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Entries in walt disney world (7)

Monday
Aug152011

Disney's "Project X" in 1966

It's easy to forget -- even for a Disney nerd like myself -- that before Walt Disney died of lung cancer in December of 1966, EPCOT (the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) was supposed to be a real city. The code name "Project X" was given to the undertaking that would eventually become Walt Disney World, which today includes the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom parks.

The illustration above is an aerial view of Project X, while the image below shows the thirty story hotel that was to be the centerpiece of the city of EPCOT. Both are from the excellent book Designing Disney's Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance, edited by Karal Ann Marling.

 

Sunday
Aug302009

My First Thoughts on Paleo-Futurism (or how I learned to stop worrying and love Disney)

Me and Goofy (circa 1989)I've visited Walt Disney World about 20 times.

Now, for an elderly woman living in Orlando, Florida, this might seem like an appropriate number. But for a 26-year-old man who's lived his entire life in the Midwest, that number is fairly absurd. My parents got me hooked at a young age, and while my perspective on the Disney brand and favorite activities in Disney World have both drastically changed over the years, I keep going back.

It was in EPCOT Center that I first started thinking about paleo-futurism. By the mid-1990s, EPCOT was looking stale; a future frozen in the early 1980s. The park was almost a monument to a historical future, rather than a hopeful tomorrow, and even young children could sense this. Though an extreme comparison, it was somewhat like visiting Flushing Meadows to see the decaying remnants of New York's 1964 World's Fair.

EPCOT as a theme park sparked my interest in this concept -- a concept for which I didn't yet have a name -- but one ride in particular stands out as the most reflective, yet forward-thinking. Horizons was opened in 1983 and featured both a history of the future, represented by an animatronic Jules Verne, and the future as imagined in 1983. Disney and this ride have so invaded my thoughts that any time I smell oranges I still imagine the "farm of the future," as was briefly depicted during this ride.

Though the ride closed in 1999, I can still play through every scene of Horizons in my head. The ride stands out as an experience that introduced me to thinking about histories of the future, and got me to thinking about what futures survive in our collective imagination. Like movies forever lost to history because of negligence and poor archiving, I feel a special sense of loss that most will never get to experience this ride in person.

Oh well, at least Epcot still sells booze. Pour some out on the curb for Horizons. Or don't. That alcohol ain't cheap.

The clip below is from the 1991 souvenir video, A Day at EPCOT Center.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

Thursday
Apr032008

Disney Paleo-Future Muxtape


The Paleo-Future Muxtape is currently featuring 12 tracks of Disney paleo-futurism. Listen while they're hot because this will be a constantly changing mix of audio. For a less paleofuture-focused Disney audio adventure check out the Epcot Muxtape.

See also:
EPCOT's Horizons
EPCOT Publicity Materials (1981)
Mickey Futurism (1980s)
The Simpsons go to EPCOT
Astuter Computer Revue
Rebuilding Tomorrowland (1966)
Disney Calls Future a Thing of the Past (1997)
Tomorrowland, Disneyland Opening Day (1955)
Space Station X-1 (circa 1955)

Tuesday
Mar182008

SMRT-1 Concept Art (1982)


This concept art for the SMRT-1 robot at EPCOT Center is dated May 3, 1982. SMRT-1 was featured at the Communicore exhibit and "spoke" with visitors via telephones while playing trivia games.

The Widen Your World website has a pretty thorough breakdown of the Communicore exhibit. Their photograph of SMRT-1 appears below. Communicore was closed in 1993 and converted into the Innoventions exhibit in 1994.


Be sure to check out one of the Paleo-Future blog's earliest posts, which happened to be about the The Computer Song. The Computer Song was from the Communicore attraction, Astuter Computer Revue, and certainly gives you a taste of the early-EPCOT atmosphere.

See also:
Astuter Computer Revue
EPCOT's Horizons
EPCOT Publicity Materials (1981)
Mickey Futurism (1980s)
The Simpson's go to EPCOT
Westcot (1991)

Sunday
Feb182007

EPCOT's Horizons


The EPCOT attraction Horizons was a great introduction into the world of paleo-futurism. The ride took you through past visions of the future as well as "present" visions of the future. For this ride the "present" meant 1983, the year it was built.

The ride was permanently closed in 1999 but Horizons is not completely lost. Some have posted video of the ride while others have posted the audio of the attraction in its entirety. Intercot has a complete video ride-through but it's a low-resolution RealPlayer file.

The photos posted are from the book Walt Disney's EPCOT Center: Creating the New World of Tomorrow and actually appear to be scale models likely produced before the ride even opened. One of the most memorable things about the ride was the smell of oranges during the "desert farm" scene pictured below.

The photo caption reads:

Horizon's ride-through attraction culminates in "Tomorrow's Windows," a revealing look into future living styles. This city apartment of the future, [above], boasts a spectacular view of the twenty-first-century skyline. While the man plays a "symphosizer," his wife chats with their daughter via holographic teleview. From the control pod of the desert farm, [below], a woman in a jumpsuit directs the work of robot harvesters. Her desert hovercar is parked behind the control pod.

Wednesday
Feb142007

The Simpsons go to EPCOT

Fans of Disney's Epcot, (the theme park formerly known as EPCOT Center), seem to fall into three categories:

1. Angry
2. Bored
3. Nostalgic

There are a number of websites devoted to EPCOT that critique the theme park and Disney management for letting it become the laughstock it now seems to be. (For the Simpsons's take, check out the video at the bottom of the post.) Here is a small sampling of those blogs and sites I have come across which seem to make very relevant points.

EPCOT Central
Waltopia
Re-Imagineering

Tuesday
Feb132007

The Future World of Transportation

I remember checking out this book at my elementary school library and being fascinated with the prospect of futuristic transportation. In the second grade I even did a science project on "Cars in the Year 2000." (In 1992, the year 2000 still had some significance to a second grader.) My cars traveled on an electric grid throughout cities. Nowadays, my hope for the technology of the future mostly resides in ideas like wireless power and the prospect of setting up wireless power grids, much like the wireless internet infrastructure some cities are adopting.

Chapter 1 of The Future World of Transportation opens with the ambitious "Report from the Year 2050." Their future is filled with "Ultra Jets" (described in the glossary as a double-decker plane of the future which loads passengers and cargo while hovering in the air) and "autoplanes" (a combination airplane and car) but, "there is still only one terminal for space flight, the Earth International Space Port near Tucson, Arizona [which is] used largely by people who have business on the satellite space stations, or 'space-habs' or by those going to one of the new space station resorts."

The second chapter is basically an advertisement for the now defunct World of Motion ride at EPCOT Center in Walt Disney World while the third chapter explores the history of transportation from the invention of the wheel to "current" flight technology. The fourth chapter is called "Moving Ahead on Land" and starts getting into some great paleo-futuristic territory with the "Planetran, a sleek magnetic levitation train propelled by electromagnets, [that could] whisk passengers from New York to Los Angeles through underground tunnels in less than an hour." Now that's what I'm talking about.

The fifth chapter explores "The Future at Sea" and basically guarantees the young readers that they will see three-wheeled land/sea vehicles powered by water jets in their lifetimes. The idea of their "floating hotel" is the most intriguing, as it appears that the hotel itself could, "move between ports on a cushion of air at 50 miles per hour." There appears to be no explanation necessary as to why someone would want a moving hotel in the paleo-future.

Chapter six lays out the somewhat mundane history of speed on land, sea and in the air but gets into amazing paleo-futuristic territory with the demonstration of a WASP or Williams Aerial Systems Platform which, according to the glossary is "a one-person flying device that is powered by a small turbofan engine." Personal rocket packs, here we come.

The book ends with a chapter called "Giant Steps into Space" which, as we all know, is the final frontier. Again, I can't help but wonder if any publisher could put out such an earnest and optimistic book for children today. The sincerity with which this book addresses the beautiful technology to come is astounding. Part of me laughs off everything in this book as fanciful and naive dreaming. Another part of me longs for that cynicism to be overtaken by hope for the future and the desire to again be amazed. Because, if the iPhone is the only thing that will revolutionize the way we live (as I believe on some level it will) we seem to be far from the "future" EPCOT sold us in 1982.

(I also own The Future World of Agriculture and The Future World of Energy, so don't you worry, those are coming soon. Also, I'll Flickrize more photos from this great collection when I find more time.)