Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Best of 40 Years at WDW

Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Black.  Enjoy the ride as we share what we think are the best things that have happened in Walt Disney World in 40 Years.

wdw%2040th.jpgThis year is the 40th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort.  Magic Kingdom debuted October 1, 1971 to 10,000 visitors.  Fast forward to 2011 and it’s amazing to see the changes.  Sheer size alone jumps out at you.  In the past 40 years, significant milestones have occurred to make WDW the place we know and love, as it is, today.  In my humble opinion, I think the most significant thing to occur since 1971 was the opening of Epcot.  
Why?  Because EPCOT represented the last vestige of Walt Disney and his dream of “the Florida Project”.  From the early days of “the Florida Project”, which was a codename for what would become the Walt Disney World Resort, Walt spoke of a utopian city of the future.  In the early days it would be called Progress City and be a self-sustaining and self-governing community.  Progress City would become his dream of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT).  Quoting Walt Disney, “EPCOT...will take it’s cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry.  It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing and testing and demonstrating new materials and systems.  EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imaginiation of American free enterprise.”  Walt was indeed a true American patriot.  
Sadly, Walt did not live to see the completion of his dreams, passing away in 1966.  With his brother at the helm, Roy O.  took over the completion of the Magic Kingdom.  Himself passing away a few short months after it’s opening in 1971.  With the loss of these two great men, there was question as to the future without their guidance.  However, after the great success of the Magic Kingdom, the company was ready to move forward with the completion of Walt’s dream for the Florida Project.  
Walt’s initial vision of ECPOT was for it to be a model community, home to up to 20,000 residents.  Walt Disney said, "It will be a planned, controlled community, a showcase for American industry and research, schools, cultural and educational opportunities. In EPCOT, there will be no slum areas because we won't let them develop. There will be no landowners and therefore no voting control. People will rent houses instead of buying them, and at modest rentals. There will be no retirees; everyone must be employed." 
A model of this original vision of EPCOT can still be seen in the Magic Kingdom by passengers riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  Although this vision of was never realized, the corporation took the ideas that it was based on to design a new park.  
Early EPCOT Center logo
This new park was a “game changer” for the Walt Disney Corporation.  It was new, unique, and different.  It appealed to a different audience than Magic Kingdom.  Less about character interaction and rides; and more about education.  This theme park, originally known as EPCOT Center, was to reflect the ideas and values of Walt Disney’s EPCOT.  Part museum, part exposition space, with a dash of World’s Fair thrown into the mix.  The union of Future World and World Showcase was an unlikely combination.  It was a calculated risk for many, that paid off in spades.  
Early park map
EPCOT Center opened on October 1, 1982.  “Center” was dropped from the name in 1994 and in 1996 the park was simply named Epcot.  Epcot is the third most visited theme park in the US and the 5th most visited in the world.  
What followed was a growth and expansion of the Walt Disney World Resort like you’ve never seen.  Epcot opened the future for more resorts, more parks, and more unique experiences that you can’t find in other theme parks. 

Epcot, to me, is a key turning point in the history of the Walt Disney World Resort that makes the entire place what it is today.  Without Epcot, I don't believe the Disney corporation would have had the strength to build parks like MGM (aka Hollywood Studios) or Animal Kingdom.  It was certainly a case of "if you build it, they will come"…and come they did!

EPCOT circa 1984

Epcot Facts:
  • EPCOT Center was constructed for an estimated $800 million to $1.4 billion and took three years to build (at the time the largest construction project on Earth).
  • Covering an area of 300 acres, it is more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom.
  • The parking lot is 141 acres (including bus area) and can accommodate 11,211 vehicles.
  • World Showcase contains pavilions representing eleven countries (Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada)
  • Spaceship Earth weighs 16 million pounds, measures 165 feet in diameter and encompasses 2.2 million cubic feet of space. The outer "skin" of Spaceship Earth is made up of 11,324 aluminum and plastic-alloy triangles.
  • The fountain at Epcot Innoventions Plaza can shoot water 150 feet in the air
  • Test Track is the longest and fastest ride at a Walt Disney World theme park (nearly a mile long with a top speed of 65 mph)
  • World Showcase promenade stretches 1.2 miles and World Showcase Lagoon spans 40 acres.
  • The Eiffel Tower replica in the France pavilion is 103 feet tall.
  • More than 26,000 feet of lights outline the World Showcase pavilions for the "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" nightly fireworks show 
  • ECPOT spends about $35,000 a night on pyrotechnics for its Illuminations show. 
  • Standing under Spaceship Earth in ECPOT (that's the large silver ball) during a rainstorm, you will not get wet.  That is because there is a specially designed gutter system which captures the water and sends it to World Showcase Lagoon (about 2 city blocks away).
  • Unlike the Magic Kingdom, Epcot sells alcoholic beverages. Many stores and restaurants in the World Showcase serve alcoholic beverages from their respective countries.

Epcot today
Thank you for joining me today.  Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is 


Here's is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:


  1. What a WONDERFUL, informative post - and I couldn't agree more. I LOVE Epcot!

  2. Great post!! I love the history of Disney and theparks!

  3. I agree! Love the history. I too think Epcot is one of the best things to happen at Walt Disney World in the last 40 years.

  4. Great post! Love reading about the history of anything Disney and Epcot is my favorite. Thanks so much!!