Since its 1982 opening, the Epcot theme park, originally known as Epcot Center, has been a beloved part of the Walt Disney World experience. However, any Disney fan worth their pixie dust knows that Walt Disney dreamed of a very different EPCOT in the months leading up to his death in 1966. Instead of a theme park, Walt dreamed of a building a real functioning city in Central Florida – an Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow – that he hoped would cure many of the world’s ills.
In the decades since Walt passed, fans and researchers alike have scoured over all the plans Walt left behind, debating if the concept was even feasible. However, comparatively few have questioned whether Walt’s EPCOT would be somewhere people would actually want to live. Before we determine whether EPCOT would have been someplace you’d want to live, we first need to look at what exactly Walt had in mind for the 27,000 acres he’d purchased in the greater Orlando area.
According to Disney historian and author Jim Korkis the genesis of the EPCOT project came from a book Walt read while he and his team worked on attractions for the 1964 World’s Fair. The book, entitled The Heart of Our Cities: The Urban Crisis: Diagnosis and Cure was written by well-known architect Victor Gruen and broke down his issues with the car-centric urban sprawl of early 1960s America while laying out potential ways to fix the issues he felt plagued the country’s cities.
Taking Gruen’s theories to heart, Disney used his namesake company’s resources to purchase the aforementioned land while at the same time urban-planning his dream city with a small handpicked group of Imagineers. Walt’s vision was famously laid out in an EPCOT short, which was filmed just weeks before his death.
Between the film and scale models (popularly known as the Progress City model and currently located at the Magic Kingdom) and concept drawings, we can piece together that the Florida Project’s EPCOT city would have consisted of several “rings” including:
- A totally climate-controlled city center, built around a 30-story cosmopolitan hotel and convention center. The area would be pedestrian-centric and contain an international shopping district that would later inspire World Showcase.
- An expansive greenbelt that would separate the city center from residential areas and feature parks with playgrounds, community centers, schools, stadiums, and churches.
- A residential area made up of apartments and homes for the city’s 20,000 citizens, all of which would be outfitted with an ever-changing array of technology provided by American corporations.
- A Disneyland-like theme park – which would eventually evolve into the Magic Kingdom — would be located on the outskirts of the property, as would an industrial park of R&D labs maintained by the same American companies that provided the technology to residents’ homes.
- An international airport.
All of these rings would be connected by futuristic-for-the-time transportation modes including a system of WEDWay PeopleMovers and Monorails. Automobile traffic would be limited to roads on the outskirts of the city as well as through underground roads and garages.
Now that we’ve gone through the basics of Walt’s EPCOT, the question remains: “Would you want to live there?” The answer likely comes down to how much control over your life you’d be willing to give up. In addition to the lack of vehicular traffic, Walt intended that no EPCOT residents would own their land/home/apartment, allowing their living spaces to be remodeled and changed at any given time without their consent. Residents would also have no municipal voting rights or control over the city’s government.
In addition, all residents would be required to work on property at either the “theme park, the city central core shopping areas, the hotel/convention center, the airport, the Welcome Center, or the industrial park,” and there would be no retirees.
These heavy rules and regulations played a big part in why the Walt Disney Company didn’t go through with the original version of EPCOT in the years after Walt’s death, instead opening Walt Disney World as a comparatively more conventional vacation destination and later turning EPCOT into Epcot Center. However, there were still many elements of the EPCOT concept and layout built into Walt Disney World’s infrastructure.
Do you think you would want to live in Walt Disney’s original version of EPCOT, even if it meant giving up control over your career, municipality, and even your home? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out more Disney history at the links below!
- Six Key Historical Disney Events ‘The Imagineering Story’ on Disney+ Left Out
- Beastly Kingdom: the Animal Kingdom Park That Never Came to Be
- Film Historian and Critic Leonard Maltin to Receive Award from Turner Classic Movies
- Imagineering Exhibit Coming to the Epcot Experience at Walt Disney World this Week!
- Walt’s Utopia: What Epcot Was Supposed to Be
- WestCOT: The Disney Park That Never Was.
- Would You Want to Live in the EPCOT Walt Envisioned?