Friday, December 12, 2014

EPCOT’s Journeys In Space

By EPCOT Explorer

As early as 1975, the EPCOT Theme Center (Future World) boasted a Space Pavilion that would have featured a massive omnimover detailing the perils and positives of man’s history in space. Today, let’s take a look back at EPCOT’s long, and frankly, painful history of the Space pavilion concepts designed for the park...

NASA was actively courted by Disney so as to help with the direction and presentation of the pavilion. So sure were Walt Disney Productions on the completion of a space pavilion for EPCOT Center, that NASA frequently appeared in concept art and seemingly would have served as a official showplace for upcoming missions and new technology emerging from the Kennedy Space Center, only a few miles to the east.

While not officially a sponsor, as NASA is a national entity, they could have appeared in the guise of a partnership in exhibition, as they did for many years with Listen to the Land and their antigravity testing. Only this time, the tests and technology would be much more relevant, and be honed in on the actual theme of the pavilion. Not to mention the credence NASA would give Walt Disney Productions, and EPCOT.

By 1978, plans for the Space Pavilion become a bit clearer, as the concepts for Future World had coalesced into a version thematically similar to what was finally built. Further, famed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury was brought into WED’s fold to lead an effort in planning and conceptualizing the forthcoming pavilion. Bradbury’s version of the pavilion retained the omnimover from the mid 70s, but also added a massive interstellar space vehicle, in which dozens of guests would travel into space by illusion of omnimax screens acting as windows out into the cosmos.

The exterior of the planned pavilion was a departure from the sleek lines and contours of the rest of Future World. Designed to look like a launch station, gantries and space age texture defined the look of the structure. Only the entryway emulated Future World’s monumental and monolithic aesthetic, while taking a page out of Horizons’ iconic wedge like shape.

Sadly, none of these concepts would reach fruition as Horizons and The Living Seas would all receive sponsors and funding first. However, all of these concepts reflect the ethos of early EPCOT Center.  Holistically in line with the EPCOT ideal of the park as being a place for “information transfer”, NASA in EPCOT is a clear cut example as EPCOT as a showplace, made for exhibiting and interacting with the technology and topics of tomorrow.

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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