If you want to catch a glimpse of Walt Disney’s original plan for what we now know as Walt Disney World, you’ll have to take a ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, located in the Magic Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida. Enter the front gates to the Magic Kingdom, walk down Main Street U.S.A. until you get almost to the giant iconic castle, where there will be a circle. In the center of the circle is a statue of the man himself, Walt Disney. Next to him is Mickey Mouse, standing about half Walt’s height.
Take a right across the bridge into Tomorrowland and walk straight on until you get to the source of the tracks hanging in the air above your head, a tower with an escalator built into its side. Up the escalator you’ll find a constantly revolving floor bringing a never-ending line of cars into and out of its orbit as they pick up and drop off passengers. Remember this whole setup. It’s part of a PeopleMover system and we’ll come back to it.
Get in one of the cars and relax. It’ll be a few minutes getting to the part we’re interested in. You’ll float above Tomorrowland a bit, looking down at the crowds and lines and vendors and rides. When you get close to the tunnel that leads into Space Mountain, let me know. You’ll want to pay attention then. Okay, here we go, look to your left. Watching? See. See the big model of a city? Oh, it’s gone now. Alright, when this is over, just stay on and go again so you can get another look. As many times as you need, really.
That model of the city was part of the original dream. Walt didn’t just want a bigger theme park, he wanted a new way to live. He wanted to build a city of tomorrow using everything he had learned from DisneyLand. He wanted a constantly evolving city, always incorporating the newest and best technologies available. It was to be called the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, or EPCOT for short.
He imagined a radial city, stretching out in a circle from the city core. At the center would be a building to dwarf everything around it, a hotel and convention center. Around that would be a circle of shopping, completely enclosed and reflecting different cultures from different parts of the world, similar to the World Showcase you can find at the Epcot theme park today. Next would be densely populated apartments. The next circle would be a Green Belt of parks and playgrounds and other public areas. And after that, the single-family low-density housing. Everything would be connected by monorails and those PeopleMovers like the one we were on earlier, so no one would need cars, except for weekend trips. Any automobile traffic would happen under the city, like in I, Robot.
Once Walt died, the dream of the future city died with him, but some of his ideas lived on in the building of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and the rest of Walt Disney World. Who knows how much different the world would be if he had been able to complete his last big project.
To find out more – much, much more – and to see Walt’s last video before he died, in which he presented his vision for EPCOT to the world, check out http://www.the-original-epcot.com. And to Sebastien at the-original-epcot.com, thanks for all your hard work keeping this legacy alive on the web.