Friday, November 28, 2014

EPCOT Origins

By EPCOT Explorer

Thanks to a loyal reader, I’ve fortunately come into some fantastic and rare pictures of EPCOT Center in its formative years. The photos you are about to see are from all years of EPCOT’s construction, dating back to 1979, and just up to a few months before the turnstiles were thrown open to the Vacation Kingdom’s second gate. Continue after the page break and have a look at these amazing pictures...

The first picture is perhaps the most alien and unrecognizable of all of them, despite being related to one Walt Disney World’s most iconic landmarks and structures. Those concrete pylons in the ground are the support system for Spaceship Earth, which will soon rise nearly 180 feet into the air. Spaceship Earth is supported by six legs, in three groups,  though each are connected to one another so as to equally distribute the structure’s weight and allow the sphere to gracefully “float” above the ground. Two of the groups above are the familiar blue legs that stand at the entrance to Future World, while the third leg group sits behind the sphere and is hidden by the Earth Station structure, which houses the loading, unloading, and post show areas. That leg also houses the mechanics for the assent and descent ramps.

This next picture gives us a great look at this system in action. The legs, now with vertical supports, are beginning to support Spaceship Earth’s “core” structure, with provides the weighted center of the building. This core column is the heart of the building itself, with the rounded and spherical edges being “hung” and constructed off of that much simpler structure. The picture below illustrates that point in a much clearer way, as you can see the vertical and cylindrical support core, and Spaceship Earth’s spherical body being formed around that. Also note the fantastic view into the structure itself, the spiraling flooring being constructed up and down the sphere’s body will soon house the mechanics for the omnimover ride and its show scenes.

This one is also notable for being taken from The Land’s roof, leading me to believe that this picture is from mid 1981, when The Land would have been structurally complete, and awaiting its show elements. The Universe of Energy is also nearly complete and visible in this shot.

The Land is also our subject for the photo above and below. The one above shows off EPCOT’s third geodesic structure under construction for Listen to the Land’s greenhouse. EPCOT’s other two geodesic structures can be found in Spaceship Earth: The interior and waterproof hull of the building (as seen in black in the last photo)  follows a triangular pattern, and of course, Spaceship Earth’s silver alucobond skin, which in itself is a separate structure, attached to the sphere’s side. A gap of several feet exists between the silver tiles and Spaceship Earth’s interior building.

This one is a wonderful vista of the interior of The Land and Walter Peregoy’s original atrium murals. Walter Peregoy was one of Walt Disney’s early animators and had been with Disney since the first productions at the studio. Peregoy is also known for painting the whimsical murals in Journey into Imagination’s loading zone.

This next photo shows off Canada’s rocky façade under construction, at the ground level to the pavilion, just where the entrance is to the CircleVision 360 theater is, today.

And finally, these next two photos feature some great views of France, in 1982 and almost to opening day and late in 1981, with still a bit of work to go. Note that Chefs de Paris does not have its expanded dining room yet, as that won’t be added on until the mid 1980s. Also interesting is the great view of the model of the Eiffel Tower, unceremoniously tacked on to the back of the Impressions de France theater. The earlier picture doesn’t have the Eiffel Tower constructed yet, though you can see its base, ready and waiting. The bottom photo also has a look at both England and Canada being pieced together, as Spaceship Earth is beginning to be clad in its triangular skin, as I mentioned earlier.

Thanks again to the reader that sent these along- these are delightful images of EPCOT Center in the making and proof of how intricate and daring the original park was. Enjoy!


EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer's first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM

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