s icon, The Tree of Life.

Just before the new millennium, Disney announced a breakthrough feature that would soon spread to many other parks around the world. Disney’s FASTPASS, which premiered in 1999, would allow guests to skip the line for some of the most popular attractions in each park. The system is free, and easy to use. Guests simply insert their admission ticket at the respective FASTPASS station for the attraction they desire. After a moment or two, a new ticket comes out at the bottom with the attraction’s name on it, and a one-hour time span, such as 1:00-2:00. After taking back their admission ticket, guests simply return during the given time to that attraction, present their ticket to a cast member, and cut a large portion of the line, drastically reducing the wait. This was one of the most successful ideas implanted by Walt Disney World, and continues to be one of the most popular services available at Disney theme parks worldwide.

And with that, the Disney Decade was over. Some of the highlights of the successful decade were Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney Quest, Blizzard Beach, a plethora of hotels, dozens of new attractions and the innovative FASTPASS system. It was arguably the most expansive period in the resort’s history, and changed the map of Walt Disney World forever. The first year of the new millennium however, saw relatively few changes to the overall resort.

Epcot jumped into the new millennium with a totally renovated Journey into Your Imagination in 2001. One of the notable differences was that Figment had almost totally disappeared from the ride. This would prove to be an unpopular decision and the ride would once again be revamped in the near future. Another addition for the new millennium was a massive magic wand held by a Mickey hand spreading the name "EPCOT" over the park's landmark geodesic sphere.

The year 2003 at Epcot was truly out of this world. Mission: Space became Epcot’s second big thrill, four years after Test Track. This very intense thrill ride took the place of Horizons which had closed about the same time as Test Track's premier. Mission: Space is designed to simulate actually taking off in a space shuttle and going on a flight to Mars. Riders sit in four person capsules, with each person having a screen in front of them. The $100 million dollar ride lasts for about five and a half minutes. The ride is so intense that it was the first theme park attraction to ever include motion sickness bags on board.

Unfortunately, the ride's intensity caused some unfortunate complications. Signs are in place in multiple spots warning of the motion sickness that can be caused if the rider looks away from the screen, closes their eyes, or leans their head forward. It also warns that any riders with problems such as heart conditions, back problems, those prone to motion sickness, and expectant mothers should not ride. Sadly, some people disregard these signs, or have unknown symptoms that make it dangerous for them to ride. In 2005, a four-year-old died after riding Mission: Space. An autopsy confirmed that the boy died due to an unknown heart condition. Just a year later, a second Mission: Space patron died after leaving the attraction. The forty-nine-year-old woman’s death was caused by brain hemorrhaging caused by high blood pressure, and did not occur due to the ride. Still, over the course of just one year, from 2005 to 2006, 194 riders were treated by paramedics after riding Mission: Space. In an attempt to counter these unfortunate accidents, a new version of the ride opened, called the Green Mission, which is less intense than the original ride. However, the Orange Mission still operates as the original ride did.

In 2004, Epcot introduced Turtle Talk with Crush! in The Living Seas pavilion. This was the introduction to what would become a major renovation of the entire pavilion. In this unique attraction guests can directly interact with Crush of Finding Nemo fame using some of the most up-to-date technology available.

2005 brought a huge celebration to Disney parks worldwide. The Happiest Celebration on Earth was initiated to spread the festivities over Disneyland’s fiftieth anniversary. At Walt Disney World, each of the four theme parks received a new attraction from another Disney parks around the world, along with updates and improvements to various existing rides. As part of the celebration, Epcot received its third thrill ride, although a bit more tame than the previous two. Soarin’, a replica of Soarin’ Over California from Disney’s California Adventure, is a simulator attraction that allows riders to take a virtual flight over various parts of California. Among the various sights are snowy mountains, downtown Los Angeles, San Diego, Disneyland and more. The attraction was built as an addition to The Land pavilion and uses space previously occupied by Food Rocks.

After closing for a brief stint, The Living Seas, reopened in 2005 as The Seas with Nemo & Friends. This transition had started with the opening of Turtle Talk with Crush. In the new version of the pavilion, guests board “Clamobiles,” slow moving cars shaped like clams which take guests along a journey under the sea with Nemo. They pass real aquariums with digitally added characters from the 2003 Pixar film. Once the short ride is over, guests find themselves in the main aquarium section of the pavilion, which remains largely the same as it was before the renovation.

Continuing the trend of retheming existing rides to feature more Disney characters, El Rio de Tiempo (The River of Time), the boat ride in the Mexico pavilion was remodeled into the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Amigos in 2007 and includes everyone's favorite foul, Donald Duck on a wild trip through the land south of the border. Also that year, Spaceship Earth was re-opened from its nearly a year long hiatus after some changes made due to its new sponsor, Seimens. The ride that initially focused on communication throughout the earths history expanded its scope to include all of the technologies that moved humanity through the years and even includes a glimpse into the future which features the "choose your own ending" not seen since the Horizons attraction was retired. The changes didn't stop there as the large wand over the ride was removed the following year.

The Walt Disney World Resort has surpassed anything Walt Disney himself could ever have dreamed of. Encompassing four theme parks, two water parks, an entertainment complex, multiple golf courses, a massive sports arena, more than twenty hotels, and more, Walt Disney World is the largest theme park resort on Earth. With many announced additions and many more secretive additions waiting to be unveiled, the resort will only continue to grow, and make dreams come true.

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