Disney EPCOT Center is one of the most forward-thinking theme parks ever built, as well as one of the most popular. In 2019—before the COVID-19 pandemic turned the tourism industry upside-down—EPCOT was the 7th most-visited theme park in the world and welcomed 12,444,000 guests that year.
But despite its popularity, there’s a lot about the venerable park that the average guest may not know. So in honor of EPCOT’s 40th anniversary this October, check out these EPCOT fun facts you might have never heard before.
EPCOT Was Almost an Entire City
The EPCOT we know and love may be a mere theme park, but it was first conceived as something very different. And the hint is in the name. EPCOT: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
Casual fans know Walt Disney as “Uncle Walt”, the nice man who produced wholesome family entertainment. But he was far more than that.
Walt was a futurist. He always had an eye fixed upon the horizon, with a keen interest in tomorrow and the technological marvels it would bring. He applied that interest in emerging technology to his amusement park ventures.
EPCOT would have been the most ambitious project of his life. The plan was to build an entire planned community in what is now the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the home of the Walt Disney World Resort.
The planned community would be as self-sufficient as possible, with commercial, residential, industrial, and recreational centers. These centers would be connected by a mass multimodal transportation system.
EPCOT would be Walt’s answer to the urban sprawl and inefficient infrastructure that plagued cities like Los Angeles and New York. His prototype city would instead showcase the promise of an entire urban community, preplanned from the ground up.
Alas, it was not meant to be.
Following Walt’s death in 1966, The Walt Disney Company abandoned the project. But a model of what EPCOT might have looked like can still be found at the Magic Kingdom Park. Look for it when you take a spin on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover.
2.EPCOT Is Massive
The EPCOT theme park is only a fraction of the size of the sprawling city Walt Disney had envisioned. But it’s still a massive Disney theme park.
Spanning over 300 acres, it’s about twice the size of the Magic Kingdom. So be sure to pack a good pair of walking shoes for your visit.
3.Spaceship Earth Is the Symbol of EPCOT
When you think of EPCOT, you probably think of the silver, geodesic sphere that towers over the entrance. Sometimes referred to as “the golf ball” by fans and locals, that sphere is Spaceship Earth, the symbol of EPCOT and its flagship attraction.
The exterior is made up of over 11,000 polished triangles, fitting together to cover the entire surface. The interior holds the Spaceship Earth dark ride, an educational trip that explores advances in communication throughout humanity’s history.
4.The World Showcase Was Originally Sponsored by Its Member Nations
EPCOT is divided into two main portions.
At the front of the park, there’s World Celebration, World Nature, and World Discovery. These three sections deal with concepts like technology, imagination, and the natural world. To the back, there’s The World Showcase, a permanent world’s fair where guests can experience a taste of other nations and cultures.
The current World Showcase consists of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, the United States, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico. And when they debuted, those countries helped foot the bill for construction and maintenance.
This used to be common practice throughout all of Disney’s theme parks. Corporations, or in this case nations, could sponsor an attraction. This would help Disney reduce their maintenance liabilities, and the sponsor would get its name in front of millions of potential consumers every year.
For the World Showcase, the pavilions would serve as interactive tourism ads, with the funds usually contributed by that nation’s Ministry of Tourism or the equivalent. There are vestiges of this practice in the form of some promotional films and exhibits still on display.
Over time, countries would stop paying Disney as their contracts expired. The only nation that still maintains a relationship with Disney is Morocco. Their government was so invested in Disney providing an accurate and attractive representation that King Hassan II sent Moroccan artisans to design and create the many mosaics that decorate the pavilion.
5.Several Pavilions Never Came to Be
Almost more interesting than the EPCOT we have is the EPCOT that might have been. We touched upon Walt’s original abandoned design already. But even in the context of the current theme park, there were a lot of ideas that never made it off the drawing board.
Although the World Showcase seems complete, there are eight undeveloped plots left, cleverly disguised by decorations. Over the years, there have numerous rumored additions, including Brazil, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Russia, Denmark, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Spain, Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel. But for one reason or another, none of these pavilions ever made it out of the planning stage.
But the most notable was a proposed pavilion that would have been themed around movies and filmmaking. Only known as The Great Movie Ride pavilion, Disney’s then-CEO Michael Eisner loved the idea so much that he asked for it to be spun off into a standalone theme park.
Thus, Disney’s Hollywood Studios came to be. So if you’re a Star Wars fan who marveled at how immersive that park’s Galaxy’s Edge attractions are, you can thank EPCOT for the inspiration.
Disney EPCOT Center Holds Special Events Year-Round
Besides the rides, shows, and cultural exhibitions, EPCOT attracts guests with a series of festivals held almost year-round.
The International Food and Wine Festival, held in the fall, is by far the most popular. It’s followed by the International Festival of the Holidays, another crowd-pleaser that runs through the winter holiday season.
The International Festival of the Arts begins shortly after the start of the new year. It runs until the start of spring, when the International Flower & Garden Festival begins. All-in-all, there are only about two months in the middle of the summer when there isn’t a special event taking place.
These festivals feature limited-time food and drink offerings, exclusive merchandise, educational presentations, cooking and gardening classes, and performances by major musicians, Broadway stars, and other celebrities.
While fans debate which festival is the best, they all agree that each is worth visiting. And one of the best ways to see them all is through the Disney Vacation Club (DVC).
The DVC program allows patrons to earn points that can be used flexibly at any of the DVC resorts. For Walt Disney World, that amounts to 11 of their most luxurious on-property hotels and resorts.
And if you want to take advantage of DVC’s perks sooner rather than later, it is possible to fast-track your first stay. To learn more, check out these DVC resales to see how you can get the points you need in time for your festival of choice.
The Theme Park of Tomorrow
“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
That was Walt Disney’s wish for his first theme park. And although he would not live to see Disney EPCOT Center completed, that sentiment is the driving force behind its ongoing evolution.
As new technology emerges, EPCOT will always be there to be an early adopter. It’s a forward-thinking philosophy we should all follow. So to practice that mindset in your life, be sure to stay current with the latest developments by following our breaking tech news here on our blog.