Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Looking Back at The Future

    " ...The original plan for EPCOT envisioned a community for people to live in.  How much more exciting was the evolution of an environment of metaphors - visions of the future - that could inspire people to create, as well as to live in, finer cities and then to fly off and land on the moon and Mars.
    The challenge of EPCOT - to birth the impossible and to free the spirit - has been met in multifold ways.  To enter it is to be bombarded with metaphors that make you feel you could meet and solve the world's problems.  
   EPCOT keeps changing and growing, and the final sum is that it contains the absolute assurance that our fine Tomorrows will not be left behind in our lost Yesterdays."
-Ray Bradbury

     This statement, by Ray Bradbury, was the introduction to an article that was featured  in Disney Magazine the fall of 2002.  This article was a general synopsis of Epcot in it's evolution over the previous 20 years, highlighting some of the bigger moments in the parks history.  As the 30th anniversary approaches,  let us take a look back at some of the moments that the author of the article, Tim  O'Day, deems worthy of  being featured in this article.

The Future Begins
    "The 21st century begins October 1st, 1982." proclaimed the preview brochures of the new park that were handed out to guests that were visiting Walt Disney World as well as Disneyland. There was a month long celebration that highlighted the opening each of the 15 Future World and World Showcase pavilions.  The grand opening of EPCOT Center took place over the weekend of October 22 to 24, with many well known guests including Lillian Disney, Ray Bradbury, and even George Steinbrenner.  A highlight of the main dedication ceremony was the International Ceremony of The Waters which included representatives from 23 countries pouring water from their homelands into the Communicore Plaza fountain.

The Revolutionary New Park Will Be Televised
    On October 23, 1982, "EPCOT Center: The Opening Celebration" was view by people all across the country, which was hosted by Danny Kaye.

Making Headlines
    Emerging technology allowed many of the opening ceremonies to be covered by various media outfits around the world.  The now widely available Satellite uplink broadcast technology afforded more that 100 television crews to broadcast live.

Space Cadets
    We all know these outfits that debuted when guests were looking for Mickey Mouse in EPCOT Center.  The park did not open with the intention of have Mickey and his pals running around Future World,  but with  guest complaints about the lack of characters, plans were rolled out to present the classic characters in a cohesive way to fit within the environment.

Byte Size
    When the park opened, one of the headliner attractions in CommuniCore East was the Astuter Computer Revue.  Unfortunately, this attraction has the distinction of being the shortest lived of the opening day attractions in EPCOT Center.  It lasted for two years before it was replaced by Backstage Magic in February 1984.  The Astuter Computer Revue actually featured many of the computers that ran in the park, such as air conditioning and lighting.

     The nighttime shows on World Showcase Lagoon have been a staple of the park since October 23, 1982.  It was on this date that Le Carnival de Lumiere debuted with the use of rear-projection screens on barges to put on a dazzling display. The shows main drawback was the fact that it was only viewable from the Canada and Mexico pavilions.  The next show that debuted was named A New World Fantasy which introduced the use of the automated Pichel lights, which were programmable spotlights that were able to make swift precise movements. In 1984 Laserphonic Fantasy debuted using music by Don Dorsey, who also created the soundtrack to the Main Street Electrical Parade.  Illuminations, in it's first iteration, was the next show.  It debuted on January 30, 1988 with a full orchestral soundtrack instead of the synthesized music of the previous show. There have been multiple versions of this show, with the most recent being Reflections of Earth which has been running since the Millennium Celebration in 1999.
Le Carnival de Lumiere

What a Doll
     The People of the World dolls were seen around World Showcase in the early eighties. These larger than life dolls were between 7 and 8 feet tall and were dressed in authentic clothing representing the country from which they hailed.  The original dolls were created for America on Parade, a bicentennial celebration that occurred in 1975 and 1976.  New dolls were created to match the originals and then brought to EPCOT Center.

Do You See What I See
    The Journey into Imagination pavilion opened in 1982 with the 3D film Magic Journeys, as well as the Image Works interactive playground.  The ride through attraction did not open until March 5, 1983 which introduced us to the Dreamfinder and his lovable sidekick, Figment.
Richard Nixon and his Grandson

Remembering the Smellitzer
    The epitome of the optimistic future had to be encompassed in the 3 acre show building that housed the Horizons attraction.  Horizons showed guests what future living may be like on land, in the sea, as well as in space.  One of the most memorable scenes was the Mesa Verde desert laorange grove scene, which featured an orange scent that permeated the entire show scene.  Horizons closed for good on January 9, 1999 to make room for the new attraction, Mission: Space.

Moroccan Mickey
    The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Moroccan pavilion took place on September 7, 1984.  Morocco was the first of the two pavilions that were added to World Showcase after opening day. The Kingdom of Morocco sent workers to the pavilion during construction to create all of the tile work, carvings, and paintings.

For Kicks
    The were two different occasions that Mickey donned his Uncle Sam threads in 1985.  The first was for the inaugural parade for Ronald Reagan's second term.  A few weeks after that Mickey joined the Radio City Rockettes for the Star Spangled Salute to America. This was a part of Worldfest, a yearlong celebration of the nations in World Showcase.

    1985 ushered in the latest in robotic technology, Gyro.  What is known about him is that he lives on a diet of diodes and microchips and attended the tech school "Solid State".  Gyro had a fiber-optic display screen for his "face" that conveyed his moods.  When guest asked how he worked, he would respond, "on twelve frequencies!"

Flipped Out
    EPCOT Center has featured a few spectacles in the sky, including Skyleidoscope and Surprise in The Skies.  On of the more out of place and unusual events in EPCOT Center was the Daredevil Circus Spectacular, which took place in Future World.  Click the link to read my post and check out my pics of the circus.

Jackson Takes Five
     Captain EO replaced Magic Journeys in the Magic Eye theater September 12, 1986.  The theater was equipped with special effects that were synchronized with the action onscreen.  These included lasers, fiber-optics, and fog.  This film cost approximately one million dollars per minute to produce.

    When the Living Seas opened on January 15, 1986, it boasted one of the worlds largest saltwater tanks at 5.7 million gallons.  It included more than 4,000 species of sea life.  The opening of this pavilion was followed up by a one hour national television special "Disney's Living Seas", which aired on January 24.  Stars included John Ritter, Laura Branigan, Simon Le Bon, and Olivia Newton-John.

Inside Story
    The Wonders of Life pavilion opened October 19, 1989.  One of the highlights of the pavilion was Cranium Command, which took you into the mind of a 12 year old named Bobby, guests follow Buzzy as a rookie cranium commander navigating through the stresses of everyday life for Bobby. This was a celebrity laden attraction including Charles Grodin, Jon Lovitz, George Wednt, Bobcat Goldthwait, Kevin Nealon, and Dana Carvey.

Track Stars
     On January 2, 1996 the GM sponsored attraction, World of Motion, closed its doors for good to make way for an entirely reimagined attraction.  There was an extremely long period of test and adjust for the new ride.  It finally opened as Test Track on March 17, 1999, as a demonstration of the rigors of the automotive testing field with a high speed thrill element.
Richard Petty, Angie Everhart, Carol Alt, and Christie Brinkley

Make Mine Millennium
    The Millennium Celebration took place in Epcot over the course of 15 years beginning on October 1, 1999.  A massive new pavilion, The Millennium Village, was constructed to showcase the art, architecture, music, and dance of various countries that were not represented in World Showcase.  Some of countries included were Brazil, Chile, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Sweden , and Denmark.
    On of the highlights of the Celebration was the Tapestry of Nations parade which ran from October 1, 1999 until September 9, 2001.  The Sage of Time led the parade followed by 120 puppets and 15 Millennium Clock drum floats.  The puppets were designed by Michael Curry, who designed the puppets for The Lion King on Broadway.

Future Worlds
     In 2003 Epcot will be ushered into it's third decade with Mission: Space.  This thrill ride of the future will be set 30 years from now, with guests embarking on a realistic deep-space journey that seeks to replicate the sensation of liftoff and leaving the Earth's gravitational pull.  Walt Disney Imagineering built this attraction with consultation from former NASA advisers, astronauts, and scientists. 
    If we were to write an article that encompassed the past ten years as well, in the history of the park, what would we include to express the evolution of  Epcot? A couple of things that come to mind would be Kim Possible/Agent P's World Showcase Adventure and the re-imagined Seas pavilion themed to Finding NemoEpcot has gone through many changes over the years.  Some things were popular, while other things were not so popular to put it nicely.  Epcot will keep on evolving through the years, hopefully bringing many more immersive, entertaining, and educational experiences to the park going populous.  Let us all enjoy the 30th anniversary festivities, whether it be through the internet or in person, as well as keep looking forward to the optimistic future that Walt had envisioned.