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Saturday, January 16, 2016

EPCOT and the FBI

By Keith Mahne




The year was 1981 and the Walt Disney Company was well underway on its third theme park. Although not quite like the dream of a true Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow that Walt Disney had in mind, but rather EPCOT Center, a place dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely technological innovation and international culture. Of course, one of the main highlights of EPCOT is the exhibits of countries from all around the world. What makes this unique is that each country is staffed by student ambassadors. Believe it or not, when the FBI got wind of this they became very concerned that EPCOT might become overrun with Communist spies. Join us today as we take a look at newly released documents that prove the FBI was keeping tabs on the grand experiment taking place at Walt Disney World...





China Pavilion under construction



 “The People’s Republic of China is the third largest nation in the world (just behind Russia and Canada) and has more people than any other nation. Although popularly called China, that name was actually given to the country by foreigners who ‘discovered’ this most ancient of all civilizations. China was probably derived from the name of the ruling dynasty at the time foreigners began trading with her: Ch’in. The Chinese themselves actually call their country Chung Kuo, translated to the Middle Country, because early Chinese thought their country was the middle of the world.

“Today, however, China is in the middle of Walt Disney World, taking her place in World Showcase along side eight other nations. And American craftsmen are busy re-creating 6,000 years of exquisite Chinese Architecture."


--EPCOT Center Construction News, Vol. 1 No. 11, August 20, 1982




 



Thanks to an anonymous Disney Avenue reader, we now have access to recently released FBI documents indicating that as early as December 1979, almost three years prior to the October 1, 1982 opening of EPCOT Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was highly concerned with possible Soviet involvement in the Walt Disney World project. They were worried that EPCOT might become overrun with Communist spies from China, Poland, and the Soviet Union...







The FBI's Tampa office appeared so concerned that it began requesting additional training, asking for procedural assistance, and wishing HQ would respond faster to their requests....








Another issue the FBI had with the Soviet involvement in the EPCOT project was that they would ultimately use their countries pavilions to make political statements...






One more of the FBI’s concerns was over the way that these student ambassadors would be housed. The Walt Disney Company intended for all of the international students to live in a large complex together, intermingling. The FBI noted that the People’s Republic of China might want to eventually purchase a housing unit of their own to segregate them from the rest of the student ambassadors...








And if you were wondering if any actual spying was going on by these new Chinese ambassadors at EPCOT, the FBI documents don’t mention anything substantial. However, the FBI definitely documented when petty theft occured and whenever Chinese ambassadors took sick days...








The FBI has a really difficult job to do in keeping America safe and protecting our way of life, there's no doubt about it. And sometimes that may include searching for threats in anything. Even our beloved EPCOT, a symbol of human achievement, international unity and childhood wonder.

Read the FBI's complete, and heavily redacted, EPCOT files below...











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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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