The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Walt Disney World

I’m sure most of you who are reading this know what October 1 represents”¦October 1, 2011 to be exact.


Yes, you in the polka dot Minnie Mouse shorts?


Correct! It is the 40th Anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World.

Of course speculation continues to mount as to what exactly will be planned, if anything, to commemorate this significant milestone in the history of the Happiest Place on Earth, and without no question, the number one vacation destination in the entire world.


So what is planned?

Who knows? I don’t.

I wonder myself if there are meetings going on or if meetings have already taken place to decide if and how this milestone will be celebrated.

To be exact, it is actually the 40th Anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park so perhaps we should be focusing on the Magic Kingdom.

One wonders, if perhaps, it would have been better had the return of the Main Street Electrical Light Parade been held off another 16 to help commemorate and celebrate the 40th Anniversary”¦besides”¦it would have been quite appropriate since that nighttime parade really brings back memories of WDW’s past.

So let’s see, besides that parade, perhaps a daytime parade commemorating the 40th; banners throughout the park proclaiming the celebration, and of course merchandise throughout the park; clothing, shirts, hats, sweatshirts, mugs, pins, lanyards; you name it.
Maybe a real nice show in front of the castle where Mickey and the rest of the fab five could lead the guests in a medley of songs originally heard in the Magic Kingdom.

Of course it would be nice to top the celebration off with some giveaways for the guests.

This idea may not sound too creative but hear me out.

How about a special celebration starting Oct 1, 2011 given to every 40,000th person who goes through a Magic Kingdom turnstile between that date and let’s say December 31, 2012?

So here is how it would work. Starting on Oct 1, every 40,000th guest would be met with a celebratory greeting, a gold fast pass for that day, honored as Grand Marshall of either the daytime or nighttime parade, depending upon the timing of that turnstile entry, a special meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and an opportunity to stay overnight in Cinderella’s Castle.

Not bad huh?

And if you think about this, in terms of cost, it should come in at a reasonable level and promote more visits to the park during that time frame.

Well, if I had a say in all this that’s what I would do.


Okay, enough of that.

If I were to say what has, in my opinion, been the most significant happening or thing to occur in Walt Disney World these past 40 years it’s pretty easy for me and I can say it in one word.



Well, let’s consider a few things:

“¢ It was the first Disney theme park that I am aware of that served alcohol”¦a risk perhaps that I’m not sure Walt would have been comfortable taking”¦not sure”¦but it was a risk never the less.
“¢ EPCOT would bring with it an untraditional array of attractions that helped introduced the term “edutainment” to the theme park fan. Make no mistake about it; EPCOT is a museum as well as a theme park.
“¢ The unlikely happy marriage of a high tech area (Future World) and a cultural area (World Showcase) was something I’m sure not too many people had faith about buy yet here we are some 29 years later and the marriage is solid.
“¢ EPCOT’s place in the Disney Endurance Series. You can talk about the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and how it all started with the Walt Disney World Marathon so long ago, to the Disney 10K Classic, which transformed into the Race for the Taste 10K”¦and then the Princess Half Marathon and the Wine and Dine Half Marathon”¦.EPCOT has been instrumental in bringing the Endurance Series to WDW.
“¢ Oh and let’s not forget things line the International Flower and Garden Show”¦where EPCOT is the perfect place to showcase the arrival of Spring.
“¢ October used to be a slow time for WDW but not since The international Food & Wine Festival made it’s appearance in EPCOT. Wow, how much has that impacted guest experiences in that theme park?
“¢ Let’s continue”¦the Holidays Around the World celebrations during the Christmas Season is just a wonderful, touching way of bringing guests into the holiday spirit.
“¢ The Candlelight Processional, which used to take place in the Magic Kingdom, has a home in EPCOT. Is there anyone who can doubt the success of that event since it moved to EPCOTthe perfect Venue?
“¢ How about the facts that in one theme park you can find over two dozen restaurants representing 11 different cuisines?

I could go on, but I think you get my point.


EPCOT has been home to many special events in Walt Disney World and is the perfect venue for so many special and exciting things for the guests to experience.

The World Showcase promenade is a perfect route for a parade and for those who remember the Tapestry of Nations/Dreams parade, they remember how enjoyable it was to witness the grandeur of the parade, and not to take for granted that the venue was a huge factor in how that parade was received.

Of course it goes without saying that over the years all the Illuminations shows have been spectacular with the present Illuminations: Reflections of Earth being an amazing and breathtaking show.

Many theme park industry experts have proclaimed EPCOT as the most perfectly designed and engineered theme park in HISTORY.

After almost 29 years of existence EPCOT is still “getting it done” and all other WDW theme parks pale in comparison”¦just look at the queues for the attractions in the other parks”¦look at how many disappointed guests are found in the other theme parks because there aren’t enough eateries”¦look how many guests are drawn to EPCOT at night, compared to the other theme parks”¦and finally”¦look how centrally located EPCOT is to everything in WDW”¦you can get to EPCOT by car, bus, monorail, boat, and by foot power from several WDW resorts.

As the 40th Anniversary of the opening of The Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World nears we can be thankful for so many wonderful experiences over the years.

Let’s think about how many of those were due to a theme park that is known more for it’s acronym (EPCOT) than its real name, Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

EPCOT…the best thing that ever happened to Walt Disney World over the last 40 years.

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31 Replies to “The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Walt Disney World”

  1. Way back just after EPCOT opened I was told by a cast member in front of the Energy Building that it stood for “Experimental Polyester Costumes Of Torture” 😀

  2. How lovely for everyone to point out your error! Lol.

    Epcot has become my families favorite place to spend time at WDW. During our last trip in January, we spent a few partial days and evenings “wandering the world” rather than trying to do it in one frantic day. My 4 year old DD was able to meet Belle and Beast, Aurora, Mulan, Alice, Mary Poppin, Alladin, Marie kitty and Snow White…all with minimal waits in line. My 9 year old got to revisit the trains in Germany, explore Japan, play African drums, watch a juggler in Italy. My husband got to stop and eat a snack in every country and explore foods that our families simple palate doesn’t normally allow for him. For me? I have the memories of a perfect evening, sitting on a bench in the UK at Sunset, sharing some fish and chips with my family and watching my kids dance to a beetles cover group.

  3. The Main Street Electrical Parade will always be associated, for me, with Disneyland. So glad it’s back at DCA. I associate Spectromagic with WDW – lol!

    But you’re right about Epcot – the best thing about WDW is Epcot. In fact, as a Californian, I probably would have never gone to WDW if it wasn’t for Epcot. In fact, the first time I went to WDW was for the opening of Epcot. And my favorite time of year to visit WDW is during Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. Just FYI – lol!

  4. If you look at youtube
    “Walt Disney’s original plan for Epcot-Part 2, you can see that Walt himself says “city” and then says “community” when telling what EPCOT means.

  5. I have to throw a comment in here. My sons who are almost 7 and 5 would agree whole heartedly. I would say if you asked them they would say Epcot is their favorite park. Whenever we tell anyone this they always reply “we have always avoided this park because we did not think our kids would enjoy it”. Well they couldn’t be more wrong there is so much to offer for both children and adults and it is a shame for anyone to miss the wonderful park.

  6. Hi Mike! Great job!

    I always say: There are the Disney Parks…and then there’s EPCOT!
    EPCOT is like my second home. I’m fortunate enough to live just 75-mins. away and be able to visit so often throughout the year.
    For Walt, “The Florida Project” (EPCOT) was what it was all about.
    You really hit the nail on the head with this blog.

    Thanks ~ Johnny.

  7. Epcot is my favorite park. we bought into dvc at the boardwalk to be near Epcot. we love the food and wine festival and love being able to walk over whenever we want a taste of wine or a fabulous dinner. We have been on spaceship earth too many times to count and still enjoy it very much. they have added so many wonderful attractions over the years (i am still upset about figment they never should have changed that ride) and i really miss the tapestry of dreams parade. I still listen to the music every day. Epcot is the only park without a parade I think its time to bring the parade back. I agree with your 40,000 guest suggestion that would be wonderful. all in all 40 years of wonderfullness for all of us has been great. Long live the magic

  8. How about giving everyone that is turning 40 in October, free entry to Magic Kingdom, and put their face on the new nighttime show on their Bday?

  9. This is indeed a significant milestone coming up. I only wish I could be there. I would not be surprised if the 40th ann. becomes the “theme” through 2012.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that EPCOT is the most significant development to hit WDW. I suspect that the opening of EPCOT has had a strong influence on how people tend to see entertainment in general, and the role of entertainment in their daily lives. That might make for an interesting study. Or maybe I am simply a geek! But I know EPCOT has influenced me very strongly. World culture is now a big hobby of mine, and the “anything is possible” atmosphere of Future World is a feeling I carry into my job.

    A.D. Johnson
    -Littleton, CO

  10. Great article,

    EPCOT is definitely my favorite park, hands down. I’m still deeply saddened by the loss of Horizons.

    This is where I think of when I wish I were in WDW. All of my childhood memories have sealed this place as my number one vacation destination,

  11. Thanks for an interesting read as always Mike. Not sure if it’s something to do with growing up (I’m 35) but EPCOT is now my favorite park and I can think of nothing better than strolling round the quiet pavilions, just taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. I know for my first couple of trips to the World in the early 90’s I thought EPCOT was too big and boring…ashamed of my younger, teenage self!!

  12. YOU ARE SO RIGHT! We love EPCOT…we almost always stay in an Epcot resort, just so we can stroll in and out at any time of day…as the mood strikes. There is no down side to Epcot. Several somethings for everyone. And as for meals, well, if you can’t find it in Epcot, you really don’t need it!!! Thanks, as usual, for a spot on column!!!

  13. Doesn’t EPCOT stand for Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow? (not Environmental). Just want to have my facts straight as I LOVE Disney world!!

  14. D23’s “Destination D,” May 14-15, must be one of the first events built around the 40th anniversary — “from the first land purchases to the opening of Epcot in 1982” is how they’re describing the two days of programs and lectures by some of the pioneers.
    I agree that Epcot is the best thing to happen at WDW in the past 40 years — our family spends about three days at Epcot to every one in the other three parks these days.
    By the way, I always thought it stood for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
    Excellent post!

  15. Great post! I whole-heartedly agree that EPCOT is the best thing to happen to WDW, but one little detail:

    EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow


    You are right Megan!!


  16. I couldn’t agree more. My parents took me to Epcot the first year it was open and it has been my absolute favorite park ever. Remember making reservations for diner at the computer screens…I do!

  17. I certainly agree that your idea for the 40,000 guest is awesome. I hope that Disney reads this and takes you up on that idea (and I hope I am one of the 40,000th guests on my next vacation there)!!

  18. OK Mike, you brought tears to my eyes!

    EPCOT (Always all caps for me) is the frozen-in-time, first visit to WDW in 1985, memory-making experience for me. If I can help it, EPCOT is the first and last park experience during any visit.

    Despite all of the “warts” others will tell me about my favorite park, WS is still the best place to dine, stroll at night, and experience characters. FW still has the charm of the 80s and the ability to have kept up with the times as far as technology goes. I could go on, but you’ve already said it best.

    Thank you for this tip of the hat!

  19. Just noticed, quite by accident, the family will be at WDW for this 40th anniversary. I never thought of the dates. I’m now looking forward to our trip even more.
    Since it will be a Saturday, I’m feel that the crowds could be an issue.
    I wonder if they will schedule a Mickey’s Not So Scarey Halloween Party for that night, surely not.
    The best thing about Disney is just being there. We try to get there once a yeat, which is getting tougher and tougher.
    I enjoy when I first walk into a park. Happiness follows!!

  20. Maybe it’s been changed since it was first conceived, but wasn’t the original name the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow?

    * * *

    No, you are right Tim. That was a huge typo on my part.


  21. And to think they scrambled to do something for EPCOT’s 25th anniversary, because they didn’t think people would notice. Ha! I hope we see something wonderful for WDW’s 40th, but as you said, things have been very quiet. Not so much as a rumor. I hope Disney hasn’t given up on birthday and anniversary celebrations…

  22. Love the article……Epcot is a presonal favorite when traveling to the World myself. And visiting it during one of it’s many festivals (specifically Food & Wine) brings so much more to offer.

    Yes MK is what you are there for and the memories you make there, but gimme 5 days and 4 parks, I pick Epcot to do again!

  23. EPIC FAIL! I believe EPCOT statnds for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.” Not Environmental nor City. Sorry Mike. Can’t believe after a huge article about your love for EPCOT you would blow what EPCOT stands for.

  24. Mike,

    did the real name of EPCOT change? I remember it being the “Experimental” Prototype “Community” of Tomorrow.

    Greetings from Germany

    * * * * *

    It did not change…Mike just kinda multi=task when he wrote that blog.

  25. EPCOT is by far our favorite park — if it was not there, we would not vacation at WDW nearly as much as we do now.

    BTW, Expermintal 😉

  26. I thought EPCOT was an abbreviation for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

    * * * *

    You’re right Cindy…it also stands for Every Person Comes Out Tired!


  27. “The Happiest Place on Earth” is Disneyland in California. Always has been (well, since 1955) and always will be. I’ve noticed recently that people are using the phrase “The Most Magical Place on Earth” for WDW. But please, don’t misuse “happiest” for WDW.

    * * * * *


    I guess Disneyland DOES have first dibs on that phrase erh?