Happy 30th Anniversary, Epcot! In remembering this great place, when did you first experience Epcot? What was your favorite experience?
Most recall their first trip. And some remember being there in the first few days when the park opened. My first experience came years earlier. Just before Christmas in 1973, I walked into the Broadway department store at the Phoenix, Arizona Metro Center and discovered The Art of Walt Disney by Christopher Finch on the shelves. I begged my parents as a young twelve year old for the book, which as I remember retailed expensively back then for $55. Other than socks, I do not recall receiving anything else under the tree that year. That was a lot of money for my parents to spend. But oh how I cherished reading that book!
My favorite pages were the ones that focused on the parks–and about a unique concept called EPCOT. At that time the idea was to still build a community with homes, businesses and schools. By the time I wrote Walt Disney World as a young teen asking for more information, the project had evolved. I still have press releases from that time that talked about EPCOT opening in 1979! At the moment I didn’t quite understand what it meant: It discussed what was then a ‘Future World’ Theme Center, described as a central core or plaza where visitors will be introduced to the multiple ideas and concepts of EPCOT. It also outlined plans for an international village of 30 nations side by side in a semi-circular structure.
Of course, what was planned back then to be built by the Ticket and Transportation Center would have established something not a whole lot bigger in size than the Innoventions Plaza we know of today. So when I walked into the park years later, clearly the concept had changed. I remember my first trip to Walt Disney World with my wife in 1988. As our bus drove toward Epcot from the new Caribbean Beach Resort, we could see the colorful geodesic dome at twilight in the distance. The excitement of walking through there the first evening was so amazing–we experienced Spaceship Earth and World of Motion. But I especially remembered the theme from Horizons–“If you can dream it, you can do it!”
I have many great memories of my days at Epcot. I loved being among the first to swim with the dolphins. I recall being part of the press event and seeing Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth for the first time. And my first job was working above Italy in Doge’s Palace. But my best memory of the park was the last night of our first trip to Walt Disney World. We were exhausted from the week’s experience, and we had just finished watching the fireworks. But we were too tired to walk out with the crowds. So we just sat in Germany and enjoyed the last few minutes of our vacation as the park emptied. Then as we were getting ready to leave, along came one of the double decker buses that used to circle World Showcase. Out of the blue, the driver asked if we would like a ride to the front of the park. Yes! We boarded and off we went–not just to the other side of the lagoon–but all the way to Spaceship Earth. It seemed so random–but so welcomed. And it was a wonderful Magical Moment. We left knowing we would want to come back soon.
When did you first experience Epcot? Celebrate Epcot’s 30th anniversary by sharing your experience here. And stay tuned, because in the next few days an important announcement about Epcot will be coming out. If you love Epcot, you’ll want to stay close.
P.S. Sorry to be out of commission. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks at the Disneyland Resort. More excitement from there as well as other wonderful corners of the Walt Disney Company to come.