Friday, August 14, 2015

The Amazing EPCOT Model

By Keith Mahne

Walt Disney's original plan for EPCOT was truly spectacular and the model displaying his "latest and great dream" was no different. At 115 feet wide, 60 feet deep, with 1,400 individually street lights, 2,500 moving vehicles representing future transportation, 20,000 trees and 4,500 structures and buildings is nothing short of astonishing. Today, I'd like to take you on an in-depth look at the making of Walt Disney's amazing EPCOT model. Join me after the page break and let's have a look...

To begin, I think it's important to see the complete, original film of Walt explaining his full plans for EPCOT. This restored, 24 minute preview of EPCOT that Walt recorded on October 27, 1966 is a real classic. It reminds me of everything the Walt Disney Company once was with Walt still leading the way. Watching this video, I'm reminded of how, at this point in time, the Walt Disney Company was running on all cylinders, was full of optimism, and was able to get 100% support from outside corporations as everyone wanted to work with Walt and be apart of his latest dream. They felt that anything he touched was going be a major hit and wanted to be attached to that success. Sadly, that would soon change with his passing taking place just weeks after this video was filmed and EPCOT eventually became the theme park we know today. Without Walt, something this unique and untested just couldn't be accomplished and so the company went on by creating EPCOT Center. Keeping all of this in mind, let's watch Walt, with help from models, concept art and animation, outline for us his plans for the Florida Project and his intentions for EPCOT the city...

Walt spared no expense when it came to constructing his model. Disney Imagineer George Windrum once recalled that, at Walt's insistence, the interiors of the 1/8 inch scale buildings of the original Epcot model, which were barely visible through their tiny windows, had to be finished, furnished and lit. The guests might not notice but Walt would know the details were there. As you will see, the details were jaw dropping...

Walt's Epcot Model could have been an attraction on it's own. Let's take a look at this exclusive musical slideshow filled with rarely seen photos of the original Epcot model with its original 1967 narration from the Carousel of Progress. From the cosmopolitan hotel and the enclosed shopping center to the low density housing, you will also discover Epcot's stadiums, heliports, amusement park, nuclear power plant, PeopleMover and Monorail stations...

In these rare video clips, you can see the model as it was originally displayed prior to riding the Carousel of Progress and its level of detail is simply astonishing:

The most detailed aspect of Walt Disney's Epcot project was the urban center featuring what was called the "cosmopolitan hotel" as the centerpiece. As seen in the Epcot film, an international shopping center and offices were supposed to be constructed below the "deck" of the hotel in an enclosed environment. Giant glass domes would have served as sources of light from the outside. For the 2004 documentary "Walt, the man behind the myth" from Jean-Pierre Isbouts for the Walt Disney Family Foundation, the urban center was recreated in computer generated imagery...

Below are some photos of the model including rarely seen construction and close-ups of the original working and animated model from Disneyland and current section from Walt Disney World...

The making of the model
Aerial view of the low-density area. You can see: the basis of the central core (hotel + covered international shopping center), a People Mover line, a church, the main highway, a stadium as well as around 20 family houses.

One of the houses of the residential area

High-density housing buildings

High-density housing buildings

A close-up of the cosmopolitan hotel area at the core of Epcot with one of the office buildings and several glass domes. Those domes were some of the light sources of the international shopping center constructed below.
Epcot's planned church was inspired by the works of famous Brazilian architect Oscar Neimeyer as seen in this comparison between the Cathedral of Brasília and the Epcot model.

Epcot at night
Close-up of one of the PeopleMover lines and station.
Urban Center view from above highways to and from Epcot.
Urban Center from the residential areas

Urban center: view from the greenbelt and the residential areas

Urban Center with hotel, offices, recreation deck and enclosed international shopping center

Urban center: view from the greenbelt and the residential areas

Urban center: view from the greenbelt and the residential areas

The Stadium and Urban Center

The towering cosmopolitan hotel

Industrial Activities close to the highways and monorail line

Urban Center with hotel, offices, recreation deck and enclosed international shopping center.At the foreground: a stadium, a Peoplemover line and station.

The recreational deck of the hotel: tennis courts and pools

The Progress City Model for Epcot at the Carousel of Progress, Disneyland

Urban Center with hotel, offices, recreation deck and enclosed international shopping center

The Original Epcot would have included an amusement park within its city limits. Unlike the theme park of Walt Disney World (later named the Magic Kingdom), this amusement park was an urban one featuring many classic carnival rides for Epcot's residents.

To end our tour, I'd like to share with you some wonderful concept art that really gives you a feel of what could have been.

The Master Plan drawn by Walt Disney 65-66

Today's article comes to us from the FANTASTIC website The Original EPCOT Project by Sebastien Barthe. Sebastian's hard work really shines through as seen from his elaborate articles to his wonderful YouTube videos. If you enjoyed what you seen here, head on over to The Original EPCOT Project and get lost in tons of material on Walt's original EPCOT project.

Walt Disney's plan for EPCOT was not just his "latest and greatest dream", but sadly his final one as well. Had Walt lived to see his dream become a reality brings about a list of important questions. What would Walt Disney World be like today? More importantly, what would our major cities and way of living be like today? Could you imagine if we were now living in cities designed after Walt's master plan? Heck, he changed the theme park industry, why not our communities? I have no doubt in my mind that, had Walt lived another 10 years, our world would be dramatically different. That's the unique power he possessed and that my friends is why he was so special. I've said it a million times and I'll say it again here today...the world needs another Walt Disney. We need that optimism and "can do" spirit. We need thinkers and doers. Who knows, maybe the next Walt Disney is you.


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

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